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Unlocking the Process: 5 Simple Steps for Writing and Self-Publishing a Children's Book

First, you should know that some frustration is part of the process ... and it’s going to take time. If you're entering into the publishing industry for the first time, you'll have to expect that you’ll face a lot of unknowns. But all of those unknowns can be worked through and figured out … one unknown at a time. With that being said, here are the basic phases I use when publishing a book.

STAGE ONE

Research... research... research

When I decided to self-publish children’s books, I grabbed a notebook and started writing down all the questions I needed to know to be successful and then began on a journey of finding the answers.


This led me to read a lot of books, blogs, and the beginning of my collection of children’s books for reference. I read about self-publishing as well as storytelling. By doing my research, I have strengthened my foundation in self-publishing as well as storytelling while also providing myself with a source of inspiration.


If you don’t already have a story idea or plot in mind research can lead you to one.


P.S. One of the things I do when I come up against writer’s block is read. Sometimes, I read books in the genre I’m writing in but, other times, I will read or watch the making of a series... movie, book, etc. Seeing how others tackle storytelling can be very inspirational regardless if it’s a written or visual medium, especially since as children book authors we work in both.


The store 2nd and Charles has a large selection of used books if you’re looking to start a collection.


STAGE TWO

Stage two of the process is getting to a strong rough draft that is ready for a final edit. Rewrite it as many times as it takes to get it right. First drafts are never final drafts. Make sure you have a good story structure; beginning, middle, and end. Make sure your book is speaking to the target audience. Children’s books are short stories. You have about 1000 words, in a picture book, to tell that story. So keep the story focused—one plot. The problem you start off solving is the only problem that should be solved. That means any sentence that doesn’t drive the story to solve that one problem needs to be deleted. I know as writers we have a lot to say, but all of it doesn’t need to make it into the final draft of a book. Keep your book focused and moving along. Use the rule of three to build anticipation.


While working on your rough draft make sure you’re using words appropriate for your target audience; word choices for younger readers are very important. Make sure you have a list of sight words. Reach out to beta readers for feedback. Send your story out for a critique. I recommend that when you get to the editing stage that you have someone do a line edit with annotations first, and then once you make all of your corrections, have a copy edit done for a final polish.


P.S. Don’t forget to write the dedication page, back copy, synopsis, and start working on the copyright page. It also wouldn’t hurt to write ad copy to use for marketing your book. Send all of it to have edited with your book. In stage 4, you will need to have your ISBN# that will be included in your copyright page so leave space for it.


STAGE THREE

Once you have your final edited draft, you can start looking for an illustrator. Note: Don’t start illustrations until have you have a final draft and have gone through the editing process; otherwise you could be spending time and money for illustration changes. This is also the phase you’ll pick the size of your book and the printer. Most picture books are 8x8 or 8.5x8.5. When looking for an illustrator, I would suggest you look for an illustrator that works in the style that you want your book to be illustrated. If they can layout your book as well that’s a bonus. If they can’t, you’ll have to find a graphic designer to do that for you. Note: The turnaround time for illustration work will vary but you should expect anywhere from 1 – 6 months. This will depend on the number of illustrations, the level of details, and the speed of the illustrator.



STAGE FOUR

Stage 4 is your book layout stage. The purpose of this stage is to take your text and illustrations and turn them into a final book. A graphic designer will use fonts, placement, etc. to further bring your book to life. Don’t underestimate this phase. The layout of your book plays a big part in the reading experience. Note: The layout of your book should be considered during the illustration phase. You’ll have to know your page breaks and the placement of your illustrations so that it all flows together.

Note: This is also the stage you’ll need your ISBN# and barcode. If you print with Ingram Sparks they will use your ISBN# and create a barcode for you.


E-books do not require a barcode. All printed books need an ISBN#. That means if you plan to print a hardcover and a paperback copy of your book, you’ll need a minimum of 2 ISBN#s. You can get your ISBN# at www.myidentifiers.com.



STAGE FIVE

Stage 5 is the printing, marketing, and distribution phase. Note: Although this is stage 5 of the process, you should know who you are printing with and how you plan to distribute your book in stage 3. You have to decide if you’ll be using a print-on-demand company or are going to offset printing which will not come with any form of distribution, but, the print price will be better because you will have to print in large quantities. What you don’t want to happen is that you decide to print a hardcover 8x8 book and can’t get it printed with the company you selected. Make sure the printer has the ability to print the size and cover type you have chosen. Also, make sure they offer distribution if that’s something you want.


Now that your book is printed and you’ve set up your distribution, it’s time to start marketing and selling. Build a website, grow your reader base, and start writing your next book.


P.S. Ingram Sparks doesn’t have the best print quality, but what they do have is distribution. So, they are worth considering if you want to see your book on Amazon, Walmart.com, Target.com, etc..


I wish you much success on your journey.



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