Since self-publishing our first picture book almost six years ago, we’ve received lots of questions from aspiring picture book authors interested in learning more about self-publishing and how they can make this non-traditional (though increasingly more common!) route work for them.
There are so many different elements to successfully self-publishing a children’s picture book (beyond coming up with the perfect idea!). Here are our top 10 tips to get you started on your picture book publishing journey that we’ve shared with other writers along our own journey.
1. Take a class or workshop in writing picture books/children’s literature
One of the biggest questions we get asked by aspiring picture book writers is, “Where do I even start?” Our usual answer is . . . enroll in a picture book writing class or workshop! While having a great story idea is the most important part of writing your book, there are so many different elements that make it possible to successfully put that idea onto paper and transform it into a complete story that will enchant children and adults alike. For instance, did you know that the most popular picture books today are under 1000 words and are generally only 32 pages long? This is something a class or workshop can teach you! In addition to paid workshops, there are lots of great free resources online such as the Picture Book Summit Podcast which we listen to regularly to get great writing tips and stay on top of industry trends.
2. Read lots of picture books. And then read some more!
Also in the category of learning, read as many picture books as you can to get inspired and develop a sense of what you like to read! Browse online and in bookstores and libraries and look at what’s popular right now as well as what books have become “classics”. It is our recommendation to read both traditionally published and self-published picture books in the category of the book you are looking to write (for example, if you’re hoping to write a rhyming picture book, read rhyming picture books!). While we love stopping by our local library, one of our favorite ways to read picture books is actually by listening to them read aloud on YouTube. Since picture books are frequently read aloud, this is a super helpful way to learn how you can write stories that can be enjoyed in this format.
Need some picture book recommendations? Check out our bookshop page.
3. Enlist the help of a content editor early on
Once you have a first draft done for a story you’d like to move forward with, we always recommend finding an editor as soon as possible to provide feedback. An editor can provide crucial feedback that can help shape your story, noticing things you may have missed and providing new ideas that can make your story even stronger. We recommend using Google Search to find an editor or Reedsy (we’ve found editors through both avenues!).
4. Believe in your ideas . . . but be open to transforming them as well!
Once you begin to share your stories with others, it is so, so important to be open to the valuable feedback you’ll receive. While receiving feedback or being asked to change your story can be very difficult, especially at first, feedback can often improve your story and even help to bring out the story you are hoping to tell. On the other hand, as the author, YOU know your story best. So always make sure to listen to your heart while listening to others, too, in order to make sure you are never straying too far from the story you want to tell. You’ll know what feels right — believe in yourself AND the story you have to share!
5. Use sites like Upwork, Reedsy, and, yes, even Instagram, to build your team
You need a BIG team to self-publish a picture book. From your content editor, to your book designer, to your illustrator (if you need one!) to name a few. Luckily, the internet has made it much easier to self-publish picture books! You can find great talent on almost any social media platform and, of course, through a simple Google search. Here’s a list of all of the places we have found our team members: Google search, Upwork, Reedsy, and Instagram.
6. Set a launch date with wiggle room (more often than not . . . you'll need it!)
Okay, we admit it, we always get excited about publishing a new book and set the launch date a little bit too early. Don’t be like us and give yourself around 3–4 weeks of wiggle room! There are so many different things that can go wrong or be delayed during the self-publishing process. For our last book, we kept having trouble with our ebook the day before we had scheduled to launch it. Giving yourself extra time will give you peace of mind and the opportunity to work through any problems that arrive with less stress.
7. Select a manufacturing method that works for you
This is perhaps the second most asked question we receive: “How should I print my book?” There are two main options for today’s self-published authors: Working directly with a manufacturing company OR using a POD company like IngramSpark. There are pros and cons to both options but one of the important things to keep in mind is distribution. Working directly with a manufacturing company to print your book DOES NOT get you a distributor and that will be left for you to figure out. A POD company like IngramSpark DOES guarantee distribution but generally is a bit more expensive to print and you will have less freedom/options when designing your book. Ultimately, you’ll need to select the best option for you and your goals.
8. Start marketing at least 6 months prior to the release of your book
Marketing your book PRE-LAUNCH is the most important thing you will do in terms of getting your book into the hands of readers. We recommend beginning at least 6 months prior to the release of your book in order to make potential readers aware of your story and excited to add it to their shelves. This may include launching your social media channels, securing press, doing early bird giveaways, etc.
9. Put together a launch team
As your publication date draws near, a great way to spread the news about your new book is enlisting the help of a launch team. A launch team can share your book on their social media platforms (both ahead of and during launch) as well as review it on relevant platforms, helping you reach a wider audience that will see your title is one worth reading! While your Launch Team will get to work closer to your launch date, remember to begin assembling your team in advance (we recommend at least 3–4 months).
10. Get out there and share your story!
While today’s world makes it easy to share your book online with almost everyone, we always encourage authors to reach out to their local community, too. Your community will be inclined to support your work as a local author, and being a local author, there is so much you can offer to your community as well! Setting up author events with local bookstores, libraries, and schools is a great way to begin sharing your book locally AND meaningfully contributing to your community at the same time.
11. Bonus tip: Consider Kickstarter or Indiegogo
Funding is often a big concern for authors looking to self-publish. Undoubtedly, there are quite a few expenses associated with independently releasing a book. Crowdfunding is a popular way to get funding as well as raise awareness for a self-published book, and it has proven successful for many authors in the past. We used Kickstarter to help fund our second book and were very happy with the results! It is important to note that crowdfunding sites have become inundated with self-published authors in recent years. To stand out, choose a quieter time of year to release your book and make sure your story has a strong niche that will catch the attention of users of sites like Kickstarter.
We hope you enjoyed this blog article! To learn more about us and our work stop by our website: https://www.thebrickleysisters.com/