If you’ve always wanted to write and publish a children’s book, there’s never been a better time! And if you start now, you could be a PUBLISHED AUTHOR by this time next year!
New Year’s Resolution idea anyone?
If you’ve been putting off your dreams of publication because you aren’t sure where to start, you’ve got no more excuses! In this post, we’re keeping it simple and breaking it down into monthly tasks and manageable steps.
Here’s your step-by-step guide to becoming a self-published children's book author in 2024!
January: Write Your Story
After the sound of jingle bells fades away and you’ve eaten the last stale Christmas cookie, open up your laptop and start writing!
Nervous? We’ve got you covered!
These two posts will help you figure out:
If you’ve read the posts above and you still aren’t sure where to start, open a note on your phone and use voice-to- text to tell the story to yourself. Before you know it, you’ll have a rough draft staring back at you.
What’s that? You think it might be…terrible? That’s okay! Really! First drafts are supposed to be bad…that’s why we call them “rough!”
Besides…that’s what February is for!
Once you’ve got the story out of your head and onto the page (or app), it’s time to self-edit. This is where you do everything YOU can do to make the story the best it can be.
Here’s a step-by-step guide that will walk you through the process.
You might feel like you don’t know what you’re doing at this point. That’s okay! The important thing is to try to make the story the best you can on your own so that a professional editor can see your vision. Which brings us to March…
March: Hire a Professional Editor and Choose Your Illustrator
Choose an experienced editor from our FREE Ultimate Resource List and work with them to complete developmental and line editing.
To help you stay on schedule, ask them about their turnaround time up front, but keep in mind that once you get into the editing process, it can take longer than expected! First time authors are often surprised that their story needs 4 (or more!) rounds of feedback before it’s ready to publish. Be open minded and willing to tackle big changes. And be prepared to wait for a week or more between rounds of edits. Don’t worry…that time won’t be wasted! Because while you wait you can…
Start researching illustrators! The average illustrator takes about 6 months to complete a full picture book, so if you want to achieve your goal of being published by the end of the year, you’ll need to find someone who’s open to new projects and who can stick to a timeline. That FREE Ultimate Resource List I mentioned above has some great options!
So, while you’re waiting for your editor to send you feedback, start exploring illustrator portfolios, requesting quotes, and keeping track of availability. Try to have an illustrator chosen by the end of March.
IMPORTANT NOTE: While researching illustrators and getting quotes is great, DO NOT start the illustration process until both developmental and line editing are complete. Trust me. Watch this video where I explain why.
ANOTHER IMPORTANT NOTE: The internet is full of scammers trying to pass off clip art and AI as their own work. If anyone claims they can illustrate your full picture book in less than 3 months, be wary. Quality takes time.
April: Create a Dummy and Storyboard
Hopefully, your editing will be finished sometime this month, and you can finally start planning the layout of your book.
Here’s a post about several ways to create a picture book dummy, which is like a rough draft that shows what text will go on each page and how the illustrations will flow throughout the pages.
Once you’ve got a rough plan, you’ll want to pass the torch to the illustrator so they can create a storyboard. This is where you’ll go back and forth, making sure the illustrator’s vision matches your own. This is not the time to be shy about what you want! It’s better to get things right up front than to have to go back and revise finished illustrations later.
May: Schedule a Formatter/Designer and Create Social Media Accounts
Once the illustrator has taken over, you can expect regular updates and progress reports. In the meantime, reach out to book formatters/designers (if your illustrator doesn’t provide that service) and get on someone’s calendar. Your illustrator should be able to give you a rough completion date, so tell the formatter you’ll be sending over the illustrations around that time.
This month, you can also create social media accounts (if you don’t already have them) and start posting! It’s perfectly fine to use your existing personal accounts. But some authors prefer to create new accounts specifically for their book. Not sure what to post? Here’s a post that will help!
June: Bio, Book Description, ISBN, and Other Metadata
You’ll be busy throughout the summer getting regular updates from the illustrator and posting on social media, so we don’t want to give you too much more to do! But, there are a few things you can do this month that will make the next few months much easier.
Write Your Author Bio. Keep the tone light and kid-friendly, and be sure to mention anything relevant to your book’s specific topic or niche. If you don’t have a good photo that you can use for an author headshot, summer is a great time to take one! (You look so tan!) Hire a pro, or just use your phone!
Write A Book Description. This is the text you’ll use on the back cover of the book or as the product description on Amazon. It should be a brief paragraph that pitches your book to a potential customer quickly and clearly. Why should they read your book? It’s a good idea to read lots of examples and send this to the editor you worked with on the story itself to make sure it’s top notch.
Purchase ISBNs. Bowker is the only legitimate place to purchase ISBNs (International Standard Book Numbers) in the U.S. You’ll need one for each version of the book you plan to publish, (hardback, paperback, eBook, etc.) so buy a multipack for the best value.
Research Metadata. Use Publisher Rocket to research the keywords and categories that would be best for listing your book on Amazon. You’ll need them soon!
July: Create A Marketing Plan
You didn’t think we forgot about marketing, did you? Learning to market is a HUGE part of becoming an author!
A marketing plan is a detailed list of all the things you’re planning to do to spread the word about your book, along with the dates you plan to do them. There are hundreds of ways to market a book! From Amazon ads, to virtual book tours, to local in-person events, your marketing plan should include a variety of approaches. Watch this video to learn more!
August: Build a Launch Team
A key component of your marketing plan should be a launch team. This is a group of people who will support you on launch week by leaving reviews on Amazon and sharing your book on social media. And now is the perfect time to start gathering their email addresses and getting them hyped up about your book baby!
Think of this as your own personal fan club. You want to make them feel special and give them an inside peek at the book making process. Share sneak peeks of illustrations, create freebies for them to download, etc. Then, when release day comes, they’ll be your biggest cheerleaders - and hopefully leave you some glowing Amazon reviews!
Here’s a post with all the details!
September: Finalize Illustrations and Send Them To The Formatter
You’re getting so close!
If your illustrator is on track, you should be getting your completed illustrations sometime this month. Send them to the formatter promptly and be available to work with them as needed. In most cases, the formatting/design process shouldn’t take more than 3-4 weeks. Which is good, because while our goal is to make you a published author by the end of the year, ideally we’d like this book to be released in time for people to order it as a Christmas gift. Which means…we need to release by early November!
Talk to your formatter and pick a release date!
October: Upload to Amazon and Order Hard Copies
If it feels like you are crazy busy this month…it’s because you are!
While you are continuing to post regularly on social media and build up your launch team, this month you also need to:
Get the finalized files from the formatter and upload them to Amazon. Make sure to use that metadata you researched back in June to give your book the best chance to succeed!
Find a printer with quick turnaround time to print a few hard copies for any local release events. These won’t be cheap enough for you to make much of a profit per book, and you can place a larger, bulk order from a cheaper printer later. (On a one year timeline, there just isn’t time to order from China, for example.) But it’s nice to have a few printed copies on hand for launch events. Formax has a 8-12 day turnaround and is U.S. based, so it's a good option.
November: Release Month
Send your launch team their free digital copy, and remind them to leave reviews and share!
Post on social media DAILY during launch week.
Finalize and attend any in-person launch events!
You did it! You’re a published author!
Keep posting regularly on social media, but take a break and enjoy the holidays and look back at all you accomplished.
And rest up...
Because in January…it’s time to start on Book 2!