children's books, self publishing

So you want to self publish?

You wrote a children’s book or a novel and now are asking, “How do I publish my book?” I have been asked this question many times and decided to write a blog with some tips to help get you started.

First off, have you illustrated it? Or do you need to hire an illustrator?  

If you cannot illustrate your own book, then you need to find a reputable illustrator. Illustrations can make or break a book.  Remember the old saying “you get what you pay for?” That saying definitely applies here. I would not recommend going cheap on an illustrator, you may regret it.  Make sure to do your research.  Look at different styles, and know what you want your book to look like.  Illustrators are not mind readers, and they do want to create for you, and not disappoint.

 Once one is selected, make sure to have a good contract, as I have heard lots of horror stories about illustrators not finishing projects, or authors not happy with illustrations.  It is not common, but illustrators can also sometimes ask for royalties.  I would not recommend a contract with that clause, as it is hard to be on the hook to calculate their share from profits.  Besides that headache, you may not make much, and do you really want to share what you do make?  This is why you need to research an illustrator. 

  • Look at books that you enjoy, and take note of the style of the illustrations
  • Ask other authors who they hired and their experience
  • Be wary of places such as “fiver” often the illustrators use clip art for books which is not a good look. In addition, much of the art is stolen. Not something you want for your book.
  • Have a good contract. Do not pay all up front.
  • Beware of illustrators that want royalties. Besides trying to keep track of what to pay them, do you want to share your profits?
  • Have dates for submissions to keep illustrator on track or be sure to have good communication.
  • Be careful giving them too much direction. I often say that an artist is like a horse being reined in. If you are too stringent you may stifle creativity.
  • How will you receive illustrations? Formatted in a book? Separate images? Paper?

While picking your illustrator, ask how you will get your illustrations.  Will they format your book?  Or do they just give you the art?  You can just get the art, and then put it together yourself, but it is some work to do this.  So choose your illustrator wisely.  When I illustrate a book for a client, I do it all.  I take their text, and with my illustrations create a manuscript.  I then create the separate cover files, and once finished will give them a CD or thumb drive with all the files ready to go.  Once they receive their cd, they can send or upload the files to create their book.  I try to make it easy for them, and will sometimes include some marketing images, as well as bookmarks because to sell books you need to market your book!!

You have heard that saying “Never judge a book by its cover?” Well that is a great saying but no one listens to it. Your cover has to be wonderful. This is a tough one as I have loved some covers that I have done, and then the book doesn’t sell. So I have to redo the cover. I now create my cover, then upload it to a Facebook group for book covers and they critique it. And even if I hate what they say, I listen. Because they know their subject and they are right! It is not fun to hear that people do not like what you did. But you need this feedback. And you MUST listen to be successful.

If you do not have the skills or software to create a cover yourself, I highly recommend getcovers.com. I have even used them! And they are so reasonable! They charge $35 for a cover. What a bargain!

If you are still wanting to create your own cover, please click here to download cover templates from KDP. You must know your size of book to proceed. Their template will guide you to create a cover that works.

To publish your cover file must be in pdf format.

Once your cover and manuscript are done you MUST hire an editor. And not a friend. A legit editor that will catch mistakes. I have a wonderful editor that I use for every book. She is quick and thorough. If looking for an editor I recommend Jen Payne. Click here to visit her site.

Again, do not publish without having an editor review your book.

But back to publishing… If you have written your book and are all set to go, I suggest heading to the KDP website.  KDP is how you publish through Amazon. 

Log in with your amazon info, and then visit the lengthy and helpful help section.  To log on please visit this link: Self Publishing | Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing

The first thing you should do is click on book sizes, since you must have this information. I recommend going with a standard book size as it is easier to ship and print as well.  And never forget you can send your books by media mail!  Such savings when you ship a box of heavy books!  Trust me on that…

To choose a book size please visit here: Set Trim Size, Bleed, and Margins (amazon.com)

Once you pick the size of your book, you then need to format your word document as recommended.  You need to make your pages a certain size for “bleed” when publishing. Search online for how to do this, as this is a blog in itself, and one I may write in future.  You can also get lots of info from author groups on Facebook.  I have found other authors to be incredibly helpful, and that is why I try hard to pay it forward as well.

Both cover and manuscript should be in pdf format. You can easily export from word to pdf.  That is how I create my own books.

Once both files are ready, head back to KDP and upload them to your bookshelf.

You will have to fill in lots of information on your book, such as your name, categories, ISBN, (you can get a free one from amazon, but I recommend purchasing one from Bowker) and a blurb.  Your book blurb is to hook the reader to get them to purchase your book and it may possibly be harder to write than your book!  Crazy but true!

Once these areas are filled out, you can then proceed to content. This is where you upload your files.  The great thing about KDP is that they offer a book preview.  So you can see if your pages are out of order.  Something that Ingram Spark does not do and was very frustrating for me when I first started.  But that is another story….

Back to KDP.  Make sure to preview your book to see if it is correct.  The order of your book pages is called “Pagination” and if they are incorrect, you may have to add a blank page to correct them. It your pagination is incorrect you will see pages out of order.

If all looks well, you then move onto the next area which will ask you how much you want to sell it for, and how much it will cost them to print it.  This is where it can get a little tricky.  Of course, we want to make money for our book! But if it is priced too high people will not purchase it.  I suggest doing some research with books similiar to yours.  Look up size and number of pages and see what others are pricing their book at.  And price yours accordingly.

Once you set your book’s price you hit “publish”, and then wait!  It usually takes a day or two for them to publish your book. They will also let you know if there are any formatting errors to fix as well. Sometimes it takes a few times to get your book published.

In Review:

  • Pick book size
  • If only publishing on Amazon, use their ISBN. If publishing other places, purchase one from Bowker.
  • Upload files and make sure to examine preview to be sure book is correct.
  • Write a good blurb- look online for tips and read other blurbs.
  • Decide on a price- research other similar books to yours.

Once published, you should email amazon to increase your “look inside” as it helps to have a generous number of pages shown for buyers.  You can also add more categories for your book as well by emailing them.

You will also need to advertise your book. There are tons of info on this online, and to be successful you MUST do it. Unless you are friends with a celebrity. And then even after that you will need to advertise. There is sadly no getting around this.

Of course there will be hiccups in the publishing process.  It is never as easy as it seems, and I had many issues when I first published. If you run into problems, create a Facebook post in an author group asking for help, or search KDP, or online.  You can even ask me!

But whatever you do, don’t give up!  As with anything the first try can be difficult.  Just ask for some help, do some research and keep going! Sometimes it helps to take a break as well. I can’t tell you how many times I took a break, went back to what I was doing and found the answer. It seems like we get bogged down figuring things out and miss the answer even when it is right in front of us. So take a break when frustrated!

When printing, if you are only looking for publish a few copies for yourself and family, then I suggest contacting Laura at Lakeside Creates. Lakeside Creates is an American Company and I have printed many books through her, and highly recommend her. Please click here to visit her site. (You will see my book “Cousins” on the landing page.) Tell her Marnie sent you!

Good luck, and don’t forget the most important thing… Don’t give up!

Looking for an illustrator? I have illustrated many books of my own and other authors. Please visit my website by clicking here, to contact me or see examples of my work.

If you would like to see my amazon page with my books, please visit here.