What Print on Demand service is best for your self-published picture book?

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Your manuscript is finished. You’ve had it critiqued and beta read and proofread several times. Now, what? It can take months or sometimes a year to hear back from traditional publishers or agents. Maybe, you don’t want to wait that long or go through the lengthy process.

So you’ve decided to go the self-publishing route.  There are so many choices, you don’t know where to turn. The information you find online is sometimes misleading. Every site seems to have an agenda, pushing you towards their product.

I hope to make your selection process easier with some comparisons and facts. I have printed books with three of the major Print on Demand (POD) services. I know which ones offer what you need and which ones are expensive. It is very hard to compare services because each service offers something different. These prices are based on printing an 8″ x 10″**- 32-page full-color picture book. The profit is based on using the retail price of $9.99 for the soft cover book.

(Note: It was just announced 8/28/18 that CreateSpace will not be printing books. Amazon’s KDP Print will be taking over. All books now printed with CreateSpace can be transferred over to KDP). I will update this chart soon.

POD chart

All pricing is based on 8’ x 10” full-color 32 page picture books. Profit is based on selling the softcover at $9.99 retail. Purchase price is based on 50 quantity before shipping and tax is added.

**Sizing on Lulu is 8.5” x 8.5” because  8” x 10” is not available.

* Bookstores will not usually stock books unless they are returnable, but they may special order a book. IngramSpark gives you a choice.

***The CreateSpace fee $39 is for the first year ProPlan which gives you better royalties as shown on the chart.

***The IngramSpark $49 set-up fee is credited back to you when you order 50 books.

**** IngramSpark has several choices for discount rate. 40% was used on this chart. Bookstores expect 40% to 50%. You can use 30% if you are not concerned about bookstore sales. 50% with returns if you want bookstores to stock your books.

I prefer working with IngramSpark. I find their quality is better and I love their hardcover books. But, I must point out, they are set-up to work with professional book designers. They are not as easy to use when you are unfamiliar with file types and are trying to use Microsoft Word to compose your book. They prefer files created in Adobe InDesign and converted to correctly sized and formatted PDFs.

CreateSpace is easier to work with, but their printing quality is spotty. Lulu is expensive unless you only sell your books on their website. Compare prices and quality.

I hope I have helped you make up your mind. I am a children’s book illustrator and designer, contact me if you need your book illustrated and/or formatted for print on demand. (I will not share or abuse your contact information)

How to find a Children’s Book Illustrator for your self-published book

Why are many children’s book illustrators unwilling to work with self-publishing authors?

I am afraid, a few illustrators have very good reasons for this attitude. As a professional illustrator, I get emails from self-publishing authors all the time, who love my illustrations and want me to illustrate their book. They want me to quote a price by return email. But they don’t tell me if it’s a picture book, chapter book or middle grade or how many illustrated pages they need. Occasionally an author will say I don’t need a big fancy book, I only want a small book, maybe 12 pages. How much will that be? These questions put me in an awkward position. I don’t have enough information to give them a price.

Mouse artists working together

They want me to just “sketch-up” something fast. “Don’t spend any time.” But they want the main character to look like their niece at four years wearing the dress they gave her for her birthday. The little boy character to look like the boy on that program on TV (they can’t remember the name of) only change his hair to blond hair. The house in the background should look just like their Aunt Ethel’s house, they don’t have a picture, but it has shutters. AND of course, the dog should look like their deceased dog Rover (they do have pictures).  –Yes, people have asked me to do all of these things. None of this is fast or easy for me at all.

I can already tell this author will take a lot of my time and will not value my experience or expertise. Do I give them a ballpark figure that covers all kinds of books and situations, or do I probe for more details? Probing takes my time away from other jobs.

Some hints about how to find and work with an illustrator:

• Do your research, search Google, Yahoo or Bing for  “children’s book illustrators.” Read their websites and blogs. Go to organization websites for illustrators such as the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators www. SCBWI.org or ChildrensIllustrators.com

• When you find an illustrator you want to work with be nice when you contact them. Nice goes a long way.

• When contacting the illustrator to get pricing, give all the details they will need to decide how long your book will take to illustrate. What kind of book for children is it? What age child is the book for. Give them an idea of the length of the book,  how many characters, how detailed do you want the backgrounds, do you want spreads or single pages, cover and back cover. Will the illustrator also be designing and digitally assembling the book for printing?

I usually respond by telling them:

Most picture books are 32-pages with approx 14 spreads and one or two single pages illustrated. They also will need a cover, back cover and a title page. If the author also needs the cover and interior pages designed with the text in place that requires more time and costs more. I highly suggest doing this using a designer or an illustrator who specializes in design.  Even if your book is well illustrated and well-written, poor design can undermine the entire look and quality of the book.

If it’s a chapter book they will need a color cover, back cover and at least one illustration (color or black and white) per chapter.

Middle-grade books have a color cover and several or no black and white inside illustrations.

I also absolutely positively need to read your manuscript before I decide to illustrate your book and give you a firm price.  I want to know if my style fits the story? Is there enough action in the book to illustrate? Has the author done their homework in preparing the manuscript? Are the illustrator notes too confining?

I fully immerse myself in the current book I am illustrating. My illustrations will make up one-half of the content of the book and I take this responsibility very seriously. A picture book takes me 4 to 8 months to illustrate depending on how complicated the book is and how organized the author is. This is a business for me, it is a full-time job.  Be sure to set aside enough in your budget to do your book justice. Don’t ask a professional illustrator to spend 4 to 8 months illustrating your book for fun or exposure. This is why most illustrators will not work with self-publishing authors.

Remember, in the marketplace (bookstore or Amazon), your book will first be judged by its cover.  Do you want your book judged solely by amateurish illustrations and an awkward cover design?

Why am I willing to work with self-publishing authors?

Occasionally I find an author who values my time, talent and expertise. When I read their manuscript I can tell it has been carefully edited for content and as well as grammar. They belong to an experienced SCBWI critique group or they have used a professional children’s book editor. They have taken the time to learn about writing for children and their manuscript clearly shows it. The language and word count are perfect for the age group for which they are writing.

I think children’s book authors are some of the most talented and clever people on earth. I enjoy getting to know them during the months we work together on their book. Contact me below if you want to talk to me about your children’s book.

Visit my website to see if I’m the perfect illustrator to bring your picture book or chapter book to life.