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.

I Love Picture Books!

I love everything about picture books. The books themselves are short but they tell fully realized stories without using many words. The illustrations carry half the meaning, so all ages can figure out what the story’s about.

The words can be; colorful, noisy, irreverent, serious, silly, impertinent, sassy,  wriguldy-wrag, cheeky, and just plain fun to say. FYI: Wriguldy-wrag is a real word meaning mischief.

Images_Day the Crayons Quit_DaywaltImage_Where the Wild Things Are_Sendak Image_A Splash of Red_Bryant

Picture books introduce children to books before they can read. First, as a young child on a reader’s lap soaking up all the fun of the words and pictures. Second as a pretend reader, “reading” to a sibling or pet. At this stage, the illustrations act as a reminder for the words of the story and encourage visual thinking. Still later, when the actual written words start to make sense with the pictures, the children become real readers.

All you have to do to start children on the road to becoming a lifetime reader is start reading aloud to your kids, your grandkids, your nieces and nephews and any other kid you want to help. If we all do this, the world will be a more educated and tolerant place for all.

A not so secret confession: I love to read picture books out-loud in all the funny voices, even when I am all alone.

The books I’ve shown above are just a small selection of my favorites: The Day the Crayons Quit, by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers; Where the Wild things Are, written and illustrated by Maurice Sendak and A Splash of Red, by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet.

 

 

My Entry for #PBPitch on Twitter

Today is my chance to pitch one of my picture books to a large group of picture book agents at once. All pitching authors use the #PBPitch hashtag on their 140 word pitch on Twitter. As an author/illustrator, I may post one image from my book with my pitch. What I didn’t realize was adding this image would cut down on the number of characters I had to work with by 10. Coming up short by ten characters is huge, when you only have 140 characters to start with.

Penelope_cover

I enjoy reading picture books written and illustrated by the same talented person, so I want to join their ranks.  I want to become a children’s book author and illustrator. I continue to work diligently on my writing skills when I can find the time between illustration assignments for other authors.  I take SCBWI workshops and writing classes, read books and listen to all the podcasts I can find on the subject. I also belong to a great children’s book critique group. The picture book I am pitching has been through dozens of rewrites. My critique group has seen so many revisions, they probably know the story word for word by now. Thanks to my critique group for being nurturing and honest to help me grow.

Penelope_spread_cropped

Vacation is not a good time to work on illustrations

Round_rough_illustrationsOnce again, an illustration job is taking longer than I expected. This time I must take some of the blame. I have been on vacation for the last 17 days. I took everything with me and intended to work on the illustrations while I was gone. I thought working in a warm place by the pool would be more fun than working in a cold place looking out the window at snow. But vacations are supposed to be…well a vacation. Even though I love what I do, I still need a vacation away from working once in a while.

My vacation was over before I knew it. I am now very much behind schedule. There is still snow out my window. I have a deadline of May 9th. Which sounds far away, but I am also putting together the iPad App for this book, so I have to allow time for that process.

All 31 of the rough pencils are done, I need to do the finished line work, then start on the color work (my second favorite part after the character studies). All illustrations must be done in layers with any moving parts for the App to be on separate layers. It will take a lot of planning.