There’s a big difference between saying “I’m going to write a children’s book some day,” and actually doing it! Here are 5 things you need to know in order to turn your idea for a children’s book into a reality.
1. Age Range
If you’re writing a children’s book, it pays to be familiar with how publishers classify them. Publishers generally assign age groups to readers in these ranges:
- Board books: Newborn to age 3
- Picture books: Ages 3–8
- Early, leveled readers: Ages 5–9
- First chapter books: Ages 6–9 or 7–10
- Middle-grade books: Ages 8–12
- Young adult (YA) novels: Ages 12 and up or 14 and up
If you want your book to show up on online databases or stock lists like Ingrams or Neilson then they will likely ask you to classify your children’s book into one of these categories. The target age range you decide on will also influence the illustrator you pick.
2. Finding an illustrator
First, decide on they style of illustrations you want for your book, for example, watercolors, pencil, digital artwork, etc. Remember, the younger your audience the more important the illustrations will be. Newborns to 3-year-olds will be attracted to bold colors and big images more so than text. As a general rule of thumb, use simpler, less detailed illustrations for younger readers.
Second, decide on how many illustrations you will need, and use that number to budget for your artwork. The industry page count for Children’s books is 32 pages. However, if you have a title page, half-title page, copyright page and dedication page, that takes up 3-5 pages of “front matter,” leaving 27-29 pages for the story itself. Stories usually start on page 5 (though it could be page 3 or 4) and illustrations are laid out in double-page spreads. That gives you about 14 double-page spreads (give or take). Consider this when writing a brief for you illustrator.
Good freelance talent can be found on sites like peopleperhour.com or upwork.com – just register for the site, write a simple brief that describes your project and exactly what work needs doing, and illustrators will bid on your project. Make sure to take a detailed look at an illustrators portfolio before accepting their proposal. If you like their work, go for it!
Above is a spread taken from a Dr. Seuss book – notice how the illustration bleeds from the left page to the right page. To create this effect you will need to format your pages very carefully.
3. Traditional publishing vs self publishing
Traditional publishing has its advantages: no upfront costs (you don’t have to pay anyone to get a traditional publishing deal and if you are asked for money, then it is NOT a traditional publisher. The median author advance is currently around £6000 or US$10,000); print distribution in bookstores is easier; and you get to work with a professional team. There are cons, however: the process is VERY slow; the author often sees a loss of creative control; and you see very low royalties (Royalty rates for traditional publishing will usually range between 7% and 25%, with the latter on the unusually generous end.)
The benefits of self-publishing include faster time to market, higher royalties and 100% creative control as well as the potential for selling on a global market as you retain the full rights to your book. However, you aren’t backed by a large, well-know publisher so getting your book off the ground can be difficult.
For more detail on the pros and cons of traditional publishing vs self publishing, check out this article by the Creative Penn.
If you choose the self-publishing route, you will have to do all your marketing yourself. The authors of “The Goose & the Guest House” made a video as a creative way to market their book online.
4. ISBNs & Barcodes
If you plan to sell your book (beyond just friends and family) you’re going to need an ISBN. The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a unique numeric commercial book identifier. An ISBN is assigned to each edition and variation of a book (paperback, hardback, e-book, etc). ISBN’s can be bought from a few different sites, like www.isbn-us.com or myidentifiers.com and cost about $125 each. However, it’s best to buy a package of 5 – 10 ISBNs as you will probably end up needing more than one. From these ISBNs you will generate a barcode that is included in the back-cover design of your book.
Print on demand is a low risk option for self-publishing as you don’t need to spend money on a bulk order of books. Companies like createspace.com and lightningsource.com offer print-on-demand services.
The authors of “The Goose & the Guest House” decided to use a local company to print their book for two main reasons: 1] more profit, despite higher print cost per unit, as you don’t have to pay publishers or distributors, 2] quality assurance–using a printing company gives you more options on paper type, thickness, binding, gloss, etc. The look, feel and durability of a children’s book is crucial, as you want your beautiful illustrations to look their best and for the book to last at the hands of small children!
Cost, page count, and aesthetic all play a part in deciding between a prefect bound or saddle stitched children’s book.
Comment below for more information on publishing your first children’s book.
– Ben Allison, Creative Executive.