Home Academia & Research 8 Steps to Self-Publish Your First Children’s Book

8 Steps to Self-Publish Your First Children’s Book

by Lavelle Carlson
written by
Colorful cityscape drawing on open book

Many speech-language pathologists dream of writing children’s books—or even novels. Maybe you want to target a specific skill, share a great story—or both. I say, go for it!

What gives SLPs an edge in creative writing? It is our education in linguistics, grammar, speech, and all facets of language. Add to this our experiences and understanding of a variety of people and the results are a bubbling cauldron of creative juices to churn out the prose. The advent of desktop publishing software along with print-on-demand services makes self-publishing easier and cost effective.

What do you want to write? Will your first book be a children’s picture or storybook, a chapter book for older kids, a young adult adventure, or the percolating novel you’ve always wanted to write? Let’s look at how to self-publish a picture book.

Here’s the process I use:
  1. Make a few notes or outline for your story and start writing.
  2. For young children from preschool through early elementary, keep dialogue and storytelling short. I aim for around 500 to 700 words. Less is better.
  3. Think about the book length in terms of multiples of four—also called a folio. I find 28 pages an ideal length. Three or four pages get devoted to title pages, copyright, dedication, end notes, or other such pages.
  4. Determine your page size ahead of time so art can be created for a specific size. You can see the various sizes on Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP).
  5. Determine your illustration theme and budget. This is where you will spend money unless you illustrate yourself. Several art apps are available for creating illustrations. I like Procreate (iOS), but others include Autodesk Sketchbook (Android and iOS), Adobe Photoshop Sketch (Android, iOS), MediBang Paint (Android, iOS), Tayasui Sketches (Android, iOS), and many more with different looks and features. If you’re not an artist, using an art student can keep costs down. I hired a student at LaGrone Advanced Technology Complex—a trade school to help prepare high school students for tech careers. If you hire a high school student, work with their parents on a simple contract.
  6. Next, put it all together. If you hired an illustrator, you can often include adding text to the images as part of then illustrator’s fee. Adobe Photoshop is the standard tool for adding text to images, making other changes, or creating additional pages. If you are not familiar with Photoshop, LinkedIn Learning (formerly Lynda.com) offers free courses if you register with your local library card.
  7. You can also create your own book cover. Many programs offer templates for generating book covers. Check out Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), Fiverr, TheBookDesigner.com, Microsoft Word’s The Creative Penn, and Canva among others.
  8. Once you complete your book, review drafts and make necessary changes. You’ll want to do this several times. Also invite colleagues, family, or your book-loving friends to review as well.

Now you’re ready for the publishing part of your self-publishing journey. Amazon’s publishing service, KDP, provides all needed templates and easy-to-follow instructions for self-publishing. Word of warning, however: KDP offers only paperback for print-on-demand. Blurb and Lulu also provide tools for creating the book and offer print-on-demand services.

The above steps are for becoming an “indie,” or independent publisher. You can go another route by submitting your book to publishers. This option takes much longer, but you might get a better product and more sales—although with less commission per sale—using an agent.

As an indie publisher, marketing is the most challenging and sometimes most expensive part of the process. Reach out to other SLPs, teachers, and parents. Join this Facebook group of SLP authors who share insights and collaborate.

Check out some children’s books written by other SLPs in a post by Rebecca Eisenberg. Also peruse SLP Storytellers for a growing list of books showcasing SLP authors of all book types. You can contact them to request your book get showcased on the site.

Self-publishing your own book doesn’t guarantee you’ll produce a best seller, make loads of money, or win renowned prizes. What I can promise is the satisfaction of getting to share something you feel the need to say. Self-publishing allows an aspiring writer to create, publish, print, and set a book up for sale with little cash investment.

Happy writing!

Lavelle Carlson is a retired SLP and children’s book author—especially for her grandchildren. Three of her books won Parent and Teacher Choice Awards.  lavellecarlson@gmail.com 

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