UPDATED: How I Self-Publish my Children's Books
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I originally penned this original blog post back in January 2019, and have since sent multiple authors in that direction to help provide clarity on the self-publishing aspect specifically for children’s books. Since that time, I’ve self-published two more children’s books and have another project for children that I’m wrapping up right now. Therefore, I decided to provide an update to answer some more questions I’ve received about self-publishing books for children.
How did you come up with the topic for your books?
For me, I think coming up with ideas for children’s books is similar to how I come up with ideas for my adult novels. I just let my imagination run free. Sometimes I think to myself, hmm, what did I like to read about as a child, or what types of characters would I want my child to read about in a book? Asking myself those questions helps a lot.
PRO TIP: If you’re a parent, auntie, uncle, grandparent, or whoever, think of something the child or children in your life may struggle with or something that you think is missing in the book industry that you feel is important for them to learn about.
What was the number one setback if any when deciding to write a children's book?
When I initially started out, I had no idea exactly how much it would cost for good illustrations. Good work is NOT cheap. The best thing about a children's picture book (especially for children) are the pictures, so don't half step on that. I'll say the illustrations for my first and second book from cover to cover cost me in the range of about $800. My third cost over $1,000 (more detailed illustrations and more pages than the first two books). The project I’m working on now was a little over $600.
PRO TIP: Have a set budget.
The numbers above can be intimidating for anyone, as I know they were for me at first. The key thing to know here is that I did NOT pay the full price up front, so budgeting was key for me. I paid anywhere between $42 to $82 per page over the course of MONTHS.
How long did it take you to write your first children's book, and which program did you use to write it?
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 in a blank Microsoft Word document. It went from a simple idea, to me rhyming lines to tell a story, and by the end of the day, I had a cute little kid's book with an interesting message behind it.
Once the book was written, copyrighted, edited and illustrated, I went into the process of publishing it. One really important thing to know here is that you can’t just simply upload your children's book in PDF format to Amazon for Kindle and expect it to come out how it is in paperback. 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.
How did you decide which illustrator was the best to work with?
I decided to find my illustrator on fiverr.com. Fiverr is a freelance website that offers “gigs” from different illustrators, editors, graphic designers, etc. The number one thing I like the most about using Fiverr is that you're able to check out the illustrator’s portfolio to see if they have the style of drawing you like, see their turnaround time for edits, and most importantly, their prices. Never hesitate to reach out to the illustrator directly to talk about your project ideas, budget and goals BEFORE paying for a gig.
PRO TIP: Start cheap. Ask the illustrator to start with a basic sketch design to see if they can accurately design your character(s) how you see them in your head. If they can, great. If not, then you didn’t waste your money or time.
BONUS PRO TIP: If you don’t feel comfortable using an online platform to find an illustrator, 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 (especially when you’re on a budget).
Although I can't draw, it was really important for me to find an illustrator that could draw black characters. Therefore, I made sure I was able to be a part of the creative process by creating basic sketches and/or written out descriptions of what I wanted the characters to look like, and 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.
For more guidance on how I self-published my first children’s book, things to consider, and more things I wish I knew, check out my original post here.