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.

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.

New Etsy Shop for our books!

Screen Shot 2015-11-06 at 1.18.43 PMI just set up a brand new Etsy shop called Glass Pen Press so everyone can buy the SIGNED versions of Donna Warwick’s and my book, “There’s a Mouse on My Head! The signed books can be purchased locally around St. Louis at: The Jewish Book Festival Book Store until November 12th, Imagination Toys in Ladue, Webster Groves Book Store in Webster and Sound Mind in Creve Coeur, Missouri. The books can also be ordered from Amazon.com and B&N.com in hard cover and soft cover, but the books ordered online are not signed by us because they are shipped directly.

The books in the Etsy shop will be signed by both of us.

I also plan to add art prints suitable for framing using a few of the illustrations from the book. I still need to figure out the logistics of having them printed and mailing them safely. So books are ready now, the art prints in a few weeks.

Hope you can drop by the shop. Let me know if you see any glitches. It’s brand new and untested.

Preparing for our picture book presentation tomorrow

Tomorrow is the big day

Donna Warwick and I have been preparing for this event since March. We will present our book “There’s a Mouse on My Head!” to the Jewish Book Festival Book Club Tea.  Representatives from all the book clubs throughout St. Louis and the committee chairs for the Jewish Book Festival will be attending the tea. Our book will also be available for sale at the Jewish Book Festival Book Store in the Missouri’s Own Section the first week in November.

MOYH 3d_BookCoverOur book release was based on being ready for this event. Donna Warwick, the author of “There’s a Mouse on My Head!” has prepared a video of the book using my illustrations, Donna’s singing the words with ukulele music in the background played by her cousin Sandy. I saw the finished version yesterday for the first time and it is fantastic. We thought it would much better to show it large on a 9 1/2 foot x 8 foot screen. Much easier for 70 people to see than holding up a picture book.

We will also talk to the group about self-publishing. We feel that everyone has a story they want to tell. We will give insight into the children’s book publishing world.

Yesterday I spent a large part of the day preparing small chocolate mice favors for each attendee. It was a lot of work. I sure hope everyone likes them. Making 70 of anything requires quite an assembly line, I had no idea what I was getting into. I don’t think there is a career change in my future as a candy maker. You can buy our book on Amazon and B&N.com or order it from your neighborhood independent book store :-).

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There’s a Mouse on My Head!

As I sit here illustrating, There is a Mouse on My Head!.. there actually is a mouse on my head. It’s an illustrated one because I’m designing a promotional bookmark we will be giving away for the release of the book. The bookmark will feature a large cartoon mouse suitable to place on your head. The book in hardcover and soft cover will be printed by August 3, 2015. We will later have an e-book available.

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The author Donna Warwick and I will be presenting our book at a Tea in October, sponsored by the Book Club for the Jewish Book Festival in St. Louis . We will also have the books available for sale at the “Missouri’s Own” section of the Jewish Book Festival bookstore in November. I have my good friend Ray Wenneker to thank for this wonderful opportunity.

The book is a fun, bedtime picture book for 2-8 year olds, featuring a grandmother as caregiver who builds a bond with her grandchildren. This charming book explores how a resourceful and creative boy uses his incredible imagination to convince Grandma that his toy mouse wants to eat his peas. Little sister, not wanting to be left out of his dinnertime game, gleefully jumps in. As their fun fantasy runs wild, their understanding grandmother is delighted to play along with the children as they brush the mouse’s teeth and put him to bed.

This joint project between author and illustrator has been an adventure. We are striking out into new territory. Ingram Spark will be publishing and distributing the books. We will be doing all of our own marketing and publicity. We have planned school and library visits as well as senior center visits where we hope to appeal to the grandmothers in the crowd. Being a part of the Jewish Book Festival is an important event for us. We have a wonderful program planned with music and a video along with our talk. Both of us can hardly wait to start visiting schools. Donna Warwick, the author works with children all the time and is very entertaining. I’ll let everyone know when the books are available. We can start taking preorders by late July.