For as long as I’ve been a blogger and freelance writer, I’ve also dreamed of becoming a children’s book author someday.
A children’s book combines three of my passions – writing, parenting, and teaching – into one product, so I can’t think of anything more perfect for me.
The problem I’ve found is that hiring a publishing company to do all the legwork can be ridiculously expensive for a new author who’s also a single mom with one income for her family.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve heard more and more about self-publishing as a route many authors are choosing to take over traditional publishing.
I’ve put a lot of hours into researching self-publishing, especially as it relates to children’s book authors, so I can have everything in place when I’m ready to take the plunge and get my own book on the market.
The world can never have too many educational and thoughtful children’s books, so I want to share the information I found with other budding authors looking to break into this sector of the business.
Why Choose Self-Publishing Over Traditional Publishing?
Thanks to the internet, it’s easier than ever to publish your books without a publishing company acting as a middleman in the process.
A lot of authors are stuck to the old-school thought that a publishing company will do all the hard work for you as you sit back, relax, and watch the money roll in.
In most cases, that’s not how it works, and you may end up with an unfortunate reality check after handing over your book to a publisher.
Let’s look at some of the reasons why self-publishing can be the best way to go when you’re dedicated to your success.
It’s Better for Your Budget
Saving money is probably the most common reason for people to choose self-publishing over traditional publishing.
The upfront costs of hiring a publishing company can quickly creep into the thousands.
There’s a reason why authors are typically dubbed “starving writers”: they usually don’t have tons of money to throw around to get their book off the ground because they just spent months (sometimes years) writing it for free.
To get the best return on your investment, you need to spend as little as possible to start your venture. Self-publishing helps you do that.
There are plenty of websites you can use that turn your book into a digital or printed version for minimal costs (check out CreateSpace as an example), and even get some free marketing, helpful resources, and other publishing tools at your disposal.
You’ll Get More Royalties
Publishing companies are in it for the money too. Sure, they can help take some of the pressure off you and give the publishing process more of a hands-off approach, but you’ll pay dearly for all that effort.
When you self-publish, you’ll do more work, but you’ll also get to keep more of your royalties from book sales.
Think about it like flipping a house. The more work you do yourself, the better your return on investment (ROI) will be.
When you pull in other people to assist your remodel, you’ll start cutting into your profits because you’ll pay more in labor. So long, impressive ROI.
Many publishing companies will give you an advance of a couple thousand dollars once your book is ready to be distributed.
After that, you may have to wait every quarter or even a year to start getting your royalty payments trickling in. Some publishing houses will also take 85% or more of your royalties, which even the lowest-paying self-publishing platforms won’t do.
It Can Be Easier and Quicker
Publishing a book isn’t necessarily an easy process when you think of everything that goes into it. From getting an ISBN to setting up the business side of things, there’s a lot that goes into becoming an author and selling books.
Remember, though, that most of these steps are things you’d have to do on your own anyway. The publishing company can only help you turn your story into a book and distribute it where it needs to go.
When you think about it this way, you might feel less overwhelmed by the process. Self-publishing cuts out the third-party, leaving you to get things done on a timeline that works for you.
You won’t have to wait for responses from your publishing contact or make a million edits at the company’s request before it accepts it.
You’d Have to Market Anyway
When you hire a publisher, you might think that the publishing company does all the marketing for you. In reality, most authors end up hiring a public relations team to do their marketing once they realize that marketing isn’t really a responsibility of the publishing company. That means more money out of their pockets instead of part of their return from sales.
A publishing company might do some slight marketing, but its primary responsibility is getting your words made into a finished product and distributed where they need to go. They won’t typically get you set up with tours, interviews, or blog blasts. That stuff falls on you or your marketing team.
Since you’re going to be doing most of your marketing anyway, you might as well cut out the massive expense of a publisher and go it alone.
You’re in Control
Self-publishing your children’s books puts you in the driver’s seat. Publishing companies have strict timelines for when everything happens in the publishing process, where your books go, and sometimes even how you market your own books! You don’t have to worry about any of that when you’re in control.
If your someone who likes doing things your way – especially when it comes to a product that’s your pride and joy – then self-publishing can give you the freedom you want. You can do things on your own time and make sure your book’s release is something you’ll be proud of in the end.
How Much Can You Earn as a Self-Published Children’s Book Author?
Your earnings as a self-published author obviously won’t fit into a mold. But let’s look at an example of how self-publishing a children’s book can lead to a higher return than hiring a publishing company:
Say that your book sells for $15.
A publishing company agrees to give you a $3,000 advance and 25% of your lifetime book sales.
If you self-publish, the platform you chose will give you 50% royalties. You won’t get any advanced payment for this method.
If you sell 3,000 copies in one year, you would have made $14,250 with the publishing house and $22,500 through self-publishing.
You also would have likely paid less to create and distribute your book with a self-publishing platform than with a publishing house.
How to Self-Publish Children’s Books
There are obvious benefits to self-publishing children’s books. If you’ve decided that this is definitely the route you want to take, you can follow these general steps to get moving with the process:
1. Decide on Print or Digital
Digital books may be becoming more popular, but that doesn’t mean that print books are becoming extinct just yet.
If you are dead-set on having an old school children’s book in print, then you can still make that happen.
As eBooks become more commonplace, though, you might want to consider offering both a print and digital version of your book.
It might take a bit more time, but it’s worth it to reach the masses; even many elementary schools are switching to eBook formats for little learners.
The good thing about digital books is that they cost next to nothing to create. If you already have an editor and illustrator hired, you’ll only need to worry about paying the self-publishing platform you choose to turn it into an eBook.
Creating print books can take some extra money from your pockets because they cost more to produce.
They also have a lot of opportunities, like making their way to libraries and schools, essentially getting your name more widespread.
As a parent, I can say that many of us still love reading physical books to our kids and will choose them 99% of the time over eBooks.
2. Hire the Right People
It’s not often that an author can write, edit, illustrate, and fund a book all by himself. There’s what I like to call an invisible team behind almost any product, books included.
It’s time to start thinking about who can help you make your book the best it can possibly be so that it can reach its full potential.
An editor is the first place to start. No matter how excellent your grammar, spelling, and punctuation skills are, you need an editor!
They’re masters at piecing things together in ways that make sense and catching even the slightest mistakes you didn’t see after reading your words 100 times. Even with simple children’s book wording, an editor is a necessity.
You also might need an illustrator for the book’s pages and cover, unless you’re a skilled artist too.
Fortunately, you can find some experts with decent prices on freelance marketplaces like Fiverr and Upwork.
Some Fiverr professionals let you order a trial gig for $5 or so to make sure their illustrations fit your needs, so that can be a budget-friendly way to test a person’s skills before forking over your whole illustration budget.
Don’t be afraid of crowdfunding to hire who you need to get your book off the ground.
I’ve seen quite a few Kickstarter campaigns for authors to help with the starting costs of publishing. Even as little as $1,000 can be a huge help to hire an editor and illustrator and get you started with some basic marketing.
3. Choose Your Platform
Now you’re ready to settle on a self-publishing platform that can turn your story into a print or digital version and help you distribute and sell it.
A little later, I’ll outline some of the top self-publishing platforms that won’t take all your savings and can give you excellent royalties for your work.
I suggest checking out a few of them and doing your homework. What works for one author won’t work for them all, and some platforms will just be better for specific situations.
If you want a platform that does most of the publishing work for you, that platform may also pay less in royalties. It’s a game of give and take and you’ll need to decide on the best platform for you and your books.
4. Market Your Book (and Yourself!)
Marketing doesn’t have to be as scary as it sounds. Some authors never take on enormous tasks like book tours and speaking events to get their books known in the industry.
Today’s authors rely on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to build an audience for their books.
As a children’s book author, you might even have more opportunities than authors of adult books.
You can send free copies to schools, children’s library programs, community events, and other places that kids and families frequent. You’ll get your name out there, which can make it easier for you to sell future books.
A website is also a must. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate.
Have some information on it about yourself, your books, how to follow you on social media, and where to purchase your books. Use your name as your domain name so fans can find you easily.
Find the Right Platform
You’ll find several self-publishing platforms if you do a quick search on Google, but they’re not all created equal. The following platforms are among the most popular for their ease-of-use and good returns.
Amazon / Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing
Your Royalties: Up to 70%
Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing is probably the platform that you hear about the most. Just about everyone who self-publishes has at least tried KDP.
There are even some tools that can help children’s book authors specifically, like the Age and Grade Tools that let you narrow your book into a specific category to help parents find it when searching for books for their child’s level.
When you publish with KDP, your eBooks will be formatted for Amazon Kindle devices. You can also choose paperback publishing services, from which you’ll get 60% royalties minus printing costs and taxes, if applicable.
Barnes & Noble
Your Royalties: Up to 65% for eBooks and about 45% from printed books
Barnes & Noble Press can help you publish an eBook that’s NOOK-ready to have available on the Barnes & Noble website for purchase in as little as 72 hours.
If you end up being a best-selling author through the platform, you even have the chance to get your book distributed on Barnes & Noble bookshelves.
Authors can choose to publish their books as eBooks only for the highest royalties, but Barnes & Noble does offer some differential pricing for print books, so you can decide what works for you depending on the return you’d like to see.
B & N also offers access to exclusive marketing materials and events for its publishers, like in-store events, email newsletters, and special promotions that can help your book reach the masses.
Your Royalties: Varies depending on the selling platforms you choose.
Blurb is a book creation platform that helps you design, create, and print your children’s books with its intuitive interface and plethora of design options.
You have control over exactly how you want your book to look when it’s a finished product.
One of the best things about Blurb is that it offers vetted designers and illustrators that you can hire to help you create your book, so you may not even need to look elsewhere for these assistants.
Sell your books on Amazon, Blurb’s Bookstore, or use its Ingram integration to distribute printed books to thousands of bookstores.
The best part is that you can play around with pricing to find a sales price that will give you the royalties you want based on the platforms on which you choose to sell your books.
Your Royalties: Varies depending on book length and type.
CreateSpace is quickly becoming one of the most-recommended places for indie authors to get started because it offers several free tools, like book cover design and an image gallery, to get your book off the ground.
You can even get an ISBN for free through the platform.
CreateSpace is an Amazon company, so your books will sell on Amazon.
Children’s book authors can actually have some of the highest royalties here because you won’t have a lot of pages to print, which ups your return. You can use this calculator to get an idea of what you might make here depending on your book length.
Your Royalties: You pay $29/month plus 2% fee for each transaction.
Sellfy isn’t just for books; it’s a marketplace for digital downloads. You can upload your eBooks to this site after setting up your own store.
Sellfy has tools that can help you embed your book links to other places like your blog posts, Facebook posts, and even YouTube videos.
Sellfy has built-in tools to help you market your book, too, like discounts, promotions, and email newsletters.
This platform won’t help you create books, but I wanted to include it because you can get the highest returns here if you have a decent online audience who will see your eBooks through your website or social media.
Set your prices and you’ll only need to pay 2% per sale plus your monthly shop fee. If you sell only 10 copies of your $10 eBook every month, you’ll make $69 profit ($9.80/book minus the $29 fee).
Your Royalties: Up to 80% on the Smashwords store, or up to 60% on a different marketplace.
Smashwords is all about making eBooks creation and distribution as simple as possible.
The platform integrates with several booksellers, like Amazon, iBooks, and Barnes & Noble to distribute your book and give you the royalties you want.
Signing up for an account is free, as is obtaining an ISBN, converting your book to eBook format, creating your author page, and more.
You’ll also have access to helpful marketing tools, like the ability to create coupons for your books, to reach more people.
Self-publishing may be the best way for children’s book authors to go when they’re just starting out in the business or like staying in the driver’s seat.
It’s 100% possible with some proper sales techniques and marketing skills that your self-published book will become a success.
What do you think of self-publishing? Is it something you would consider trying? Leave us a comment – we’d love to hear your thoughts!