It can seem a daunting, nigh on impossible feat to self publish there is still a whiff of the Vanity publishing of previous decades about it. But in today’s dramatically changing digital environment, it has become a lot easier and cheaper than you may think. The first stage – The Story Itself Of course! The story! Be prepared to change and edit the text countless times; test it on friends kids, your own kids, accomplished authors, the dinner lady at your local school, anyone basically who likes children’s books. Try asking your local school if you can read it to the class there (obviously an age appropriate age group) and gauge the children’s reaction. Ask them questions about the story – their likes/ dislikes/ what they thought about the characters/ How did the story make you feel?? Kids will be more your market so their opinion really does matter. Be prepared to change and adapt the text. A good children’s book shouldn’t waffle – the sentences should be short and succinct. Always remember your audience. When you have a piece of work you feel is ready, it is still worth getting a friend (preferably a writer) to critique it for you. Of course, in an ideal world, a professional editor would be the best, But this can be an expensive route. POINTS TO REMEMBER:
- Be clear about your audience- use vocabulary that is age appropriate
- Remember that a picture book is just what it says it is- it relies heavily on the illustrators interpretation of the story to make it “Come alive”, so don’t include an unnecessary description of place or characters.
- Check and double-check spelling and punctuation!
Emma Blackburn, editorial director for Bloomsbury Publishing has written a wonderful article advising on content and length of a childrens book here: https://www.writersandartists.co.uk/writers/advice/327/dedicated-genre-advice/writing-for-children/ Second Stage – The Illustrations Preparing illustrations using a vector program such as Illustrator or inkscape helps to keep file size down (Especially important for eBooks). I make a very rough book out of cut up paper; staple them together, and (very) roughly sketch out where images and text might go. Then I draw the illustrations in pencil by hand on a smooth paper, scan (Or just photograph them and import) these in, and then work on them using Illustrator. Set the files preferences at CMYK for the colour and 300 dpi – This helps ensure that your finished printed book will be clear and crisp with colour that should match what you have on screen. Create a colour palette, and stick to that throughout the creation of your images. For more info on colour swatches click here Lock your sketch layer, and work in a new layer – I do the line work first on one layer, and then create a new layer below that for the colour. POINTS TO REMEMBER:
- Save artwork at 300 dpi
- Set color to CMYK
- Be aware of your chosen colour palette and don’t stray too much from it- unless you want a very rainbow bright book of course!
- Solid colours- especially black- don’t always print too well in large areas and often don’t print how you might think they will- try to use a texture, or a slightly lighter colour
Third Stage- Interior Layouts When you are happy with your illustrations use a design tool such as inDesign- this will make laying out your pages much more straight forward Set up a 32 page document at the 8.5″x 11″ size – ideally portrait and set the bleed to at least 0.85″ and the slug to at least 0.25″ on the inside and outside In the master pages place your page numbering- and any other bits which will not move throughout the book. Make a layer called “Text” and a layer called “Images” underneath. NOTES Page 1 should be the title and Author/ Illustrator- This is not your cover, so should be kept fairly simple (We will look at creating your cover later) Page 2 Should have the legal details- copyright/ year of publication/ ISBN Page 3 Could be left blank or have a small illustration or dedication Page 4 Blank Page 5 Is where your story starts! (And should be numbered page 1 in indesign- go to Numbering Sections and change the value to _5) Place your illustrations on the pages working through the entire book- align and resize where necessary until you have them where you want. Lock the “Images” layer Copy and paste your text into a text box roughly where it needs to be over the image in the layer called “text” and choose a font that is child friendly and easy to read. Stay away from illegible fonts- remember you audience. I always try to bear in mind the accessibility aspect as well- the Publishers Association have some issues and advice to bear in mind on their site here. Save your file and export as a pdf Double check for text issues/ spelling and layout issues!! POINTS TO REMEMBER:
- Accessibility is key to children being able to read the text clearly
- Keep text within the guides- if the text is too close to page edges and outside recommended areas the book won’t look great or even be accepted when you upload it
Fourth Stage- Cover Design This is for a book that will be printed at 8.5″ x 11″ using Createspace create an image file 17″x11″ at 300 dpi Set up guides at 8.9″ and 9.3″ Choose an image from your book which will interest your reader, but not the end one- You don’t want to give the story away! Place the image on the RH side of the layout and add your text- if the image is going to wrap around, make sure you have sized it correctly at 300dpi- At 32 pages Createspace will not print text on the spine- I think the limit is about 120 (??) On the left hand side use your story synopsis or use a critique as your blurb for the back- keep it short and simple- include a small illustration- or even advertise other books in your series- the choice is yours. POINTS TO REMEMBER:
- Include document bleed
- Keep text within the recommended guidelines
- Unless you are using your own ISBN, createspace use an allocated area on there cover designer where the isbn will go
Fifth Stage THE FINAL PUSH! For this you will need to register with Createspace https://www.createspace.com Follow the instructions for opening an account on their site here- it is very simple and straight forward. from here on the instructions for uploading, reviewing and submitting your books are clearly laid out on the createspace site. But for those who are nervous of taking the signup step, here as a rough overview.. (Some points may have changed) After you have signed up –
- Click ADD TITLE
- Type Name of Project
- Choose ‘Paperback” and click the guided setup button
- Fill in the fields for author / illustrator etc
- Choose ISBN type
- Choose interior type and size
- upload your interior pdf
- Check using the Createpsace review tool and make any necessary amendments
- Use the Createspace cover creator, but use the design on page 4 – the one that says to use for your own fully formatted cover- upload your Cover image as a jpeg
Createspace allows you to check over your proof online- personally, being based in the UK- it is an added expense and time for me to order an actual physical copy- but that is your individual choice- Once you are happy with your book, click submit.. AND THAT’s IT! When you click approve it’s ready to go in 15 minutes, so long as you have fulfilled the Createspace criteria. Within 2-3 days its available on Amazon. Then comes the tricky part- marketing it!!!
Bella Woodfield has worked as an illustrator since leaving Art college in Cardiff in 1993. Her recently self published book “The Girl and the Moon” is available through Createspace, Amazon and some independent bookshops in paperback format, and available from Amazon as a kindle download (Best viewed on kindle fire and above)