Ever wonder what it would be like to write your own children's book and then share it with the world? This was the question I often asked myself before I put pen to paper, rather, fingers to keyboard. My lack of publishing knowledge coupled with fear of failure kept me from pursuing my dream of writing for a while. Luckily, my creative drive and supportive family outweighed my trepidations.
Everyone has a story to tell, and there is an audience of readers happily waiting for you to tell it. If you're on the edge of taking the next step in self-publishing, here are some tips and lessons that helped me along the way.
Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing
The first thing that I researched was the difference between self-publishing and traditional publishing, and from there, decided which one was right for me. When it comes to traditional publishing, many authors are represented by a book agent and shop around publishing houses that guide them along their publishing journey. Areas like marketing, sales, illustrations, printing and distribution are handled by traditional publishing houses, and make for a much more turn-key process for novice authors. For example, an illustrator is assigned by the publisher and many creative decisions handled within their leadership. Fees and profit model are also within the publisher contract.
In contrast, the self-publishing route puts all the control into the author's hands. Decisions around marketing, sales, illustrations, printing and distribution are all on the author to decide. A pre-determined budget and emphasis on direct sales will largely determine a self-published author's profit model.
Writing Community & Networking
Finding a supportive writing community and reaching out to other self-published authors is the best tip I can give when starting your self-publishing journey. You can find all kinds of self-publishing groups through social media. I was blown away with how many people are willing to help and share relevant resources. The more I built up my writing community and networked, the more answers I got to overwhelming questions. Before I knew it, I had an editor looking at my manuscript. Which leads me to my next tip...
You've got your manuscript in hand, and have read it ten times over and re-wrote lines twenty times over, but having another set of eyes on it is so important. I found my editor, Shayla Raquel, online after Google-searching for a few weeks. She offers a free Pre-Publishing Checklist that saved me so much time and kept me on track along my writing journey. I would recommend hiring an editor who specializes in your writing style and has a number of released books to back them up. For me, I wanted an editor skilled in children's books and rhyming style.
I took editing one step further and had a second set of eyes, Calico Editing Services, look over the proof before printing. Giving the green light on printing was less scary knowing I had done my due diligence with editing.
Social Media & Online Presence
If the above sub-title gave your tummy butterflies, you are not alone. The thought of building a brand online was scary and overwhelming. Can't I just write my book, sell it and hide behind the pretty pages? At least that's what I told myself in the early stages. The reality is, most people consume their information and buy products online. Building a social media and online presence is essential for self-published authors. It will likely be the backbone of your marketing strategy.
I started my website, blog and social media platforms a year prior to launching my children's book, and that helped me grow an audience ahead of launching my book. Building an online presence meant sharing my journey as an aspiring children's book author, and ultimately, sharing the magic of story-time and the power of dreaming BIG! Your brand isn't about the product(s) you are selling, it is so much bigger than that. Why did you start your writing journey? What do you want to impart on your audience and the world? Your book is one piece of that bigger picture.
There are many user-friendly website platforms that make it easy to build a standard website, or you can hire a more turn-key digital service to help build your website. Some popular options are: WIX, SquareSpace, GoDaddy, Word Press and Shopify (just to name a few.)
The illustrations in a children's book are truly what bring the story to life. It's important to envision how you see your story come to life. Illustrations vary dramatically in price and style. Is there a series of books that fall within your illustrative vision? A reference point when looking through illustration portfolios is always helpful. I was lucky to find my super talented illustrator, Lucy Smith, through my editor. I considered art students, illustration graduates and local artists. In the end, it came down to illustrative style and Lucy fit perfectly with my vision!
A few discussion points when reaching out to illustrators:
Ownership and rights to each image.
Printing & Distribution
There are two main options with printing your book: Print-on-Demand and Offset Printing. I did a lot of research to see what my self-publishing community used and what printers came highly recommended. I decided to go with offset printing locally in Canada, Marquis, and ordered a bulk amount. I store and distribute my books independently and don't use a fulfilment or warehouse service. Again, more control in my hands, and getting to personally sign each copy fills my heart.
(PS: Make sure the printing contract/quote includes reviewing a physical proof before you send your books to print.)
Believe in Yourself
Lastly, or should I say, most importantly, believe in yourself. You are capable of accomplishing anything you set your mind to, and in the process, you may inspire others to make their dreams come true too. For whoever needs to read this: I believe in you, now you just have to believe in yourself!
Cheers to dreaming BIG, and as always, happy reading!