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self-publish a children's book

How to Self-Publish a Children’s Book in 2024

Have you written a children’s book that you want to get published? If so, you have a few options – go the traditional publishing route by finding an agent and publisher, choose an independent “indie” publisher, or self-publish your book.

Self-publishing has become an increasingly popular choice, allowing you to get your book out quickly without relying on gatekeepers in the publishing industry. Sure, self-publishing takes more work on your part for editing, illustrations, printing, distribution, and marketing. But it also means you have full creative control and keep all your royalties.

Not sure where to start with self-publishing your kids book? Don’t worry – in this detailed guide, as a professional children’s book printing provider, I’ll walk you through the entire process step-by-step.

self-publish a children's book

Pros and Cons of Self-Publish a Children’s Book

Before we dive into the specifics, let’s quickly go over the key benefits and drawbacks of self-publishing:

Benefits of Self-Publishing

  • Full creative control – The story, illustrations, and final product are all up to you
  • Faster process – You can get your book published in months instead of years
  • Higher royalties – You keep 100% of the profits instead of the typical 5-15% from traditional publishers
  • Build your brand – Use your book to establish yourself as an author and publisher

Drawbacks of Self-Publishing

  • Upfront costs – From editors to illustrators to printing, costs add up quickly
  • More marketing work – Without a big publisher, book promotion falls entirely on your shoulders
  • No advances – Self-published authors don’t receive any advance payments
  • Bookstore access limited – It’s difficult getting self-published books into physical bookstores

Alright, now that you know what you’re getting yourself into, let’s talk specifics. Here are the main steps:

How to Self-Publish a Children’s Book

Step 1: Write & Edit Your Manuscript

The self-publishing process starts like any book – with the writing! Be sure to carefully craft your story with your target age range in mind.

To determine if your manuscript is ready, it’s critical to go through multiple rounds of edits. I recommend both self-edits and professional edits.

For self-edits:

  • Read your full manuscript aloud – This allows you to catch awkward phrasing
  • Check for plot holes or inconsistencies – Make sure your story flows logically
  • Show it to beta readers – Get feedback from friends, family, writing groups, etc. See what resonates or what’s confusing

Then, invest in professional editing services:

Work With a Children’s Book Editor

A specialist children’s book editor will dive deep into key areas, including:

  • Developmental edit – Refine themes, plot, pacing, characters
  • Copy edit – Fix grammar mistakes, improve word choice
  • Proofreading – Catch any typos or inconsistencies

High-quality editing is worth every penny and will dramatically improve your finished book.

Step 2: Illustrate Your Book

Bright, engaging illustrations are a must for almost all children’s books. And unless you plan on illustrating it yourself, you’ll need to hire a professional.

When looking for the perfect illustrator, first figure out the illustration style you want. Browse popular picture books comparable to yours to get ideas.

Then search art portfolios at sites like Behance, Dribble, and Instagram. Once you’ve found potential matches, take a look at their previous illustration work and reach out to discuss rates, deliverables, timelines, etc.

Clarify any copyright issues upfront in your contract – you want full rights to reproduce the artwork for your book.

As for rates, assuming 32 pages with around 500 words, plan on spending $3,000+ for high quality, custom illustrations.

Step 3: Design the Interior Layout

Now that your text is polished and illustrations are complete, it’s time to put it all together through interior page layout and book formatting.

For a professional publishing quality layout, there’s simply no way around hiring a book designer.

Work With a Book Formatting Expert

A specialist book designer will handle tasks like:

  • Formatting your manuscript into book layout software
  • Choosing perfect fonts, colors, and design elements
  • Balancing illustrations and text on each page
  • Adjusting trim size, bleeds, margins based on printing specs

The subtle design choices a professional makes lead to a beautifully typeset book that engages young readers. Expect to spend $700+ for a picture book.

If budget is extremely tight, you can format your book in Word. But I don’t recommend it unless you have professional design experience.

Step 4: Order a Proof Copy

Before finalizing your print run, you need to order a physical proof to validate the print quality.

Use your preferred print-on-demand (POD) service to order a single copy of your book. This lets you validate things like:

  • Print quality – Ensure vivid images and colors
  • Page order – Double check if pages or illustrations are out of order
  • Cover and binding – Confirm it feels durably constructed

Only after you’ve triple checked your proof and made any final tweaks should you order your full print quantity.

Step 5: Print Your Books

Now for the fun part – time to get physical books printed! You have two options:

POD services like IngramSpark, KDP Print, and B&N Press print single book orders as they come in. This saves you from carrying inventory.

Pros

  • No upfront printing costs
  • Easy distribution to bookstores, libraries, and online retailers
  • Any print quantity – single books or thousands

Cons

  • Higher per unit cost
  • Lower maximum print quality

Offset Printing

Offset printing services produce bulk orders of hundreds or thousands of books for a lower per unit cost.

Pros

  • Lower per book cost at higher quantities
  • Higher maximum print quality

Cons

  • Big upfront investment ($1,000+)
  • Need to warehouse inventory
  • Less distribution support

For your first children’s book run, I recommend starting with POD. But if your book starts selling well, consider an offset print run.

Step 6: Publish Your eBook

In addition to printed books, you should strongly consider making your book available as an ebook.

Ebooks allow you to:

  • Reach kids and parents on tablets/e-readers
  • Tap into the global market – sell worldwide
  • Keep production costs extremely low

With no printing or shipping fees, your profit margin per ebook sale is excellent.

To publish your book’s ebook edition you simply:

  1. Convert your layout file to ebook format (EPUB, MOBI, etc)
  2. Upload to major ebook stores – Amazon Kindle, Apple Books, etc

That said, print books comprise ~75% of children’s book sales. I recommend offering both print and ebook formats.

Step 7: Distribute Your Book

To maximize sales, make your book available across all possible sales channels, including:

  • Bookstores – Connect to wholesalers like Ingram so bookstores can order your titles
  • Online retailers – List your book on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, Rakuten Kobo, Google Play Books, and independents like Bookshop.org
  • Libraries – Offer your print and ebook through Overdrive for public libraries and school-facing companies like Mackin
  • Direct sales – Sell via your own website, in-person sales at readings or events, bulk orders to schools

Step 8: Get Book Reviews

Every credible book needs credible book reviews.

Make sure you:

  • Send book review requests 3-4 months pre-launch
  • Include all key information – summary, release date, review guide, cover image etc
  • Follow up politely if needed

For the best shot at reviews, see my guide on getting book reviews.

Highlights include chasing reviews from:

  • Relevant bloggers in your niche
  • Industry publications like Kirkus or Foreword
  • School Library Journal (if age appropriate)
  • Local media outlets

Positive reviews lend tremendous credibility and social proof for your book. Don’t skip this step.

Step 9: Promote Your Book

You wrote an amazing book… but no one will read it without promotion!

Book marketing is a massive topic that I cover extensively in The Self Published Author’s Handbook.

But at a minimum, you should:

  • Build an email list – Collect emails of fans so you can notify them of a new release
  • Leverage social media – Promote across Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Facebook groups, etc
  • Run promotions – Offer periodic giveaways, contests, or sale pricing
  • Pitch influencers – See if any kidlit bloggers or bookstagrammers will feature you
  • Do school visits (when possible) – Connect directly with young readers!

Book promotion should start months before your launch. The more momentum you can build pre-release, the better your launch will be.

Key Takeaways

And there you go – the complete guide on how to self-publish a children’s book!

To quickly recap:

  • Carefully craft your story and work with editors to refine your manuscript
  • Have custom illustrations created that bring your book to life
  • Properly format and layout the interior pages for a polished book
  • Validate your work through proof copies before your print run
  • Make both printed and ebook editions available through wide distribution
  • Build credibility through reviews and author connections
  • Promote your book relentlessly before and after launch!

I know that list makes it sound straightforward and easy. But publishing a book without a company behind you is a massive effort.

However, by staying organized and methodical throughout this process, your passion project of a children’s book can make it out into the world!

If you found this guide helpful, let me know in the comments below! And if you have any other questions on self-publishing kid’s books, ask away.

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