Updated: Feb 18
If you're wondering how to self-publish a children's book, it's simpler than you'd think. In this post, we're going to break down the two best options.
Remember: when you self-publish, you are the publisher. Avoid searching online for a "self-publisher" because, guess what? It’s YOU!
How do you become your own publisher?
There are two main routes to self-publish your children's book: offset printing and print-on-demand. Keep in mind that both of these options have advantages and drawbacks, so consider each one carefully before deciding which is best for you. Also, remember that some authors choose to use these routes together! We'll talk more about that later.
Option 1: Offset Printing
Offset printing is when you order your book in large quantities (1,000+) from a printer and then distribute them yourself online. To sell these copies on Amazon, you can use a Seller Central account or Vendor Central.
Because Vendor Central is currently invitation only, we're going to focus on Seller Central!
How does Seller Central work?
There are two Seller Central plans:
1. Individual plan
Ideal for someone releasing a book for fun, for friends and family, or "just because"!
Can sell up to 40 units (books) per month
Doesn't provide advertising tools or other analytics
Not beneficial from a long-term business standpoint
$.99 per item sold (plus other selling fees)
2. Professional plan
Ideal for someone who wants to be an author as their main career/income source!
Provides tools for optimizing sales page, setting shipping fees, adding additional users to account, advertising, and more
Beneficial for long-term business
$39.99 per month (plus other selling fees)
*You can read more about the two plans here.*
Seller Central Fulfillment
When using Seller Central, you can choose between self-fulfillment or FBA (Fulfilled By Amazon).
⭐️ With self-fulfillment, you are responsible for fulfilling the order. That means that when a customer makes an Amazon purchase, you get a notification, package the book, and ship it to the customer.
If you have an individual plan, you have to ship orders at Amazon's set rates. If you have a professional plan, you can set your own shipping rates. Read more about those rates here.
⭐️ With FBA, you send your books to Amazon, and when a customer places an order, Amazon packages the book and ships it to the customer.
While this is much less work on your part, it is more expensive than self-fulfillment. This is why you need to be careful about your math when choosing FBA. Here is a breakdown of the shipping fees with a professional plan.
For every product sold on Amazon, there's a referral fee, since you're using their platform. For books, that's 15% + $1.80 closing fee. There's also a warehouse fee for using their facilities (if you choose FBA) as well as inventory fees and high-volume listing fees. You can read more about additional fees here.
Seller Central Revenue Calculator
It's important to consider the fees when pursuing offset printing. While the profit potential can be higher, you don't want to dig a hole with expenses. Many authors are successful with Seller Central accounts, but everyone's cost to print and ship is different. That's why you need to do your own math! Use this calculator to help you estimate your revenue with FBA.
✅ Notable Pro of Offset Printing
Authors love offset printing to self-publish because it's much more customizable than other options. You can print end pages and add UV foil to your cover. You can print any format, add stickers to the back, and whatever binding you want. You can even change the paperweight and thickness of your book. Whatever you need, you can do it!
❌ Notable Con of Offset Printing
All that customization comes with a big price tag. Your cost per book will be low (usually between $1-5 per hardcover) because you're purchasing in bulk, but that means you're paying a large sum upfront. You’ll be shelling out several thousand dollars for thousands of books!
Keep in mind that the more copies you order, the cheaper it will be per book. However, don't forget to factor in the cost of warehousing fees, shipping fees, and any distribution fees.
Option 2. Print-On-Demand
Print-on-demand (POD) companies require you to upload your book files to their platform, and they make your book available in online stores. (These stores include major retailers like Amazon, Barnes & Noble.com, Target.com, and Walmart.com.) When a customer orders your book, the print-on-demand company prints and ships it, and then you get paid according to their schedule.
Two of the best POD companies are KDP and IngramSpark. KDP stands for Kindle Direct Publishing and is owned by Amazon, while IngramSpark is owned by Ingram Content Group. Both have their own pros and cons as their distribution channels work differently and their offerings aren't the same.
⭐️ IngramSpark: Prints and distributes ebooks, paperbacks, and hardcovers that are 24 pages or longer. They offer select trim sizes, gloss or matte covers, and full color interior
⭐️ KDP: Offers ebook and paperback distribution (and offers bonus promotions) but does not currently have an option for hardcover. Several months ago, they released a hardcover option, but it requires a minimum of 75 pages (which doesn't often work for children's books) and few trim sizes
⭐️ IngramSpark: Distributes to hundreds of online stores, including Amazon. Also puts your book in Ingram's database, which allows schools, libraries, and bookstores to order your book at a wholesale discount
⭐️ KDP: Only distributes to Amazon unless you enroll in their expanded distribution platform. However, their expanded distribution platform actually uses Ingram, but without all of the benefits and with a higher cost
Personally, for my print-on-demand books, I use KDP and IngramSpark together!
Here's what I do:
Ebook - KDP only
Paperback - KDP and IngramSpark
Hardcover - IngramSpark
(As soon as KDP has an option for hardcover picture books, I'll add that as well!)
You'll notice from the picture below that all three formats sync to the same Amazon page, despite being printed and distributed by different platforms. As long as your metadata is the same across the board, the different book formats will link together like this.
✅ Notable Pro of POD
If you don't want to worry about inventory or distribution, POD may be the option for you! Your distributor will get you into online stores without any further work from you. You'll be able to focus entirely on writing and marketing (perhaps by email?), without having to take time to do these extra steps.
❌ Notable Con of POD
The POD companies determine the specs of your book. You can't have a dust jacket, for example, or pick your paper weight; instead, your options are limited to whatever the company offers (which usually isn't a ton).
Pick which one works for you... Or maybe both!
There are lots of ways that this can be done, but the most common I've seen is to do offset printing for hardcover and POD for paperback. By using both options together, you're able to customize your book's specs and distribution, while also saving some money. Sure, it takes more work to keep on top of both... But it could be worth it!
At the end of the day, you need to figure out what’s right for you. That could change day-to-day, depending on the industry, your financial situation, or your goals for your writing career. Whatever you do, think it through and be confident in your decision. You know you, your goals, and your book best, so do the research and then trust your gut!
Have you used offset printing or POD? Comment below to tell us about your experience!
And as always, if you need help, reach out! Our coaches are bestselling authors who know the ins and outs of all things publishing.
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