Self-Publishing Children’s Books

Mrs Kangaroo's New BabyIn honor of the International Children’s Book Day, I thought I would talk about publishing children’s books via CreateSpace. My particular experience started after my parents passed away and I was going through their files. My father was an artist and my mother was a teacher, actually almost direct opposites in temperament, so I was surprised and excited to find the layout of a children’s book written by my mother and illustrated by my father. It was very obvious the little project had never seen a publisher, so I determined to publish it for them.

Because the story was short and simple, appealing to younger children, I chose an 8”x10” paperback format for it — easier for small hands to hold, and the layout my parents had designed fit perfectly. Since the original work was done back in the 1950s, my parents had done a literal cut and paste — typing up the text on a typewriter, cutting the lines out with scissors and pasting or taping them onto the board mats where my dad had drawn the illustrations. Lucky for me, the glue and tape held on after all these years, so it was easy for me to see exactly how they envisioned the set-up of the book.

Mrs Kangaroo's InteriorMy father had rendered the full-color cover for the book (above), and had hand-lettered the title. It was a simple matter for me to scan the painting into a jpg and add my mother’s name in a coordinating color and font style. I uploaded it to CreateSpace in the resolution required (at least 300 dpi) and created a back cover out of another painting my father did. If you’re not familiar, CreateSpace has a couple dozen different templates for cover designs, or you can upload your own images for the front and back covers like I did.

I scanned in all the old interior drawings and cleaned them up. It wasn’t hard to get rid of the small stains and smudges they had gathered over time and make them look like brand new. I used Paint Shop Pro, but there are several free image programs (like Gimp) that will work just as well. It was an easy matter to add the text without the laborious cutting and pasting, and I thought about how amazed my parents would be to see this way of making their old project new for the digital age.

I did end up putting each drawing and its related text on its own page rather than the three-to-a-page layout in the image above. I wanted each drawing to fill the page, and with a book this short, there was no reason to crowd the pages. The finished book was 24 pages long, just right for small minds at bedtime.

Because some of the story’s drawings were in color, I chose the color option for the interior, which unfortunately pushed the price up to $9.99, but I felt it was worth it. Interestingly enough, I was talking to a friend about this, and he suggested I remove the color and do the book as a coloring book! I thought that was a terrific idea, and I plan to do that in the near future, not replacing this book but adding a new version of it. Not only will it cut the cost of the book, but it will make it more “interactive,” in an old-fashioned and fun way. Because I also have hundreds of pencil drawings that my father did of various animals, both domestic and wild, I plan to do another themed coloring book without any story at all.

The great thing about children’s books is that they can be simple, fun and require much less gnashing of teeth than a 100,000-word novel. I would venture to say that many parents and/or grandparents might have ideas for stories like this, and it’s not that difficult to do. If you don’t know an illustrator or can’t find one within your budget, there are a lot of royalty-free images available on the web. Let your imagination run wild. You never know what you can create until you try. And your children (or grandchildren) will thank you.

Author: Melissa Bowersock

Melissa Bowersock is an eclectic, award-winning author who writes in a variety of fiction and non-fiction genres. She has been both traditionally and independently published and lives in a small community in northern Arizona. Learn more about Melissa from her Amazon author page and her blog.

30 thoughts on “Self-Publishing Children’s Books”

  1. Fabulous post. Interesting that I just recently watched a webinar about publishing childrens’ books and decided I would do it. Many years ago, while still living in South Africa, I wrote a book, with the story in rhyme, and still have all the color illustrations. A publisher loved it, but they changed department heads and that changed the scenario for me as well. I never tried to publish it again. Now, with our wonderful Indie possibilities, I will revive it and see what I can do. Exciting! Your post came at exactly the right moment, Thanks Melissa.

  2. I had just this very day finished writing the first draft of a story for a children’s picture book, when I saw your post. My story is called “The Whales and the Kayak-Kings.” Illustration will not be easy for me but it may be a fun challenge.
    I was once a children’s author, back in the eighties and nineties, (before I wrote my dolphin novel) so it’s a return to my beginnings.

  3. Great idea! I wrote and illustrated several children’s books years ago and had them printed by someone I knew who had printing equipment in his garage. I had no technology to work with, so hand-printed all the text to look as if a child had printed it. I did line drawings for 2 of them so the children could color them. I may think about doing them and the other 2 on CreateSpace sometime. After I get my novel uploaded. Thanks for sharing.

    1. I’m glad this resonated with you. I actually have now published the coloring book of this same story, and as I suspected, was able to keep the price lower without the color pages. The only limit on what you can do is what you can dream of. It shouldn’t take much to scan in your old books and create new ones. Good luck!

      1. Thank you. One of the books was the first in what was to have been a book for every letter of the alphabet, but because back then I had no way to market the books except at craft shows, I couldn’t sell enough to warrant doing any more. I think I do have #2 written, so, as you said, there is no limit – except, I would add, time.

  4. I tackled a children’s book last year- folks we bugging me to write a story about a duckling I raised from an egg. I can’t draw worth a hoot, but I can take good photographs, so that’s what I used for illustrations. The book needed to be full color, and I wanted a blue background. The problem I had was CS kept telling me the page size was wrong for the trim. I finally figured out that you need to have a *larger* page then trim size in order to make sure the bleed goes all the way to the edges. Once that got solved, the books came out pretty nice. I chose a landscape orientation of 8 x 6 and it is about 26 pages. Price is 9.50 and the KDP version is 2.99. Not sure I’m going to tackle another one any time soon, but it was a good learning experience!

  5. This is really great information and what a treasure you have found.

    I’ve been wanting to do a series of children’s books with and for my granddaughter, using her in the photos I take and make them cartoonish but my son doesn’t want me to use her and/or her face. So I guess your suggestion of using royalty-free images is the way I will have to go. Do you have any suggestions of where to find them?

    Are you going to do an ebook of the first non-coloring version? Great minds think alike as I had the same idea to do black and white for print to cut the cost down and so they can color it, but I plan on going one step further to do the color version for ebook. Since my son nix the idea of using my granddaughter, I’ve been stumped on finishing any of them.

    Thank you for the information.

        1. File sizes for children’s eBooks have become prohibitive due to the newer generation Kindles. I’m trying to figure out a way around it, but so far, have had no luck.

  6. What a wonderful tribute, Melissa. It has made me pause to think about something I haven’t given a thought to in many years. I hand wrote and illustrated a little story for a couple of young nieces (sisters), way back in 1989. It was meant to be a Christmas present, but I wasn’t very pleased with the finished product and I didn’t end up giving it; did the usual, boring thing and bought something for them instead. I can’t even remember what I bought. I might just dig it out and do something with it.

    A lovely article, Melissa.

    1. T.D., I would be willing to bet money that your nieces would LOVE to see the finished book, even at this late date. And there will always be more new members in the family to hand it down to. Yes, please–do it. Let us know how it goes.

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