How to Self-Publish a Children’s Book

teacher reading a children's book to her class

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

You’ve written a children’s book and now you’re ready to publish it and put it out into the world. With such an exciting time ahead of you as an author, you might find yourself wondering just how to go about getting your book on bookstore shelves and into young readers’ hands.

Self-publishing your children’s book is the easiest way to keep creative control over every aspect of your story, from cover to cover. Of course, there’s a lot that goes into imagining, creating, and publishing a children’s book, from understanding the market to creating a book that can compete. Here are some tips to get you started.

Navigating the children’s book market

The children’s book market is constantly changing and expanding, with new topics and themes being tackled every day. Current trends range from topics to formats, including:

  • Social Justice
  • Diversity and inclusivity
  • Mental health and wellbeing
  • Audiobooks
  • Graphic novels
  • Interactive storytelling

Not to mention, writing a marketable children’s book means knowing your target age group. Because kids’ reading skills are developing with every year of their development, there are many different age groups to consider:

  • 0-6 years old. This is your picture book or interactive book age. This group isn’t at a reading level just yet, so picture books can help them to advance in their development and learning. Additionally, pop-up books or books that promote interactivity are great for this age group.
  • 6-7 years old. These are your early readers. They are either just learning or beginning to get comfortable with reading shorter stories (2,000 words or less). These stories also tend to have a very simple story arc and plot.
  • 7-9 years old. Now we begin to move to chapter books, though still simpler to read. This age group does well with stories around 10,000 words or less.

The role of illustrations

When you think “children’s books,” you immediately imagine illustrations. Illustrations help stories not just seem more appealing to children, but they help to further explain and enhance the plot of the story. For example, if you have a story where the main character is a tiger, a child will follow along much better if they can actually see the tiger on the page. Then, as you introduce more characters, they can better process who they are in relation to the main character by seeing the visuals as the story goes on.

Finding the right children’s book illustrator for your story is crucial, and will take time and attention to detail, not to mention setting a budget and working with your illustrator to realize your vision.

Writing a compelling story

Writing an engaging, age-appropriate story for kids is no small task. You’ll want to ensure that the story is compelling enough to keep readers’ attention, yet simple enough that they’ll comprehend the plot and understand the lesson within. Typically, children’s stories will feature conflict and resolution — appropriate to your readers’ experiences and development — as well as memorable characters and dialogue.

To create such memorable characters, you’ll want them to have some complexity. Give them personalities that showcase their strengths, weaknesses, and quirks. Make sure their goals are clearly defined in a way that makes sense to young readers, and give them some type of internal and external conflicts that help further the plot.

As far as dialogue goes, use it to give each character their own voice. Additionally, use dialogue throughout the story to “show, don’t tell.” In other words, don’t tell the story just through narration; use the character dialogue to paint a full picture in a way that keeps your characters and readers engaged.

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Children’s book design and layout

When it comes to writing children’s books, it’s not just the story that matters — the book’s design and formatting are extremely important. When you have a visually appealing cover and illustrations integrated throughout, the book becomes more than just a story — it’s an experience for young readers.

Every successful book has a professional and enticing cover, and children’s book covers are all the more important — it needs to convey the tone and flavor of the story within at a glance. Once your book gets picked up by a potential reader, how can you keep their attention as they flip through the pages? An ideal layout will strike the right balance of font and text, which will ultimately determine the books accessibility for young readers.

Choosing your publishing route

There are several roads you can take when publishing your children’s book.

Traditional publishing. This involves submitting your work to an established publishing house for consideration, typically via a literary agent. With this route, you’re likely better off not including the art but rather pitching your completed story as text. Most publishing houses will work with their own artists.

If your work is accepted, you’ll typically get an advance and the publisher will cover the cost of the book’s production, distribution, and marketing, and you will pay book royalties once the advance is recouped. One downside to this is that you’ll give up creative control (in addition to the artwork), and royalties are typically lower through traditional publishing deals.

Vanity publishing. Also known as “subsidy publishing,” this route will require you, the author, to pay the publisher upfront for the illustrations, book cover design, book production, and even promotion, in some cases. As with traditional publishers, a vanity publisher will own the rights to your work, and book royalties will likely look about the same as they do in a traditional publishing deal. Be very careful if you choose this route — generally speaking, it’s not the recommended approach.

Self-publishing. If you choose to self-publish your children’s book, you maintain full control of every aspect of your work. With self-publishing, authors assume all financial responsibility but retain complete creative freedom and all the rights to the work, all while earning a higher share of royalties on sales.

Preparing your manuscript

Another crucial step in self-publishing your children’s book is to ensure that your manuscript is properly prepared and ready for publication. You’ll want to first determine your book’s trim size and make certain your images are set at the correct size and resolution for print. For added assurance, consider utilizing professional writing editing services to refine your manuscript, enhancing its clarity and readability for your young audience.

You’ll also want to choose an appropriate font for both the text as well as for any dialogue bubbles or captions that occur in your artwork. If you choose BookBaby, you’ll work directly with our experienced designers, who have helped publish hundreds of children’s books.

Book printing and distribution

The Do's and Don'ts of Planning a Book LaunchIt’s imperative that you work with a professional, top-quality printer to make certain your beautiful illustrations jump off the page in the vibrant, sharp colors your book deserves.

Print-on-demand (POD). Print-on-demand distribution services have revolutionized the publishing industry, allowing books to be printed as they’re ordered. This minimizes upfront costs and eliminates the need for storing inventory.

Single book printing. Before you order your book in larger quantities, particularly with a children’s picture book, it’s a good practice to order a single book copy and make sure it’s everything you’d imagined.

Long-run and bulk wholesale printing. If you want to print your books in bulk, this is the best option. You can print larger quantities of books to have on hand, while saving money per unit.

Reaching your target audience starts by knowing where they are and is vital for the success of your book. Book distribution channels to consider include:

  • Bookstores. Traditional brick-and-mortar bookstores, whether independent or chain stores, are still great ways to get your book out into the world. As an independent author, you’ll have to establish relationships with your local bookshops — having your picture book on display is a great way to attract attention and make sales.
  • Online booksellers. Your book must be available online if you hope to make significant sales. Of course, you’ll want to distribute your printed book to online retailers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, B-A-M, and all the others, and having your BookBaby Bookshop page is one way to ensure you collect the highest book royalties in the industry.
  • eBooks. Everything above applies — get your eBook in all the places people can go to get them.
  • Direct sales. Selling books directly to readers through your author website or at events can be your most lucrative distribution channel.

Marketing your children’s book

When you choose the self-publishing route, you’ll also need to establish your own book marketing and publicity plan to make your children’s book known. We’ve talked a lot about identifying your target audience when writing your children’s book, and you’ll have to do the same when planning your marketing. As a children’s book author, this is likely not the same audience, as your marketing needs to speak to the parents, teachers, and guardians of your reading audience.

Plenty of authors have found success marketing their books on social media platforms. You can create book trailers and teaser videos, share photos, and connect with influencers and your audience, using hashtags, trends, and challenges.

Another way to get your story out into the world is by hosting virtual read-alouds and author visits. Read-aloud sessions on platforms such as Zoom or YouTube can potentially reach readers around the globe, while visits to local schools or libraries will help spread the word in your community.

Book Publishing Plan guide

Related Posts
What Makes a Good Children’s Book: 6 Characteristics
How to Get a Self-Published Book into Bookstores
7 Common Themes in Children’s Literature
How To Create A Children’s Picture Book
Print On Demand Made The Self-Publishing Revolution Possible

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