Illustrated Children’s Book Publishing Process Overview

Here is an overview of the publishing process for an illustrated children's book.

While a few illustrators do use Adobe InDesign (the industry standard for book layout), it’s a beast of a software to learn, so they usually stick to what they know, which is Photoshop and/or Illustrator (equally as beastly).

The issue is that neither Photoshop nor Illustrator are book layout apps. They are image editing/creation apps and simply are not designed to do layout.

This creates many, many issues from a project management standpoint, which is why it is essential that the right tool be used for each stage of the project.

While the illustrator should be using your manuscript to storyboard the illustrations, the text should not live in the Photoshop/Illustrator file. A book designer will take your manuscript in its text-only state (Word file, Google doc, etc.), collect all of the illustrations, and then will use InDesign to bring them together into a layout.

Here is an overview of the publishing process for an illustrated children’s book.

Step 1: Validate your book’s concept by running a PickFu campaign.

Step 2: Do a cost analysis.

  • Will you use print-on-demand (Amazon KDP, IngramSpark, BookBaby), short-run digital printing done stateside for print runs of up to 1000 (Total Printing System), or off-set printing for quantities of 500 – multiple thousands (IAPCBooks.com)?
  • Page count will determine cost. Offset printing requires 4-page increments. Plan your manuscript accordingly. PrintNinja.com has an amazing resource dedicated to educating about the offset printing process and file prep requirements. (IAPCBooks.com is less-expensive than PrintNinja.)
  • Binding will also determine costs. Paperback, case-laminate, case-laminate with dustjacket?
  • How will you distribute your book? Distribution plan will also impact cost. Regardless of which print method you use, there will be costs that impact the allowable retail price.
  • Illustrator expense
  • Editing expense
  • Layout expense for finalizing the cover, the interior, and seeing the project through to the very end. (I generally charge $500 for this service for children’s books. Request a quote to get an exact quote.)

Step 3: Finalize your manuscript to send out to beta-readers and receive quotes from editors.

  • Make sure it meets the correct word count range for its market.
  • Make sure to use vocabulary and sentence structure that is best for its market.
  • If it’s a rhyming book, then research how to do it well.

Step 4: Go through beta-reading.

It’s best to use people who aren’t concerned with your feelings and who are also experienced in beta-reading. I recommend BetaBooks.

Step 5: Find an editor.

You want to select someone who specializes in children’s books for your target age group. I recommend ShaylaRaquel.com.

Step 6: Find an illustrator.

You want to select someone who fits your style and your budget. Make sure your budget allows for hiring an illustrator who has worked on print books before. I recommend HireAnIllustrator.com to start your search.

If the illustrator does not have a process in place, run. Professionals have processes they need you to adhere to. You should not be leading them. They should start with getting lots of parameters about your project (trim size, page count, printing process, etc.).

In addition, the illustrator should begin with storyboarding your project. This is when sketches are done before any time is committed to finalizing the artwork.

Read this article on how to contact an illustrator.

Step 7: Find a book designer.

You want to select someone who is seasoned and experienced in the printing option you chose, offers typesetting, and has a process in place to move you from beginning to 100% finalized printing success.

Typesetting ensures that your words are presented in a manner that is visually appealing, not just thrown on the page.

Book layout is its own skill, just like illustration is its own skill and writing is its own skill. Most illustrators have dedicated their time to learning illustration and are not equipped to format a book for offset printing standards. (I generally charge $500 for this service for children’s books. Request a quote to get an exact quote.)

Step 8: Market your book.

You can connect with book bloggers, run your own social media campaigns, use Kickstarter as a means to fund your book while also taking advantage of the marketing that this strategy provides. You can hire someone to market the book for you, or you can take a course on how to market your book. I recommend Dana Kaye’s Your Breakout Book course.

Note: I am not an affiliate for any of the sources I listed. These are all sources that I personally know and trust.

Want me to take care of all these details for you? When you work with me, I manage your project, tell you who to hire, and take all of these tough, stressful decisions off your plate. Check my How It Works page to learn how I work with authors like you. 

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