Before you read: This article isn’t for you, if you’re against investing time and money creating your book product. If you’re not prepared to invest, you can’t expect others to purchase and you’re not yet ready to publish.
Welcome to the third article in the independent publishing budget series, covering the budget requirements for children’s picture books. By their very nature children’s picture books are a different production cycle to that of an average fiction or non-fiction book. If you’re a writer or emerging author of children’s picture books then this post is for you.
If you haven’t yet discovered the previous articles in this budget series, be sure to check them out, or share with a friend who’ll benefit from this information with their own publishing plans.
Just in the last few years publishing service vendors and print on demand technology have provided unprecedented opportunity for children’s authors to create trade quality print books and reach an audience. Print on demand and distribution companies like Lightning Source allow your books to be available to libraries and schools, both of which can be a key part to reaching the specific parent/teacher kids audience.
Some of my Book Cover Cafe authors how found it very rewarding walking into libraries to see their books on stands, and schools being able to order from school suppliers that Lightning Source is connected with.
As digital colour tablet devices such as the iPad and Kindle Fire become more commonplace, children’s books will have a whole new life. This is going to be one of the most exciting growth areas in publishing. Get in on the ground floor now.
Children’s book production still includes tasks such as manuscript assessment, proofreading and editing. These tasks tend to be much cheaper with children’s picture books than the average 60,000 word fiction or non-fiction book. On the other hand this reduction in budget is made up with the need to hire an illustrator.
Print book budget breakdown
Remember, your book has to be worth people paying good money for. Make it a book worth talking about.
Here’s the production budget break down for an average 32 page children’s picture book with an 8″ x 10″ trim size, with the quality that will sit confidently beside any trade published book. This excludes marketing or platform building.
Publishing Imprint Setup: $30 – $200
This step doesn’t vary from typical print or eBook publishing. For the most part, authors can simply setup as a sole proprietorship and register their ISBN’s using their publishing business name. As print books still play an important role for children’s books, having a publishing imprint name will allow you to set up with a company like Lightning Source for cheaper print books and wider distribution. This will likely be an important component for a children’s book author.
ISBN’s: $80 – $250
Your ISBN’s are necessary and required when setting up with a global printer and distributor such as Lightning Source. You’ll purchase your own ISBN’s using your publishing business name. If you plan to publish more than one book (the majority of authors) then register a block of 10 ISBN’s, as you’ll be saving a significant amount of money.
A block of 10 ISBN’s from MyIdentifiers is $250. For those of you in Australia you can purchase a block of 10 for $80 from Thorpe-Bowker. Here’s an article which covers the importance of getting an ISBN when independently publishing.
Manuscript Assessment: $90 – $150
Just like any other fiction or non-fiction manuscript, this is an assessment performed by an appraiser. This step comes before editing and helps the author in identifying the weaknesses and strengths of their manuscript. Comments and suggestions will be provided to the author in the form of a report, which will also contain objective feedback on the story, plot, character and inconsistencies.
If you’re ever unsure if your book is ready to publish or good enough to release to the market, then get a manuscript assessment. Its a few pennies which will save you thousands of dollars later and a bank full of heartache.
Illustration: $1800 – $6000
Hiring an illustrator is a unique task part of publishing a children’s book. The illustrations play a huge role in bringing the manuscript to life. One of the most important things to remember is making sure your manuscript is finished and has been through at least a manuscript assessment or edit before illustration work begins.
It’ll be a waste of time and money if the illustrator is working with unfinished text! I’ve worked with authors in this situation and it becomes a messy, drawn out process.
There’s little room for error with illustrations. Poor quality, unfinished pieces and working with an unedited manuscript leads to unprofessional quality that simply won’t meet reader expectations. When selecting an illustrator, be diligent in selecting a professional with experience. You’ll soon find out that you get what you pay for.
Illustrations are usually quoted based on the quantity and complexity of the illustrations required. Using our example of a 32 page book, you’ll be looking at a minimum of 16 illustrations, along with any additional illustrations for the front and back matter.
For more specific detail on the whole process of hiring and working with an illustrator, check out my 3-part series called Book Illustrator Hiring Considerations for Self Publishing Authors.
Book cover design: $200 – $500
Your book cover design is critical for capturing the attention of parents, teachers and children. Colours, big shapes and easy-to-say titles are key elements for any children’s book. Want to be seen on the Amazon shelf, get a professional cover.
While your illustrator is working be sure to decide on a specific illustration that will be used for the cover and factor that into your budget. Alternatively, you might be able to successfully re-purpose an interior illustration for use on the cover.
Don’t make the mistake of having the illustrator design the cover for you. The cover is not an art piece, it’s a marketing piece first and foremost. Hire a cover designer to benefit from an objective professional eye on your book and who’ll produce are far better job than you or the illustrator will do because they know packaging, presentation and its role as your key marketing asset.
Copy-editing: $250 – $400
Having an editor, doesn’t mean your manuscript is bad, it doesn’t mean you should get defensive at professional objective feedback that will only make your book better. It’s quite the opposite, as this is your chance to have a professional editor who’ll have the same best interest you do, to fine tune and craft your manuscript to create a book that you’ll be able to sell to people with good conscience.
The single biggest complaint seen in Amazon reviews is abundance of typos and grammar mistakes!
All the usual suspects will be addressed such as chapter headings, footnotes/end-notes, characterization, plot, structure, dialogue and more. A good editor worth their salts and your money will make you feel comfortable asking questions and have good communication via email or even Skype.
Check your ego at the door, because if you want to sell books and garner good reviews, an editor is a must, even for those on a limited budget.
Print typesetting/Interior Design: $250 – $450
The layout of children’s books is an art. This is where your paragraphs and illustrations are brought together to form one cohesive, beautiful book product. By this stage you should have already decided on a trim size, which is needed by your typesetter to meet your chosen printer specifications. Due to the lower page counts of children’s books, this task can be significantly cheaper than most other fiction or non-fiction books.
Be sure to select a professional that has worked on children’s books before and has an understanding of composition and creating a reading “experience” for the reader, and makes your illustrations really sing.
Basic proofreading: $90 – $200
Sometimes proofreading is an undervalued part of the process, due to writers and authors not understanding the importance of having a proofread done before going to the printer. Basic proofreading can save you from receiving 1 or 2 star Amazon reviews after release.
Have an objective fresh eye look over your completed typeset file (usually a PDF), to catch any spelling or grammatical bugs that inevitably slip through. For children’s picture books it’s a very small amount of money for what can save costly mistakes later.
Avoid the pitfalls and do it right the first time
Get all your cards together. Use this information to determine your budget, make a list and check it twice. Don’t be impatient and rush into it. Be prepared, ask questions and seek professional assistance. Find professionals through referrals from other colleagues and authors.
Look for independent publishing service vendors like Book Cover Cafe to find professionals. If you come across self publishing subsidy companies that ask you to pay for over-inflated prices upwards of $8,000 for a children’s book run the other way.
It’s important to note, that those children’s authors who have been successful in making a return on their investment, planned a strategic launch months before release and defined exactly who their target audience is.
There has never been a better time to release your children’s books to the marketplace without the need of a trade publisher. You just need to make better decisions up front that will set you on the right path for future success as a children’s author with ongoing book sales and a growing author platform.
Seizing opportunity in the new age of publishing!
Be the captain of your own ship.