My sister, Judy Voigt, and I are about to launch our first children’s picture book, “The Great PJ Elf Chase: A Christmas Eve Tradition.” I’d compare the process of self-publishing to a ride on a roller coaster – it definitely has its ups and downs. We’re weeks away from having our book in hand, and the excitement is mounting. If you’re interested in self-publishing a children’s picture book, maybe the details of our journey will benefit and inspire you.
Coming up with the idea for our book was the easy part. We’ve talked about writing this story as far back as I can remember. When we were kids, Christmas Eve was an exciting time in our house. The PJ elves dropped new pajamas outside the door as we were taking baths. We’d hear little squeals outside the door – but, try as we might, we never could catch an elf in the act. This tradition was handed down to the next generation, and many of our friends use it with their children as well.
Writing and Rewriting
As a student, I cringed when I had to rewrite a story, but now, I can’t stop rewriting. Until it’s impossible to do so, we’ll probably always find one more word to change. Our rhyming children’s picture book actually started as a chapter book. To say we’ve edited it a thousand times is no exaggeration. We also used online sites to check the readability level. We want parents to read the book to their children, but we also want first-and-second graders to read the book on their own. We enlisted our husbands, friends and family members to read and critique the story, and that definitely helped us discover parts that weren’t clear.
Choosing a Publishing Company
We sent our manuscript to publishers that were listed in the “Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market.” We’re aware that 98% of manuscripts are not accepted, so we weren’t surprised when we received rejections. We decided to self-publish, and it’s given us more control over the process. We chose CreateSpace, an Amazon affiliate, as our publishing company, and we’ve been happy with that decision. CreateSpace is a “print on demand” publisher which means they print, pack and ship the book when it’s purchased through Amazon.com or our CreateSpace store. We wanted to be sure the company could print hardcover books, and CreateSpace does that. Click here to read more about our experience with their hardcover option. Of course, that all comes at a price. For more details, you can follow our self-publishing blog here.
An Illustrator with a Vision
Illustrations play a vital role in children’s picture books. We quickly learned how to relay our vision to an illustrator. We wanted cute, traditional elves, but one illustrator thought they should be futuristic. Our ideas clashed considerably, so we mutually agreed that we weren’t a good match. It’s a process. We decided on a CreateSpace illustrator, Lorena Soriano, and we made the perfect choice for our project. If you’re looking for an illustrator, you can also cross paths with many talented ones if you join the children’s book writers and illustrators group on Linkedin. Since we used a CreateSpace illustrator, we own all rights to the illustrations.
You’ll need a website where people can take a look at your book and, of course, buy it. Our book is being printed in paperback, hardcover and electronic versions, but CreateSpace only sells paperbacks and kindle versions through their store and Amazon. We needed our own website to sell the hardcover version. We’re not experts at web design by any means, but we muddled through for a while. When parts of the process became confusing and time-consuming, we enlisted the help of a friend, Jessica Zeigler, who is an illustrator, author and web designer. We appreciate her expertise, as it has saved us time and frustration. Our website is now operational and should be completed soon.
Marketing the book will no doubt be a challenge. We’re sending copies to children’s book reviewers. We’re also sending press releases to places such as college alumni magazines and hometown newspapers. We’re using social media to spread the word. We’ll contact book stores and attend trade shows. Since our book has a holiday theme, we can re-introduce it every year. It helps to have a marketing “hook.” We’ve decided to include a free Santa hat with each book that is pre-ordered on our website. We’ve gained great insight into publishing and marketing from Shari Faden Donahue’s book, “Children’s Picture Books: How to Self-Publish Your Way to Success!” We have a long way to go and a lot to learn, but we’re taking it one step at a time.
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image credit: Voigt and LoBello