How many times have you been sitting at dinner, or in a café chatting with friends and someone says, “I have this great idea for a story!” I can tell you this has happened to me personally so many times. It comes with the territory of being a writer, or a creative thinker. We live in a world that constantly inspires us. What I have learned throughout this Self- Publishing process is that an idea is worthless unless you do something with it. An idea is not enough on its own, you have to run with it, to make it worthwhile. Even if you don’t aspire to be a bestselling author, there is no reason why you shouldn’t have your story published and hold a copy of your idea, your story, in your hand. It is a really great feeling. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a commercial success. Even if your intentions aren’t to be in every bookstore around the globe (hey, you never know!) your personal success, and sense of accomplishment is what is most important.
If you want to be a professional, you have to be professional about it. You have to think on a much wider scale. Ask yourself this, “What is my niche’?” Is your story aimed for a particular age group, or for children who are learning to tie their shoelaces, or becoming potty trained? Are you trying to inspire or encourage? Is your story about the scary monster under the bed? Do you want to take your readers on an adventure? You will need to narrow it down and really decide what you goal is. And remember, wherever you are taking your readers, always make your story ends Happily Ever After.
Story development. You want a broad, international appeal if you want your story to be a success. If your idea is based on a bedtime story you made up for your own child, think bigger. Not that its necessarily a bad idea, but there are 100’s of books just like that already published. You want your book to stand out, be set apart from all the others. If you are publishing your own book, than this is fine, but if you are thinking, “Oh I would really like to have my books in shops!” Then you really have to start putting yourself into a different frame of mind.
Setting a budget. Ask yourself this, “How big of a project do I want this to be?” Does your story need illustrations? Do you want to hire someone to create your cover art? Should you hire an editor? Do you need someone to help format your book? Technically, you don’t have to spend any money on your book. But if you want to put out a quality book, and I know you do, then you should take setting a budget into consideration.
Editing and revisions. The story that you have might be really good. The chances of you writing the perfect manuscript right off are rather slim. You will need to edit and rewrite again and again (and again and again…) to develop your story. Don’t hold onto your favorite phrases or tiny ideas you have in your story. If you have a beautifully written line, or a scene that after editing doesn’t work in your storyline anymore, get rid of it! You will spend more time and energy trying to make it work. Let it go. There is a formula and flow for picture books. A lyrical, rhythmic flow. If you are trying to make it rhyme, and it wont – don’t force it. Just tell the story. A picture book does not have to be a rhyme. Make sure words that rhyme mean something.
Illustration and Cover Design. For obvious reasons, pictures are really important. Make sure your illustrator is a picture book illustrator who understands that. Don’t cram your story with description, let the illustrator help set the scene. Think of your story as a script for your illustrator. They will read it and have idea’s to help enhance your writing. Think about hiring a cover designer.
Networking and Social Media. If you really want to be a children’s books author it will help you exponentially if you have the support and help from other authors. They will help inspire and encourage you. They are a great resource for all the things you don’t know.
Self Publishing. There are so many different platforms that you can use today to self publish your story. We used Amazon, Kindle Direct Publishing. But there are several very reputable sites, do some research and use what works best for your project. Sometimes a story just comes into your head. Don’t worry about how long it takes you to cross the finish line. It can be a daunting process, and it really isn’t easy. You will need to dedicate some time and learn the different software’s for layouts. If you don’t have any experience in the printing and design world, there will definitely be a learning curve. But don’t be discouraged. You can learn. Uploading your final perfect manuscript will be a great reward. Know you will make mistakes along the way.
Outsourcing help. Think about what you can and cannot do. I knew I wanted to be in the drivers seat for the interior book design, but even as a seasoned editor I knew I wanted another set of eyes proofreading my story. I also wanted an unbiased opinion on my writing. Someone to constructively criticize my work, and help me turn my story into the manuscript I wanted it to be. Of course my mom is going to think my story is amazing, she’s my mom! (She has to say that.) There are many sites you can refer to to help you hire a freelancer. I used UpWork.com. There are over 50 categories you can refer to for writing. I was able post my job and search for freelancers who I thought would be a good fit for my project and invite them to bid on my posting. I hired an amazing editor. It was money well spent!
To recap: Set a timeline and figure out your budget. Write your story, edit the story, really develop the story. If you need to, hire an illustrator. Edit your story again with the illustrations, then edit it some more. (You will do this a lot!) Hire an editor if you decide to and send to them for review. Make sure your format and layout is correct for the platform you are publishing your book on. Order a proof for review. Let other people read it and tell you what they think. Send ARC copies, get feedback from your target audience. And remember that even the most experienced self publisher has to go through all these steps.
The next step – Marketing your book! This is a whole other world. Some people can just sell things. For others this will take time. I will have another post dedicated specifically to marketing your book!
It takes an inordinate amount of luck to have a best seller. But even if you want to have a few copies of your book for your family and friends, which is great, hopefully these tips may help you.
And lastly , get your mind on your next book! The most successful authors never stop writing.
Stay inspired friends!