Children's Book Self-Publishing:
Don't Do It

Self-publishing your children's book can sound pretty appealing

Note: This page contains what I used to say about publishing your own work yourself. But either times have changed or I have!

There is a section of the site where authors who have self-published childrens books write about their experience. 

I also began Best Children's Books Author Services.

You put your heart into that book. You made it the best it could be. Friends and family are impressed. Children seem to love it.

Yet traditional children's book publishers aren't giving you the time of day.

Still, you believe in yourself and your unpublished children's book.

And now, everywhere you look, you see "publish it yourself" and print on demand being promoted.

Company after company telling you about success story after success story experienced by their do-it-yourself clients.

And it's not just the companies talking!

Sure, you expect a corporation to promote itself. But seemingly unbiased writing websites are promoting them too! So many success stories. Surely you and your book could be one of them, right?

Of course, there are people willing to personally publish a children's book just for the joy of having that book in print! They don't care that it's likely to be an expensive, money-losing venture and they can afford it.

If you're one of those people, more power to you! But this page probably isn't for you. Here's one you might like more: Self-Publishing FAQ.

Self-publishing success - Not very likely

I have some experience with writing and the writing business. I know a little about the internet too. I'm even pretty good with math.

All that knowledge leads me to one conclusion: if you're hoping to make money by publishing your children's book yourself, don't do it. The success rate on such ventures is minuscule...

...unless you're the company offering the self-publishing service.

Here's a fact. You know those "sponsored listings" that appear when you type your keywords into a search engine? The highlighted listings at the top of the page and along the right margin?

Those are companies willing to pay the search engine if you click to their page.

At the moment I'm writing this, there are companies willing to pay as much as $4.85 for your click if you entered the words self-publishing.

Nearly five bucks. For your click!

That's a lot. For comparison, I checked the click price for the term buy books. Heck, if you've already made the decision to buy, companies like Amazon must really want your click, right?

The most anyone is willing to pay for that search term is 67 cents.

What does it say that your click is worth 7 times more to a book publisher than a bookseller?

It says that this is a high profit business... for the companies.

It's even more high profit if they can find writers and illustrators interested in publishing their own picture books because printing illustrations is way more expensive than printing just text.

"But what about all those success stories?" you might wonder.

I don't call those success stories. I call them lottery winners


Sure, there are some success stories, but only a few. That's why the same authors and titles keep getting cited as examples.

(Frankly, I was having trouble finding any examples of successfully self-published picture books until this very smart author contacted me.)

Put these "success stories" up against the hundreds of thousands of people who have tried it without success and you'll see why I call them lottery winners!

In fact, the "poster boy" of self-published authors, Richard Paul Evans, writer of the highly successful The Christmas Box, had this to say in an online interview about his experience:

"In studying self-publishing, you will see both history and the law of chance aren't on your side."

Hmm. And that's from one of the most successful self-published authors in history.

I just tried another experiment. I typed self-publishing successes into my favorite search engine and got 88 hits. Then I typed self-publishing failures and got...

Zero. So do you really think no one fails when they publish their own children's book? Or do you think no one wants to talk about failure?

What the companies don't tell you

You're responsible for:

  • editing
  • proofreading
  • graphics
  • formatting
  • layout
  • exterior design

All of these things should be done by professionals. Instead they'll be left to you, and you'll have the choice of having them done professionally ($$$) or doing them yourself. Do them yourself and you're likely to end up with an unprofessional looking book.

Unprofessional = Nearly impossible to sell

Because you will also be responsible for promoting and selling your book.

So you'll need to be very outgoing and industrious with a lot of free time. Because books don't sell themselves!

You'll need to:

  • Obtain an ISBN number
  • Take care of UPC coding
  • Register the name of your publishing company (you're the publisher, after all!)
  • Establish a legal retail business
  • Eat the cost of book copies for reviewers (and reviewers usually won't review self-published children's books!)
  • Store books so they don't get damaged
  • Handle invoicing and order fulfillment (Do you know what's involved in taking credit card orders and mailing books? It's not fun. Or cheap.)

And that's not all. You'll probably want to:

  • Write and send press releases
  • Handle advertising
  • Arrange promotional appearances for yourself
  • Develop a website and internet promotion campaign
  • Market to bookstores and libraries or pay for professional distribution. (Knowing that, as a self-published children's book, the book will be hard to distribute)
  • Hire an accountant
  • Open a business bank account

You see, the number one thing the companies (and their promoters) don't tell you is...

Books don't sell themselves

That's the big gotcha when you decide to self-publish your children's book.

All the companies will tell you how affordable they are, and they hope to tempt you with the notion that if you can just pull that minimal amount of money together, then you're bound for riches.

But that wasn't how it was even for the success stories. They all had to spend more to produce a presentable book, and then they had to get out there and market it like crazy... and then they had to get lucky as well.

You see, there's only one type of entity out there that's built to make money by publishing children's books. They're called...

...children's book publishers. Not children's book self-publishers. Publishers.

So if you're hoping to break into the business, traditional children's book publishers are where your focus should remain. If not with the children's book that you're currently trying to market, then with the next one you write.

By the way, there's a line of thought that says if you present a publisher with an already printed, i.e. self-published, children's book, they'll be impressed and you'll have a better chance of publishing.

This is myth. What your self-published children's book really says to the publisher is "Every other publisher turned this down."

I know this page probably wasn't fun to read

You were looking for hope. All I provided was a grim outlook. But my grim outlook is only about self-published children's books. I'm certainly not telling you to give up your dreams! In fact...

There are a couple of pages on the site you might find useful. My Am I ready to publish? page helps you consider whether your children's book is really ready to market. If you're sure that it is... children's book publishers page leads you to the absolute best resource for finding the children's book publishers that are right for your book.

You may have been shut out so far by children's book publishers, but I'm betting you missed some.

And if you're wondering whether print on demand is significantly different than self-publishing (it's not), or whether you could hold your children's book publishing costs down by pursuing that option (you can...possibly), then you'll want to check that page out as well.

Keep your head up and, most importantly, keep writing!

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