How to Self-Publish a Children’s Board Book

Help and insights into the process of self-publishing a board book for younger kids

How to Self-Publish a Children’s Board Book

Image credit: Nappy via Pexels.com

Never mind the so-called digital revolution and the ascendance of the eBook. When it comes to raising our kids, most of us know what’s good for them — and psychologists agree — and that’s a beautifully illustrated, tactile, full-color book. It’s not just the book itself that younger children love — although they do love to reach out and touch the images and to turn the pages — but the close ‘together time’ they enjoy with the parent or elder sibling who’s reading the book to them while they’re snuggled up in a warm, loving embrace.

And let’s face it, it wouldn’t be the same with a tablet or a smartphone. According to a recent article in Publisher’s Weekly, children’s board book sales aren’t only stable, but increasing annually. So, if you’re thinking of self-publishing a children’s board book, now could be the ideal time.

Here at QinPrinting we have decades of experience under our belt, helping authors just like you realize their ambitions. We’ve got a ton of experience creating beautiful board books for first time authors, experienced self-publishers, and other independent creatives. Our team of friendly experts is always on hand to help and advise you every step of the way. But first, let’s take a deeper dive into exactly what’s involved if you’re thinking about how to self-publish a children’s board book.

 

How do I self-publish a children’s book?

Pros and cons of self-publishing

Self-publishing is a very popular option for many authors these days. It’s not necessarily the easiest choice, but with the right knowledge, resources, and hard work, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t make a success of it. But it’s vital to know what you’re getting into to make sure that it’s the best route for you. So, let’s take a quick look at some of the pros and cons of self-publishing compared to traditional publishing.

Pros:

  • You are in control of every aspect of your publishing project
  • You don’t need an agent and you can publish as often and as much as you want
  • You can build your own fan base and sell direct to them through your email list
  • You keep all profits — no agent’s cut (usually about 20%) to pay or publisher’s ‘advance’ to work out before you get royalties

Cons:

  • You’ll need to have enough money in your budget to get started as you’ll be responsible for paying an editor, illustrator, printer, and marketing costs
  • You’ll need to learn how to market and distribute your book after you’ve published it, which can be a steep learning curve
  • If you aren’t successful, there’s no-one else to blame — or pick up the checks!

But if you’ve done your due diligence and got all the basics in place — and a budget that will cover your setup costs — you stand as good a chance of selling your book as anyone. And even if you had an agent and publishing deal, there would still be no guarantee that you’d be successful. But, before you take the leap into self-publishing, it’s worth understanding each step you must take to give yourself the best chance of winning. You should start with a little market research.

Who are you writing for?

Knowing exactly who your audience is makes it much easier to write a book that’s likely to sell and easier to market the book once it’s published. If you want to publish a board book, then your audience will be babies and younger kids up to, say, five or six years old. It may be helpful to answer the following questions:

  • Do you have experience with this age group?
  • Have you looked at lots of similar books to get an idea of what’s popular?
  • What will make your book stand out from the rest?

It’s also worth thinking about parents, teachers, and librarians; as these are the people who actually select and buy books for that age group. Ask around your friends and colleagues and drop in at your local library to find out what they’re looking for when choosing books for young kids.

Writing and editing your book

Now you know who you’re writing for and what they want from a children’s board book. You’ve got a great idea that you’re sure will be a success. So, you’re ready to write.

As you know, board books for children usually have simple texts; often, just a few words — and no more than a couple sentences — on a page. It’s the illustration that does most of the work. But writing even a simple text is a skilled job. 

Many say that writing for young children is harder than writing for older kids or adults because you have so few words to play with and each one has to be just right. For that reason, you will want to get your story critiqued by an experienced, professional editor and make any changes before you commit to publishing.

Hire a professional children’s illustrator and layout designer

You may be a talented artist and plan to do your own illustrations. But if not, you’ll need to research and hire a professional with experience in the children’s book market. A good illustrator will show you a portfolio of their past work so that you know their style is right for you.

They’ll also read your text and discuss your vision for the book. Then, once they know what you want, they’ll provide you with ‘roughs’ — usually black-and-white sketches — so you can see and approve the artwork before they go ahead and make finished pages. Many children’s illustrators still work with traditional materials, while others work with solely digital applications. But either way, you’ll need appropriately formatted digital files to send to your printer along with the layout. For the layout, unless you’re already savvy with the software, you’ll need a designer. 

Print your book

Many self-publishers — especially when they’re just starting out — use all-in-one services such as Amazon’s KDP, Draft2Digital, or IngramSpark. But none of those services offer the possibility of publishing board books. So, you’ll need to select a custom offset printing service — we wave and say hello! — to print your book for you. It’s usually cheaper in terms of cost-per-unit to use a traditional printer in any case. 

At QinPrinting, we recommend getting your printer involved early on so that they can collaborate with you and your designer to make sure that the files you create are print-ready and everything goes without a hitch. Once we’ve received your files, we’ll make and send you a ‘proof’ copy of your book so you can check it. Once you’re satisfied that it’s all perfect, we’ll print your books, wrap them, and ship them to you. If you prefer, we can store them for you and ship them to you in smaller batches as you need them.

Market your book

This is arguably the toughest part of publishing and where the work really starts. If you’re smart, you’ll start working on the marketing side before you go to print. As a self-published children’s author, you may want to consider:

  • Making a website with lots of content targeting your audience; so, a blog with articles about childcare, education, literacy, early years development, play theory, parenting, etc. Make sure that you either host a store on your site or link to your books wherever they are available to buy
  • Getting your books in the most popular online marketplaces such as the Amazon store, eBay, and Etsy
  • Getting active on social media to promote your books
  • Contacting kindergartens, mother-and-toddler groups, schools, and libraries to organize visits
  • Paying for advertising space in relevant offline and online publications
  • Asking local independent bookstores if they will stock your book

It can be a steep learning curve if you’ve never done any marketing and sales before. But if you want to sell your book, you’ll need to start somewhere. It’s also a good idea to start working on your next book as soon as possible. The more books you have available, the greater your visibility in the marketplace and the more sales you’ll make.

 

Is it hard to self-publish a children’s book?

It isn’t hard to self-publish a children’s book. But most authors will tell you that the real challenge lies in marketing your book once it’s printed and published. That’s why we recommend getting your marketing plan in place even before you publish the book. And be patient. It takes months, even years, of hard work to build up an audience. Few authors see immediate success with their first and only book. To make it as a self-publishing author you’ll need a lot of determination. But if you keep at it and keep publishing — assuming your books are good — you will eventually build a business as a self-published author.

 

5 design tips for creating a beautiful children’s board book

  1. Spreads and page counts

Most board books for kids have between 14 and 32 pages. But because they open flat with two pages simultaneously visible with every turn, it’s best to think — design-wise — in terms of spreads. You can have, for example, illustrations which are continuous over each spread (two-page set). Your designer should know to set up the layout as facing pages and then export the PDF print files as spreads.

  1. Small is beautiful

A six-inch square is an excellent size for a board book. Why? Because it’s large enough to make the illustrations and text easy to see and read, but small enough for little hands to hold. By all means experiment with other possibilities, but on the whole, when it comes to children’s board books, small is usually not only beautiful but more practical, too.

  1. Paperboard qualities 

Remember that board books are made of paperboard, not regular paper. This makes them sturdy — tough enough to withstand the rather robust usages that toddlers can inflict on them! It also makes the pages easier for infant fingers to turn. You can choose between gray board and white board. Gray board is less expensive than white board and both have specific qualities.

  • Gray board is made from recycled fibers and — as the name suggests — is gray in color, although for a board book it will be laminated with a white, gloss, printable surface. But the gray color will still show around the edges.
  • White board is made in the same way, but is made with bleached white fibers so it has a ‘cleaner’ look.

Paperboard thickness is indicated by weight. A weight of about 350 grams-per-square-meter (gsm) is typical for a children’s board book. It’s light enough to allow enough pages but tough enough to withstand rough use.

  1. Board books don’t have separate covers

Children’s board books don’t have separate covers like other kinds of books. The front face of the first board and the back face of the last board constitutes the ‘cover’. So, your designer won’t count those two faces, front and back, in the spread layout, but should make a distinct cover file which will include the spine as well. We can provide you or your designer with a custom template based on the kind of board you’ve chosen and the number of spreads you have. This template will allow for the spine width, the hinge, and the bleed.

  1. Convert your color space from RGB to CMYK

Digital images — the ones you see on your computer screen — use a color system called RGB (red-green-blue). But physical ink printing uses a color system known as CMYK (cyan-magenta-yellow-black). So, your designer will need to convert the color space before sending print-ready files. Exactly how that’s done depends on the software, but it’s usually straightforward with a few simple clicks in settings. Always use 100% black for the text — if it’s black — as making black text from color mixes can lead to halo effects round the edges of the letters.

 

Safe design for board books

Safety is important for children’s books. For example, think about having the pages cut with rounded off edges. And never use plastic laminates — which can peel and be eaten! — but opt for a UV gloss coating instead.

 

Ready to self-publish a children’s board book?

Get in touch with our friendly team of experienced experts for a no-obligation chat about your project or a quote. We know what we’re doing in this highly specialized process and have all the latest technology to hand. We take customer care seriously and will guide you every step of the way to producing a truly beautiful, competitively priced board book. Your success is our success. Talk to us today.

GET YOUR QUOTATION