6 Steps to self-publishing a picture book

 

manu-girl_finalCongratulations! You have finished your picture book manuscript and decided you want to self-publish.  What’s next?

When self-publishing a children’s book you will need to have illustrations prepared by an illustrator and the book designed and assembled by a designer. It is your choice whether you choose a professional illustrator/designer or a non-professional. A professional illustrator/designer with experience in self-publishing will able to help you step by step through the process. They make the process as smooth and painless as possible and work with your printer to give you the best-printed results. They know what kind of cover will stand out on Amazon’s pages or a shelf in the bookstore. They will carefully read your manuscript over and over until they perfectly understand your characters and can see them clearly in their mind.

Never forget, your readers (or in this case the parents of your readers) buy books because the covers and the blurbs on the back cover appeal to them. If the illustrations in your book are not professional, they will reflect directly on the perceived quality of your book. You can have the most well written and clever book in the world, but if your cover and illustrations are amateurish, your whole book will be judged of as such.

1. The first step is to have your manuscript edited and/or critiqued by someone experienced in writing for children’s books. Modern children’s picture books are rarely longer than 800 words for ages 3-6. They are usually 32 pages long. Chapter books vary as to age range in length and number of illustrations.

2. If you choose me to illustrate and design your book, I will read your manuscript to determine if the story will fit with my illustration style and to decide if it’s a story I am interested in spending 6 months of my life working on. Yes, children’s books picture books take between four and eight months to illustrate. Illustration fees usually run between $5,000-$14,000 depending on the number and complexity of the illustrations. A simple contract will be created and a payment schedule set-up for 1/3 payments at the beginning, final approval of pencils and finished delivery of illustrations.

If I illustrate your book, I will work closely with you on your characters and style of illustration. As the author, you will have a chance to have input. I will prepare the rough drawing of your pages and prepare a dummy to show page breaks. Page breaks are very important for a story’s arc, suspense, and surprise. You will have a chance to approve preliminary work at each step. A preferred color palette will be developed before I start the finished illustrations.

3. You will be responsible for acquiring your own ISBN (International Standard Book Number) from Bowkers and setting up a “fictitious” name for your publishing company so you can have a separate checking account. Be sure to buy more than one ISBN ( one $125 -10 $250), you will need them for each cover type and edition of your book. You may also want to set up an LLC in your state. This is easily taken care of online (there is no reason to pay anyone to do this for you). You should own your own ISBN if you are self-publishing. Do not get a free ISBN from CreateSpace. If you do they will be the publisher of record for your book. Bookstores do not particularly like to work with Amazon. Your book is best published under your own publishing company so you have control. Have fun choosing a creative name.

4. If you are doing printed books, I suggest using POD (Print on Demand) either Create Space (Amazon) or Ingram Spark (Ingram book distributors). They are both very reasonable with very good quality. CreateSpace only prints soft cover books. IngramSpark prints soft cover and hard cover books. There are advantages to both. With CreateSpace, you make a little more selling on Amazon, but they don’t play well with Barnes and Noble and independent bookstores. If a bookstore will accept the book, you get a very small percentage. IngramSpark also sells on Amazon, you will make a little bit less on Amazon, but with IngramSpark you will have the advantage of not only hardcovers, but access to Ingram Books distributors access to independent bookstores and Barnes and Nobel with a better percentage.

5. If you are thinking about an e-book, the options are different and the art preparation is different. It is more challenging to do a children’s picture e-book because of the different screen sizes of the reading devices and the ability to change font sizes. CreateSpace and IngramSpark have an e-book conversion option, I have not heard particularly good things about these services. Perhaps, if you are not picky, this may work for you.

6. The biggest job you will have is marketing and selling your book. Just because your book is listed on Amazon doesn’t mean it will sell. It takes a LOT of promotion on your part. Be prepared.

Hope this helps. I like to help authors with their books. I would like to read your edited manuscript.

A New Year and new picture book beginnings for me.

Usually when the holidays and New Year come around, I am deeply involved in illustrating a picture book for someone else, because that’s what I do for my living. This year I finished one book in the late fall Fall, then the book I that was scheduled for the early winter into Spring was canceled. I was not totally disappointed, I always need a few days or so between books to clean up my studio and rest my mind so I can give a new project my full attention.

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This extra free time this year gives me an opportunity to work on some of my own story ideas. I have about four or five drafts of picture books and chapter books I have been working on in-between illustrating books for other authors. I now need to work hard on perfecting these drafts to get them to the point where they are ready for submission to agents and editors. My SCBWI critique group has seen most of these drafts. They have helped me to see where there are weaknesses in the story and character development. I strongly suggest everyone join a critique group of knowledgable writers.

Pen_sketchesBMost children’s book authors start their books very differently than I do.

Because I am an illustrator, I always start with a story idea, then do all the rough illustrations in dummy form. I only add the words when I am satisfied with the flow of the pictures. This is the exact opposite from the way most children’s book authors work. It’s not a perfect way to work so I don’t suggest it to everyone. I need the pictures to think the story through, but when I later add words there isn’t always a smooth flow.

Because I have carefully thought through the visuals in my mind, I know so much more back story than I can possibly show or write about in a 32-page picture book. I’m trying to work through this dilemma and get these stories in shape.

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Every year I participate in Picture Book Idea Month also called PiBoIdMo. I sign-up on Tara Lazar’s website to dream up 30 new ideas for picture books. I been participating for four years now, so I have lots of ideas. This year the challenge is called StoryStorm, Tara Lazar is the organizer. It’s starting right now. I think everyone should sign-up. Hurry the decline is soon.

 

It’s New Year’s resolution time again.

tree_growingEvery year I try to come up with some new goals to strive for. Something to enhance my life and others. In past years I have resolved to be more proactive with my career. To take more creative chances and try new things.

This year, I want to try to help others using my talents. I have gained a lot of knowledge and a lot of experienced through the many years I have been a graphic designer, teacher, children’s book illustrator and children’s book writer. All through my life others have mentored me and helped me to succeed. Now is my turn to pass on this knowledge. I want to share what I have learned with others to help them succeed.

Right now I am mentoring three young people. They all have an interest in illustrating and graphic design as well as writing. Their enthusiasm and creativity inspire me. I hope we can help each other become better artists and people.

I also love to talk to new self-publishing authors about their children’s books. I can help guide them to make the correct decisions to produce the best children’s book at the most reasonable price. Visit my website to read more about illustrating your children’s book and the services I can provide.

Clever way to teach you child how to become Santa

 

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This idea is so clever and so perfect, I just had to pass it on. I am re-blogging from the Unwindly.com website:

All parents fear it: the day their child stops believing in Santa. How can kids preserve the magic of Christmas if they think they were lied to all their lives?

This mom has found the perfect solution—teaching her children that ordinary people can become Santas. You must click this link and read this to try it with your kids.  http://www.unwindly.com/mom-teaches-child-santa/

St. Louis Magazine Online Feature Story.

Dayne Sislen children's book IllustratorI must be the luckiest person alive. Just last week Jen Roberts,  a writer for St. Louis Magazine emailed to ask if she could interview me. I don’t know how she got my name. Life is full of surprises. She interviewed me on Monday and today the article was live online.

You can read it here. I am very pleased. Thank you Jen Roberts and St. Louis Magazine. Sometimes I feel like I work each day illustrating quietly in my studio and no one notices. It’s nice know someone cares. I love to talk about and share stories about my fun career.

New SCBWI postcard design entry

The Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) is having a postcard illustration contest. Each card must incorporate a kite in some way. (The SCBWI’s Logo is a kite) This is my  postcard entry. It shows the young dragon Whiff and his friends. I adapted an illustration from a book I am writing and illustrating. As you can see, I have also used this same character on the header on this blog. Whiff hasn’t quite figured out how to use his unique talents.

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Plant the seeds of literacy

By Norah Colvin

This is a repost of a blog by Norah Colvin. I’ve been following Norah’s blog for quite a while, she always has current spot-on information about early childhood education. Norah lives in Australia, where she is a teacher, a writer and founder of ReadiLearn, a collection of early childhood teaching resources. Books are Important for young children.

Picture Books

Read more of Norah’s post via Plant the seeds of literacy — Norah Colvin

Thankful Thoughts . . .

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Illustrated by Dayne Sislen @2014

Each year at this time of year, I take a little time to think about the things that make me thankful. Of course, my wonderful husband and family come first, then supportive friends and my dear patient dog. After that, I think of good health, my warm home and nourishing food. This year I can not help but worry about and pray for those whose lives are not as comfortable and happy as mine. I wish them a Happy Thanksgiving and holiday season filled with peace and love.

I am also grateful for the supportive community I have found in children’s literature,  and publishing. We support and help each other through setbacks and cheer on each success. It’s wonderful to surround myself with talented like-minded people. I am thankful to have a creative and fulfilling job I love, illustrating children’s books.

I think children’s books are important. Children are the building blocks of the human race and the future of the world. Reading is important to build knowledge, imagination and self-confidence.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Dayne

Gigi and Grandma Remember, by Maggie Konopa, illustrated by Dayne Sislen ©2016

Gigi and Grandma Remember, written by Maggie Konopa, illustrated by Dayne Sislen. ©2016

 

7 Steps to get your self-published children’s book illustrated.

 How to choose an illustrator and get your book finished.

 

Funny Cat by Dayne SislenStep one: Choosing the right illustrator.

For professional children’s book illustrators, I suggest: The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators organization’s website SCBWI.org. You can search for the style and media you prefer as well as illustrators living in a certain area. I would strongly suggest you join the SCBWI. It offers valuable resources to anyone in the children’s publishing fields. Another good resource: Childrensillustrators.com. Over 700 professional illustrators are listed.

“Remember the illustrations tell one-half of the story in a picture book. You want to present your book to the world in the best possible way. An inexperienced illustrator can make your excellently written picture book appear amateurish and awkward. Most people buy a book based on its cover.”

 

A budget source for illustrations: You always hear about Fiverr for cheap illustrations.  https://www.fiverr.com. Illustrations can be  purchased for as little as $5 each. Now, don’t get too excited, you won’t get much for $5, but you might find someone to work with you on a tight budget. Be very careful you and your illustrator understand exactly what you require. I would suggest using someone who speaks your preferred language. Automated translations can mess up precise communications. I would also suggest having the illustrator sign a non-disclosure when they read your manuscript. The NDA may not be binding in a third world country, but you will have some reassurance they will at least know you are watching carefully if they are thinking about stealing your book manuscript or passing it to someone else.

Step two: Before an illustrator can give you a price on illustrating your book, they must see your professionally edited and formatted manuscript. If they feel your story will fit their style of illustration and they can create suitable illustrations that will best develop your story for you. They will agree to talk to you about your plans for the book. Picture books are traditionally 32 or 40 pages because of economical printing practices. That means your illustrator will be illustrating at least 14-16 full spread illustrations or 28 to 30 single pieces of artwork. That’s a lot of work, it usually takes  4-8 months. This is how professional illustrators make their living, it is a full-time job. Please set aside a reasonable budget so your book can be professionally illustrated to show off your wonderful story to its best advantage.
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This is my process:
Step three: When I work with a children’s book author, one-third of the total illustration fee is expected before I start.My fee for illustrating picture books usually runs between $6,000 and $12,000 depending on complexity.
I read your manuscript over and over until I am very familiar with the characters and can see them clearly in my mind.  I also might want to add a pet or other background interest to add to the story. I design character sketches for your approval. We also discuss illustration style and colors. We work together on these until you are pleased.
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Step four: I then do rough “thumbnails” of all the pages in the book to see how the action flows from page to page.  This is very important if I skip this step, the illustrations, while nice, will not flow from page to page visually. The illustrations will still be rough at this stage but you will already know what the characters look like (step two). I will need your approval at this stage and the second 1/3 of the total fee.
Step five: Now, I do full-size roughs of all the pages and work on refining the backgrounds. The interior and exterior details in backgrounds will now come into place. At this stage, you should know exactly what the book will look like minus color. I will need your approval again at this stage.
Illus for There's a Mouse on my Head! Illus. by Dayne SislenStep six:  Now I start final linework and the color. I will send you updates as I go along to make sure I’m going in the right direction and you are pleased. At this stage changes become time-consuming and disruptive. Minor changes can be made, but major changes will require quite a bit of work and I will have to charge an extra hourly fee to make them.
I work on all the pages at pretty much the same time. Colors must match from page to page and the style must be consistent. I scan in my drawings and do the painting on my computer. I use Adobe Photoshop with custom brushes that replicate, watercolor, pastel, oil, gouache or acrylic paint. I sometimes use textures to add interest. When all illustrations are complete and you are satisfied, it’s time to put it all together.
 Step seven:  Digital packaging. If you choose me to do this stage, I can package and format the book so it is ready for your printer. I do this for you by designing a custom font that works with the illustration for the front cover and the back cover. I set the text for the inside of the book, doing custom fonts and type treatments where needed.
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I then format the digital file to the exact specifications your printer needs. I am always available to work with your printer to make sure everything prints correctly. When all my work is approved and ready to send to the printer or directly to you, I ask for the final 1/3 of my fee.
51af87b93bb5b9fe7517283ad27efd36How long it takes:
If we are able to communicate very quickly when I need feedback and we work smoothly together, The shortest time, start to finish is usually 5 to 6 months. If there are complications or time laspes between steps and approvals, it can take much longer. The shortest time a picture has ever taken me to illustrate, design and package was 5 months, the longest 3 years (the author would disappear for months). It  usually takes 6 to 8 months with 8 months being the safest to plan for publication date.

I hope this blog helps you to make the right choices for your picture book.
I would be happy to talk with you about illustrating your book. I can also help you make the right decisions about printing your book and the business side of publishing.

The Surprisingly Complex Principles of a Successful Picture Book

This is a re-blog of a wonderful post from Chronicle Books Blog. It explains some of the important things to remember when writing and illustrating children’s books.

If you are interested in Picture book writing and illustration, it will be worth your time to visit their site to read the whole blog post.  http://www.chroniclebooks.com/blog/2012/02/17/over-and-under-the-snow/

The illustration below was created by Silas Neal for “Over and Under the Snow” written by Kate Messner .

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Contact me to talk about your story idea. I’d love to illustrate your story and design your book. My illustrations can bring it to life on the page. Dayne Sislen, Children’s book and product illustrator and designer.

 

Is children’s book illustrating a real job?

When people I meet asked me what I do and I tell them I’m a children’s book illustrator, there is usually a brief pause. Then they ask, “Is that a real job or just a hobby?” Most people don’t know that artists actually illustrate children’s books as their full-time job.”

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Every week I get email requests to illustrate children’s picture books by authors or very small publishers who offer to pay me far below minimum wage to illustrate their books. Because my job is fun to do and I enjoy it, they think it’s not a real job and I don’t need to be paid a fair wage. They know they can’t draw well and it would take them forever. But, they think because I do draw well I should be able to quickly knock out a complete 32-page picture book of full-color illustration in a few hours. They think I should illustrate their book for pennies “for the great exposure” it will give me.

Believe me, exposure doesn’t pay the studio rent or utilities. It doesn’t pay for computers, computer software, art supplies, children’s book conferences to keep my skills up-to-date. It doesn’t pay for my website and blog or the cost of updating my portfolio.

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They don’t realize I actually have to read their story several times to fully understand the characters and the story. That I must decide what words will be on each page to build excitement and discovery with each page turn. That I then make a rough dummy book with the text breakdown on each spread and decide what illustration will help enhance the excitement on each page. It’s not enough to simply illustrate the words on the page, I must add another dimension of interest and a back story. The pictures in a picture book tell half the story.

Then I must give considerable thought and drawing practice to each character so I can visualize and draw them from all sides and angles before I start. The traits must be unique for each character. I research period or regional clothes and backgrounds so the book is accurate. I also research the particular genre of the book so the cover of their book will be appropriate but also stand out from others on the shelf. All of this is done before I even start illustrating the story.

At this stage, I then make rough sketches for each page for the author or art director to see to make sure they approve of the direction I am going.

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I then proceed to finished pencils with all details and do a few color trials. When everyone is happy with these pencils, I finally get to start the actual illustrations. Most 32-page picture books have approximately 14 spreads and two single pages of illustrations.

When all the illustrations are finished and approved, it is now time for me to set up the digital files for the printer if the book is being self-published. All the text must be in place and any custom lettering or lettering effects added. The final digital file is packaged and made ready for the printer using not only the correct specifications for exact size with bleed but correct specs for color space and resolution as well.

I also do a lot of mentoring with first-time self-publishers. I can walk them through the self-publishing process and help them make the right choices. I help them carefully check the proofs from the printer or print on demand company they are working with so everything turns out exactly as it should.

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Illustrating a children’s picture book takes between four to eight months from start to finish. But it can take well over a year if the author or art director is slow to respond and make decisions when I send roughs and pencils for approval at each stage of the process.

 

Illustrating a picture book is a labor of love, but Yes, it is a real job and illustrators should be fairly paid for their expertise and talent.

I love to work with authors and art directors. You can contact me and I will be happy to discuss your book and give you a fair price to illustrate and even mentor you through the self-publishing process.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gigi and Grandma Remember. A story about memory loss.

cover_gigi-and-grandma-social-mediaSo excited! I just wanted everyone to know, the book I just finished illustrating Gigi and Grandma Remember, is now listed for pre-orders on Amazon.com

Gigi notices Grandma sometimes forgets, but she learns to help by giving Grandma clues to trigger her memory. Their bond is strong and they can still spend a silly and fun-filled day together, despite a few bumps in the road. Gigi and Grandma Remember illustrates how children can engage in normal family activities with their loved ones with memory loss and also gives parents a platform for discussion in an age appropriate manner.

Maggie Konopa is the talented author I worked with on this book. She has been a joy to work with on this project of love. Please read more below about her journey to write this book.


Guest post by Maggie Konopa 

To this day, I still find children’s books captivating and enchanting. I had a strong desire to write a children’s book, but I didn’t know where to start. How do I select which of my many ideas to develop? I decided to move forward with a project to dedicate to my mother who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease.  “Gigi and Grandma Remember” was born after researching how dementia affects children, integrating my own personal experiences and imagination.

After too many revisions to count, my manuscript was ready…or so I thought. Professional editors reminded me that an ideal word count for a picture book is around 500 words. My manuscript was close to 1,000 words. Back to the mother of all revisions. The next step was a professional critique. The critique gave me crucial advice. I must trust my illustrator to help me carry the story. This is where Dayne Sislen enters the last leg of my long journey. 

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I researched illustrators online after reading how to choose an illustrator. I found her on SCBWI, Behance and then, of course, her website. Dayne’s experience, customer reviews and portfolio won me over.

Dayne is a highly experienced and talented illustrator. She studied my manuscript and began the sketches for my review. It was uncanny how she captured my visual thoughts on the first iteration. Not only was she my illustrator, she also served as a valuable mentor.


Maggie Konopa uses a few of her personal experiences with her mother as an inspiration to write “Gigi and Grandma Remember.” She lives wherever the Army sends their family and enjoys seeking out a cozy corner to write short stories. Maggie Konopa is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators. Her facebook page is: https://www.facebook.com/MKonopaGigiandGrandma Preorders are now available on Amazon.com.