I self-published a children’s picture book back in 2008 when self-publishing wasn’t like it is today. And, as a newbie to self-publishing, I made a couple of mistakes. The first of which was that I didn’t hire an illustrator – I did the illustrations and cover for the book myself. I did correct this major, major error about four years later.
But, I didn’t self-publish to become rich or famous. The book was created from a lullaby I wrote when my first child wouldn’t sleep. I’d walk the hallway every night with my daughter in my arms and sing the lullaby.
It became a family lullaby and my children thought it’d be a great idea to make it into a bedtime story, DAY’S END LULLABY. So, for me, self-publishing was the way to go.
Back then, I used Booksurge which is now CreateSpace, and I was very pleased with the support and results.
I also more recently self-published a nonfiction book on writing for children: Fiction Writing for Children.
Although I know a lot more than I did 10 years ago, I still made a few of mistakes:
1. I hired someone from Fiverr.com to format and upload my book to Kindle and Createspace. And, I hit the ‘publish’ button without previewing the book first. The margins are off.
2. I’m not crazy about the title I created, but used it anyway.
3. I’m not crazy about the book cover, but used it anyway. I used someone on Fiverr for that also.
4. I didn’t give it to Beta readers or an editor before publishing.
At some point, I’ll revise the book and have it reformatted and uploaded for publication.
But, again, my purpose for the book wasn’t to make money. It was to provide answers to questions I keep getting about writing for children. It ended up being over 170 pages of all information – no illustrations – no fluff: FICTION WRITING FOR CHILDREN.
So, let’s go back to the title question: Is self-publishing a young children’s book the way to go?
Well, based on an information-packed article on Jane Friedman’s site, you should think twice and even three times before deciding to jump in.
Why Self-Publishing a Children’s Book May Not Be Right For You
It seems everyone is self-publishing today. And, there’s nothing wrong with that if your expectations are in check.
Here are a 4 reality-check reasons you may want to stop and think before self-publishing:
1. The stigma.
While it’s better than before, there is still stigma attached to self-published books.
The reason for this is there are NO gatekeepers for self-publishing. If you have an idea, write it down, get a book cover, and get it formatted for publishing, you have a book.
– Don’t know how to write? Doesn’t matter.
– Didn’t bother with editing or proofing? Doesn’t matter.
– Didn’t bother with a professional cover? Doesn’t matter.
– Didn’t bother to hire a good illustrator.
Self-publishing does open the arena to everyone and makes the playing field more even, but it also allows for a lot of less than professional and less than quality books. This is why there’s still a stigma attached to self-published books.
2. You’ve got to do it right.
As mentioned in #1, anyone can self-publish a book. But, YOU don’t want to be anyone; you want to do it right and that takes work especially if you’re publishing a book for young children.
– Do you know that the story must be told from one point-of-view?
– Do you know that there should be only one protagonist?
– Do you know the proper format and punctuation for dialogue?
– Do you know about present tense and past tense?
– Do you know about showing vs. telling?
– More and more and more.
If you don’t want to learn how to write for children, then you definitely shouldn’t be self-publishing a children’s book. Or, you should hire a children’s ghostwriter to do it for you.
Brent Hartinger noted that “the Gold Rush is definitely over. There is now an absolute deluge of content, and the market has become extremely competitive. Your idea needs to be really, really marketable, or your book needs to be really, really good, and preferably both.” (1)
3. It can be very expensive.
Illustrations – If you’re self-publishing a children’s picture book (or even a chapter book with illustrations), you’ll need to hire an illustrator. If you want a good one, s/he won’t come cheap.
One of my clients is thinking about hiring someone for around $13,000 USD for the interior illustrations, design, text layout, front cover, and back cover. And, this client is doing a series.
Another client hired a subsidiary self-publishing company of a major publishing house. He paid $10,000 for illustrations and to have it designed and formatted for publishing. AND, at least half the illustrations stunk! He had the service do them over and over.
Granted most people can’t afford these kind of fees. But, if you want someone who WON’T make your book look like a total amateur job, then you’re looking at spending around $100 to $200 per illustration. And, you’ll need around 14 interior illustrations. The front cover is usually more money unless you use one of the interior illustrations for the cover. And, then there’s the backcover design.
Publishing service – Once you have your story complete, with illustrations and text layout, you’ll need a service to format it and upload it to distributors like Amazon, Createspace, Smashwords, etc. This is an additional fee.
Be super-careful with these companies because they’ll try to sell you everything and anything: editing, rewriting, illustrations, design, layout, formatting, distribution, and marketing.
Keep in mind they make their money from you and only you.
4. You’re one author in an ocean teeming with authors.
The market is swamped. If you’re looking to reach lots of people, become famous, or make a boat load of money, don’t hold your breath.
Most self-published children’s authors don’t recoup their publishing investment.
While there are exceptions to the rule, they are far and few between.
5. You’re not willing to actively market your book (Bonus Tip).
Okay, even if you know how to write and have the money to hire a pretty good illustrator, if you don’t actively market your book, you most probably won’t sell any.
Before you even get to the publishing decision, create a marketing plan and include an author website in those plans.
With thousands and thousands of books vying for a reader’s attention, you’ll need all the help you can get.
One note here: Most self-publishing services offer marketing as part of a package deal or separately. Don’t waste your money. These companies don’t bother with effective, ongoing marketing.
I’ve seen the results of marketing from these services numerous times. Again, don’t waste your money.
Stop by next week. I’ll discuss why self-publishing may be the way to go.
Being a writer, like being any kind of artist who creates something from nothing, is an amazing ability. It’s almost like magic. And, you are in control. You decide what to create. The only limit you have is the cap on your imagination.
Check out my 170+ page ebook (or paperback) that gives you all the basics of FICTION WRITING FOR CHILDREN. It’s newly revised and includes information on finding a publisher or agent and marketing your books.