Lisa needed some help figuring out how to layout and distribute the children's book she just finished. She had already paid an illustrator and in our conversation revealed that the book was 42 pages long, the text was embedded in the Photoshop files, and images were square. Warning bells were already ringing in my head, so I asked her to send me the files. In review, I found the following issues to resolve.
- Children's books are standardized at 32 pages lo1ng with 24 pages of illustrations plus 6 end pages and front matter. Her book would be 48 pages with the additional front and back matter needed. She simply decided to create a non-standard book.
- The illustrations were close to the edge of the printable area without any wiggle room for bleeds, so back to the illustrator it went!
- There were some typos in the text, which would again require her to re-hire the illustrator to correct. I suggested having him send her the illustrations without the text so she could type the text directly into a Word template.
With a little extra time, frustration, and expense, Lisa's book problems were resolved, but you can follow this primer to bypass issues with the production and distribution of your children's book. Here's what you need to know.
Proper Layout for Children's Books
The 32-page standard for children's books is based on the 32-page "signatures" required by printing machinery. Though today's manufacturing has rendered these old standards obsolete, many bookstores buyers and library acquisitions editors still expect them to comply. Review this post on book layout for children’s books and, after you’ve done your beta testing, decide whether to accept or reject the page count requirement. Lisa expected most of her sales to be direct via talks at schools and events, so bookstores and libraries would not be critical to sales.
To produce your book and lay it out properly it's easiest to purchase a premade book design template for $37. The “STORY" template is for 8.5 x 8.5 square children's books.
All you do is paste in your images into the appropriate pages. (You’ll see where you need to add content). Make sure your images are in CMYK and 300 dpi, and if you don't know what that means please hire a Photoshop pro.
I always recommend leaving the text out of the image file because you might have to change it. Instead, put it in the page layout program (Word or InDesign) so you can do it yourself instead of having to pay your illustrator to redo it. You can also tinker with font styles, weight, and color until it looks just right.
Determine Binding Type and Discount
Binding type—hardback vs paperback—will determine your manufacturing costs and your profit. You can figure out how much you will earn by using IngramSpark's publisher compensation calculator. Compare how much it costs to print a paperback vs a hardback and what your royalty will be with the discount you set. (Bookstores require a 40% discount.)
After you've determined your binding—and there's no reason not to choose both—get a free book cover template with barcode from IngramSpark. I recommend selling the paperback on Amazon, too (you can still use the IngramSpark cover template) and to other stores using IngramSpark. Remember you need a separate ISBN for the hardback and the paperback.
When you receive your cover design template you can either hand it off to your cover designer or paste your cover image into the template yourself. If you get a PDF you can open it in Photoshop. If you've chosen InDesign, then you probably know how to use it. Insert the book description on the back cover (important marketing stuff!) plus the text on the spine: author, title, and publisher logo.
Beta Testing Children's Books
Before committing your design to distribution, print it with a short run printer to see how it looks. Print more than you think you need—10 or 20—to send around and have people give you input. They’ll cost about $10 a book at that quantity.
Distribution for Children's Books
When you upload your book for distribution at IngramSpark and Amazon you'll be asked to provide a lot of data: keywords, a book description, and author bio. Use my keyword/metadata cheat sheet to create these assets in the correct word counts. You'll also need this data for your ISBN records at Bowker. (Please buy your own block of 10 or more ISBNs.)
Also, read my post on book distribution basics to figure out how you will get your book printed and in stores. I'm guessing you'll use Amazon for full-color paperbacks (they don't offer hardbacks) and IngramSpark for distribution everywhere else. You can also print hardcovers with IngramSpark.
Enjoy the Journey!
Though it may be confusing and riddled with details the task of producing and distributing a book is so much easier than it used to be with the tools offered by Book Design Templates, IngramSpark, and Amazon. But production and distribution are only two of the many tasks on your journey as an independent author. Book marketing can also be easily achieved with tech tools and services: book reviews, a great website, social media, and an email newsletter. You can earn more money selling direct with easy eCommerce tools. But once you've successfully navigated the process of creating one book, why stop there? You may be inspired to write more books and create a real business from your writing.
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