How Do You Publish a Youngsters’s Guide?
The question I get asked most is this: “How do I publish my children’s book?” There are more options than ever depending on the book and your goals. Today’s article will help you decide how to publish your book.
In this series How to Write a Children’s Book, we’ve covered everything from developing ideas to finding illustrators. You have your idea. You may even have your manuscript written. You’ve considered your target reader. Now what? How you do get your idea into a published format? What book publishers should you be considering? Today, let’s go over all the ways to get your book into the hands of your readers.
Consider your Book and Author Goals
Before we look at the how of publishing, let’s consider the why. What are you goals for yourself as an author and for your book? I’ve talked to many aspiring authors over the years and this question always give them pause.
Often they haven’t stepped back long enough to consider exactly what is motivating their endeavor and what success would look like. One woman, Navi, told me she is writing her book to honor and inspire her family and Indian roots. Traditional publishing is her dream.
Another woman, Jamie, moved ahead with hybrid publishing as it was most important to her to find a quicker path to publishing that offered her design and manufacturing support even if it required a higher monetary investment. This deeper look into your hopes for your work can often illuminate your best publishing path. Your answers may include:
- I want to write this for my own kids and family. It’s more a legacy gift.
- I want to sell as many books as possible and am willing to put forth the marketing effort to do so.
- I’ve always had a dream of publishing a book with a traditional publisher.
- I want to be able to say, “I’m a published author,” and I’m open to multiple paths.
- I want to inspire people with my words. Five people or 5000, I’d be happy either way.
- I have such a strong vision for my book that I want to maintain full creative control.
Two Primary Publishing Paths
While each publishing path has its own nuances, challenges, and benefits, I’d say there are two main avenues with multiple ways to execute within each.
- Self Publishing: This is exactly what it sounds like. You take on the work and cost of shepherding your book into the world including cover and interior design, editing, printing and marketing.
You will want to research which companies print which types of books, such as soft cover, hard cover, or board books. The two most-often used platforms for self-publishing are Ingram Spark and Amazon KDP Publishing or Kindle Direct Publishing.
An optional path under the self-publishing umbrella is Hybrid Publishing where an author pays a company to create a book (versus the author taking this on or outsourcing the tasks). Examples of hybrid publishers include: Book Baby, Wise Ink, and Silver Street Media. More on the hybrid option below.
- Traditional Publishing: This is what you may think of when you think of book publishing. Your book is published by an established publishing house with a team who handles the entire process including distribution. This option does not require money up front (just a lot of patience!).According to Publisher’s Weekly, a popular industry magazine, “As 2022 began, the U.S. trade publishing business was dominated by what has been called the Big Five—Simon & Schuster, Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Hachette Book Group, and Macmillan.” There are, however, many smaller traditional publishers worth checking out including university presses.
Pros and Cons of Traditional Publishing vs. Self-Publishing
I can’t emphasize enough the myriad ways you can get your book into the world and there are numerous articles delving into the intricacies of each. For simplicity’s sake and to help illustrate the ups and downs of each path, I’m going to list some of the most often talked about realities of both. Considering these against the backdrop of your goals and available resources, you can make a better informed decision about which to explore.
- You have an experienced team of people working on your behalf, including cover designers, editors, data analysts, and sales/marketing people
- There is no upfront investment on your part. Conversely, you will receive an advance and ongoing royalties. It’s worth noting here that according to industry statistics, only about 25% of books earn out their advance, meaning you sell enough books to make additional revenue beyond what you were initially paid.
- There is a robust distribution network in place. Many traditional publishers have in-house sales teams calling on retailer customers. Smaller traditional publishers rely on outside sales teams such Independent Publisher’s Group.
- A traditionally published book may help bolster your writing career (some view this as a more “real” path to publishing).
- Traditional publishers often only take agented submissions, meaning they are not open to an unsolicited manuscript, and you need a literary agent to submit your work. Check out a publisher’s submission guidelines on their website to clarify before submitting.
- The publishing industry moves slowly, with a long timeline from idea to publication. Often publishers will be working on titles that will hit the shelves 2+ years from now.
- You’ll likely earn less money per book. First-time traditionally published authors usually make 10% per book sold (until they recoup their advance) then their earnings can go up to 12.5%. Be sure to know if you’re publisher is paying royalties on retail or net (wholesale) price!
- You’re the boss of the process. For someone who loves the idea of maintaining creative control, you’ll be overseeing everything from editing, illustration and cover design to uploading your finished book and writing jacket copy. Keep in mind, however, these tasks, if not in your own wheelhouse, will require you to outsource and pay for them!
- You don’t have to invest in inventory. Many of the self-published platforms are print-on-demand, meaning a book is printed when a customer orders it. This helps keep upfront costs down, while still allowing you to order books in bulk to take to local events.
- You keep more of your profit. Compared to my example above, Amazon’s royalty rate is 60% of your book’s retail price minus the book’s print cost. So, for example, if your book retailed at $17.99, a self-published author would receive $7.54 per book sold.
- There’s a shorter time line. Once you decide you’re ready to go, you can initiate the publishing process which is key for people who aren’t interested in the longer timeline of traditional publishers.
- You’re the boss of the process. I’m putting this as a pro and con! If you have knowledge about design and layout, great. But if this is not your strong suit, you may find this part the process frustrating, laborious — and expensive if you need to hire out a lot of the expertise, for example, a professional editor, proofreading, book cover design, illustrations, and internal layout.
- The price per book for an illustrated picture book can be high. Given that children’s books have illustrated pages, you will find it is more expensive to print one book. There is a limit to what consumers are willing to pay for a kid’s book, so you’ll want to make sure there’s a profit for you in there.
- Marketing is all on you. The reality is, you need to sell your books. The self-publishing platforms will mention your distribution services, but experience has showed me this means making your book available on Amazon, Target.com, or BN.com. What they are not doing is getting the customer to show up there. That’s on you.
To get the real-life scoop on the self-publishing process, I reached out to an author friend Kate Fischer who self-published her first book, “Your Angel Army,” through Ingram Spark first, then decided to print her own books at a local offset printer to better manage her cost per book.
“I was paying $11.00 for every book I printed through Ingram Spark because every page is full color,” said Kate. “I was originally selling my books for $24.00 each but realize there’s a limit to what a customer is willing to pay for a book.” Because of this reality, Kate switched gears and decided to partner with a local Minnesota printer who helped her bring her cost way down. Kate was willing to invest in inventory, knowing she’d be making a way bigger profit per book. When I asked her about marketing she said, “I was definitely creating all the momentum.”
A Third Option: Hybrid Publishing
Hybrid Publishing is what a sounds like — a cross between traditional and self-publishing. Like self-publishing, you initiate the process in partnership with an outside company.
When you hire a hybrid publisher, it’s akin to hiring a general contractor to oversee your kitchen remodel. You are outsourcing the creation of your book. You are hiring a company to perform all the necessary services for getting your book created.
First time author Jamie Gagnon told me this about her decision to use a hybrid publisher.
“I choose to self publish with Silver Street Media/Bridgeport National Bindery out of Agawam Massachusetts. Working with a smaller and more local establishment has provided me with prompt and personal attention, along with the opportunity to be involved with the entire process, all of which was very important to me! The best part of the process has been knowing that I have a team behind me, a one stop shop that genuinely puts the best interest of their clients first.”
Hybrid Publishing can be very expensive. An industry veteran puts the cost between $15,000 and $30,000 for a complete package. Often an author will have to pay additional for marketing services. Also, you’ll want to thoroughly vet any company you hire, to make sure you know exactly what you are paying for and the timeline for services.
Depending on what your goals are for the book and for yourself as the author, hopefully this helps you narrow down your best options for publishing your book and getting it in the hands of your readers.
Which route feels right for your goals? Share in the comments.
All three publishing paths require a short synopsis of your book. Today, let’s look at some examples and write your own. Set a timer for 15 minutes. Spend five minutes researching the paragraph synopsis or summary of a children’s book similar to your own. It’s on the sales page on the online retailer or the back cover. Then, take the last ten minutes to write your own synopsis. Share in the practice box and live feedback for other writers!
Enter your practice here: