Publishing your own children’s book
What inspired you to write a children’s book?
We moved back to the UK from New Zealand and had our first son Max, in 2010. That Christmas many of our Antipodean friends sent over books for him as gifts. These books were great and predominately seemed to be about all the different animals he could have grown up with; Pukeko birds, kangaroos, wombats and kiwis. As we are now lucky enough to live in the New Forest, Hampshire, Max is experiencing life with different animals roaming around the roads; Highland cows, New Forest ponies and pigs. I wanted to be able to send back to our foreign friends a book that conveyed these animals and in a toddler format. There wasn’t one on the market, so I thought “how hard can it be…?!” I learned a great deal and have enjoyed working with my friend Bobby in getting the book into production. We had to get more printed than we wanted but it’s been a great achievement and one that we are very proud of.
How did you find the process of self-publication?
Self-publication was really our only option. We didn’t want to wait to get the book printed and so we went to some personal backers, told them about our idea and asked if they wanted to join us in our adventure. They were delighted to be asked and so it all began. Bobby and her graphic designer husband concentrated on the illustrations and layout, and I worked on the words and getting quotes for printing, and all the other things you need. For example, we needed a barcode for it to be registered with the British Library and I needed to do some research to find out where we might begin to start selling it. We are a good team and worked to our strengths. We were also lucky to have a designer on tap as that kept costs down to a minimum.
What was the biggest challenge you faced?
The biggest challenge we faced was probably getting all the layout and design right before it could be printed. Due to the touchy-feely nature of the book, and the thickness of card needed for it to all work, it meant we had to get it printed in China. There were a few communication issues dealing with a foreign printer and long time delays but I found a UK agent who was able to help and when we finally got the book shipped into England, they were very helpful getting us through the tax duty situations.
We are making a profit now and hopefully, in a couple more years we’ll be down to the last few hundred rather than the daunting thousands we started with.
What advice would you give to others looking at self-publishing their own book?
Self-publishing is really straightforward, in the UK at least. It’s really important to make sure you have all your administrative things together before you start printing. If you’re wanting to do a picture book, or have images included, you must get them bled into the pages. This is something a designer can do for you, so it would be another cost to bear in mind. There are many companies out there who will help you to get a bar code if you want to sell in shops and there are agents who can help with finding printers if you’re wanting to do something a little bit more involved. If you have a straightforward print and bind job, you can find printers online who will happily accept your manuscript (which is a lot cheaper)!
If you are wanting to sell your book, rather than just have a few printed for personal use, make sure you work out your RRP (Recommended Retail Price) and how much profit per book you’re aiming to make. Traditionally in the UK, bookshops/sellers get a minimum of 33% off the RRP price. Some bigger outlets like Waterstones and Amazon require at least 65% off, so you have to work out if you want to be stocked with them.
If you’ve got some capital behind you, self-publishing is really simple to do. Good luck!