Note: My non-fiction book How to Self-publish and Market a Children’s Book (Second Edition) is out in print and as an eBook Whether you’re just starting out with self-publishing or are part way through your journey this comprehensive resource provides practical guidance for planning and creating picture books, chapter books or middle grade novels and (crucially) tried and tested strategies for selling more books through author visits to schools, other events, local bookshops and online through advertising and social media marketing. Find out more and about what’s inside this new edition for May 2021 here.
In 2013 I self-published Ferdinand Fox’s Big Sleep a 32-page rhyming colour picture book for children aged 3-6. It’s one of six rhyming stories that make up The Adventures of Ferdinand Fox.
Along with my other books, Ferdinand had sat in a box for over 10 years while I went back to the day job after failing to find an agent or publisher. In Ferdinand’s case I was told that rhyming texts were a non-starter (especially from an unknown author) because they can’t be translated. The background here is that colour picture books are generally printed in more than one language at the same time – called co-editions – to help justify the print runs and so bring down the unit print cost which is so much higher than for black and white interior printing.
Not being one to give up easily on books I believe in*, I decided to give Ferdinand a go . Read on to find out what I learned, how I might do things differently next time around, and why!
*The Secret Lake and Eeek! The Runaway Alien were turned down soon after Ferdinand – but at at the time of writing (updated May 2019) The Secret Lake is a best seller on Amazon UK (over 30,000 copies sold in print and over 7,000 on Kindle since publication in August 2011 and foreign rights sold to Albania and Russia, and Eeek! has sold over 3,000 print copies. I’ve also now sold close to 1,000 copies of Ferdinand Fox’s Big Sleep – almost all at school events or signings and over 2,000 of my follow-on picture book (75% online), Ferdinand Fox and the Hedgehog
Picture book publishing basics – what I’ve learned
Below I look at the practicalities of self-publishing a picture book. If you’re looking for creative guidance skip down to the end of the page for links.
1. Picture book page and word count
Most picture books are 32 pages and 500-1,000 words long. (Word count can of course vary from very few right up to 1,000 – but the golden rule is generally less is best.) The second most common page count is 24 pages. If these lengths don’t suit your story, then any multiple of four will work but bear in mind that 24- and 32-page books are tried and tested and will sit comfortably alongside the competition in a bookshops.
For planning purposes, these page count numbers exclude the back and front cover (and the insides of each of these which are made from the same sheet) but need to include extra pages such as title page, dedication and so on – this is important to understand when mapping out your story as it means you probably have only 24 -28 pages to play with for a 32-page picture book, depending on how you want to use your end pages. (I got this wrong first time around!)
2. Picture book storyboarding
This is working out on one piece of paper how your story – the pictures and the words – will flow through the book. A storyboard is an essential first planning step before going on to make up a full size dummy. It gives you a birds’ eye view of where your text and illustrations will sit and makes it easy to see what is and isn’t working. Because you are working at a high level it’s also relatively quick to make changes, using revised storyboards if necessary. This is much more sensible than to trying to work with a full mock-up at the outset, no matter how sure you think you are of your story flow! (Another mistake I made!)
You can find any number of downloadable templates by searching on Google. Or you can download my 32-page colour picturebook storyboard template here.
Practical tips for storyboarding your children’s picture book
(This tips are based on my personal experience. I am not an illustrator, but I briefed my artist quite closely on all required pictures as I had a strong sense of what I wanted – we work well together this way!)
Tip 1: Before starting, take a look at the competition
I borrowed a lot of picture books from the local library and rummaged around in the loft for old favourites we’ve kept, such as Hairy Maclary. I was interested to study not just how the publishers had placed and interwoven the text and illustrations, but also to see how they had used their front and back matter pages (title page, half title, about the author etc). What’s acceptable, such as inclusion of illustrations with copyright info, and the sequence in which the title page appears seems to be pretty flexible! I have a fun double page collage spread at the start of Ferdinand Fox’s Big Sleep – it features a lot of the food we later see Ferdinand dreaming about, offering additional discussion and learning opportunities. I got the idea for this from some of the books I looked at.
Tip 2 : Be ready to compromise!
Ferdinand Fox’s Big Sleep is 436 words long and made up of 13 sets of four-line rhyming verse. I had a reasonably clear idea of what pictures would go with which text as they had always played naturally in my head. However, because I wanted to make my book fit the traditional 32-page model, when I came to do the storyboard I had to cut planned pictures in some places (no room!) and include unplanned pictures in other places (to avoid a text-only page).
I also had to change my ‘master plan’! I had initially envisaged text on the left-hand page and an image on the right-hand page throughout – as with Hairy Maclary. However, it soon became clear that this wouldn’t work all the way through – not just because of page-count restrictions, but also because the varying pace of the story demanded more frequent pictures in some places than in others. Having the high level storyboard was a must for solving these challenges.
Tip 3: Put yourself in your reader’s shoes
To ensure that you end up with an engaging spread of images and words put yourself in the reader’s shoes (parent/adult and child) and constantly ask yourself:
- ‘Is the variety and mix of illustrations/words from one page to the next sufficient to keep readers – and watchers – engaged?’
- ‘Do all pages offer opportunities for questions, discussion, thought, laughter, pointing and/or learning?’
- ‘Is the story progressing at an acceptable pace visually and/or through the words?’ (This doesn’t mean it needs to be a fast pace, of course – that will depend on the story!)
We all know which books we read to our children that we enjoyed and returned to again and again – and I can certainly remember some that I found boring! Keep these common-sense questions in mind when planning your storyboard. They will help you know when it’s right!
Tip 4: Make use of colour coding
On a first run with your storyboard, perhaps use a coloured cross or blob to indicate where you feel that an illustration is needed – be that on the same page as the text or on a facing page. You could also vary the size of your blobs or crosses to indicate the nature and size of each illustration (small, medium, large, close-up shot/full scene etc). I am no artist but I certainly found this approach came naturally and gave me an immediate sense of the book’s visual balance.
Once you’re happy that the mix feels right and the text will fit, create a second version where you either sketch the image crudely, or (if , like me, you’re not an illustrator!) use colour text to describe the image needed. I’ve typed out the storyboard below to make it easy to read here – but of course you actually do this by hand. This board shows how the book finally turned out
See more examples of picture book storyboards on the Internet here
3. Creating a dummy / mock-up
Once you are 99% certain that you have your story mapped correctly, mock it up with A4 paper cut to the page size you will be using (read more on page size below). This will enable you to leaf through the book and get the real ‘reader experience’ – and gives you a last chance to be absolutely sure that the pace of the story and mix of illustrations feels right. If it doesn’t you may need to return to your storyboard – or you may be able to make minor adjustments on your mock-up.
Tip: Once you have your images files you can also mock a dummy up on-screen in Word and then reduce the view to 10% to give you the same birds’ eye view as the story board. I did this as a final step before sending the file for layout by my formatter. See below for how it looked. The red marks are instructions I had included for him with the file.
NB The double page spreads below are not displaying as they would for reading because the first page you see is actually a right hand page – but you can fudge this for your own use, which I did from recollection!
4. Picture book paper size
The paper size options available to you will depend on how you intend printing and distributing your book. If planning to use one of the main print-on-demand and distribution services, such as CreateSpace, Lightning Source or Lulu, check to see what paper size they offer and then compare that with equivalent books to your own in your local library or bookshop. Aim to go for the same size or similar (unless, of course, you want your book to stand out by being different!). You can then price accordingly and work out your RRP.
However – before steaming ahead – decide what interior paper quality you want and can afford! The main print-on-demand options are convenient and will take care of distribution, but four-colour books don’t come cheap using this method and the finish means they may not be suitable for your children’s picture book. Read on to find out why….
Update May 2018: while the information below about silk paper finish is all still valid, in the last couple of years as my early stock of 500 ran out I have moved to using print on demand for my school stocks as customers really didn’t notice the difference. This allows me to order in lower numbers at a time.
5. Interior paper finish using print on demand
The hardest lesson I learned from producing Ferdinand Fox’s Big Sleep is that I couldn’t get a silk finish interior paper finish from CreateSpace or Lightning Source. This is the slightly heavier, sticky-finger-proof paper used in most children’s books – yet neither services supplies them.
My reading of their product specs made me think this was a given – but it was my mistake and it threw my pricing and distribution plans into disarray at the last minute. This is crucial to understand if you intend trying to place your book into children’s bricks and mortar bookshops because 90% of picture books (in the UK at least) have these thicker silky pages.
This is not to say that you’ll get a poor quality product from CreateSpace or Lightning Source – you won’t. If you choose white paper it is smart and looks and feels very good (almost silky!) – and the quality of interior colour is excellent from both. (I opted for Lightning Source’s Premium Colour option, though there is a cheaper one available.) Nevertheless my heart sank when I opened my proof copies because I had expected silk paper.
Talking with parents/friends and even our local librarian they all said they couldn’t understand why I would think about ordering books upfront just to improve the interior paper finish, as they hadn’t noticed anything ‘wrong’ with my proofs. You probably can’t either looking at the picture above. On that basis I think that if you only intend selling direct from Amazon the quality is absolutely fine – and I am selling this version through them. (I checked with Nielsen who said that I didn’t have to use a different ISBN just because the paper finish was slightly different.) But if you want to try to persuade wholesalers to stock your book – to give you quick access to bookshops nationwide – you are likely to have difficulty due to the finish, especially as an unknown author.
This said, provided you have a great book, your local bookshops may well take the matt format on consignment and you can still sell it directly via Amazon and other online stores.
At the time of wrting, Lulu did supply silk finish paper – but only for book sizes 12” x 12” or 12.75” x 10.75” which are not typical for children’s books. Also this size / finish of books is not eligible for distribution via Lulu.
6. Print on demand costs for colour picture books
Be aware that the unit cost of print on demand colour picture books is high – despite the ‘non-silk’ interior paper quality. For example, the unit cost for printing a copy of Ferdinand Fox’s Big Sleep on demand is £3.21! As I normally offer a 45% discount through Lightning Source – in order to increase the chances of online stores discounting my books – that leaves me with a profit of just 60p per sale on Amazon sales, against £1.37 per sale on my other print books. This is liveable with, though not ideal! But I was still keen to find a way to produce a silk finish version to supply through wholesalers. In so doing, my aim was to try to match the print on demand price with the shortest print run I could find.
7. Traditional print cost quotes
I used to buy in print many years go and was therefore not surprised (but still horrified!) to learn that in order to bring my unit print costs close to the print on demand cost of £3.21, I would need to spend at least £1,500 and order in a stock of 500 books. Or I could reduce the unit cost further by paying around £1,900 for £1,000 copies. (With traditional offset printing, the higher the print run the cheaper the unit cost and vice versa, due to the print set-up costs.) Ordering in 1,000 copies would clearly make more economic sense, but without any sense of how well the book would be received, nor any sales force or national PR campaign behind me to drive custom, this was not a risk that I wanted to take – neither was spending £1,500 on the initial shorter run!
8. My compromise –short digital print runs
Luckily I was able find a UK print firm* that could supply me in runs of 100 off their digital press – working out at £3.91 a book including delivery. Yes that unit cost was high, and this meant I had to order up front – laying out £391 – but it meant I could test the silk finish version with local bookshops, at school events and via my wholesaler without ordering in huge numbers at considerable expense.
The initial response to the book was extremely positive and owing to new events coming up I ended up ordering a further 100. I then unexpectedly had a further booking and at that point bit the bullet and ordered 300 to help reduce the unit cost and give me some longer-term stock. This brought my total print run to 500 books, giving me an average unit cost of £3.35 including delivery**. With a retail price of £6.99 my silk finish versions still make a reasonable return of £3.64 at school events (or £2.64 if I offer a £1 discount) as there is no distributor cut taken. And I still make money from consignment sales with local bookshops where I tend to offer 35% discount. However, where I don’t make any money (my accountant now needs to close his eyes!) is through my wholesale sales via Gardners, whom I supply direct on a 50% discount agreement. (Believe it or not, this is good discount for a self-publisher by today’s standards – they only agreed to it on the back of my historic sales of The Secret Lake and Eeek! The Runaway Alien.)
Gardners understandably advised me to market the book at £7.99 instead of its current £6.99 price. However, I didn’t feel I could justify this – especially alongside so many picture books by well-known authors at a lower price point. I therefore settled for the £6.99 on the basis that my main profits from sales will be made through school events and local consignment sales. In the meantime, having the book in stock at Gardners – who are listed on Nielsen as my main distributor – means that most UK bookshops and online stores (WH Smith’s, Waterstones etc) can order it in easily and quickly, offering more chances to test it in the market. This strategy has already assured Ferdinand Fox’s Big Sleep a listing on the respected LoveReading4KidsUK website – where it was selected by Julia Eccleshare, Children’s editor at The Guardian, as one of July 2013’s featured books.*(Sadly I recently learned that the company I used for my short runs went out of business in 2017. I would recommend getting three quotes from print firms if you’re looking at this route – quotes and services change over time, but the quality I received was very good .) **Of course, had I known upfront that I was going to be ordering 500 books overall I could have saved money by ordering in one go – going for the cheaper offset price for 500. But with no track record in picture books, and knowing that volume sales for them are notoriously low, I wasn’t prepared to take the risk. I still have just under 100 left – but I have more events lined up and know that I will get through them all eventually. Crucially, my cashflow meant that I could also afford the cost – I was in a lucky position in that respect. I would not have taken the risk to order so many had that not been the case. Nor would I have done so if I didn’t have two other children’s books aimed at different age groups that I can take to school and Waterstones events alongside Ferdinand Fox, to make those events more cost-effective in terms of time.
9. My long-term marketing and distribution strategy for Ferdinand
My test marketing of Ferdinand Fox’s Big Sleep has gone far better than I dared hope and I’ve sold around 150 copies at the time of writing – half through Waterstones events and most of the rest through school events in May/June and or local bookshops on consignment. At both the Waterstones signings and the school events the feedback has been brilliant – children, teachers and parents love the rhyming text! And most children have seen urban foxes so are keen to try to make up their own stories!
I’ve also sold a small number online. The online reviews (some from a Goodreads giveaway) have been fantastic (and all but one of these were from the non-silk finish version supplied through Amazon) – including another 5 Stars from Louise Jordan, the ex-head Reader at Puffin UK and founder of The Writers’ Advice Centre for Children’s Books.
Should sales /orders take off in any large numbers as the book becomes more well-known through school events and my own PR, then I will consider ordering in a much larger print run using the offset method to bring down the unit cost and only supplying this finish – or approaching a partnership company such as Matador, to work with. But for now it’s wait and see, live and learn! I am also under no illusion that picture books don’t ever sell in very large numbers! I have more school events planned for the autumn and will be doing more publicity then too, so will then make decisions from there.
10. Ferdinand Fox’s Big Sleep Colouring Book – another way!
We indie authors are known for our resourcefulness, and as I pondered my lessons learned from this project, I had the idea to produce a colouring book version of Ferdiannd Fox’s Big Sleep. This uses standard black and white matt interior pages, so can be produced using print on demand at a much lower unit cost than the four-colour book.
Here readers get two for the price of one – a rhyming story and an activity book! My hope is that over time this will produce a further income stream, to help justify the cost of the project to date. Luckily my illustrator works directly in MS Paint, which meant it was very easy for him to resupply the images to me in black and white outline only. Also the format of the book, with text and pictures sitting separately from one another, lends itself to a colouring book format. To keep costs to a minimum I made no changes to the layout, and simply tweaked the cover text and back page blurb.
I now offer Ferdinand Fox’s Big Sleep Colouring Book via Lightning Source at a RRP of £4.99 – and at the time of writing this was discounted to £4.93 on Amazon, probably thanks to my 45% discount. I make £1.08 per sale with the distribution taken care of for me. I also offer it via CreateSpace in the USA.
I have yet to market this version actively as I want to give the full colour version more of an airing first – but my local bookshops and local Waterstones who stock all of my other books have said they will stock it, and I will supply direct for this. I may also look at packaging them together at a special price. All on my ‘to do’ list!
Would I print up-front using silk finish paper again?
I have five more Ferdinand Fox Stories and my jury is still out on how I will produce the remaining ones. Provided I book in regular school visits I have no doubt that I can sell my current stock. And since I also include The Secret Lake and Eeek! The Runaway Alien in my school visits (seeing several year groups at a time) it is an effective use of my time. However, I’ll make a final decision on what format to use for the other fox stories sometime next year once I see how the current book fares.
As I see it, I have three options:
- Continue with short digital runs and selling mainly via events.
- Supply the book in another format altogether – possibly running several stories together – and use non-silk paper/print on demand.
- Only produce colouring books!
- Only produce an audio book!
I’m just not sure which of the above I’ll do– so watch this space!
If you’re planning a children’s picture book I wish you every success – and please do feel free to leave comments and tips below for everyone’s benefit! I’m sure we’d all love to know of low-cost short-run four-colour print options!
Picture book writing tips – a few useful links
- The making of a picture book by Stephen Davies
- Joyce Dunbar’s guide to writing picture books
- 10 Picture book writing tips from Tania McCartney
Original post August 2013
Latest updates May 2018
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Hello, Me and my friends are thinking about making a picture book but we aren’t really artists, do you know some people we could contact to get the job done?
Hello Liam – I can only suggest that you search online I’m afraid. You will have to pay of course. Do you have a budget for this?
Hi there, looking for advice as I have no clue where to start…
I have my story (a children’s picture booķ), I have approached a publisher that offered me a hybrid contract, but after a little research I am not convinced. Instead, I think self-publishing may be the way to go, but not sure how to do that when I need to consider finding an illustrator as they will be a huge part of the story as I don’t think an e-book would do it justice.
If anyone could point me in the right direction, I would really appreciate it as I feel completely out of my depth.
Thanks in advance 🙂
Hi Lou — I recommend you read my book How to Self-publish and Market a Children’s Book as this explains your options to you. It also talks about how to spot scam publishers who want you to pay them to publish your book — you shouldn’t accept that type of contract. There is a lot to learn so best you read up then ask any questions you don’t understand after that. NB I will be bringing out an update to my book in the next few weeks. The current edition has most of what you need but if you want to wait for the update, join my mailing list (link at the top of this on the right) and you’ll be notified when it’s out – hopefully late Feb or early March. Hope that helps.
With very best wishes, Karen
Did Amazon provide an illustrator for you? I have a children’s book that was published by a company that is now defunct. The illustrator they used was not someone I would choose again! So i need to find a new artist for the book, this second time around.
Hi Annette — I’m so sorry that I somehow missed your comment — WordPress didn’t alert me to it in the back of my system and I’ve only just found it. No — I found my own illustrator. I’ve written about he whole process in my non-fiction book which you’ll find on this site. In short there are various sites that you can search on to hire, or ask in FB groups for recommendations from other authors in your genre. I am guessing you will have found someone by now but if not I can give more detail. Apologies again, Karen
Landscape is in fact a problem, but it get better. Lulu.com has US Letter landscape and with the new xpress.lulu.com also US Trade Landscape nad DIN A4 Landscape. That is not a lot, but better than before. Lulu’s author and publisher forum has moved to http://lulu.boards.net – but still as helpfull as all the time.
If you understand some german, you may consider epubli.de as print on demand service. There you can publish the book at a mixed price: The text pages at the black and white price, the picture pages at the colour print price. It’s very simple: just enter the number of colour pages and the total number of pages (colour and black-and-white). That is all you need to do. I don’t know of any other service that offers this.
Thank you for this extra info, Hexe.
Hello! Thank you for posting this, I’m currently in the swamp of figuring all this self-publishing stuff out. I do have a question. I see on your book cover that you partnered with someone. I’m the illustrator partnering with a writer. We’re looking at self publishing through Kindle/amazon, but not finding much help in how to partner together in a professional manner. Everything seems built for the single author/illustrator. If you have wisdom to share on this, I would be most grateful!
Hi Carrie — have you read my book on How to Self-publish and Market a Children’s Book? In there it covers authors working with illustrators and the sorts of agreements you’re likely to come to, which in most cases would be the author buying the rights to the illustrations from the illustrator in return for a fee. Are you planning to sell your illustrations to your author or are you doing it as a join venture? If the former then the book gives an draft form of words that can be used to sign over rights. If the latter you will need to agree between you what the royalty split will be and put that in writing. What that split will be will depend on what you both think is fair but if it’s of any help, my latest picture book is a joint venture in this way (with a very old and longstanding friend). I offered to buy her illustrations or we do a joint venture and she was keen to do the latter. In this case we are splitting royalties (after all expenses such as the layout artist and all advertising costs) 40% to her and 60% to me, the reason being that I do all of the marketing upload and back-end stuff. All she does is the illustrations — so the split is to take account of my time. One of you will need to take the lead on the upload side of things and then you work it all out from there. I have sole access to my account — and all of the money gets paid to my company. Once we know what royalties were earned after Christmas I will work out the profit and ask my illustrator to invoice me based on the split I mentioned above. I hope that helps. And remember you will need to hire an editor (and layout artist unless you know how to format for KDP already…). So those costs will come out of any profit etc. I am not aware that more than one of you can access the KDP dashboard and, ie that there could be two users, and that would become messy anyway in my view. But I may be wrong on that. If you know and trust each other well it maybe that you agree to shared access but you will still need the royalties to be paid to one or other of you unless you decide to set up a joint imprint. I don’t cover joint working like this in my book but everything else is covered in terms of the process for self-publishing etc. I hope this helps and best of luck with it!
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Thank you so much for this info, I will be ordering ” Ferdinard Fox” soon! I also want to self-publish, but because I live abroad, so I was thinking of finding a great local illustrator… I don’t know if this will be too expensive…My husband works in advertising, although not in the UK and never with books… He wants to help promote mine and I do believe in him! Do you think I would still need to go through a self-publishing company, who know the ins and outs of the business and can put my work on Amazon and then rely on hubby for the social media and viral promotion?
Thank you again,
Hi Emmanuela – so sorry I missed your comment. For some reason WordPress didn’t notify me that you had left this message and I’ve just found it! You can find illustrators online and there is no reason it should be more expensive for you – if you watch my video on selfpublishing picture books I give a list of places to look for illustrators — eg Upworks.com but there are many other sites and you can look for a style and budget to suit you. And putting your work on Amazon is easy to do yourself so I wouldn’t personally pay someone to do it for you, unless it’s somehow not possible where you live. Which country are you based in?
Would you be so kind as to drop the link to those places you recommend to find illustrators?
Hi Lis — the ones that are listed in the YouTube clip I have referenced above are: childrensillustrators.com | scbwi.org/illustrator-gallery | behance.net | fiverr.com | elance.com | and your local art schools. I’d also recommend trying upworks.com and search for any societies /communities of illustrators in your locality or country You could also look on linked in and facebook for children’s authors and illustrators and ask in there. Best of luck 🙂
Hi there, I hope you’re well? I wondered if you decided to stick with print on demand, or continued with short print runs please?. I have printed four illustrated books through Ingram Spark, and for one of them the illustrator and myself decided upon using the gloss version. It definitely felt nicer/ looked slightly more pro, but we both felt it wasn’t nice enough to warrant the big price jump from the regular thickest paper weight option. For that book, we barely make anything and it has the lowest page count!. I used Ingram Spark over Create Space as Only Ingrams could guarantee FFS paper would be used, which is really important to us. However, Amazon only order around five copies (I think) at a time, and it is FOREVER showing as out of stock!! Or, 2-4 week delivery. This really upsets me as I feel it loses us sales. I wondered how difficult it is to switch a title to Create Space please? Is it a complete new PDF upload process? and lastly (so sorry for all these questions) but, do you like Create Space’s paper options? Thank you so much in advance, and congratulations on your huge self publishing success. Warmest regards, Cat X
Hi Cat — I will reply at the weekend — very busy with World Book Day week and out all week – and now just turning in. With apologies but must sleep! K
That’s great. Many thanks for this.
Also, I wondered what cover size you found with Createspace? We use Ingramsparks 8.5 X 11, and Createspace only appear to have 8 X 10. Is that correct?
P.s- I hope World Book Day went well.
Hi Cat — I am so sorry for not replying after World Book Day week — I was so busy and have been since then that I forgot to come back to this and I didn’t see these extra comments you had left.
Firstly, I still use a combination of CreateSpace and Lightning Source for my picture books – I no longer do separate short print runs for my school visit stock. (For Lightning source just read ‘Ingram Spark’ — I only use LS because IS didn’t exist when I first started.)
I use premium colour with LS and just the white paper stock with CreateSpace – with CS you don’t get to choose the colour quality (or at least you didn’t last time I looked). These days the colour from CreateSpace is slightly better than Ingram Spark’s premium colour in my view as Ingram changed their printers about a year ago and I have noticed the colours aren’t quite as vibrant. In short there is no quality issue with the CS colour books. However for my school visits the colour from LS will do — it’s only when you compare them side by side with CS that you notice the difference. I have recently taken this up with them though.
I’m not sure what you mean by FFS paper so I can’t answer that question I’m afraid.
If you decide to use CreateSpace you can use the same interior file for upload as for IS but you need a different cover file even when the book is the same size — the differences are minor but your illustrator will work it out by simply following the template instructions.
Your best bet if you are UK based is to use CS for Amazon and opt out of their Expanded distribution and use IS for everything else – but keep the same ISBN for them. That way you will always show ‘In Stock’ at Amazon and at the same time will find it easy to order stock for school visits from Ingram Spark. Plus IS will put your books up on all the other platforms as they do now. (If you used CS for expanded distribution, CS would show as the publisher of record to bookshops who don’t like this…)
On paper size, I use 8 x 10 – and I will have chosen this because I knew that both Ingram and CS do it. I’ve just looked at CS and they don’t do 8.5 x 11 as far as I can see.
Note that if you change your book size (which you will need to do if switching to use CS) then you will need a new ISBN because it’s treated as a new format. In that case get yourself set up with CS first with your new ISBN and only once you’re ready to go would you then upload to IS and let them know when you do so that you do not wish them to distribute to Amazon for you. (You could, I suppose, just leave your current IS version there but I think it would be confusing to have the same book available in two different sizes…)
Of course you’d need to take down your current IS version and I don’t know how long it would take for it to be removed from Amazon and other sites…so you need to factor that into things too…
One last thing to note — CreateSpace is moving to KDP Print so I’d recommend checking them out and uploading that way rather than to CS. I’ve not used them yet but have heard they are good and it’s likely that in due course everyone will be moved across.
Also Ingram Spark has free set-up on titles through June 2018 >>http://selfpublishingadviceconference.com/ingram-spark/
This may all be too late and I’m so sorry if it is — so much to do at my end!
Very encouraging Karen.
I have the manuscript ready for a 20 page children’s creative non fiction book ready.
Since this is my first book, I’m hesitant to spend on the publishing packages a lot of publishers are offering.
Even if I don’t make a profit, I definitely hope to break even.
Would you mind sharing your email I’d or phone number so that I can clarify doubts?
All the very best.
Hi there — if you post your questions in the comments everyone gets to benefit from the answers. Does that make sense? That way we all learn from each other’s questions and answers. (If there’s a reason you can’t do that then just leave another note here to let me know — you certainly should be very wary of publishing packages that ask you for money up front!) Hope that’s okay by you! Karen
Thanks so much Karen and Standing on the Rock. Lots of great ideas and a place to start from. Already feeling less overwhelming!! 🙂
Thanks so much for your ideas, knowledge and inspiration. You’ve given me such hope and lots of really helpful practical advice. I wanted to ask about how you approached your illustrator once you’d found one you liked. Also do you know of guidelines to set up a contract with your illustrator? How does one go about this without knowing all the ins and outs of fees/ percentages/ ownership etc.? This feels a little daunting! Thanks for any advice.
Wishing you all the best as you continue to write,
Hi Marianne – sorry I didn’t see this when it came in. I pay my illustrator per hour and hired him via Elance who handled the payments etc. They are now called Upworks. You really need to find someone you like and then take it from there and be sure to ask them to sign a paragraph whereby they give up copyright ownership if that’s what you want. From recollection think the various platforms offer example wording you could use etc – or try googling for a template. You won’t find many/any illustrators who will do royalty share as the risk for them is too great — a lot of work for potentially no reward unless you sell in huge volumes (which picture books don’t unless you wrote The Gruffalo!). I’d recommend you listen to my interview here on self-publishing picture books. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2_khVFdQUJo
And at 13.08 minutes I also talk about finding and working with an illustrator….and provide more links for where to find them. I’m sure if you google there will be many more places by now though! I hope this helps and best of luck with it.
My own experience of finding an illustrator went as follows…i love on a small island in Canada where there are lots of writers illustrators artists. For my first book it was very difficult to find an illustrator. I was unknown and noone wanted to take me on. Eventually I found a young woman in tried and tested who showed me her work. I made it clear from the get go that I would not be able to pay her by the hour…this could have been astronomical. We made an agreement that paid per picture and I would pay her a lump sum for every 3 pictures also a date for finished pictures. Also the pictures would be mine at the end..this worked well for both of us…there was some negotiating that went on…my experience is probably different from most my books are about whales…picture books about whales on fb.
Thanks so much for your input. Yes — I’ve heard of others paying ‘per picture’ and forgot to mention that. Great to hear how you found your illustrator! It’s so useful to share info this way.
Hi Karen, I loved your article and it is waking me up to the self-publishing industry. Thank you kindly.
Thanks, Maureen – glad you’ve enjoyed 🙂
This post was so useful! Thank you. I do have a question I am hoping you could answer. I have decided to use Createspace to publish my book. However, like you I want to use an offset printer (like Headley) that I can use to print around 100 copies for schools etc. If I were to do this would I need an ISBN on the offset printed one? Createspace provide one but probably not for this. I did contact Nielsen but they said they would only provide the number and not the artwork/bar code for me to place on the book. I have followed all of your posts – very useful. 🙂
Hi Sherilee — an interesting question. If you’re going to use a CS ISBN (which personally I don’t recommend but…) then you would supply that ISBN to any printer you use and I think they would create the bar code for you using their own software. Just call whichever printer you’re thinking of and ask them about that. Or, there are things called bar code generators available online which your illustrator could use I think and work that into the cover design.
The upside of using a CS ISBN is you get it for free. The downside is that CreateSpace (an Amazon company) is shown as the publisher rather than you — and when your book appears in the data feed that all bookshops get they will see this. On that basis they would be less likely to want to stock it and/or feel less happy about ordering it in for a customer. And if you took the book into a local bookshop in the hope of stocking it on consignment it will count against you if they spot that CS is the publisher. The only problem you’re left with is that ISBNs don’t come cheap so you’d either need to pay a lot for one or order a batch from Nielsen. It’s a tricky one! I wouldn’t have it printed without any ISBN though (albeit I don’t necessarily think there’s anything to stop you doing this — it just means that if other parents see a child with your book and wanted to order their own they’d have no way of doing so.) I would always recommend buying your own ISBN and then using that on CreateSpace. I hope this helps more than it hinders!
Big help thank you! I decided to take your advice and have ordered a single ISBN! Ouch but hopefully worth it! Now to just find a decent print on demand printer in the UK! 🙂
You may already have looked at this, but just in case not, if you use Ingram Spark POD and end up ordering 50 or more books I think you get the £49 set-up fee refunded — have a look on their site. Whereas I used Headly for my initial short runs, I am now using Lightning Source (Ingram Spark’s sister company but same products) with premium colour on white paper for Ferdinand Fox as I sell 99% at events, so having the silk finish on the paper is no longer a priority as I’m not trying to compete with bookshop stock. The paper stock etc is identical on Ingram Spark. But of course compare those costs with other quotes etc. You’ll find a list of paper sizes etc for colour printing on their site and this tool will tell you costs based on different choices >> https://myaccount.ingramspark.com/Portal/Tools/ShippingCalculator (But you may have done all this already, I realise…!) Good luck with it..!
After selling my stock of silk finish Ferdinand Fox books (500 in all I think…) I decided to just go with LS.
Thanks for this helpful post, Karen. A great deal of time has passed since you posted it. Do you know if either CreateSpace or IngramSpark have started offering the silk finish paper you recommend? (Or any other reasonably priced sources of POD books?)
Hi Gary – so sorry for not replying to this! I’m not sure how I missed it! In short, no they don’t. But I’ve come around to thinking that silk paper isn’t the be all and end all because most of my sales are at school events. My picture book sales via bookshops haven’t been huge so I’m no longer actively pursuing that strategy and the reason I had wanted silk was to match the other books on the bookshops’ shelves. The paper quality (white/white premium) from CS/LS (or IS) is very good even though it’s not silk. I think I do say this in my post.
Hi, this is a great resource. I’ve asked to make an adult picture book for someone, just one, and I wondered if I could self publish one? I’ve never done this before, so would I have to have access to a scanner and load the images up? Would I be able to print just one? Thanks!
Hi Mel — yes – you’d need access to a scanner to prepare digital copies of your images to the correct resolution (and sites like CreateSpace and Ingram Spark will tell you what this needs to be). But you’d also need to think about the layout of the book and choose an appropriate page size, font and type size etc (assuming there is text to go with the images), and decide which text goes on which page and so on. If this is all new to you then unless you are very technologically minded I would recommend outsourcing to someone who understands layout and regularly formats picture books. While I planned my layout in Word as seen above I outsourced the actual file creation to an expert! In terms of how many you can print, yes you can print one copy — and you would want to do this anyway as a ‘proof’ copy before ordering any more. With either CreateSpace or Ingram Spark you would order a single proof. Obviously buying just a single copy is always going to me more expensive on a unit cost basis than several. (If you look at the print and shipping calculator on Ingram Spark you can get an idea of cost for one or more copies https://myaccount.ingramspark.com/Portal/Tools/ShippingCalculator As I type I can’t recall if there is an equivalent on CreateSpace but you can certainly input and find out what the cost of a proof copy would be.)
This all said, if you’re want to create a very simple picture book with photos and a little bit of text and really only ever intended to create just one copy you might also want to look at sites like Blurb or Photobox. You can add a bit of text but not sure how much.
Hope this helps. In short, I would outsource the formatting for a print book unless you are very technically minded!
Really useful Karen, thank you. I’ve a query re supplying to Gardners if you don’t mind. The wholesalers here in Ireland take 55% so I’m used to that but am just wondering do Gardners take a bulk order from you e.g. 50 books at a time?
I’ve written 3 non fiction books for adults and am considering writing books for children so just researching at the moment. Although I have all 3 books on Create Space, I did get copies printed too, with 2000 in the print run for the last 2 books. Having 1400 of my new book sitting in my hallway is certainly a good motivator for getting me out there marketing! I’ve 400 of the second book left so am really pleased it’s gone so well but I agree, it is a risk.
Hi Lorna – sorry for the delayed reply. This comment wasn’t flagged to me for some reason so I’ve only just seen it. Yes, Gardners requested 50 books or sometimes less – it was worked out by their systems based on my sales. And those in turn were often affected by book signings I was doing with Waterstones. In the end I have stopped stocking with Gardners as I wasn’t selling enough with them to make it worth their while stocking me. This was because for my later book signings Waterstones wanted me to supply them direct and most of my other book sales happen at school events. I think the best thing to do is get in touch with Gardners and see what they say — if your non-fiction book is selling well they may well stock it. Hope that helps 🙂 BTW if you’re not signed up for my mailing list I’d recommend doing so as I’ll be bringing out a book on self-publshing and marketing children’s books next year and it will contain more info than is on the site here. 🙂 Good luck with the others in the meantime! Karen
Someone left a comment about a “publisher ” asking for a contribution? Somehow I’m subscribed to that chain of messages. Anyway just to add my voice. Where I come from we call such companies 419.. Avoid them and publish your book yourself. I found this site myself and now I have published my children’s book “first day at the big school”. It’s on Amazon and I’m doing book readings and selling copies myself as well! The money they ask you to contribute isn’t worth what they will do. Trust me!
Thanks for the advice, John
Hi Karen, thanks so much for getting back to me.
The publisher is Austin Macauley.
They have asked for a contribution as I am a first time author.
I spoke with a rep the other day and she said that the contribution could be less as I also had illustrations to submit for consideration.
Will let you know what happens with that.
What are your thoughts?
Self publishing can be expensive so I wonder if I should snap up the opportunity?
Maybe that’s the lazy option😟
Hi Lynne and Karen. Been reading about your experience with interest. Can I point you to a blog site called “absolute write.com” in it are others who have dealt with Austin Macauley. Basically they are a vanity publisher who seem to be trying to convince authors that they are mainstream traditional publishers. They are anything but. Hope this next bit isn’t too long for you. But Victoria Strauss, an author has this to say.
“Austin & Maclauley is a vanity publisher. I’ve gotten reports of fees in the £3,000 range.
Like many vanity publishers, Austin & Macauley claims to offer “traditional” publishing, and lures authors in with this promise. Once authors have submitted, they get a letter from “Chief Editor Annette Longman” saying that A&C thinks their work “has merit” and “deserves to be published.” However, due to “the difficulty in placing the books of new or untried authors, as well as the general increased competition in publishing today, we feel that it may be necessary to ask for a contribution from you.” There then follows some stuff about how such arrangements are “likely to be more common in future,” and then Annette lowers the boom:
Let me stress: the situation is that, at the moment, we are only asking you to agree in principle [to make a contribution]. I can, however, assure you of one important point. If you were to agree in principle, the amount asked of you would be reasonable; it would be a contribution to initial costs only; it would not match the investment we ourselves would be putting into teh publishing, promoting, and marketing of your work.
The final paragraph of this letter sinks the hook, implying that the contribution may not be required after all: “…on the other hand, [the Publishing Board] may well agree to take responsibility for the entire financial risk.”
These are standard vanity publisher sales tactics, designed to make authors believe that a) the publisher isn’t solely a vanity publisher, and b) if they pay, the publisher will contribute either its own money or services of substantial value. However, it’s quite likely that neither is true. While some vanity publishers do have non-vanity programs, in many if not most cases the claim to provide “tradtional” publishing is a sales ploy designed to make authors feel more confident that the publisher is reputable (’cause any publisher that does non-vanity publishing is reputable, right?). Ditto for the joint venture claim–it’s far more likely that the author’s “contribution” has been carefully calculated to cover not just publication costs, but the publisher’s overhead and profit.
Apart from anything else, A&M’s website is deceptive in that there’s no indication that any of its authors will have to pay. However, as Old Hack noted, to anyone with any real publishing experience, it screams “vanity publisher.”
Anyway check out the rest of the blogs on “absolute write.com.”
I would personally give these guys a wide body swerve.
Hi again Lynne – sorry for short reply but I’m on a boat in Italy. I would advise not to go with this and thanks to John for chipping in. I will reply in more detail next week when I have access to a laptop bout suggest you join Alli (see the link at top of page). We have a watchdog service that you could use as well as lots of free advice on reputable formatters to help you do this yourself. In haste Karen
Thank you for this honest and detailed advice on self publishing.
I wonder if you can help me with a decision.
I have written a children’s picture book and it has been accepted by a publisher but as I am a first time author they have asked for a contribution of £2,500. Considering the time and cost of self publishing a colourful children’s picture book, would you advise me to go ahead?
Would really appreciate some advice here.
Hi Lynne – my gut instinct is ‘no’ – but can you please tell me who the publisher is and who will be doing the illusrations? One of the benefits of joining the Alliance of Independent Authors, btw, is that you can post questions like this there and get lots of feedback. But if you can start by explaining to me what you will be supplying and what they are telling you you would get in return that would help.
BTW, Lynne, the reason I am asking is a traditional publisher would never be asking for any contribution so it sounds to me as if this is some kind of assisted publishing service which may or may not have a good track record. Or it could be a publishing services company which is simply out to make money from authors who are keen to get their books out. Another question, is what track record do they have with children’s books? Very interested to hear who they are.
Hi, Karen, I haven’t found the answer to my question anywhere in the post of comments, so please forgive me if this is redundant, but how long did it take you to write, illustrate, format, design, and publish your children’s book from start to finish? I think this would be interesting and helpful to know. Thanks. 🙂
Hi Janet — I wrote Ferdinand Fox’s Big Sleep many years ago when my boys were a lot younger, and it went through many iterations to perfect the rhyme and rhythm. This happened in stages and over several months (I had a young family to attend to at the time!). There was then more editing when I returned to it several years later. And in fact it’s just one of six stories – so it’s all rather a blur. But ‘end to end’ I suppose the time for this one story from inception to completion may have added up to somewhere between 3 and 4 weeks or more if you include all the thinking and fiddling! That’s for 1,000 words of course! But don’t hold me to that 🙂 Thereafter there was a huge amount of work to brief and layout the images – many weeks. Again I can’t be precise but that whole element may have run to two or three months working with my illustrator. Very ball park I’m afraid! And of course there was then upload and checking. Probably a sixth-month project all told from starting with the image briefs to final publication. Does that help? Sorry not to be more precise! Karen
Karen, your answer is very helpful and just what I was looking for. I am currently editing and publishing a children’s book for an author, and the whole process has now taken six months, mainly due to errors on the part of the artist/designer. This book is a total of 48 pages with full color, full page illustrations of 43 of those pages, so it has been a lot of work. You’ve made me feel better with your answer — that this amount of time really isn’t so unusual considering all the artwork, layout, formatting, design, ebook formatting, and publishing steps involved! Thanks. 🙂
Great site, I have just discovered it, so have probably missed the bit on finding an illustrator, do you have a section like that.
Hi Amanda – see my reply just posted to Jean above (or it may be below!) as this answers that 🙂 Sorry for the delayed reply – have been a bit tied up the last few days. All the very best. Karen
Thank you. I have written a rhyming children’s picture book that needs illustrations. Is it true self publishers will offer an illustrator? I feel I have limited funds but a strong personal desire to bring my book to shelves!
With limited funds (which is the case for most!) it is very difficult to find an illustrator.y(How I wish I could draw!) So I’d say your best bet might be to try a local art colleges or friends who may have student sons or daughters who are doing art and who may be prepared to work for a very low fee. You could also look for someone prepared to do the artwork in return for a share of royalties, but the trouble with this is that it’s a huge risk for the illustrator as they could spend many hours on the project yet not see any return. It is very difficult to sell picture books in large numbers unless you are ready to get out and meet your audience at school and library events. etc. Other options are to google to find local art societies or similar close to where you live — or indeed farther afield. (With the internet it’s possible to do a lot online these days.) You could also try the website fiverr.com/ or 99designs.com – I’ve not used these so don’t know exactly how they work but do know of people who have used them and managed to decent artwork (for book covers at least) on a limited budget. It will be a case of looking at the instructions on the site to find out how the process works. Other options are to post messages on LinkedIn where there are groups of illustrators. But as ever you will be up against budget. I found my illustrator on Elance.com. There are a few other sites and I talk about this in this video > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2_khVFdQUJo (fast forward to 13 mins 07 seconds). I hope that helps and apologies for the delay in my reply. Karen
I am currently working on a picture book to a 9 line story that I have wrote. I have an illustrator on board who believes in the story as well. My question is , is there anyway I can produce a picture book as short as 9 lines? I know some pages will just be pictures but I was hoping to keep costs down and also tell my story as it is. I am wondering what multiple of 4 will fit well to the 9 lines. I was thinking 6 front and back spreads so 12 pages total ?
Thank you for your time and helpful info
Hi Matt — it’s the images that will be your main cost rather than how many lines of text you have, of course! In terms of how many words you story has there is no minimum rule and there are even some books that have no words at all and just let the pictures tell the story. In terms of how many pages your story would spread out over, I think that is down to your vision for it — and you would need to storyboard it to work that out. Without knowing the story I’m afraid I can’t be of more help! I would recommend mapping it out as you see fit and then testing out the idea with a few parents or librarians / teachers of your target age group to see what they think before you spend too much on the illustrations? One thing is that 12 pages feels quite short — around half the typical ‘shorter’ picture book page count (most have 32). So one thought is whether your story is developed enough? But again that comes down to testing the storyboard concept with your target audience? Do check out that link I have to the site that talks about what makes a good story http://www.voiceinthedesert.org.uk//2011/09/04/the-making-of-a-picture-book-part-one-plot/– As I say, I don’t think it matters how many words there are; just what the ‘story’ is! Best of luck with it 🙂 Karen
Thank you so much for this blog as well as your YouTube link.
I have found it very interesting and will take my time to take in all the information.
I think it has clarified many problems encountered on the self-publishing journey.
Having read it I can see areas I can develop but also now feel assured that despite a slow plod the wheels on my,jay-jay supersonic bus, are at least turning the right way.
Who knows, like all buses, maybe my next four books may come album ng all at once.
As a teacher, visiting various schools the story does get there. I would love to see how to get my book in shops like water stones.
At least telling g the story I schools I know the children love it and should the adultsztop to listen too I know they do too!
I feel inspired to just persevere.
Hi Sue — I’m glad you found it all useful. To be honest my experience (and especially with picture books) is that most children’s book sales happen at school events so that’s where the main focus needs to be — and that is what you’re doing already. Because school offer a large and captive audience — and since there is no middle man — this is where you can make most sales and most money per sale if you’re well organised.
Getting into places like Waterstones is a nice idea, of course, but really only works at a local level where you have a chance get to know the store manager (and of course they will only take your book if they like it and have the power to do so — this seems to vary by store!). If you are accepted you can then help raise awareness locally that your book is there through press releases to local press/magazines and (if holding an event) providing posters for local shops/cafes/Waterstones counters etc to encourage people to come along.
Being stocked in Waterstones nationally isn’t the holy grail in my view because farther afield parents wouldn’t know to go and look for unknown books — one needs a national PR/marketing campaign to raise awareness for that! Also the likelihood of Waterstones placing an indie book in a featured / easy-to-spot position in the shop is low. In short, without a proven sales track record, backed up by a large sales and marketing campaign, the changes of (a) being accepted and (b) being discovered in store would be relatively (or rather extremely!) low at that national level.
So I’d be inclined to put your energy into what you’re doing already — ie school visits and similar local events, with a view to spreading things more widely and having more ambitious plans if things really take off.
Hope that helps and doesn’t sound to disparaging — just trying to be honest about what I have found does and doesn’t work!
Best blog I’ve read in a long time – well done.
Was hoping for a quick pick of your brain. I have self-pubilshed many adult books through Lighting Source with great success. About to publish my first children’s picture book (Jax Takes Off, 32 pages, 8.5×11, hardback, 4 color) and just found out neither Lightning Source nor Create Space will print spine text on such short books. This is a no go for most libraries in the US and Australia where I will be promoting the book (I live between the two countries). How did you deal with the lack on spine text on POD? Did the short digital runs allow for spine text?
Any advice you have on this would be much appreciated.
I wish you continued success with your books and can’t wait to order it when back in the US.
Hi Suzanne — funnily enough the absence of spine text on my picture book never bothered me — yet it did for my fiction books for older ones, to the extent that I made sure the page count would mean that I could include the details on the spine. Here in the UK most picture books tend to be displayed face out so spine text is not an issue, but you’re right that most/all trad published books do include it. Re my digital short run, I have to confess it didn’t occur to me to ask them for this as I had assumed it wouldn’t be possible and didn’t see it as an issue for the reasons above. So all I can suggest is that you seek quotes and ask this specific question. I don’t know whether achieving spine text is related to whether the print run is off-set or digital. Please do leave a note here for everyone’s benefit if you find an answer! Best of luck with your book! Karen
Hello karen! Your site has taught me so much. Im planning to do a few samples first with POD to make sure it lookz alright..I will eventually print more copies here(have decided to do it here rather than china) and market through schools and I am also planning to sell on amazon as well. when i sign up for amazon (or is it creatspace) do i just upload the pdf of the book and then amazon prints and pays my minus cost of printing? thanks
When using CreateSpace, yes, you upload a PDF but it needs to be correctly formatted using a book template which matches the size of book you need. And if you’re thinking of using colour you need to understand how that side of things work too as the images need to be the right resolution and so on . I would recommend using someone to help you with that side of things — I used Doug at Lighthouse24.com for my formatting. If you decide to do it yourself you’ll need to read the CreateSpace instructions very carefully and need to understand the technical side of layout etc (I have a page on using CS here with links to relevant pages — but this was largely written for black and white rather than colour picture books.) To work out the cost of printing and what royalty you will earn you need to use the CS royalty calculator – you will find all of that info and links on my page here >> https://kareninglis.wordpress.com/print-on-demand/#CreateSpace Best of luck but do consider using a formatter if in doubt…
Hi — I also spoke to someone in China and was offered saddle stiching. I may be wrong but I think *some* types of saddle stiching involves staples and that idea put me off – plus the idea of having to order so many from so far – I’m a bit of a control freak so wanted to know I could drive to the supplier if it all went pear shaped! . (Of course in the long run it would have been cheaper. to order from China) That said there is also saddle stiching without staples — a few of the Nosy Crow books I have here use that — ie with thread. Anyway this finish is not offered by LS or CS (as far as I recalll – sorry I’m editing at the moment so no time to check) — and was not on offer for short digital runs either where the book is glued. All I’d say is check there are no staples if going that route — otherwise no reason not to use it if available and you’ve seen a sample. Hope that helps! Good luck! BTW do sign up to my mailing list if you’ve not done so yet — I’ll be bringing out a comprehensive book on all of this and much more this year and will notifiy when it’s out via that list. (I don’t send out many newsletters.) All the best and back to my MS! Karen
Wonderful read! I got so much info here and I’m grateful. I have a question though did you use perfect binding or saddle stitch? You spoke about the silky finish for the pages .. Is it gloss or Matt? How about the cover? Look forward to your answers . Also regarding your selling through Amazon? If you don’t have a wholesaler do you send Amazon actual copies? Best
I used perfect binding. The paper finish I used for the short digital run is half way between gloss and matt — I think it’s called silk finish for that reason! In the UK this is the most common paper finish inside picture books and you’ll find it by browsing in any bookshop. As I say in my blog post, this finish is not available from Amazon or Lightning Source/Ingram Spark. However, their paper finish for colour picture books is perfectly respectable — just not as heavy/silky as what most (not all) picture books use that you will find in bookshops. With regard to selling via Amazon – they used to order the book in from Garnders when it was stocked there but I no longer stock with Gardners as the profit I made was next to nothing for the reasons given in the blog post. So for the Amazon sales I now use their print on demand service and supply the non-silk pages version of the book that way – ie I don’t supply them with any stock. For what it’s worth I’ve now sold almost all 500 of Ferdinand Fox and have some school visits lined up in the next month. I’m about to decide whether to order more short-run books for that with the silk finish or whether to get them using print on demand. I shall be updating this blog post in the next few weeks to say what I did and why — it will come down to cost, as always! But my gut feeling is that selling at schools either finish is fine so it really will down to which cost per unit makes more sense. I hope that helps and very best of luck with your venture 🙂 Karen
Thanks Karen your reply is very helpful. I have a better understanding of how the process works. Though I’m in the UK I’m considering printing in China ( for cost) but I suspect by the time it’s shipped it may end up costing the same or more as printing here. Just one last question why did you use perfect binding and not saddle stitch? I was looking at a few books at the book store and they all seemed to have stitches down the middle ( which I assume is saddle stitch) . Also if I dot go ahead wan use perfect binding does that mean the illustrator has to bear that in mind? (Pardon me if you have mentioned it before) I pray that you get help whenever you need it as well.
I just signed up!
Great — fear not — I don’t send out huge numbers of newsletters!
Under Section 8, you don’t state which POD company ended up offering the silky paper in your size format. Can you please tell us?
Thanks for your comment — I’ve added the details above 🙂
Thank you very much, even tho I’m in the US, the info is still quite helpful.
Thank you so very much for posting this information Karen. I am working on my first picture book and the information you have shared is priceless.
Glad you’ve found it useful, Glendale – sorry for late reply: I’ve been away! All the best, Karen
Hello Karen, I listened to your interview on Joanna Penn’s website and learned so much! I am a novice at this. I would like to use a POD company to print my picture book, but the original illustrations, for which I paid dearly, are almost all of the landscape orientation. They will be ruined by conversion to portrait or by having them cover two pages with the gutter or spine between! Are there NO PODs which will print a book in landscape orientation? I haven’t found one. Thanks so much!
I think this came up once before and I think didn’t find POD in landscape, but I may be wrong — and/or things may have changed since I last looked. Very sorry for such a late reply. I went away in August and somehow missed this. ( Did you check Lulu? However you’d need to be sure the costs were right if they do do landscape and I have a feeling they are better for photo books… As ever, you need to be realistic about sales volumes.)
Great article, thanks for sharing this info. I wonder if you could tell us a little about school events and how they work? Do you get in touch with school etc and promote yourself in that sense?
Very sorry I missed this Marie — I must have been away. Yes I did/do get in touch myself. I contact them by phone to get the right name and then send a tailored email with the book details. I talk about school visits in my video here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2_khVFdQUJo
Thank you for a very interesting and helpfull article. I have self-published a couple of poetry books already, doing everything myself then sending pdfs to an online printer, standard A5 format books, but am now embarking on a children’s picture book – this article was a timely discovery! I have never used Create Space and wonder how easy it is. I would like to do it in a square format if possible but many on-line printers do not offer this and if they do it is very expensive!
Hi Libby – CreateSpace book dimensions are found here…https://www.createspace.com/en/community/docs/DOC-1323 – it looks as if there is one square one. But of course check that it’s available with colour print — I can’t remember whether the paper sizes are limited to different colour options or not! Good luck with it and do bear in mind that if you want to sell picture books in any number you need to go into schools; I did a podcast about this here for IndieRecon earlier this year 🙂 >> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2_khVFdQUJo All the best! Karen
Hi, I’m an illustrator and I have used CS for my children’s picture book “The Big Brown Lazy Dog,” which I’ve also written.
Some good things about CS and some not so. Firstly as it’s a print on demand service there are no set up costs involved. Also the quality of the book is very good and it is printed in full colour. It sells on Amazon for £6.95 and after they take their cut I receive £1.92. Quite a few have sold which is good, however the quality of the paper is as has been mentioned not up to the standard offered through a traditional printer. I would also add that most bricks and mortars stores such as Waterstones won’t touch Amazon as their cut is so high. I’ve used a printer who specialises in children’s books to produce my main supply of books. But due to ongoing issues with books arriving damaged I have decided to look elsewhere. Of the first 100 I had printed I gave 10 as promos. 10 needed to be sent back and reprinted so of the 80 left for sale I have sold 69. I ordered another 100 but had to return 40 due to damage to the covers. The printers claim it is due to the couriers but I disagree. It looks like the guillotine hasn’t been changed as often as it might have been hence the ragged appearance of the edges of the covers. Currently awaiting the return of the 40 copies I sent back and now looking for another printer.
I should add that i am now working on my next book. Hopefully the issue with the printer will be resolved long before I am ready to go to print.
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I have written a children’s book about adoption and am currenty having it illustrated. Is Lightning source a good option to have this printed? I can’t find anyone that can print this for me as a self-pubilsher. I came across your post and I have hope! Thank you for your time.
Thanks for sharing so many great tips. I hope you get the rest of your fox adventures published soon!
I have one question… Did you choose to use an isbn number and if so how much did it cost you?
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Thanks so much for this useful article Karen! I am just starting a project to publish a children’s book so this has clarified a lot for me.
My book will include some photographic images, do you think this would really need the silk finish paper or would the Lightning Source’s Premium Colour work OK? I have to produce one off books as they will be personalised so I can’t print bulk amounts.
Wonderful useful blog Karen, thanks. I am at the start of the journey and it is incredibly confusing, notably as I want to publish on board! Anyway lots of reading for me, I have followed you on twitter.
Oh, I’m so glad I found you! You have provided a wealth of information. Although, I’m certainly concerned about self publishing my picture book at this point. It seems cost prohibitive, to do it right.
Thank you very much for sharing your experience with us! I am in the midst of determining the best way to publish, market and sell my first children’s picture book under my own name. I have written for other organizations for many years and have never published on my own. I also usually write non-fiction books and had thought of writing my children’s picture book as a break and “just for fun”. I had no idea that it would be a complex and time-consuming process with so many options and decisions to make! I also had the attitude that “…well, it’s easier to create a children’s book than an adult book…” – I was wrong! Your article has confirmed many of the dilemmas that I am encountering. I look forward to reading more from you and wish you continued success with selling your books. Thank you for starting the conversation for authors to share! Everyone’s input here has been intriguing and motivating. Your Canadian fellow author, Colleen~
Thanks for the kind words, Colleen – yes, picture books are a real challenge! Best of luck with your venture! Karen
You do a tremendous job on your blog…thank you. Here is my question: What self publishing company do you recommend if any? (lulu, outskirts, dog ears, publisher house…etc….)
I wrote a children’s book(manuscript finished) and i just dont have the time to do all the work from editing, copyright, illustration, formatting…all thats involved with making a book. Which company is best and takes the least royalty?
Hi Gerge – it sounds to me as if you are in need of several separate services 1) An editor – to check whether your story flows and works 2) An illustrator 3) A formatter – to ensure the layout is right and works well and 4) A print on demand service. There is so much to cover in a reply that really I would recommend that you start with the first two and then once you have your illustrations ready you then look for someone to help ensure it’s laid out properly. The illustrator may be able to do this if they have worked on children’s books’ layouts before… if not then you’ll need for search for someone experienced in this if you don’t feel confident yourself. I went for a simple layout with pictures on one side and text opposite other but this isn’t best for most stories. (In my case each page carries four lines of verse so it worked okay..) If you read my blog post on self-publishing a picture book and on print on demand including all of the comments you will find recommendations in there for who I use for formatting . You will also see that I talk about the pros and cons of using CreateSpace, Lightning Source and getting short runs of books myself when it comes to printing. But in all of this I must stress that selling picture books in large numbers is *not* easy – I have sold almost 500 now but most as a result of many school visits. Very few sell online from Amazon etc. So you really need to be sure that you have the energy and determination to make sales before you spend a lot of money paying for illustrators etc. etc! I hope this helps and doesn’t sound too negative – but in short you need to use different services to finish your book before you even need to worry about which self-publishing company to use. Some of the self-publishing companies will no doubt offer to provide these services for you but I think the cost would be enormous and you’d have no guarantee of sales! All the very best with it!
Thanks for this super informative blog. My question, is POD (still) realistically feasible for children’s books?
We’re a small publishing group intending to launch children’s picture books in printed and digital format. We’ve got a couple of titles ready to go and a few to follow. We’ve done a test run (full colour illustrated calendars) with CreateSpace. (Quality was so-so.)
We’re based in Italy and plan to sell to the US through online channels, so certain marketing strategies that require a physical presence in the US, like touring schools, won’t be possible.
Evaluating POD or offset.
POD has obvious start-up advantages but offers low profit solutions. We’d be grateful for any insight.
Sincere thanks and best of luck on your journey,
Thanks for sharing.i wish you all the luck in the world…for being so brave to start your journey
Thank you, Eileen 🙂
Thank you for this body of information regarding the challenges involved with Childrens Picture Books.
I am now unsure what to do with my books as considering you have only sold 400 copies in London, and taking into account the amount of school visits you mention, then there’s not really much hope for someone who lives deep in the country and wouldn’t have access to or consider school visits. 😦
Perhaps finding your site and the information regarding the sales figures has been an eye opener and has saved me time, money and effort.
It’s a pity really that fiction novels are more rewarding, financially, than sweet children’s stories.
I really appreciate you taking time to display this.
Thanks for you insightful and honest blogs which help us all so much. I have just copyedited and proofread a children’s book called “Pop goes to the Rescue”.
Kate Steele had a lifelong ambition to write children’s books. She was a mother, grandmother and primary school teacher in Manchester. She was diagnosed with cancer in 2008 and it was during her treatment – and with a wish to leave a lasting legacy for her grandchildren – that the idea for the ‘Pop’ series was born. ‘Pop’ is based on the real life adventures of Kate’s husband and the children’s grandfather Martin Steele, otherwise known as ‘Pop’.
Kate passed away in April 2013. Her family decided to pursue publishing the stories, which were written for and dedicated to her grandchildren. As Kate‘s illness progressed, her illustrations became fewer, so it seemed fitting to ask the children she taught at St. Bede’s in Manchester to create the missing pictures, and they rose to the challenge with style.
The four stories have been put together in one book. All proceeds are going to Francis House Children’s Hospice in Didsbury, Manchester. All funding of the first issues has been undertaken by the extraordinary charitable efforts of Martin’s family.
We have published a beautiful book through Panda Press (Stone) Ltd. However, we now need to get it available on Amazon. As with you, we like our silky pages and also the size we have chosen (which does not correspond with any of the premium colour options) so we will probably have to distribute them ourselves through the Amazon website. Have you any ideas or thoughts. I am finding it so difficult to get to the bottom of how much this would cost and how it works!
Thanks to show your process for your book !
We will be happy to show you our pictures books for children’s with only real photographs !!!
Olivier Toppin from http://www.pictures-books-for-childrens.com
If you think about designing endpages, or endsheets (the pages that consist of a double-size sheet folded, with one half pasted against an inside cover, and the other serving as the first free pag” – from wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Endpaper) for your hardcover book with LigthningSource, forget about it. “Endsheets are automatically white in all hardcover books” – quotation from the support.
Thanks for the clarification for others’ benefit, Katherine. 🙂
Thanks for the interesting and very useful story. I’m trying to get into similar adventure, and I stuck at the very beginning. I can’t find answer to this pretty simply question “Where and how should I include the design for my endpapers (or flyleaves or the pages that are being glued to the cover)?” Actually I even don’t know if I can control them somehow (color, images etc.). I studied your storyboard and didn’t find them at all. May be you know something about this stuff?
Thanks a lot,
Hi Katherine – if using Print On Demand you won’t have any images or anything else glued to the inside of your front cover or back cover – those pages are blank. So any fun design you want to start and/or end the book with and the other end pages with copyright info and marketing messages, eg about other books, would sit on the interior pages – in my case these are all part of the 32-page design.
In my case the first page of Ferdinand Fox’s Big Sleep (right hand side when you open the cover) is the ‘This Book Belongs To’ page, (the left hand page which is the back of the front cover is blank). Then when you turn the leaf there is a fun double page spread design associated with the food and animals that Ferdinand Fox dreams about in the story (providing plenty of ‘point-to’ and discussion items for little ones and parents…). The next two pages are then the copyright page and the half title page and then my story finally starts on the next two pages…. At the end of the book I have a couple of pages promoting my other titles… Altogether these add up to 32 interior pages.
I hope that makes sense.
thanks for the explanation. They could at least mention that those pages can’t be included, but they just ignored them. Thanks a log again.
No problem. (Who’s ‘they’ by the way? Are you using CreateSpace?)
It’s LightningSource. The instruction looks complete but very confused. For example they didn’t mention endpages. Another problem was – which page should I start the file with? I understand it’s up to me, but there is no any sample (I looked many books but there are several patterns and I don’t know which is better).
One more question is about binding. I want my book to be published is as a hardcover, it’s a picture book but what is confused me is the binding. I have many children books, all of them are stitched, especially hardcovers. But in the instruction about gutters I found the following lines: “PERFECT / CASE LAMINATE / DUST JACKET BOOKS : 0.125″ (3 mm) gutter margin (no-ink area) required on the bind side of the interior. These are bound with glue, and the area is designated so it can adhere to all pages (see reference templates for example).”
What glue are they talking about? The pages will not be stitched? Can you please clarify? As far as I understood your book is hardcover too? I’m totally lost…
Hi Katherine – my book is not hardback. It’s paperback. And looking at the interior centre page it is glued. In terms of understanding the instructions for creating the template I’m afraid I can’t be of help because I outsourced that to my illustrator for the cover and to my formatter for the interior. I’d recommend you get advice and help from someone who does this all day long. I’d recommend Doug at Lighthouse24.com – tell him I sent you. His prices are reasonable and he may be able to give you some quick free advice just to clarify. He is in Texas so may not reply right away depending on where you are. Alternatively have you tried speaking to your Account Manager at LS if you have already set up an account? All the very best with it! And remember to work out your costs carefully as selling picture books online is hard. I’ve sold nearly all of mine at school events – so you need to take into account not just the set-up costs but also the delivery costs to you when working out your price and profit. Karen
One last thing, Katherine, be aware that LS isn’t a hand-holding organisation so there would be no reason for them to mention end pages as they would expect publishers to know all of this I’m afraid… Just think of your story and end pages as the interior file and the outer cover as a separate file as that’s how it works in practice. (Unless for hardback they let you print on the inside…. I’m not sure as I’ve not used hardback..)
For info if you click on the thumbnail image of my storyboard for the interior of Ferdinand Fox’s Big Sleep (under the paragraph called Tip 4) you will see that I clearly show the end pages as part of the interior file… Again, best of luck! K
thanks for the advice and contact information. It may be very helpful! This service you recommend is exactly what I was looking for. Although I can do the interior design on my own I still need some preflight check doing by the professional. Thanks a lot!
As for selling I would like to try all the online ways and see how they work.
what I don’t understand, even if you handle with organization (IngramSpark is working with individuals now) there is no reason to miss endpages (flyleaf to be exact). They described cover, inside pages but not flyleaves like they don’t exist. But everyone knows about them and it’s pretty common to put some graphic on them so what is the reason to ignore their existence?
Your storyboard don’t have them, yours has pages that are stitched or glued together but not endpages (may be I’m using the wrong term but it’s a paper that is glued to the cover – only for hardcover books though).
Hi Katherine – I see what you mean now. I think it’s a terminology thing – and you are right that ‘end papers’ are the ones glued as you describe now that I’ve looked them up. I have used the term ‘end pages’ more loosely – and perhaps it should be called ‘end matter’ instead…
I’m afraid I’ve not seen anything on this as I’ve not done hardback but the fact that LS is silent on them is odd, I agree. I’d suggest checking with your LS account manager or (if you’ve not yet set up with them) calling and asking if they offer this option. Whatever the answer, would you be able to leave another comment here for the benefit of other readers? Many thanks! Karen
thanks for the piece of advice – I will definitely ask LS first. And sure I will leave the comment here because it could be useful for others.
Making a storyboard cannot be stressed enough. I encourage writers to make storyboards as well – just stick figure drawings if you have to. It doesn’t matter if the thumbnail drawing doesn’t resemble the finished picture in the slightest degree. It is just a method to help organize the flow and rhythm of the story.
They can even inform the writer if a storyline is not working or is not as strong as it should be. It allows the writer to explore and rearrange story elements which might tell a better story in the end.
These storyboard panels can be 1 or 2 inches. After you cut them out, just lay them out on a table and see if the story is flowing. If not, rearrange them. Storyboards allow you to forget about picture detail and focus on the overall big picture.
children’s book illustrator
Thanks so much for your detailed reply Karen, it is really helpful. It seems to me that the paper you get from LS and from Createspace are much thinner than your digital print run of 170gs, at 80 and 90gsm respectively and the covers are only 165gsm and 220gsm, did you notice a difference in the quality between LS and the digital run? I would like a really thick cover even more that your 250gsm, but I am thinking this is not going to be possible. I have emailed blurb to see what their trade cover thickness is but the costs there work out at more like £5:50 a book so not much profit 🙂 Still, we are not in it for the money I think.
Hi Sarah – it sounds as if Amazon must have sourced your copy from the wholesalers, Gardners, who stock my silk finish pages – lucky you! Amazon is a bit haphazard about where it sources its books from – they once said to me “We get them from whoever has them in stock and where we can get the best deal.” If I hadn’t had any in stock with Gardners they would certainly have gone via LS, and have done so for previous copies of it….(As I may have mentioned in my post, I am running down my Gardners’ stock as I make just 7p per sale or something completely ridiculous, due to the 50% cut taken by them!) The only downside for you is that you don’t get to see the other type of paper finish from LS – which although not silk finish is still very nice. To be absolutely sure of which you have, check in the back of the book. If it’s printed by LS it will say so somewhere…
I did look at paper thickness for covers – in the end with my short digital run I went with to 170g/m2 for the silk interior paper and 250g/m2 for the gloss cover. This said I think in hindsight a slightly thicker cover might have been better, just because the book feels more ‘bendy’ on bookshelves in the bookshops next to a lot of the others, and so more susceptible to ‘damage’. But it’s fine for school events and individual orders etc. (And increasing the thickness might have made the cost prohibitive in any event.)
I’ve just looked out an enquiry I sent to CS back then about what paper they used for colour picture books and this is what they said (you’ll need to convert to grams…)
” Hello Karen,
Thank you for contacting CreateSpace in regard to glossy interior paper. Unfortunately we do not offer glossy paper. I have included some information below about the paper that we use.
Your book will be printed on-demand after a customer places an order, using the latest digital printing technology available. Your book’s interior will be produced in full color or black and white, depending upon the option you have selected. All book covers are printed in full color on cover stock and finished with a protective laminate coating.
For covers, we use 80 pound, 10pt C1S paper. At this time, we are unable to print on the inside of the cover. We apologize if this presents an inconvenience.
The interior paper weight varies depending on the type of book you are creating. For color books, we use 60 pound smooth bright white off-set paper. Books with black and white interiors are produced with 60 pound off-set white or cream-colored paper.
I hope this information is helpful. As always, if you require further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us.”
I hope this helps, Sarah… I’ve not looked at Blurb for ages though had heard that they had improved their prices. I always have associated them with photographic books for some reason, but maybe that has changed?
Good luck with your project. And BTW if I were doing FF again I’d make the book a bit taller if targetting bookshops. It’s fine as it is once the customer has it, but gets a bit lost on the face-out bookshelves. So think about that if you really think you’re going to be targetting bookshops. Otherwise not to worry.
Karen, Thanks for the great website. SOO useful 🙂 I am self publishing a kid’s picture book. I bought Ferdinand Fox’s Big Sleep on Amazon ( great book!) and I am just wondering would that have been printed by Lightening Source or by the printers you found, as the paper appeared to be gloss, but I thought I had understood that the Amazon ones were via Lightening Source and were matt?
I am also trying to compare paper gsm and softcover thickness from the createspace, LS and the new trade option from Blurb ( launched in August), did you consider this at all when making your decisions? I think that CS is thicker that LS but I may have read that wrongly and I have asked for samples from Blurb.
Thanks a lot.
Fantastic post. Thank you! I’ve written some children’s poetry I want to self-publish as a collection, doing my own simple illustrations. Just starting to explore the ‘how’ of it and came across your site.
Glad you found it useful, Claudine. Best of luck with your oeuvre! Karen
I have written a childrens rhyming book and it has been illustrated through a collaborative work with my brother in law. We finished the book and were all set to self publish with a popular self publishing outfit in the states. The book layout includes images on every page with text. The images are very professional and currently are scanned at 600 DPI. I felt we were on the final edge of publishing this book but then the wrinkle came. While writing the book my layout concept was landscape. I was caught off guard when I found that self publishing packages do not offer landscape as a viable print option. In your experience, do you know if there are any self publishing that do indeed publish in landscape? Like you, i do not want to compromise my vision of the final product, but I am not sure I have a choice here. It has taken 14 years to get this book to this point and I want to get it out there. The book has been well received at the local schools, but again the landscape format is part of it. Any suggestions?
Hi Lal – I’m so sorry that I missed your question here. I’m not familiar enough with the range of templates offered by other POD companies I’m afraid. I can only see that CS offers square templates which I assume won’t work for you? I hope you are now sorted! And if you found a landscape solution do leave a note here! Karen
Does Ferdinand include the title and author on the spine? Neither LSI nor CS offers text on the spine of books under 48 pages. I wondered if a blank spine would hinder attempts to consign with bookstores.
Hi Michelle – no there is no title on the spine and it’s not proven a problem…. What is harder is selling picture books in any number via bookshops unless you are there doing a signing (just a warning!). I’ve now sold over 400 copies of Ferdinand Fox but most have been at school visits. Online sales are also relatively few and far between compared with my books for older children. It’s just the nature of the market! Best of luck with yours 🙂 Karen
Thanks for the helpful information, Karen!
Will createspace add a copyright page to my book or how will that be done? Also, if someone wanted to order a paperback copy of my book would that be possible, if so, how? And for my cover will I just upload the picture I want to use? Sorry for all the questions, this will be my first book and want to make sure I get everything right. 🙂
Hi Sierra – it sounds to me as if you need to have a detailed read-through of all of my blog and the Createspace platform to get clear in your head how the whole process works. (I’d be here all day outlining it all to you!) I learned 90% of the basics by reading the CS site back in the early days. I would advise you to start on my page here: https://kareninglis.wordpress.com/print-on-demand/ for an overview (but just concentrate on the CreateSpace section; I think it will confuse you to try to get your head around Lightening Source, which won’t be for you…) After that you could go to CS’s own explanations on their site of how self-publishing with them works (by then quite a bit of what you’ll be reading will feel familiar) >> https://www.createspace.com/Products/Book/ Once you have read everything you could then come back if any questions. Or (even better) ask a question in the Createspace Forum (which you will see me talk about in my article that I’ve pointed you to above). The Forum is free to post questions in (you just need to register with the CS site as a user) and there are lots of technical experts there who will be able to help/answer questions if you still have them by then.
In short, the whole point about CreateSpace is that it allows you to both self-publish and ‘distribute’ by allowing customers to order paperback copies of your book on Amazon – and from other online stores if you opt for CreateSpace’s Expanded Distribution Channel (EDC). (I don’t use EDC because I also use Lightening Source for all non-Amazon distribution – a bit complicated to go into here but explained on the page I link you to on my blog above.) If I were you I’d just start with Amazon.com and Amazon.UK channels (once you understand the end-to-end process!).
In terms of how you upload your cover image, that is all explained by CreateSpace in the links I’ve provided: the image has to be correctly formatted, fonts embedded and in the size that matches the paper size you have chosen and laid your book out in. Image formatting and interior formating raedy for upload is the kind of techical stuff that I outsource and you will see me talk about this on my print on demand page.
Re your copyright page, that is something that you create and forms part of your interior book pages – ie it’s one of the pages that precedes the story and pictures, along with the title page etc. I refer to these as the ‘end pages’ in my post on creating a picture book.
I hope this helps – and best of luck with it! Just bear in mind that picture book sales online are very low…. but I talk about that in my blog above! Karen
Hi, thank you do much for writing this blog, I learnt so much! Could you please tell me which company you used to print the book in the end? I am right at this place and could do with all the help. Thank you again, I would have never known about silk paper!
Hi – I used Headley Brothers in Kent. Good luck! One thing – I sell nearly all of my picture books at school events, where it goes down really well. Bookshop sales are very low (unless I do a signing event, which I have done at Waterstones). I just want you to be aware of low volume sales before you spend your money. You really need to get out to schools to make good sales! And do you maths to make sure you’ll make some money Best of luck!
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Thank you so much for giving us some insight into this maze of a business. Would you be able to tell us who exactly you use for your short digital runs?
I used a company called Headley Brothers – they are based in Kent and were suggested to me via a second-hand recommendation. However I’d definitely ‘shop around’ for quotes; I think they were reasonable but I did have to negotiate quite a bit, and it’s possible I could have done better. If you Google them you will find them pretty quickly. It may be worth trying to find someone who specialises in printing children’s books to see if you could get a better deal. Best of luck!
Thank you so much for your wonderful post. I wonder if you would be so kind and share the contact information of your printer who did your original digital print runs. That might be a good way for me to go as well. Thank you so much and all the very best!
So sorry for not posting a reply here, Margot – life must have taken over. I’ve just had the same question again so will copy my reply here: I used a company called Headley Brothers. If you Google them you will find them pretty quickly. It may be worth trying to find someone who specialises in printing children’s books to see if you could get a better deal. Best of luck!
Just to say, thank you so much for your very useful blog regarding self-publishing, particularly in relation to Ferdinand Fox – I’m embarking on a self-publishing picture book adventure & your site is exactly what I need! I’m going to do a blog of everything I’ve learnt too, once I’m done. I’m hoping to make headway into the slowly growing electronic picture book market – I’ve got a really great illustrator with experience of putting his comics into electronic format & we’ve got some great ideas as to how make the most of the format, in the way that other picture books haven’t been able to. Especially seeing as Blurb can now add audio to ebooks, although, I think that will only work on certain platforms. So, I’ll have to use the mix & match approach, to a certain extent. Then I’ll move on to looking at the feasibility of producing a print book. I’ve noticed that ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ is on matt paper & I’m happy with that quality, so I think I’ll go ahead with using createspace for America & Lightning Source for UK. The alternative just made my head spin too much!
Anyway, thanks again for all your advice
Hi Karen it would be great to know more about the process of selecting an illustrator; how you went about hiring an illustrator; getting the illustrations you want and can afford & how do they generally get paid?
Hi Marina – see my reply to Nicola above this post for how I found my illustrator and how they get paid. So sorry for my delayed reply here! I took on a bit of day job work recently and it rather threw my schedule! Karen
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Hi Karen, I have recently discovered your site and just wanted to say thank you for a lot of very interesting and useful tips. I published a book several years ago, a children’s picture book called ‘The Fish with a Wish and other stories” with Book Guild and it sold well.
I have another book which I have wanted to continue to publish but wasn’t convinced to go ahead with a rather costly independent publisher. My main question and advice I would be really grateful on is on illustrators. I did the sketches to my last book but it was the publisher, who included in their costs to me, their own in-house illustrator.
If I was to investigate self publishing what are the terms and conditions of using/paying an independent illustrator? would they negotiate a one off fee for a 1000 word story book currently estimated to split on about 30 pages, how does one set a fee?
Hi Nicola – apologies for the delayed reply.
I think it simply varies by illustrator – but in most cases I think they would want to quote a fee per illustration and work it out that way. And in some cases I guess they might be prepared to negotiate a smaller fee in return for a share of any royalties.
I would recommend that you join one – or more – of the Children’s Books Illustrator’s groups on LinkedIn and ask this question direct to illustrators themselves who are on there, just to get a feel for how most of them work. (Just search under groups on LinkedIn). While there also join some of the children’s authors’ groups and ask how the authors there pay their illustrators. For info, I pay my illustrator by the hour (which means it can be a bit open ended), but I don’t know how typical that is. I am guessing more people agree a flat fee.
When it comes to finding an illustrator, take a look at http://www.childrensillustrators.com – or on LinkedIn groups or other illustrator sites found via Google… Oh and don’t forget Elance.com You may also find a local art college student is willing to do it for a cheaper price!
(BTW what I do know from discussions I’ve seen on LinkedIn is that illustrators are not keen on deals whereby they don’t charge at all and instead would split royalties at an agreed percentage with the author. The reason for this is there is a lot more work for the illustrator and no guarantee of an income from it.)
I hope this helps,
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There aren’t many posts out there that cover this topic so well – thanks for sharing your experience and thanks to Joanne Penn for having you on her blog!
Thanks for your kind words, Ramona! I’m glad you’ve found it useful…. Karen
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Is there a circle or community where author’s aspiring to self-publish can liaise… without having to sign up to something that involves a fee. It’s always inspiring and useful to know other people who are on the same journey…
Hi Clare – I’ve just replied to your other post about paper size and short run digital quotes on the Print on Demand Page. Re communities that are free the CreateSpace Forums are very good as you can post questions and see others’ responses. There are also children’s self-publishing groups on Linked-In. The Alliance of Independent Authors is brilliant – but there is a fee. If you are serious about self publishing it’s money well spent though. But if you’re on a really tight budget you could start with some of these other options and see how you go.
Thank you so much for sharing your experience here. It is difficult to find all this information online and your detailed account has answered so many of my questions. Much appreciated! I have written a children’s picture book and am determined to self-publish it somehow…I would love to know how you found an illustrator? I am at present going around in circles on that topic and cannot seem to find a way forward.
Good luck for 2014!
Hi Una – I ended up finding min on Elance.com – kind of by accident. (You can post jobs there asking for freelancers.) But you could also try asking on children’s publishing and illustrator groups on Linked-In. Or try something like http://www.childrensillustrators.com – If you have a local art college you might want to try that too as you could find someone keen to find work who is talented but may be reasonably priced.
Thank you Karen-I had considered Elance/99designs etc before but was a little apprehensive-I think I’ll go ahead now-I need to make a decision and stop going around in circles!
I am trying to get my book through create space in Illustrator my pictures are 300 dpi when I turn them into pdfs they are under 200 dpi. Do you have any suggestions?
Hi Linda – I’m not technically versed on that side of things I’m afraid as I outsource my final formatting. I’d recommend you go into the community forums on CreateSpace and ask the question there – there are some incredibly helpful people there from around the globe who will reply pretty quickly. Look out for ‘Lighthouse24’ – (Doug Heatherly – based in Texas) who has done a lot of formatting/file conversion for me. You might also try emailing him and if it’s quick solution he would let you know. His website is http://www.lighthouse24.com – tell him I referred you. Good luck, Karen
Thank you Karen. What a wealth of information! I have also been advised that my rhyming picture book stories are a non starter because of translation issues, and my attempts to find an agent/publisher are getting me absolutely nowhere… I am a complete novice with regards self-publishing, but your tips are really helpful (although the process appears not to be for the fainthearted!). I see that you work with an artist through Elance. I looked at this site, but didn’t contact any of the illustrators as I presumed that their fees would be well beyond my budget. Are the costs of illustrating a picture book as much as or less than actually printing the book?
Absolutely excellent! Thank you for sharing.
My pleasure. I hope it was helpful.
I use Lulu for a print edition (which I haven’t made public yet) for my children’s books series, Teabaggers. I also have a free Ebook edition via Smashwords with 548 downloads but I’m waiting to write a few more of the series til I make the first one public in print. Do you think I should wait or should I make the print edition available now?
Written by webmaster on behalf of Gillian Findlay at gillyfindlaybooks.wordpress.com
I think that’s really up to you…. What I will say is that the cost of producing in print is high so make sure you check your costs first and be clear about how you think you will sell them! Good luck!
Hi Karen, thanks for such a fabulous article. I am just entering the world of self publishing, and you’ve given me some great ways to move forward. I’m wondering if you could offer some specific advice? My illustrator and I are completely new to this, and have beautiful hard copy paintings, with no idea how to get them into digital format. Nor which type of format or how large the DPI needs to be.
Hi Emma – I think he or she would need to scan them. I’m sure a quick Google would give you the answer. My illustrator works directly in MS Paint (or similar) so we don’t have this issue to deal with. For colour I think the DPI needs to be a minimum of 300. If you sign up with CreateSpace and go to their community forum you will find lots of discussions around the technical aspects of formatting (just search). Even if you don’t end up using them to print your book you will learn a lot on the forum… One thing to be aware of is that for printing the colour needs to be CMYK but if it’s for an ebook the colour needs to be RGB… but check the forums…. Look out for someone called Lighthouse24 there – I use him for my formatting and he’s very helpful (his name is Doug). Or just Google Lighthouse24 and drop him an email (he’s in the States). Best of luck! Karen
Congrats on your book! Thank you so much for sharing this valuable information. ~Sophia
Thank you Karen! This was extremely valuable and very generous of you to share. I’m planning to do a book with my 6 year old daughter – who is also the illustrator 🙂 I hope I finish this with her, as I never seem to finish ideas I start. My husband’s also an illustrator (I’m a book designer) so the possibilities are endless! Thank you again for sharing this.
Thankyou for sharing your experience in this really useful article. Lots of great information for aspiring picture book authors 🙂
Thanks for sharing. All of us are learning…sometimes the hard way!. I used Lightning Source for my first book but am switching to Create Space for my second because I print in paperback. I sell mostly through book festivals and have not had much success with schools yet, though my nonfiction title should be more widely used there. I am aiming to make learning about historic events and places more fun by using a whimsical character.Like you I am constantly experimenting. Fortunately, my husband is a fellow author and illustrator with lots of computer experience so that end if helpful for us.
Absolutely amazing! We would love to feature your picture books on MyLi. Get in contact for more details.
Thanks so much for the wonderful information! I have several picture books self published and always looking for new tips. Your site is just great!!
Thanks, Margaret. The site is also a useful reminder/reference point for me! It’s amazing how easy it is to forget what you’ve done!
Thanks for such an insightful article on how the process works. Very helpful for an aspiring rhyming PB writer. Does sound quite daunting to me now that I have a clearer picture of what all is involved, and you didn’t even cover the process with the illustrator. I should refer all my friends to this post when they say, “Why don’t you just self-publish?”
I’m glad you found it useful, Cordelia. There would be too much to go into if I included working with the illustrator! But in short I briefed him with stick like drawings (and photos of the view from my office window to garden for the setting)! We work through Elance so do everything online! Others will work direct, of course….
This IS complex and a bit daunting – but I loved reading about the entire process. Thanks for sharing your experience!
I’m glad you enjoyed it! Yes it is /was very daunting – especially when the first proof arrived and I realised it wasn’t on the paper I’d expected!
Best of luck with it, Lesley!
Excellent, informative post. Has made me determined to publish the picture book my husband and I planned before he died.
Karen, I’ve always wanted a closer look at self-publishing, especially the self-publishing of picture books. Thanks for taking the time to write such an informative article on this subject!
Glad to be able to share it…. It’s a complex area, so I hope this is of help to aspiring picture book self-publishers!
Packed with excellent information. An excellent article. Thanks so much.
(so good that I used ‘excellent’ twice!) 😉
Thank you for sharing you experiences in such detail. I just discovered your blog through the great Joanna Penn. I have written a picture book I will illustrate myself, since I’m also an artist, so I’ll be saving a little there. Reading your post, however, I wonder to what extent this is a labor of love, because when all is said and done, when you account for travel for personal appearances at events and for your time, it seems to me you’re losing money with Ferdinand Fox. What am I missing?
Many thanks for your comment, Roberto. I do make money on my school event sales (because my unit cost is £3.40 and I can sell at £6.99). Also because I live in London the travel expenses aren’t huge as there are a lot of schools nearby. I also have two other children’s books that I sell at the same visits to different age groups – also at a profit. Going forward, for any more book signings at Waterstones I shall probably arrange to bring in my own stock and supply direct at a lower discount direct rather than via the wholesaler, as that is where I make no money due to the 50% discount. When all is said and done, though, much of this is a labour of love. I have made money on my other two books and have chosen to invest some of that in Ferdinand Fox because I believe in the story – and I had the time and means to do it. Whether I ultimately break even or make an overall profit is yet to be seen, and will of course depend on how many I sell in total. But part of the reason for the blog was to say that it’s a far less easy option (if ever any self-publishing was easy!) than self-publishing a fiction book with black and white interior pages, because of the cost of production and the distribution issues. Hence my jury is out on how I will do the other stories. Ferdinand Fox is certainly an indulgence in this respect – unlike my other books – but one that I’m luckily able to afford. I hope I’ve given enough info though to help others look closely at costs before jumping in at the deep end!
Many thanks for you kind words, Loretta! Yes, POD with silk paper would be wonderful!
could not figure out how to make a comment… this seemed to work. I have written 2 childrens picture books about Whales. I live in BC where we regulally see whales on my ferry commute. The article was very enlightening and encouraging. I worked out my books by trial and error. I do mock ups rather than story board as it helps me to see where things work. My dilemma now is how to sell. (They sell very well indeed on our local market) but thinking of the bigger picture, wondering about a web page or selling on line. What has been your experience with this? Amazon? Last week also did a talk with a group of seniors on my latest book with my illustrator. First presentation and it went over really well. Its just hard to take the plunge…thoughts?
Hi Caroline — in most cases I’ve found that the best way to sell picture books is face to face at school or library events and similar — I’d say that 90% of my Ferdinand Fox Sales (now almost at 500) have been this route. Selling online is very difficult as most parents don’t shop for children’s books that way. This said, given the theme of your book, you may be able to garner interest in online Facebook groups, blogs or website forums that have some kind of sealife theme either by using ads (but that is a cost!) or by commenting in threads and subtly mentioning your book and giving a link to its sales page. But it’s very time consuming and you would need to be extremely subtle so as not to irritate people, or indeed break the self-promotion rules of the website in question! This video I made last year covers the hard truths about self-publishing and marketing picture books and my conclusion is that in most cases face to face is where you need to be (which you are doing already in your local market) >> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2_khVFdQUJo I hope this helps in some way… Why not try approaching schools and offer to do an event for free as a test? All the best, Karen
Thank you Karen for sharing your valuable tips in this excellent article!
Just like typography and good design (as well as an engaging story), paper and cover finish do matter. Good for you in making it happen to your satisfaction, and so successfully. Hopefully more choices from POD will be offered sooner than later.
In the U.S., digital children’s books are emerging, including interactive features that broaden the reader’s experience.
Congratulations on your success now and in the future!
This was an extremely helpful article. Many thanks from a complete novice in this field. I have been researching online publishers all afternoon and was coming up against many of the same issues about paper quality/colour printing/page size, and was getting quite perplexed. This has given me some really useful guidelines. Thank you.
Glad you found it useful, Mary-Lynne. If you’re looking at producing children’s picture books you might want to see my video about the need to go into schools to gain any meaninful sales (worth looking at this before spending a lot of money on print run just in case you end up going that route…)>> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2_khVFdQUJo Best of luck with yours 🙂