When publishing, or self publishing a children’s book, there are numerous things to make decisions about along the way. Many of the decisions you make early on are going to have a serious impact on how successful (and expensive to produce) your book is down the line.
We’ve gathered together 10 of the big decisions you’ll be faced with and summarized our recommendations at each step so you can make the choice that’s best for you (and your budget!).
#1 – How much money will I need?
If you’re planning to make a picture book that’s commercially competitive, you should plan for between $2000 and $10000 absolute minimum. There are a lot of variables – we’ll help guide you to the ones that will keep you on the lower side of those numbers.
#2 – Black and white or colour?
If you’re creating a picture book, then this is not really optional. To have a hope of competing, your book must be full colour illustrations and cover. If you’re creating a longer storybook (novel style for older kids) then you can get away with just a few black and white illustrations inside or even no illustrations at all. Your cover must be full colour though.
#3 – How many pages should it be?
If you plan to use an offset press (now or in the future) to print your book then you will want to keep it to the usual 32 pages (two full print signatures) for a full colour picture book. If you want to keep your book a bit shorter (lower print costs, and lower illustration costs) then 24 pages is the next best (one and a half full print signatures) to keep your options for offset printing open later on.
If you’re only planning to print digitally, then you can actually have any number of pages as long as the number is divisible by 2. (POD printers will add blank pages at the end of your book to make up the difference if need be).
We recommend 24-32 pages as the optimal range both from a price point and industry standard perspective.
#4 – What size and shape should it be?
Definitely 8″x10″. Why? This allows you to print with ANY print on demand company and qualify for the full distribution options through Lightning Source and Create Space if you choose to go that route. An additional benefit is that is also the easiest size/shape to translate into an iPhone or iPad app down the line if you’re interested in that.
If you are shipping any copies yourself, then you’ll appreciate that these books will fit in standard size (8.5×11) shipping envelopes.
People also have a perceived value of books attached to their size. You want to maximize the space you have available for illustrations, while also being sure that people will be willing to pay what you’re asking for your book.
#5 – Hardcover or Softcover?
If you go with Lightning Source as your print and distribution choice, then you can make both available through POD. CreateSpace currently offers only softcover options. If you’re doing offset printing, look into what’s called an “on run”. This is where they print both together (as long as they have the same kind of binding) and you get a break on prices.
#6 – What kind of binding do you want?
Perfect bound or saddle stitched are your two main options for softcover children’s picture books. Wherever possible you should choose perfect bound as libraries prefer these. For hardcovers, whether or not you have a dust jacket is a preference issue (and budget). It’s generally more expensive to print books with dustjackets.
#7 – How do you choose an illustrator?
When you’re choosing an illustrator, you need to consider three things. Style, schedule and budget. You need to make sure that the illustrator’s style is a good match for your story. For example, if you have a happy story about a puppy’s day to the beach, you wouldn’t want an illustrator to create dark spooky illustrations. Also critical is whether or not they will be able to complete the illustrations to the timeline and deadlines you’ve set for your project.
Costs for illustration vary widely. You need to agree on a fair price that both parties are comfortable with and when self publishing, it’s usually best to buy the illustrations outright so you don’t have to spend a lot of time and energy tracking and paying out royalties down the line. This will also simplify the paperwork involved.
#8 - Where will you get your books printed?
Ideally, you will use a combination approach. We have found it is generally best for self publishers to use Print on Demand with distribution attached (CreateSpace or Lightning Source) to get their books for sale online in a way that means you don’t have to stock inventory for that or to deal with filling customer orders.
Then, if your budget and demand for your book allow, you can do either a short run or full offset print run to keep your own stock supplied for direct sales, and to work with any distributors or wholesalers who want to stock your book.
#9 - How will your books be distributed?
In most cases, you should not try to be the primary distributor of your book. You will want to spend all your available time in promoting, and not packaging and shipping books. If you’re a smaller publisher or self-publisher it can be difficult to find companies to distribute your books.However, if you’ve followed our recommendations and used CreateSpace or Lightning Source to get your book printed, then you’ll be able to access their distribution channels and have worldwide distribution online already.
If you have created a good quality product, then you’ll find Red Tuque Books is a great option for Canadian sales, and Quality Books Inc. is a good place to seek US distribution to Libraries or check out this site for Top Independent Book Distributors to see if you can find one that’s a good fit. Be sure to check your pricing and the discounts required by each distributor to make sure you’ll be able to offer the appropriate discounts, cover your costs and still have something left for you at the end of it all.
#10 - Who will prepare your final files?
Once you know what your book will look like, the shape and size it needs to be and who will be printing/distributing it for you – then you’re ready to have the final print ready files prepared. You will need to be able to tell the designer all the things you’ve decided above and direct them to the design guidelines each printer will have. Cover templates are available from CreateSpace and Lightning Source, so your designer should be able to interpret those and get you print ready files you just have to upload.
Indesign is the most common software used to do book design, but it is quite expensive to purchase and difficult to use if you’re not familiar with it. We highly recommend you don’t do this stage yourself unless you’re a graphic designer.
If you’re looking for a designer to create a cover or interior layouts for you, we highly recommend Patrick of n9ne creative who did all the design on the Live Your Dream books for us. He’ll make your book look fabulous, and do a very custom and personalized design for your project.
If you don’t know of a good designer in your area, or can’t afford their rates, then you may want to look into a company called Accurance who we have dealt with in the past. They have cover design and interior layout services available at very reasonable rates (you can get a cover & interior layout done starting at about $300).
If you like, you can use the coupon code Crys2al and they will give you a discount of 10% off the price of whatever package you purchase (and they will also send me a small finders fee as a thanks for the referral). I have used their services before and was very well pleased with the results and the experience of working with them. The affiliate payment system is an added bonus that will help reimburse me for the time it takes to put together articles like these, and arrange discounts for our readers ; )