May 15

Self, Indie, and Hybrid Publishing – Which is for You?

Most of my clients take the self-publishing road. It’s important, though, to understand what self-publishing means as there are other terms in the arena: indie authors and hybrid publishing.

It’s important to know the difference before jumping in.


Self-publishing is kind of a catch-all for anyone who writes a story and takes it through to publishing and distribution.

This includes formatting and designing the book, creating print-ready files and uploading to aggregators like IngramSpark and/or retailers like Amazon for distribution and sales.

This is not to say the author has to do everything herself, she may hire services to help with some of the phases.

All the costs are on the authors’ shoulders.

In this group, creating a book does not necessarily mean the author intends to sell it. It could be for family, friends, a specific event, etc.

This group is a mix of everyone who produces a book on their own whether for sale of not. It includes one-time writers and career writers.

It also includes less than professional writers, those who don’t take the time or put in the effort to learn how to write before putting their name on the book cover and publishing it.

The unprofessional authors in this group is why self-publishing still has somewhat of a stigma to it. There are a lot of terrible self-published books.

Indie Publishing

Originally, indie publishing was a term used for small publishers, like the home-grown, mom and pop publishers that filled in the cracks of the 5 large publishers. And it still is, somewhat.

Lately, though, the term is more in line with the author who does it all on his own.

According to Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi), “An indie author is a writer of fiction, nonfiction, or poetry books who self-publishes their own work and retains and controls their own publishing rights.”

You may pause here and question: Isn’t that the same as self-publishing?

The answer is yes and no.

Self-publishing encompasses everyone who takes control of publishing their book.

But indie authors specifically write and publish with the intent to make money, hopefully to make a living at it. They’re in it for the long haul and take pride in their books.

These authors spend the time and put in the effort to get it right.

-They learn how to write.
-They learn about the genre they’re writing in.
-They learn about revisions, editing, and proofreading their work.
-They learn the process of going through to publication.

This doesn’t mean they do it all themselves. The author may hire a formatter or a designer. And if writing a children’s picture book, she will hire a professional illustrator, unless she is a professional illustrator.

I’m sure some indie authors hire quality publishing companies to help them from formatting to publishing to distribution.

But they are in control and it’s a business to them.

Hybrid Publishing

Hybrid publishing is a newer publishing model.

This publishing path is a combination of traditional publishing and self-publishing. It’s a partnership between the publisher and the author.

The publisher is vested in the author’s success because they invest in the book by covering some of the expenses.

The author covers whatever the hybrid publisher doesn’t cover. How much depends on the company, so always read your contract.

Hybrid publishing provides a more affordable avenue outside of the traditional publishing road, which keeps getting more and more difficult to get on to.

It is important to be careful, though, as there are a lot of scam services out there. Some are vanity presses with a new title. It’s up to you to do your research and know who you’re dealing with.

Look for a service with a track record, one that knows what they’re doing and is in line with industry standards.

A tell-tale mark they’re legit is a quality service will publish under their own imprint with their own ISBNs.

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

Think carefully about how you want to enter the self-publishing arena.

Choose the type of publishing that will work best for you. Sometimes budget is the deciding factor, especially if you’re writing children’s picture books or even chapter books. These books need illustrations which can be costly.

If you take the hybrid road, look for a quality service. The same goes for self-publishing and indie publishing to work with.

There are probably more scam services than legit services out there, so again be careful.


I’m a working children’s ghostwriter, rewriter, and coach. I can help turn your story into a book you’ll be proud to be author of. You can contact me at: Or, you can give me a call at 834—347—6700

If you’d rather do-it-yourself, check out my book, How to Write a Children’s Fiction Book.

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Jun 06

What’s Stopping You From Becoming a Children’s Author?

Writing for children

There are many people, men, woman, professionals, and those in business who actually dream of being the author of a children’s book.

Usually, it’s to inspire a child or to bring memories or stories they told their children to life. Or, it can be a business person who wants a children’s book as part of their product line.

From my experience, the majority of these people want to be author of a picture book.

I’ve had hundreds and hundreds of queries about starting a project that fell through.

Why does this happen?

Why do the majority of people who want to be children’s author drop their dream?

While I don’t know for sure, I do think there are a few basic reasons.

  1. The cost.

Yep. If you are hiring a children’s ghostwriter, it will cost money.

This is a huge concern for most, and understandably.

What really surprised me during 2020 was the number of people who did use my services. It was my busiest year ever. It had to be that people had time on their hands and wanted to be kept busy.

Then there are the writing services on sites like Fiverr. These sites and many others use non-speaking people to write the stories for clients.

Yes, it will be cheaper than a professional writer, but keep in mind that you get what you pay for.

Below is an example from a Fiverr project a client came to me to fix. This was for a picture book:

“His feet were heavy with reluctance as he dragged them unwillingly one in front of the other. He looked at his reflection in the bathroom mirror and couldn’t help but notice his sad expression. His piercing dark blue eyes, once full of joy and excitement, now looked weary and defeated.”

In another section there were three “really” within four sentences.

The entire story’s formatting was horrible, such as the lack of new paragraphs for new speakers. There were grammatical errors and multiple points of view.

So, again, you get what you pay for.

I can’t imagine someone wanting to have their name as author of a story like that.

Another cost factor with children’s books is illustrations.

If you’re self-publishing, you’ll need to hire an illustrator for a picture book.

You’ll also need illustrations for chapter books and middle grade books.

I listened to a YouTube video with editor and former literary agent Mary Kole. (Check out her YouTube channel, Good Story Company.) She said if you want a high-quality professional illustrator for a picture book, you’re looking at $10,000 to $20,000. And, if you want an acclaimed illustrator, it’s much more. (1)

Obviously, most people can’t afford that. So, it’s understandable why some people drop the idea.

But there are good illustrators who charge far, far less.

  1. Motivation wanes due to life.

One perfect example is a client from 2019.

I wrote a young adult (YA) story for an attorney. It was almost done and he was gun-ho. He even wanted seven picture books written after the YA was finished.

He paid in full and we were working to finish it.

Then he slowed down. Family. Vacation. Work.

Then COVID-19 hit.

I contacted him and he said he’d get back into it, but he didn’t.

I’ll contact him again as he paid for a completed manuscript and there are still about five or so chapters to go.

So, as we all know, life happens. This can put a monkey wrench in any project.

  1. It seems too complicated.

There is a lot involved in having a book ghostwritten and illustrated.

And, it’s a lot of work if you’re writing the story yourself.

After that, it’s the business of getting the book formatted, the interior design, and uploading for publication and distribution.

It can seem daunting.

But it doesn’t have to be.

There are a number of services that will help you put your book together and get it published. I’ve even added this service to my site to make it easier for clients.

There is plenty of help out there.

So, what to do?

If your dream is to have your name as author of a children’s book, take the first step.

Find out what’s involved and what the cost will be. This will give you a solid foundation on what you need to do and what you’ll need for a budget.

It may be that your imagination is getting carried away.

Shoot me an email to discuss your project.

If you prefer writing the story yourself, I offer coaching services that includes guidance on how to self-published.

Don’t let your dream go unfulfilled.

Get started today!


(1) Picture Book Author-Illustrator


Children's ghostwriter

Let me take a look at your notes, outline, or draft. I’m a working children’s ghostwriter, rewriter, and coach. I can turn your story into a book that you’ll be proud to be author of.

Email me at: (please put Children’s Ghostwriter in the Subject line). Or, you can give me a call at 834—347—6700

Let’s get your story in publishable and marketable shape today!

Or, if you’d rather give it a shot and do-it-yourself, check out my book, HOW TO WRITE A CHILDREN’S FICTION BOOK.


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Aug 09

Written a Picture Book? Are Illustrations or Layout Next?


Picture books, illustrations, and layout

I read an interesting article from a self-publishing service (1106 Design). The article explains that the best way to produce a children’s picture book is to create the interior layout before getting the illustrations done.

This is something I hadn’t thought of. But it makes so much sense.

I write a lot of stories for clients, but that’s usually the end of my involvement.

Well, I do provide a list of illustrators and book designers to work with after they have a completed manuscript. But I usually don’t go beyond that.

I provide the list because I know most people new to the writing arena and those who have their stories ghostwritten aren’t aware of the next steps. They need help.

The DIY Beginning – Start with the Story

The first step to self-publishing a picture book is writing the story or having it ghostwritten.

Once that’s done, the author hires an illustrator who creates the interior illustrations, and usually the front and back covers.

Number of Illustrations, What Size, and the Layout

At this point, the author needs to discuss with the illustrator how the book is to be laid out.

Does the author want an illustration on each page? On every other page?

Keep in mind that having an illustration on every other page cuts the number of interior illustrations needed in half. This cuts the cost for interior illustrations in half. This is a huge factor and the decision is usually based on the budget of the author.

Once that’s decided, the illustrator and author decide if full-page or half-page illustrations should be used, or a quarter-page, or a combination.

From the article I mentioned early, it’s best to let the illustrator layout the pages for the text and illustrations. It creates a much more professional and engaging finished product.

If you look at books like The Berenstain Bears or “D.W The Picky Eater” by Marc Brown, or even Sophia Mouse, which is a simple chapter book, the text can be anywhere on the page. But it needs to work with the illustrations.

You want to be able to easily read the text. It shouldn’t blend into the illustration.

This is why it’s a good idea to have your illustrator create the layout before actually creating the illustrations. This way the illustrations fit the space allotted for them.

A great way for you to determine how you want your picture book to look is to do some research. Find books that you like and let your illustrator know what look you’d like to go for.

A number of illustrators who are on the list I provide my clients include the text in the illustrations.

Your Illustrations are Done

Once the illustrations are done, the illustrator will give you a PDF file that you will send off to the book designer and/or book formatter.

If your illustrator JUST provides the illustrations, you will need to hand over the manuscript and the illustrations separately. The book designer will put it together, asking you where you want the text (on which pages and where on the pages).

It’s much easier if you work with an illustrator who includes the text in the illustrations.

When done, the book formatter or designer will give you print-ready files for ebook upload and print upload to sites like Amazon (retailer) or IngramSpark (aggregator).

You will take the print-ready files and upload them to whatever retailer or book distributor you intend to use.

This is the Do-It-Yourself way.

An Alternative

If the above seems like too much work, you do have an option: hire a self-publishing company to do it all for you.

Author be aware!

There are A LOT of companies out there that just want your money. So, BUYER BEWARE.

Research, research, research self-publishing companies before handing over your money.

Once you find a reputable company, they will take your manuscript and illustrations and put the book together for you.

Some of these companies even offer interior illustrations, making your life even easier.

Just be sure the self-publishing company handles children’s picture books. This is very important.

One company that looks reputable is I’m hoping to get the chance to work with them one of these days so I’ll be able to let you know how it goes.

Also, keep in mind that the convenience comes at a price. You’ll need a hefty budget.

AGAIN, be careful.

To read the article I referred to, click the link:

Children's ghostwriter

Whether you need help with ghostwriting or rewriting, let me take a look at your children’s story. Just send me an email at: Please put “Children’s Writing” in the Subject box. Or, give me a call at 347—834—6700

Let’s get your idea off the launch pad or your outline into a publishable story today!

Or, if you’d rather give it a shot and do-it-yourself, check out my book, HOW TO WRITE A CHILDREN’S FICTION BOOK.


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Please share this blog post!

Mar 23

Why Do You Want to Write a Children’s Book?

The why in writing your book.

I don’t know the exact statistic or if there is an accurate one, but from what I read, around 80% of people want to write a book.

Well, I’m not sure if that many want to actually write a book, but around that many want to be the author of a book.

So, what’s the allure?

Why do YOU want to write a book?

Based on my clients, the main reason they want to write a book is to bring a story to children.

Whether it’s about an historical event, a childhood incident, a disability, a locale, or other specific event, they all want to share it with a child.

There are others who want to help a child deal with difficulties they may encounter growing up. Others want to enlighten a child, spark a child’s imagination, or just give them a fun read.

There are also some authors who have less than altruistic motives. I’ve had a couple of clients who wanted a book that would become a Disney movie or one that would become a best seller.

I obviously had to explain to those clients that there are no guarantees on a book’s success.

I’ve also had clients who used a children’s book as part of their marketing strategy for a business endeavor.

While there’s no right or wrong reason to want to write a book, there are some facts that you should be aware of when thinking of writing a children’s book or any book for that matter.

1. If you’re looking to become rich by writing a children’s book, don’t hold your breath.

If you’re traditionally publishing and publish with a large company you may get a $2000 – $8000 advance. But that’s split with the illustrator if you have a picture book.

That advance needs to be paid off before you get any additional money in the form of royalties.

This means your book must generate enough sales for the publishing house to get their advance back.

Unfortunately, a lot of books go out of print after 5000 or 10,000 copies. Usually, the advance is never met.

If you publish with a small publisher, you won’t get an advance.

If you self-publish, most authors don’t make back their publishing expenses.

The reason for this is the majority of authors need help with editing, formatting, and uploading to an aggregator (IngramSpark) and/or retailer (Amazon).

Feeling overwhelmed, they end up investing in a service that will do it for them.

If you’ve written a picture book of even a chapter book, you’ll have the additional cost of illustrations.

Then there’s the book cover.

In addition to all this, for either publishing path, if you use a ghostwriter, that’s another fee.

2. You want to become famous. Again, don’t hold your breath.

A Publisher’s Weekly article notes that 1.68 million books were self-published in 2018. That includes ebooks and print books.

And, each year the numbers rise.

The chances of becoming famous by publishing a children’s book are slim.
The competition is stiff.

Now, this is not to say it can’t happen.

There’s always time and chance … some authors do make it.

My philosophy is nothing ventured, nothing gained. But, please don’t bet the farm on it.

So, which category do you fall under?

It’s important to know why you want to write a book. Knowing and writing your reasons why will help you realize that dream.

Get started writing your children’s story today.

Children's ghostwriter

If you’ve been thinking about writing a children’s book (with help), now might be a good time.

Just email me at kcioffiventrice@gmail or give me a call at 347—834—6700 to discuss your project.

Mar 09

Self-Publishing a Book – You’re at the Finish Line

Self-publishing tips.

Over the last two weeks, I’ve been writing about my process of self-publishing a book. This is the third and final article in the series.

While I’ve ghostwritten a lot of children’s books, I haven’t follow the process after that.

I have done some illustration reviews, but usually I just hand the polished manuscript to my client with a list of illustrators and formatters and that’s it.

But I realize that figuring out what to do after that can be a bit overwhelming. I wanted to be able to provide more information to my clients to help them with the next step, so decided to revise a book I had published a few years ago.

When I first wrote the book, I paid someone on Fiverr to take my Word doc manuscript, format it, design a cover, and actually upload it to Kindle and CreateSpace. I had no involvement whatsoever aside from writing the manuscript.

What I learned from that experience is that you should really hire someone or a service who knows what they’re doing. While sometimes going the cheap route can work out, sometimes it doesn’t. So, buyer beware.

Okay, back on track.

In the first article of this series, I talked about getting the cover and back cover designed by 100 Covers. They did an amazing job.

Once the cover was ready to go, I sent my fully edited manuscript along with the cover image to the book formatter. I used Book Formatters.

The book I’m publishing is nonfiction, so all I needed to do was send the manuscript in a Word doc along with the cover. They’ll design the interior and create a PDF of the book (a print-ready file) which they’ll send to me for review.

Once I okay the PDF, the formatter will move on to building the ebook which are ePub and MOBI files. They’ll also create print version files if I want, which I do.

You will need to let the formatter know which selling platform or aggregator you’ll upload your book to, like KDP (Retailer) or Smashwords (Aggregator) or Ingram Spark (Aggregator) or other. I’m guessing there are different formats for different publishing platforms.

Most of Book Formatters clients use KDP and IngramSpark. That’s what I’ll be using.

So, right now I’m waiting for the PDF to review.

In case you’re not sure what an aggregator does, this service distributes your book. In other words, they make it available for sale in a number of places, like Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and so on.

Not all aggregators have the same distribution network. IngramSpark has an extensive network with over 39,000 retailers including libraries.

An overview of how it works:

After your manuscript is complete and fully edited:

  1. You hire an illustrator or book cover service to create the front cover, the back cover, and the spine for your book.
  2. The manuscript and cover go to the book formatter.
  3. The formatting is done and you get print-ready files to upload to retailers and aggregators (like KDP and IngramSpark)

With 100 Covers, you’re also given a 3D/social image and print cover. I’m not sure if other designers do this also.

What Is The Process For A Picture Book?

I asked Book Formatters what their process is and it’s pretty straight forward:

The steps to get your picture book formatted:

  1. You submit your finalized cover.
  2. You submit your fully edited manuscript in MS Word format.
  3. You submit your images in a separate file. The images must be a minimum of 300 DPI. Your illustrator should know this, but just in case, you can change the DPI of images at
  4. Provide clear instructions on where the images are to go. Also provide a description or illustration of the image and text layout.

Let’s backtrack just a bit.

You will need a quality and fully edited manuscript no matter what type of book you’re publishing.

If it’s a picture book or chapter book with illustrations, you’ll need to hire a ‘good’ illustrator.

Try to find a children’s illustrator who does the text layout in the illustrations and does book covers. Some of them will provide you with a PDF of the book that you can hand over to the book formatter.

It’s important to work with an illustrator who knows what she’s doing.

Things you might add to your manuscript before getting it formatted:

  1. The dedication page. You could ask the formatter where to put it or send it to them to add it in for you.

(The book formatter will add the title page and copyright page.)

  1. The author page. This is a brief ‘about you.’ It lets the reader know who you are. This goes at the end of your story. You can simply include it at the end of the manuscript.

One thing I didn’t mention is the backcover copy.

This copy is an enticing description of the book. It should motivate the reader to actually BUY your book. Just be sure not to give the ending away.

You’ll give the backcover copy to the illustrator who is doing your book cover.

All in all, it’s not a crazy troublesome process.

Once you have a fully edited manuscript and book cover, you give it to a book formatter to turn into the print-ready files you’ll need for an ebook and a print book.

That’s it.

Then you create an account at Amazon, IngramSpark, or any other retailer or aggregator service you want.

Next, take the print-ready files and upload them to the services you chose.

Making Your Book Searchable and Findable

The retailers and aggregators will need information about your book, like a powerful description, keywords, category, price, and so on.

Read the questions and information they ask for carefully and complete everything carefully. It’s this information that will help sell your books. It allows the distribution service to categorize your book and make it available for relevant search queries.

Once you upload your book, it can take 24-72 hours before your ebook and print book will be available for sale.

Like anything else, take it one step at a time. Knowing what to do makes is so much easier!

One Final Note

If you really, really don’t think you can handle this process, there are self-publishing services that will put it together and publish it for you. You do need to be careful though. There are a lot of unscrupulous services out there.

You might look into and

Keep in mind that these services will offer you all kinds of services, like editing, illustrations, covers, marketing, and so on.

The last I looked, Lulu was $1200 for this and BookBaby was $1800 just for book formatting, publishing, and distribution.

Please be careful if you are thinking about using their services for editing, illustrations, and marketing. I’ve seen very poor-quality work from some self-publishing services.

I don’t know about Lulu or BookBaby, but do be careful.

I now take care of this process for clients who are interested. If you’d like me to give you a quote, send me an email.

I know this is a lot of information and I’ve tried to make it as clear and understandable as possible. If you have any questions, or I’ve missed the mark, please let me know.

You might find the first two articles in this series helpful also:

Self-Publishing a Book – Formatting (Part 1)

Self-Publishing a Book – The ISBN, the Barcode, and the LCCN (Part 2)
Self-publishing a book may seem overwhelming, but if you get it done in steps, it won’t feel daunting. This article discusses the ISBN, the barcode, and the LCCN. All things you’ll need for your book.

Children's ghostwriter

Let me take a look at your notes, outline, or draft. I’m a working children’s ghostwriter and rewriter. I can turn your story into a book that you’ll be proud to be author of.

Shoot me an email at: (please put
Children’s Ghostwriter in the Subject line). Or, you can give me a call at 834—347—6700

Let’s get your story in publishable shape today!

Feb 24

Self-Publishing a Book – Formatting

Formatting your book.

As a children’s book ghostwriter, I provide my clients with a list of reasonably priced illustrators, but I just couldn’t find book formatters. Or, more likely, I didn’t understand the process.

I’ve read a lot of self-publishing articles and they explain where to find an illustrator but NOT ONE OF THEM went into getting your book formatted. This always surprised me because it’s a big part of self-publishing a book.

In my research to find a service that formats books, I found a wonderful service, Formatted Books.

They graciously offered to format a nonfiction book that I revised and created a new title for. So, I’ve been busy getting everything ready.

Along with the formatting, Formatted Books works with 100 Covers and they’ve done an amazing new cover for me.

I am so very pleased with their work. (Click on the book image above to go to the Amazon Sales Page for the ebook – it also comes in a paperback.)

But that’s not what I’m writing about specifically.

I want to document the steps so I can put them in a PDF for my clients and just as important, so I can remember them. LOL

STEP 1 The Revision

I revised my book by editing and proofing it as well as removing some content and adding new content.

I also created a NEW title for the book as the original one wasn’t effective.

STEP 2 The New Cover and back cover.

I knew I needed a new cover. The cover on the existing book was from someone on Fiverr and didn’t lend itself to writing a children’s book.

Luckily, 100 Covers got involved.

They asked a number of questions and based on my answers they created two covers for me. I liked both designs, but did like one more than the other. But, I wanted it tweaked.

I worked with Cherub and he took my suggestions and had another version created.

Still wanting it tweaked, he patiently listened to my input and created yet another version that I absolutely love. You can see it above.

Along with the book cover, the designer also creates a back cover design.

I was asked a number of questions again, like what size will my book be (I chose 6X9); what color paper I wanted (I chose white), and my ISBN.

I also needed to provide the back cover copy – this is simply a ‘grabbing’ description of the book. I included a very brief author bio in the copy.

I was also allowed to give my headshot, but I chose to go with a fun colorful promo image instead.

3. The ISBN.

Since I changed the title of the book, it automatically needed a new ISBN.
I had already bought a set of 10 ISBNs back in 2017, so was prepared.

The book formatter and the book cover designer both need the ISBN. It will go on the copyright page within the book and it will go on the back cover.

You can get an ISBN at:

Tip here: To assign your ISBN to your book, you’ll be asked for the price of the book. If you’re just not sure, you can go through the process without it.

You’ll also need to upload the cover image and you’ll need to provide a description of the book.

4. The Barcode.

According to

“The ISBN can be translated into a worldwide compatible bar code format. Publishers who wish to have their ISBNs translated into worldwide compatible bar codes can now make their request directly online at or . Bar code scanning is a required step required by for many retailers in the sales transaction process for book publications and book-related items.”

There are free services that provide free ISBN conversion into barcodes. 100 Covers did the conversion for me.

If you need to do your own, there free services I found are and

Tip here: Before you create a barcode you should fix the price for the book. You will be asked for it. But it can be done without a price also.

5. The Library of Congress Control Number (LCCN).

According to the Library of Congress:

“A Library of Congress catalog control number is a unique identification number that the Library of Congress assigns to the catalog record created for each book in its cataloged collections. Librarians use it to locate a specific Library of Congress catalog record in the national databases and to order catalog cards from the Library of Congress or from commercial suppliers. The purpose of the Preassigned Control Number (PCN) program is to enable the Library of Congress to assign control numbers in advance of publication to those titles that may be added to the Library’s collections.”

While you don’t have to get a LCCN, it’s free and is a plus to have and it only takes one to two weeks to get.

You will need to register for it prior to your book being published.

6. The Interior Design (Formatting)

The only thing the book formatter asked is that the book be fully edited and ready to go, and the cover be finalized.

They will create the title page and the copyright page. They will also choose the font based on the cover of the book. Although, if you if you want a specific font, they will work with you.

What I wasn’t sure about was the page numbers. The book formatter creates the page numbers.

My other question will be if the Contents page will have the Chapter Headings page number listed. This is a big deal.

An update – they included the Chapter Headings on the Contents Page.

The formatting process is taking longer than I expected, but I’m hoping I’ll get the final print-ready files soon.

Once I do, I’ll let you know how it goes and what other steps may be involved, if any.

I hope this helps you on your self-publishing journey!

Children's ghostwriter

Whether you need ghostwriting or rewriting, let me take a look at your children’s story. Just send me an email at: Please put “Children’s Writing” in the Subject box. Or, give me a call at 347—834—6700

Let’s get your idea off the launch pad or your outline into a publishable story today!

Or, if you’d rather give it a shot and do-it-yourself, check out my book, HOW TO WRITE A CHILDREN’S FICTION BOOK.


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Mar 17

Your Self-Published Book and the ISBN

Selling to libraries and book sellersBeing a children’s ghostwriter, I get a lot of clients who self-publish. Many of them use companies that will do the work for them, actually format and publish and distribute the book, like Amazon does.

If you self-publish a physical book or ebook and intend to sell it online, in bookstores, or pretty much anywhere else, you will need an ISBN.

What Does ISBN Stand for?

It stands for International Standard Book Number and every book must have one to be sold.

According to,

The purpose of the ISBN is to establish and identify one title or edition of a title from one specific publisher and is unique to that edition, allowing for more efficient marketing of products by booksellers, libraries, universities, wholesalers and distributors.

Each format or binding must have a separate ISBN (i.e. hardcover, paperbound, VHS video, laserdisc, e-book format, etc). A new ISBN is required for a revised edition. Once assigned, an ISBN can never be reused. An ISBN is printed on the lower portion of the back cover of a book above the bar code and on the copyright page.

The ISBN’s purpose is to create a unique identity for your book so you can sell it. This is essential for book dealers, libraries, and other sources to be able to find and identify specific books.

Where Do You Get an ISBN?

If you’re using a self-publishing service, like CreateSpace,,,, Smashwords, Lulu, or similar entities, you don’t need to get your own ISBN, the service will give you one for FREE.

This may seem like a great deal. Who doesn’t like free?


If you use a free ISBN from a self-publishing service, they’ll be listed as the Publisher of your book.

In addition to this, according to Self-Publishing School, there’s another problem, “Most of the time, you can only use those free ISBNs with the channels those companies distribute through.” (1)

Because of these reasons, I strongly advice my clients to get their own ISBN.

Where Can You Get Your Own ISBN?

If you’ve thought about it and decided you don’t want the self-publishing company to be listed as the publisher of your book, you can get an ISBN through Bowker at

One number costs $125, but you can get 10 for $295 (these fees are as of the last time I researched them).

Unless you intend to be a one-book-wonder with only one version of your book, you might want to go for the 10 pack.

Sometimes you can buy an ISBN from the publishing company you’re using. At the time this article was written, you could get one from CreateSpace for $99.

What Name Should You Choose for Your Publishing Company

You can choose whatever publishing name you want to use. I made mine Writers on The Move.

You might use your name or a family member’s name. It can literally be anything.

For a lot more on the ISBN, check out:


Children's ghostwriterWhether you need rewriting or ghostwriting, let me take a look at your story. Just send me an email at: Please put “Children’s Writing” in the Subject box. Or, give me a call at 347—834—6700

Let’s get your idea off the launch pad or your outline into a publishable story today!

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Feb 03

16 Reasons Why You Should Publish a Book

Thinking about publishing a book? Go for it.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson Author of the multi award-winning #HowToDoItFrugally Series
of books for writers

There are naysayers enough to fill every dark crevice in your defense against negativity. When people telling you not to publish a book (no, I won’t list all the reasons they will give you), here is a list for you to check to see if you have a viable reason for ignoring them:

1. My favorite: You want a book of memories or your genealogy to give to friends and relatives as holiday gifts—or to have just such a record organized and readily available. There are dozens of other examples. Perhaps you are Armenian, and you have dozens of of old-country remedies you’d like future generations (in your family or community) not to forget.

2. You want a hobby. You’ll love the book launch. You may love planning a creative book tour, too!

3. You want to improve your résumés. For college submissions or your next job. (Of course, if it is a popular book, that might be a more convincing résuméentry, but admissions officers might give a high school junior extra credit for doing something
other than the typical pink-lady kind of charity work.)
a. This might work especially well if you are looking for a job in the media—from hometown press to online efforts. A blogger with a book? Not bad!

4. If you are already an author, you often hear “establish yourself as an expert.” A book with the right theme or content can help anyone do that, but a book alone will not do it. An author must take build an entire platform, not just add a plank. Do not be mislead to think, “once published, immediate expert.”

5. If you want to run for public office, your book that can be shopped to the media to get more air and print attention, but a booklet you can give away to like-minded people who might support will also work well for you. Don’t forget e-books that can be downloaded immediately—and free—by anyone!

6. You are already a public speaker. Don’t you want an additional income stream from selling your book at the back of the room? Wouldn’t having a book give you a better chance of convincing a program director that they need you? I once attended a free lunch at a chic club sponsored by a large investment firm searching for new clients. The author (or her agent) had sold her appearance by offering an imprinted swag bags with the author’s book and lots of souvenir memories inside for each attendee.
a. A book might be a pathway to using your speaking skills as a spokesperson for a large corporation or your favorite foundation. You have seen celebrities do it, but you need only be an charismatic expert with speaking skills to find success this way.

7. You are speaker who has been mostly speaking for free. In combination with a good marketing plan, more high-powered program directors with an available budget might find your resume more appealing.

8. You are becoming aware that you must brand yourself. There are lots of ways to do this—some of them are outlined in my The Frugal Book Promoter—but most any profession, product, or business can benefit from having a published book as part of their branding. I’ve been in many doctors’ offices that distribute booklets, but a couple give away their entire book which is branding that suggests not only generosity as well as expertise. That book–an extra benefit for the same price as that expensive procedure—may get passed along to others. “Free” books are about building buzz.

9. You are dedicated to a nonprofit group. There is power is ideas and words. A book might convince others to support the same group. A book might help that group get what they need from their own members. I published a booklet to encourage college seniors to continue their dedication to our group as alumnae. And I didn’t have to write it myself. Many members contributed anecdotes about how continued participation had benefited them. Booklets like this can be given as gifts or sold to raise funds for pet projects.

0. Publishing houses love books that are suitable for selling spin-off products. But this works the other way around. You have a toy you’d like to market. Write a book using the toy as a character! Think about The Little Engine That Could.

11. A screen writer once took a class from me at UCLA. He thought if he wrote a book, he could break into the movie business more easily. It’s possible! He was already great with dialogue, right? What he didn’t plan for is the steep learning curve required to write narrative. Even a screenplay writer with manuscripts secreted away in the bowels of her computer might suddenly become more interesting to Hollywood if an she has an amazing, original story or manages to make a book into a bestseller.

12. Advocate. Your advocacy could be inspired by your religion, your passion for what yoga can do for lives, your politics, your profession. If you have a knack for inspiring others—personally or professionally—you may ask yourself what took you so long to write your book.

13. You want more visits to your website. Would a free book (or a book with a catchy title) attract extra clicks? Expect that you must use marketing skills to make an offer like this attract attention. I have been heard to say, “For a promotion to be successful, ya gotta promote the promotion!”
a. Here’s a reason you might want to draw more eyes to your site: The more traffic, the more ads you can sell on your site and the more you can charge for them.

14. You can publish to publish. The book you write and publish on your own might lead to an agent and an offer from a big publisher. This is not the direct line to such a goal, but it sometimes works out that way.

15. My least favorite reason: You can get revenge or speak out. This has been particularly popular in recent years, and if you live in a place that has a free press or free speech amendment, you have the right. In spite of my negativity, this kind of book works very well. A book like this has a better chance to sell well because—as they say—“controversy sells.”

16. And last, you just want to publish a book. Call it ego. Why not. The learning curve necessary to make yourself proud is steep, but it’s also a lot of fun!

First published at


Carolyn Howard- JohnsonCarolyn Howard-Johnson brings her experience as a publicist, journalist, marketer, and retailer to the advice she gives in her HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers and the many classes she taught for nearly a decade as instructor for UCLA Extension’s world-renown Writers’ Program. The books in her HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers have won multiple awards. That series includes both the first and second editions of The Frugal Book Promoter and The Frugal Editor won awards from USA Book News, Readers’ Views Literary Award, the marketing award from Next Generation Indie Books and others including the coveted Irwin award. How To Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethicallyis the newest book in her HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers.

Children's ghostwriter

Whether you need rewriting or ghostwriting, let me take a look at your children’s story. Just send me an email at: Please put “Children’s Writing” in the Subject box.

Or, give me a call at 347—834—6700

Let’s get your idea off the launch pad or your outline into a publishable story today!

Writing a Fiction Story – Walking Through Walls Backstory

Opening Paragraphs

Aug 19

Should You Really Write That Book?

I read an interesting article at The Outline. It starts off by demolishing two diehard myths:

1. Everyone has a book in them.
2. Any story can be turned into a book.

We have to keep in mind though that there are two very different publishing models or paths.

Let’s go over myth #1.

The author of the article, literary agent Kate McKean, explained that just because you may have an interesting story that your family and friends love, it doesn’t mean an agent or publishing house will want to take the time and money to turn it into a book. It doesn’t mean that anyone outside your personal realm will pay money to buy the book.

But, what if people you know tell you that your story is book worthy?

Still, they’re most likely not professionals in the book industry. A lot goes into creating a published book. And, “those well-meaning and supportive people rarely know how a story becomes printed words on a page.” (1)

A look at the self-publishing side.

According to a NY Times article, “81 percent of Americans feel they have a book in them — and that they should write it.” (2)

The author of that article notes, “I wonder if the reason so many people think they can write a book is that so many third-rate books are published nowadays.”

This makes creating a book seem easy.

Yes, self-publishing has given those people who want to write a book the opportunity to do so, but should those books be written. Will the finished product be a book that will add value and quality to the self-publishing arena and to the reader?

Unfortunately, in a lot of instances, this isn’t the case.

Let’s go over myth #2.

Can any story be turned into a book?

This depends on which publishing path you take and whether you believe quality matters?

Good writers can usually take any story / topic and weave their magic to turn it into an engaging and publishable book. But, these writers have taken the time to learn their craft – they’re professionals.

According to McKean, “writing a book that people will pay money for or take a trip to the library to read, requires an awareness few storytellers have.”

Along with this, while writing itself is a solitary thing, creating the book for others to read isn’t. When writing, you need to have your reader in mind.

Writing a book is kind of like hosting a dinner party. You do the cooking in the hopes that your guests will love the meal. If you take care to cook a good meal, chances are your guests will enjoy it and even asks for more.

If you don’t follow a recipe, use inferior ingredients, don’t cook it long enough, and so on, chances are your guests won’t enjoy it. In fact, they may be annoyed that you’d serve them something so awful. In this case, do you think they’d ever come back for another of your dinner parties?

With traditional publishing, agents and publishers are the gatekeepers. They ensure value and quality. They decide if your story will sell. While books are considered art, the traditional publishing system needs readers to buy those books in order for them to make a profit.

In the self-publishing realm, it’s another story. It’s a free-for-all. Any story can be turned into book. But, should it?

If you have a story you believe in and want to take the self-publishing route, go for it. But, PLEASE, take the time and care to create a good story, even if it means hiring a ghostwriter to write it for you. And, invest in a professional book design and cover.

If you’re self-publishing a children’s picture book, invest in quality illustrations also.



Children's ghostwriterLet me take a look at it. I’m a working children’s ghostwriter and rewriter. I can turn your story into a publishable book that you’ll be proud to be author of.

Shoot me an email at: (please put Children’s Writing Help in the Subject line). Or, you can give me a call at 834—347—6700

Let’s get your story in publishable shape today!

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Aug 12

4 Reasons Why Self-Publishing Your Children’s Book May Be Your Best Option

Self-publishing may be your best options

Last week I talked about why you shouldn’t self-publish a young children’s book. I gave 5 reality-check tips. You can check that article out here:

Is Self-Publishing a Children’s Book the Way to Go? 4 Realities

For this article, let’s go over the reasons taking the self-publishing path for your children’s book may be a good choice.

1. You know it’s getting more and more difficult to get signed on with a traditional publishing house or literary agent.

Publishers are businesses. They want as sure a thing as possible to ensure a profit on their investment. Unagented authors or authors without a huge social following don’t stand a chance.

In an article at Huffington Post, the author noted, “Nowadays, most publishing houses only read manuscripts submitted by agents. Finding a literary agent is as difficult as finding a publisher, unless you are a celebrity, of course.” (1)

You know the odds – they’re super-slim. So, instead of spending lots of time and effort on research and submissions that could go on for years without any results, you’d rather invest in you.

If you believe in your story, go for it.

Keep in mind here, although you’re bypassing the gatekeepers of traditional publishing, you still need a quality story. Self-publishing isn’t a free pass.

2. You really, really, really, want to be author of a children’s book.

If this is what you really want, then go for it.

There are a couple of things to do first though:

A. Have a GOOD story. This means the story, structure, grammar, punctuation, formatting, and so on.

Please take the time to do it right, even if you have to get it ghostwritten.

B. Have GOOD illustrations. If it’s for a picture book or chapter book, get decent illustrations. Don’t self-publish a substandard book. Be proud to be the author of that book.

You don’t have to break the bank, but you will need to make an investment for quality. I know illustrators who do good work and charge $80-$100 per interior illustration.

Know what your expenses will be before jumping in. If you’re budget’s willing, go for it.

3. You know the chances of becoming rich or famous are slim to none.

In an article at Jane, author Brent Hartinger said, “I actually think it’s easier to land a traditional deal right now, especially in children’s books, than it is to successfully self-publish.” (2)

Going into something realistically helps you avoid major let down. The market is oversaturated, so keep your expectations in check.

If your purpose for a book is to share something or say something then by all means go for it. But again, keep your expectations in check.

If your purpose is to write a story for the children in your life, go for it.

Maybe there’s a story in your family that’s been passed down from your great grandfather and you want to get it in a book. Again, go for it.

There are lots of reasons people may want to write a children’s book and not expect it to be more than they intended.

Whatever your purpose, if you’re going to write and publish a children’s book or any book for that matter, please create a quality product. Don’t add to the inferior books that are being self-published. Publish a book you’ll be proud of.

4. You have a middle grade or young adult story.

Middle grade and young adult stories done usually include illustrations, although middle grade might have a sketch at the beginning of each chapter. Because of this, they’re less expensive to self-publish.

As with any type of book, you do want a quality book cover and back cover. And, you want the interior design done right. You can get this done with self-publishing services.

Helpful sites to get your story published:

Services that will take your Word document or PDF and format it for upload to sites like Amazon, Createspace, Smashwords, Ingram Spark, and so on, include:

– Word-2-Kindle

Some of these services will format your manuscript and upload it for publication and distribution. Some will only format it. Some only do ebooks. You’ll have to review their services.

You can also do some research for self-publishing services over at:

If you want a bigger pond to fish from, you might do some research and hire someone on Upwork or Fiverr to design and format your book for uploading.

If you have experience self-publishing a children’s book, it’d be great if you’d share some tidbits of advice or services you found helpful.


Children's ghostwriterWhether you need rewriting or ghostwriting help, let me take a look at your story. Just send me an email at: Please put “Children’s Writing” in the Subject box.

Or, give me a call at 347—834—6700

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