How I Self-Published my First Children's Book
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So, I've been receiving a lot of questions about the ins and outs of how I self-published my first children's book. What better way to explain it all than to blog about it? I'll start with WHY I did it. When I was a young girl, I LOVED reading, but I noticed that there weren't many books where the characters looked like me. What better way to change that than to create a book for girls of color, right? When it came to actually writing the book, there was honestly, no big, grand master plan behind it. I was literally sitting at home one day in the mid-afternoon and started jotting down this idea I had. It went from an idea to me rhyming lines to tell a story, and by the end of the day, I had a kid's book.
Then came the dreaded question, "What am I going to do with this?" Again, there was no big, grand idea behind this, but I thought it was simple and cute enough to share with the world. The thing I loved most about it was the message that the book gave. Not only was it about a young girl going after her dream of becoming a princess, but also being adopted and getting the family she always wanted.
Okay, so now that you know the why, let me tell you about the how. Let's move on to the five basic things you'll need to do:
1: Write the book (and don't forget the synopsis)
2: COPYRIGHT your book (www.copyright.gov)
3: Find an editor to edit the book
4: Find an illustrator
You can find numbers three and four by visiting fiverr.com. Fiverr has a bunch of different illustrators, editors, designers, you name it. You'll be able to check out their portfolios to see if they have the style you like, see their turnaround time for edits, and most importantly, their prices. Also, don't forget to reach out to people in your inner circle. If you know someone who can draw really well, see if they'll be interested in creating the illustrations for your book. I chose Fiverr for two reasons. 1: I can't draw. 2: I wanted someone to be held accountable with deadlines, fixed prices and all of that so I wouldn't be hit with any surprises.
PRO TIP: Have a set budget. The best thing about a children's picture book are the pictures, so don't half step on that. I'll say the illustrations for my book from cover to cover cost me in the range of about $800. Good work is NOT cheap.
Although I can't draw, I DID create stick figures and basic sketches of what I wanted the illustrations to be on each page just to give the illustrator a bit of context and guidance. It is their job to help you bring your idea to life inside your book.
Here are the things you'll need to know that no one told me/things I never thought to think about:
-Know the dimensions of the pages for your kid's book (what size do you want your book to be)
-IT TAKES TIME. (I started the illustration process in/around February of 2018 and did not have the final version of the book done until the end of June 2018. My book from cover to cover is roughly twenty or so pages.)
-You can't just simply upload your children's book in PDF format to Amazon and expect it to come out how it is in print. To get the pages to look exactly how they do in print, you have to actually download the Kindle Kid's Book Creator program on your computer and work through those steps to make a .MOBI file, and then upload that into Amazon. (This took me a while to figure out, so that's why Princess for Hire was only available in paperback for like the first week.)
PRO TIP: Consider changing your pen name. If you're like me and write in different genres, then you may not want your urban fiction or paranormal romance books co-mingled with your children's books. For my children's book, I went with my actual name, Kimberley M.
Next, let's talk about promotion. Once your book is out, it's time to promote to make sure it sells! Reach out to your local youth groups, church, attend book festivals, etc. I do a lot of speaking engagements and book signings that are strictly focused on my children's book.
I've also done the following:
-Paid Facebook ad (my budget never goes over $20-$30)
-General social media postings about it (sharing my thoughts, me interacting with young readers, speaking engagements, etc.) The key is to get people to notice the difference your book is making in other children's lives, which will prompt them to want to buy it for the child or children in their lives.
-Giveaways (I've done two: Back to School Princess Giveaway and Princess Holiday Giveaway)
-WORD OF MOUTH
After all I've told you, I bet you want to know how I made out in the end, right? Let me start by saying that the response that I've gotten since the release of my children's book has been overwhelmingly positive. I am so grateful for each and every opportunity I've gotten to share my book with young readers.
I have sold and continue to sell way more paperbacks hand to hand (for a discounted price) than I do online through Amazon where they take their percentage. With paperbacks alone, within the first six months of the book being out, I sold roughly around 400 copies. I have definitely made the money back that I spent on the illustrations, plus more.
I truly hope this has helped give you an idea of how I worked through the process. I'll be sure to update this post as I go along and self-publish more children's books in the future!