The Process

by | Sep 8, 2021

The process to write a children’s picture book is hard, but rather attainable.  These are the steps that I took to get to the stage of publication.  My books are self-published, which means I retain all the rights of ownership.  It also means that I am responsible for ensuring it gets printed & marketed properly.

  1. Write the story.
  2. Determine the basic layout for the book. Children’s books often come in 32 pages, including the cover pages.  The number of pages must be divisible by 4.  Don’t stress over this.  You can add more pages that are not the story.  It can add to the experience.  I added in an advertisement for my next book and my favourite smoothie recipe, but kids also love mini-games, like mazes or connect the dots.  You will want to design your layout with 2 pages directly next to each other.  Start with a blank page (unless you want to print on the back of the cover page, which will cost a bit extra -duplexing) and then your Title page will be next.  Refer to the screenshot of my Illustrator workspace.  This is what it currently looks like.  The text on the right is me drafting up a synopsis of the book.  I am doing it here to try and be consistent in tone and voice between my synopsis and story. Your last page will also be blank (unless you want to do duplexing).
  3. By hand, draw out the images you see in your head that tell the story you want to tell.
  4. Take a picture of each photo with your smartphone.  They should automatically upload to your google photos (or equivalent cloud photo storage).
  5. Once at your computer (Because all the other steps can be done wherever you want) copy and paste the photo of your drawings into Illustrator.  You may need to learn how to use Illustrator and Photoshop if you don’t know the tools, but if you are using these tools remember to set each page you are working with to CMKY.  These are the settings that will allow the colours to accurately print in your book.  RBG is for digital screens only, and you will need to use this setting when creating a website, and marketing material.
  6. At this stage, I get a bit inconsistent with my routine. The best part of writing books for me is that I don’t have to stick to dull tasks.  I can skip back and forth to accommodate my goldfish brain.  I am allowed to chase the dopamine – progress each day is key.  Forcing dull tasks means I am more likely to procrastinate the process.  I REALLY love this process and have consistently done it every day in some way since I began drawing Little Dragon Gets Heartburn. I draw out the pictures that make me smile and giggle first, paying little attention to how things sit on the page.  Perfection can wait. When all the pictures are drawn I find creative ways to set them on the page.
  7. Perfection waited.  It takes me weeks to figure out exactly how I want everything.  This is the equivalent of installing baseboards and trim in a house.  It takes time, but it makes all the difference in the world.
  8. Convert to JPEG.  I have to convert each page I work with to JPEG, because of lines and imperfections that occur in the format that my printer wants.  They request a certain PDF format that leaves these lines every time.  From what I hear, these lines rarely show up in the print, however, I do not want to have to worry about that – so I ensure it doesn’t show up in my PDF by doing the JPEG conversion first.
  9. Get an ISBN for FREE.
  10. Get the book printed!  I use IngramSpark as my printer, as they have a global distribution network (which includes Amazon) and reasonable prices.  I can choose to print, distribute, or both through IngramSpark.  Thinking that I could reduce the cost of my books by buying locally I contacted local book printers for some quotes.  They were more than double what I am paying through IngramSpark, even with the shipping and handling taken into consideration. When you enable distribution through Ingramspark, you can pick whatever wholesale discount you choose.  The standard recommendation is 55% if you want a lot of wholesalers to take a risk on your book.  I highly recommend putting no when they ask if you want the books to be returnable.  I might change this if my books are blowing up and I can handle a huge return in sales.  Since I am in Canada, I would take a hit on the shipping and handling cost to have the books returned to me, so the option to have the books destroyed is the smartest one if you go this route, but for me personally destroying books is cringeworthy so I would rather say no to returns, even if that means the big wholesalers like my past employers (Indigo/Chapters) won’t take my book on.
  11. You will have to approve your E-Proof before you can have your book printed.  It is recommended to purchase one book to check out the print quality before you make another order.  I, unfortunately, did not do this as I was trying to get the books shipped before everyone back to school.  I did a short run of 25 books as I was rather confident with the process.  I really hope I wasn’t wrong.
  12. Wait some more.