Few things make as big of an impact on children as books. The power of a story teaches them to imagine fantastical worlds and develop empathy all while learning valuable life skills.
Many parents, teachers, and other creative folks dream of having their own stories live on in a child’s imagination. But if you’re new to the world of writing, publishing a children’s book can seem like a complicated process.
If you’ve always wondered how to publish a kid’s book but weren’t sure where to start, keep on reading for eight steps that will help you realize your dreams of becoming an author.
1. Learn About the Children’s Lit Market
First things first, it’s important to understand the demographic you’re writing the book for. Children’s literature is divided up by age ranges, all of which have a general word count associated with them.
If you’re aiming for the newborn to toddler age range, you should keep your writing clear and concise—aim for no more than a few hundred words. Chapter books for 8 to 12-year-olds, however, can have anywhere from 30,000-50,000 words.
It also pays to go browse a local children’s bookstore and see what types of stories they stock on the shelves. Are there any topics or themes that are popular right now? Are there a lot of books from certain publishers?
Take note of the trends you discover to get a better idea of what publishers and readers want to see.
2. Write Your First Manuscript
Next comes the most fun part—writing your book! With your target readers in mind, craft a story that tugs on emotions, teaches a lesson, and is fun to read.
Even though many children’s books are picture-based, don’t get caught up on the illustrations at this point. Unless it’s a graphic novel or you’re planning to illustrate the book yourself, this is a decision that should wait until later down the line. Your publisher may even select an illustrator for you after approving your manuscript.
3. Get Feedback from Kids
After you’ve written your manuscript and you’re satisfied with the product, it’s time to get feedback from your most important critics: kids themselves.
Kids are well-known for being brutally honest. This can make for some awkward conversations, but it helps a lot in the preliminary editing process. If they don’t like something about your book or don’t understand it, you can trust that they’ll let you know.
4. Edit, Edit, and Edit Again
Once you’ve brought your draft to a few groups of children in your target demographic, it’s time to make edits according to their responses.
Then, after you’ve gone through a third and fourth draft of your book, expect to keep editing it. “What?” you say, “But it’s perfect this time!”
It may feel like that now, but after the editor at a publishing company reads it, they’ll almost certainly request that more changes be made. Edits and rejection are just part of the publishing process—even acclaimed children’s author Roald Dahl re-wrote Charlie and the Chocolate Factory five or six times before settling on the final version.
5. Find an Agent & Submit to a Publisher
Some popular children’s book publishers include Random House, Penguin Putnam, and Scholastic, Inc. Try submitting your manuscript to quite a few companies, because you may not hear back from all of them, and most that you do hear back from won’t accept your book. Don’t get discouraged if this happens to you, because many of the most beloved children’s books were turned down countless times.
If you don’t want to navigate the system alone, you might want to hire an agent to represent you. They’ll work to sell your book to the best publisher and negotiate a good deal.
6. …Or Publish It on Your Own
If you’re feeling discouraged by the responses from publishers or would rather keep all the rights to your work, you might want to look into self-publishing.
The largest barrier for most self-published authors is funding. Consider starting a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for publishing costs. These include the independent publishing company’s fee, hiring an editor, illustrator, and book designer, printing, and distribution.
7. Select a Printer & Distributor
If you submit a manuscript to a publisher, most of the time they’ll take care of this step for you. But if you self-publish, printing and distributing your book can be the most confusing step.
When choosing a printing company, make sure you find one that prints the style and type of book you’re looking for.
You’ll also have to decide which style of binding you prefer and if you want any special additions to your pages, like pop-ups or tactile elements.
Finally, it’s time to select a distributor. If you have copies of your book sent straight to you to distribute, you may want to partner with a local bookseller and set up an online shop. Other self-published authors use large internet retailers like Amazon to connect their products with buyers.
8. Shout It from the Rooftops!
Now that the book is complete and ready to head out into the world, it’s time to let everyone know!
Ideally, you should start advertising your book as soon as you’ve decided to publish it. But even if you waited until later on in the process, it’s still worth making marketing a priority.
Along with letting friends and family know by word of mouth, you should also make sure to set up a social media presence. If your book addresses a specific issue, like diversity, inclusion, or a medical condition, reach out to blogs and forums that cover that topic. Then, set up an author talk and book signing at a local library, bookstore, or school.
Also, you can offer to donate a copy to your local library or elementary school—you never know how many kids will fall in love with it and ask Mom for a copy!
Ready to Start Publishing a Children’s Book?
Publishing a children’s book for the first time can seem like a daunting task. But if you follow these eight steps, in time you’ll be able to turn your magnificent ideas into reality.
Looking for an affordable, reputable company to print your book? Request an instant quote from us today.