Independent-publishing of Children’s Books: Keep One Step Ahead of Yourself

Independent-publishing is a little like parenting. You do all you can before the baby comes along to be prepared for all possible scenarios, to be wise to all pitfalls, and to ensure you are well-equipped to do all the right things in the right order. But sometimes, no matter how widely you read – no matter how much you think you know – nothing can prepare you for the challenges ahead. The trick is to remain inquisitive, responsive, and open to change.

Independently publishing children's books is an especially tricky task. Not only is writing the book challenging (despite what many who have only read and never tried to write a picture book think! See Nigel Grey's thoughts here.) but the business of independent publication can land you in all sorts of interesting places. Fortunately, I've been there and done that, and can offer a few words about how to avoid some major pitfalls (if only I had paid more attention to Emma MacTaggart's, ChildWrites IPPY Gold Medal book earlier in my career).

It is crucial when independently publishing a children's book to stay one step ahead of yourself – particularly when it comes to layout and design. I learnt the hard way, it is better to chose how the interior layout will look for your book before you have your illustrator start on the pictures.

This strategy is fundamental in guiding both yourself and your illustrator with respect to how pages needs to be broken up and how and where on the page the text needs to be arranged. One of the most important and educational aspects of children's book is the visual literacy involved – you want to select a page where the text and the illustrations work together to tell the story.

Being clear on the layout of your children's book means that there will be certain opportunities for your illustrator and similarly, limitations. Imagine having a series of wonderful pictures only to realise in the final stages of design that the selected layout for your book cuts off the tips of ears, tails, or heads of your most loved characters!

Layout can also affect the way your story reads and you may need to refine some of your sentences and paragraphs to suit the design of the page. There is no point in getting to the end of the process and realising you still need one more image or sentence to round the book off. In the same vein, budgeting is always a key consideration when putting together a children's book and being across the layout at the early stages means you won't waste crucial funds on pictures you may not end up using. In the words of Stephen Covey it is a win-win scenario when you organised with you layout and design.

Something else you should consider when you're submitting your cataloguing in publication details: make sure this isn't done too early or too late. If you get to this prematurely and there are some minor amendments, you'll find yourself needing to submit variations. On the other hand, if you do it too late in the process, then this will mean that you don't have details for your imprint page (that is publishing speak for – “where all the technical information appears”).

There are many other factors you must take into account when publishing a picture book independently which include copyright and lending rights. While this paperwork is relatively straightforward, it's important to be informed about these aspects since protecting your royalties is paramount.

Publishing a children's book independently can be an immensely satisfying process, and although the independent-publication of your book will be an experience personal to you, it can always help to hear some tips and tricks from those who have been there before.

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