How to Publish a Children's Picture Ebook
♫ It's a BIG World After All...
It's a big, big world ♫. And the world of children's book publishing is getting bigger by the minute. It's a world I entered and you can too - right now! Orange juice isn't just for breakfast anymore, and books aren't just on paper either. So look out Random House, here we come! Even though we will probably always love the tangible book because it does so much to please our senses, and even though you, as a writer, might be bent on publishing your book in this traditional way, you might want to awaken the Star-Trek persona within and consider four possibilities for publishing your story:
- a physical book
- an e-book
- an interactive/animated app
- an audiobook
Any or all four of these can be done through self-publishing or outside publishing, as I like to call it, and each has it's own positive and negative aspects. There is one choice of the four listed that, theoretically, could have little eyes reading your book next week! Can you guess which one? Yep, it's the e-book. Since this is the fastest track and the way I chose to publish my own little story, "Lucky, the Left-Pawed Puppy," let's start with that. (UPDATE: June 25, 2012: Just heard an interview with Tim Sanders of http://www.netminds.com/blog a network pulling together authors, designers, and markers for ebook publishing.) Be sure to check out Tim Sander's blog.
Word of Caution: The self-publishing industry is presently extremely dynamic and changes with every new device or technological advancement. Since Information can be outdated quickly, it's best to use multiple sources when self-publishing.
And now - on with the show!
Helpful Hints: Kindle Publishing
- If your book is basically text-based with just a few images, the process of formatting text with images, bullets, etc. is tricky. You can find online instructions, but you could save yourself a great deal of frustration by going to Liber Writer which specializes in Kindle formatting! For only $25, you can work with their software and they'll check the formatting or for $50, they'll handle all the formatting for you. While "Lucky, the Left-Pawed Puppy," was easy for me to publish myself for Kindle because each page was an image, I decided to go with Liber Writer when publishing a version of "Polly and the Measuring Stick," because I had separate images and separate text that needed to be placed in various positions. I found the guidance through emailing at Liber Writer to be excellent!
- Be sure to copy the NAME of the file you uploaded to Kindle. Example: lucky22812.doc. Why? Kindle doesn't show you the name of the file you recently uploaded, so you're never sure whether you uploaded new changes unless you have a system for knowing the name of each updated file. And, trust me, you will the need to update the file.
√ 1. You know your book's category:
- Picture book
- 250 words to 1,000 words
- Early reader
- 1,000 and 4,000 words
- Chapter book
-10,000 and 15,000 words
- Middle grade novel/nonfiction
-25,000 to 40,000 words
- Book for teens/young adults
-50,000 to 70,000 words
√ 2. You perhaps have had a professional critique of your book through a service like "Second Draft" at Writer's Digest - (only $39.99 for a picture book critique).
√ 3. You've read the Ten Frequently Asked Questions about Children's Publishing and Types of Publishers featured free online at the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Perhaps you've even become a member for only $85 a year!
√ 4. You have edited and proofread your manuscript and have had every living soul who would indulge you read your story. (Your Aunt Sue on Facebook might even find that the published version has a MISSING WORD!) It happens. I know!
- for KINDLE with Amazon
You could quite possibly put your picture book or manuscript up in the Amazon Store for Kindle TODAY! How?
- Sign up with Kindle Direct Publishing and click on the "Bookshelf" and then "Add new title." Click on the blue links connected to the blanks for quick access to your questions. Skip down to #5, "Upload Your Book File." Even though you're not ready to upload, this is the fastest way to get to the publishing guidelines and the simplified guide for formatting. Read those instructions again, and at least one or a hundred times more!
- Reduce any image sizes with your favorite graphics program to 72 dpi. (This makes the files more manageable for Kindle). The marvelous artist who I found to illustrate "Lucky..." assumed, as did I, that I would be publishing a physical book! The images I had received, therefore were: 1800 x 2700 pixels, 300 dpi with the text embedded. (See examples of embedded text and un-embedded text images below). When I decided to publish for Kindle, I had to first reduce those images to 72 dpi with my favorite graphics program, JASC Paintshop Pro.
- Next, simply start a new Word Document using the INSERT PICTURE feature rather than cut and paste. Go back to Kindle publishing page, upload your document, and check your book in "Preview Document" section. If your book looks great, click "Save and continue" and complete the form. Kindle will convert your .doc or .pdf document to its .azw format. You'll need to wait 24 hours for your upload to be reviewed. If approved, your book is then immediately available in the Amazon store and you can go back to KDP's "Reports" and see if you have any sales!
Positives in Publishing an E-book for Kindle:
+ Rapid Publication: There is nothing like the feeling of knowing that within 24 hours, some child might be enjoying a story that you actually created!
+ Ability to view sales and manage files immediately right at Kindle Direct. When a company like Book Baby creates your e-book for you, you're locked into their reporting system and can't change prices as quickly as you can with at Kindle Direct.
Negatives in Publishing an E-book for Kindle:
- Difficulty in obtaining direct support from KDP. There is no one to call and the forums are not easy to navigate. The FAQ's don't answer all the "Q's" you might have!
- In order to be in Kindle's newest program, KDP Select, you must have your e-book published with them exclusively.
- for NOOK with Barnes and Noble
Self-publishing with the Nook is also possible and the procedure is similar to Kindle. However, there is an additional step to follow when submitting your files for the Nook. While you can still upload a word document, it is suggested that you convert your file to an .epub instead. There are several software programs such as Calibre that will allow you to convert your .doc or your .pdf to .epub.
- for IPad with Apple
There is an excellent video on creating a book with Book Creator from Apple. However, it appears as if narration is not yet available as of 2015. While the FAQs state that you can sell a book created with Book Creator in the itunes store. if you already created your ebook, it was difficult for me to get into the Apple IBookstore. This is the reason that, after self-publishing my e-book with Amazon for Kindle and Barnes and Noble for the Nook, I ended up going to bookbaby.com. The developers created a .mobi file that can be download from Apple through itunes.
- for the Desktop Computer and Android
Years before e-readers such as Kindle, Nook, Sony, and the IPad appeared on the scene, writers were creating dynamic, narrated, "page-turning" e-books with Desktop Author software. I personally love using this software and find it quite intuitive. As with all software, there's a bit of a learning curve, but once you've got it down, you will want to create more books! The biggest advantage to creating your book with Desktop Author is the ability to easily add narration to a book that has a "page-turning" effect. These books do require the downloading of "a reader," plus they are compatible only with PCs and the newest MACs. This happens to be the first way that I published "Lucky..." however because I was familiar with the software and because we have a website through which I can sell this narrated e-book. You can download a free copy of "Lucky..." in this format on Lucky's website under "FREE TODAY" on the navigation bar. If you do create your book with this software, you can sell it through DNL's online ebook store. While I personally find this to be the most dynamic way to publish, up until recently, the ebooks have been available for reading solely on computers. However, writers are now to create an Android versions of their ebooks with software from DTA. While narration is still easy to add for your computer versions, adding those same mp3 files to create a narrated version of your children's book for Android is tricky. The company has recently advertised a TV e-book app, and this is very promising in that, eventually, perhaps all of these systems will be integrated and TV viewing of ebooks, and the web in general, will be ubiquitous.
Embedded text by an author looks fantastic for a physical book and even on the Kindle, Nook, and iPad screens. However, little four-year-olds are "reading books on smartphones as "read-to-me" narrated books or as "read it myself" stories. It's easy to see from the picture above that if we take off the text, the picture would be perfect for a smartphone. However, where do we put the text now? Clearly, the text is connected with the image on the left from "Lucky, the Left-Pawed Puppy" is too overwhelming to add on the bottom for the smartphone. Therefore, be sure to decide beforehand on all of the formats in which you wish to publish: print book, ebook for smart phones, narrated apps, etc. More importantly, be sure to COMMUNICATE with your artist, letting him or her know all of the various forms you wish the book to take. As a writer, viewing the excellent video below by artist John Morrel will help to get a feeling for the tremendous knowledge and talent-base your artist possesses and decisions that both of you, as a team, need to make.
Unless your e-book makes a terrific splash in the digital world, it probably will never be picked up by a print book publisher. If your sole purpose is to get your book published as quickly as possible, the e-book route is the fast track you can take. If, however, you have time on your side and desire a wider distribution, skilled marketing, and more prestige, the process of submitting your manuscript to respected publishers of physical books, as described below, might be for you.
»» Publishing Physical Book with Smaller Publishing House
So you don't have a literary agent? Not to despair. You can submit unsolicited manuscripts to a whole host of smaller publishers of children's books. This list can be found in "the most trusted guide to the world of children's publishing: the 2012 Children's Writer's and Illustator's Market.
Positives: You'll probably see your book in book stores like Barnes and Noble, you'll have distribution and marketing done for you like the larger publishers do, plus you'll have a real live physical book to read to schools, distribute to friends and family, and prove forever that you are, in fact, a writer!
Negatives:You'll need utmost patience to submit to multiple publishers. You'll need to craft query letters, keep track of to whom you sent what, and if you've submitted to a source that doesn't accept simultaneous submissions, you'll have to wait until they respond to you until you send out your next submission. This can take months and months, even years! (Did you notice the "WAIT" on the diagram below?)
Submitting to Publishers
»» through a Large Publisher
- unparalleled prestige that comes from having your book published by a company like Random House or Houghton Mifflin
- mass distribution/marketing
- notoriety that will propel your writing career
- large publishing houses do not accept unsolicited manuscripts from individuals!
- the longest and most difficult process
To publish with a large, well-know publisher, you would need to first acquire a literary agent. There are numerous books on how to acquire an agent or how to be your own agent. Either way, this is a long process. (You might compare it with your desire to star opposite Jennifer Aniston or Jason Segel in their next movie. It can happen - I'm just sayin'... (Did you notice the "WAIT" on the diagram to the right?)
»» Self-Publishing Your Physical Book
You can publish your book yourself. The self-publishing and self-promotion process is excellently described by fellow hub writer, Rochelle Frank, in the article "We Self-Published a Children's Book." While Rochelle Frank and Linda Gast personally funded 2600 copies and created their own inventory, there are companies like Trafford, Lulu, and others that will publish a print-on-demand book for you. Dogear Publishing has various packages from $1099 to $3499, and Book Baby has just announced a custom book printing service. Be sure to explore various companies, their prices, and get copies of the books they've produced. You'll find the latter request almost an impossibility. When looking for a print-on-demand publisher for a tangible version of my illustrated story, "Lucky, the Left-Pawed Puppy" I was shocked at the cost per book. If your book has 24 colored pictures your cost per book will most likely be above $10. Of course, retail stores require a 50% discount, so your book is now up to $20 for your customers. You might not think that is too bad considering your vision of those nice hard-covered books at Barnes and Noble. But wait, $11 will get you a book with merely a flimsy, albeit glossy cover - not even the thickness of the old Golden Books sold in grocery stores. You can do what I plan to do and go to kickstarter.com and create a little video and see if you can raise sufficient funds to self-publish your tangible book.
Positives: A tangible book, once again, gives you credibility and an easy way to distribute your book to shops and bookstores.
Negatives: The financial outlay can be prohibitive, marketing and promoting will be largely your own responsibility, and again, there's the waiting involved for this whole process to gel.
Update 07/2014: I DID it! See video at end of this article.
Positively THE Most Exciting
A video says a thousand words. If you view the videos below you're mind will be blown away by what is possible for your children's book! The software, however, especially by interactbook.com is so cutting edge that it still needs tweaking. It might seem that applications such as these would benefit only the younger child, but even a book with interactivity read by a teenager would be dynamic. Of course, the danger is going overboard with interactivity while the story line suffers. However, as a former teacher, I see this as the most exciting development for writers. It's really quite a brave new world out there. You can download Interact Builder software for free, but use of some of the sophisticated features requires purchase of the whole software program. Be sure to check any additional fees required. Apple has a piece of software called Ibooks Author which the amazingly talented children book illustrator and comic creator, Dani Jones, has reviewed on her learning page within her comprehensive blog. This Apple software, however, can be used only on the newest versions of MAC at the present moment. Ibuildapp also offers a free software program with which to create an app for the iphone and android, and as of this date, this author is blogging about that experience in the belief that much can be learned from others' mistakes! There is an excellent step-by-step process for Blackberry app building published as a blog entry by W.T. Paige which is quite advanced, but provides information that the novice can use as well. But if you prefer not add learning multi-media publishing to your list of a thousand other tasks, and if you have the money, you might just want to hire your own software engineer who has skill in developing apps for multi-media books. You can do this through online searches or just look around for someone skilled in this area at freelancer.com
Crazy Mike's App Review of "Bill the Fish" created with software from interactbooks.com
How to Create with Pubbsoft Software
Writers often overlook this relatively easy way to publish! All you need is a good quality microphone like Sennheiser, your computer, an editing program like Audacity, and your voice! If just getting your book listened to is your goal, you can publish your book for free distribution at podiobooks.com. There is a "donation" button, but I've had some essays published and read on podiobooks and the "donation" button is rarely pressed! For the audio for my children's book, I hired my daughter and a friend of hers, both of whom happen to be actors in Hollywood and our son who happens to be a sound engineer! You can see pictures of that process (done at home) at Lucky's website. Because that particular audio was well-edited, audible.com will be producing it. It's not a difficult process to have your audio books published there as well!
«« Points to Ponder »»
I love the phrase from despair.com: 'Maybe the sole purpose of my life is to serve as a warning to others.' My journey in publishing "Lucky, the Left-Pawed Puppy" is on-going and in researching this article, I've found emails from Lulu.com, Smashwords, Trafford Publishing, Desktop Author, Bookbaby, interactbooks, ibuildapp, and probably others whose names I've long forgotten. It made me realize that my experiences can serve as "a warning" in the form of a "wish-I-had-known" list, especially for those of you embarking on publishing a children's picture book.
I Wish I had Known That:
- It's important to decide what form your book should take, physical, e-book, interactive.
- You don't need artwork, nor should you submit artwork to the publisher of physical books unless you are a professional artist. (However, if you self-publish a children's picture e-book, of course you do need artwork. See #5 in Billie's Recommendations below.)
- Most print-on-demand publishers offer a mere glossy cover for your picture book as opposed to a nice hard cover you might have envisioned. You'd need a large cash outlay to go with a regular printing of your book.
- Formatting an e-book is difficult if each page is not an image. Having said that, image-only pages for picture books create problems as well, particularly the issue of embedded versus non-embedded text that arises as explained in #5.
- If you wish to create a children's book for smartphone publication, embedded text can be a problem. When an image is downsized to fit the tiny screen of a cellphone, text embedded with an image is un-readable. Teknowlege has created some narrated apps of children's stories on Blackberry which provide text on the bottom of the screen. In addition, if you have embedded text, you are dependent on your illustrator to make any changes such as a translation to a different language. Download some children's e-books on your smartphone and this problem will become apparent.
- In order to make a story interactive for smartphones, the art work needs to have been done in LAYERS.
Billie's Book Publishing Quiz
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Billie's Top Five Personal Recommendations
1. If you are submitting your manuscript to publishers of physical books, aim for five rejections a month! Unless you get at least that many rejections a month, you're not submitting enough.
2. If you just can't wait to have your children's picture book published, I would publish immediately at Amazon for Kindle. Why?
- You will experience a great deal of satisfaction immediately
- You'll be able to see the statistics right away which will give you an idea of how to proceed.
- You can remove your book at any time from Kindle, and you'll have gained a great deal of experience. However, be sure to read the "Caution" note above.
3. If you have decided to publish an e-book either by yourself or through an e-book publishing company, download the excellent manual on e-book publishing from Bookbaby.com immediately. It gives an excellent overview of e-book publishing in a well-written format. You can do all of the formatting for each device yourself, but If you choose to go with a company for conversion of your files, I would highly recommend Book Baby. In researching this article, I reviewed my copious list of companies I had contacted for publishing "Lucky..." for the iPad and other devices. I realize there is a reason that I ended up working with Book Baby and that reason is their personal, phone-based and email customer service. But hurry before the company grows too large and the personal email or phone response time slows down.
4. Start the buzz for your self-published book or e-book. How?
- Blog religiously on your favorite blog site. Offer some wisdom to fellow writers.
- Write hubs about your process
- Ask other hub writers to review your book. Search for someone on hubpages who might have an interest in your book. (If it's a children's book, for example, search for hubs on parenting, homeschooling, etc. A review by that type of "target audience" expert, would be helpful.) Authors of other books of your genre are wonderful; however, always think about the audience you intend to reach as readers!
- Create a Facebook page just for your book (go to bottom of FB screen to start)
- Figure out how to get customers who have purchased your book on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc. to write reviews in those stores.
- Volunteer to read your book to schools and become a speaker who can explain the process and empower others.
5. If you need an artist for your e-book, don't shy away from craigslist. I was shocked at the large number of responses (17) that I received from professional artists after describing a few basic concepts of my story in the ad. I received little sketches and/or websites that featured wonderful art and precise quotes for 24 images. The most difficult part was finding just the right person among all the responses to make "Lucky, the Left-Pawed Puppy," come alive and I did!
Above all, as a writer or illustrator know that your work is noble for: "The destiny of the world is determined less by the battles that are lost and won, than by the stories it loves and believes in." ~Harold Goddard
*Reference for Ebook Publishing
File Type You May Submit
.doc or pdf
Barnes and Noble
.epub converted with ituneproducer