I often get requests from people who have a collection of stories, or spent months writing a tale and are now unsure of what the next step is.
The first thing you need to do is, give your story to a child. Even if you do stick figures for the illustrations, or whatever, if the child doesn’t get it, then you know you need to go back to the drawing board. The second thing you need to decide is: do I want to publish through a publishing house, or do you want to self-publish?
If you want to publish through a publishing house then I suggest doing a bit of research on the internet as well as checking other children books that you think are similar to your own story and see who they published with. Go to those publishing houses websites and see what their submission guidelines are (it’s usually somewhere on the website). Check if they take manuscripts from authors, or if they only accept through agents. If you want to be published in the UK and USA – most of these publishing houses only take from agents. Here in South Africa, however, they are usually open to accepting straight from the author. If you are interested in getting an agent, then I suggest doing a bit of research in this area. Check who other authors are using, compile a list and then submit to them.
Once you have looked at the submissions/guidelines, then met the requirements and submit. Don’t feel you can only submit to one publishing house at a time – submit to all the applicable ones. They usually take up to 3 months to reply and often the larger publishing houses never get back to you so don’t wait. Submit!
Once your manuscript has been selected, the publishing house will find an illustrator for you and work on your story with you. They will guide you through whole the process.
If you decide to go with the self-publishing option, then I suggest researching into illustrators, send them a few chapters or pages (depending on how long your story is) of your manuscript and ask them to draw up a few concept illustrations and send you a quotation. If you like my portfolio then you can contact me as well. Pick the best one for you (this might mean not necessarily the cheapest).
Work out your story to illustrations – if it’s a picture book, it needs to be 32 pages (look at the other books on the market for how it’s laid out). If your illustrator has worked on children books before, they should be able to assist you with this step. If it’s a chapter book, work out where you want illustrations. The illustrator will need to know how many illustrations you are wanting, as well as if they are colour or black & white. Also – don’t forget about the cover!
You will also need to find a printer and decide on a page size (the illustrator can’t start until they know the page size!). It might be a good idea to also get a editor to just read over your story to help with any grammatical errors or any other suggestions. Settle on this before sending the finally manuscript through to the illustrator. The illustrator will charge you if you change the ending half way through him/her working on the illustrations and then they have to create new ones.
You will also need a typesetter/layout artist to put the book together at the end (combining your words and illustrations). The illustrator might be able to assist you with this. Don’t cut corners on this and think you can do it yourself in Word or something. I’ve seen a lot of books go bad because someone asked their cousin’s daughter who used some free software and had no experience on typesetting. They ended up with horribly laid-out books with crop marks showing and isolated text in some awful font.
As you can to see – self-publishing can be a pricey operation. Some companies do offer self-publishing packages, but carefully about these. Sometimes these end up being more expensive than doing it yourself. I have chatted about this before in a previous blog post.
Finally you will need to register your book with the South African National Library and get and ISBN – don’t worry – this is free. You will also need to convert this ISBN into a barcode for the back of your book as well as include it on your copyright/imprint page.
Once the book is all laid out, with ISBN, barcode, text, illustrations etc, you are going to print it and then distribute. Then comes the final stage of marketing and getting your book out there. You are probably going to need a website, content on yourself an the book, illustrations and do research on where where you can distribute self-published books.
Self-publishing is a lot of work and isn’t something that one should shrug off. It involves a lot of time and you are going to have to drive the whole operation. But that doesn’t mean it’s not possible. It just means, your dream isn’t a movie montage of edited bits of your life that happen in a few seconds. We are talking about doing proper research, saving, taking the big step and following through to the end. Not start off with a lot of steam and then quickly lose interest halfway through.
If you are unsure, then there are workshop and courses that you can take that will help out and you can learn a lot from. My best advice to be a sponge at these events and just absorb as much as possible.
I am always available for brainstorming and help with any self-publishing author. I know how tricky this all can be and will assist where I can. For issues that I cannot help with, I have a collection of wonderful friends and acquaintances that are involved in all parts of the process, including other illustrators if my style isn’t your cup of tea. Feel free to contact me with any inquiry.