The children’s book market is expanding. According to IBISWorld, “e-readers and other popular devices, like tablets and smartphones, make books easier to buy, read and store. Animation and other extra features made possible by these and other devices are making e-books particularly attractive to children.”
Jane Friedman also reported that “Children are starting to read e-books at a younger age, and the e-book format is growing as a percentage share of all books purchased. (It increased to 21% in 2014, up from 14% in 2013.)” She shared a great chart from Nielsen on where books rank for different age groups. You can see it here.
It may still be easier to go the traditional route to publish children’s books (and by children’s books I mean heavily illustrated books, not YA), but more options are popping up for those who want to self-publish. To get a better feel for how it all works, I self-published my first picture ebook, called Apple’s Adventures. I’m also in the process of editing the second book in my How to Make Ebooks series, which will focus on how to create picture ebooks, also known as fixed format ebooks.
Before deciding whether to submit to a publisher or self-publish, there are a few things to consider. One thing to note is whether you are writing a picture book or an early reader. For how to tell the difference, see The Horn’s Book’s “Early readers vs. Picture books” and Underdown’s “Targeting the Emergent Reader.” Also, although this post is focusing on picture books, children’s books have a wide range. See Operation Awesome’s post on the difference between chapter books and middle grade books.
But the most important thing to focus on is to make sure you have a well-written, polished manuscript.
Here are some resources to help edit your work and choose a path:
- Critiques from Writing for Children and Teens
- Write to Done’s “How to Write Children’s Picture Books“
- Institute of Children’s Literature
- Laura Atkins, Children’s Book Editor
- Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators
- Verla Kay’s Website
The Indie Route
For those who want to publish their own children’s books, I’ve compiled a list of resources below that may help. You should also check out Darcy Pattison’s post on Jane Friedman’s site, “How to Self-Publish Children’s Books Successfully: Notes From the Trenches“, which gives an overview of what to look for in illustrators, why stick to the traditional 32-page format, and more advice. Karen Inglis’ “Self-publishing a picture book” also gives a great overview, including word count advice, how to storyboard, POD, and marketing tips.
If you’re like me and not a professional artist, you should consider hiring or collaborating with someone who can provide the illustrations for your book. Here are some places to look:
- Fiverr (Note: pay starts at $5 per illustration, and can be more depending on how detailed the illustrations are. I’m currently working with an fabulous artist who charges $15 per illustration for my upcoming children’s book, Brontosaurus Does Not Exist?)
- Dribble (where author Hillel Cooperman found an illustrator)
There are two main platforms for indie authors of children’s books: Apple and Amazon.
One of the best things about children’s ebooks, a.k.a. fixed format ebooks, is the ability to make them read aloud to you on an iPad. (According to a press release on DBW, kids have an easier time reading when the story is read to them by an iPad.) To learn how to make a book read aloud, read my article on EPUBZone, “Adding Media Overlays to a Children’s Ebook Title.”
Amazon currently does not support read aloud, but it does have an incredibly easy tool where you can drag and drop pictures and words to create your ebook for Kindle. It’s called Kindle Kids Book Creator.
Though not as big as Apple and Amazon, Magicblox is a site where you can upload your work and be paid based on monthly reading performances. You can use them to network with libraries, schools, and publishers.
The way to market children’s books is different from adult books. Usually, you are marketing to the parents of your target audience. To help get the word out, reach out to children’s book bloggers. KidLitosphere is a great resource for finding them. However, DBW reported in 2013 that parents do listen to their kids when it comes to choosing books for them.
The Traditional Route
For those who would prefer to go the traditional route and find a publisher, below are some publishers that take submissions. One thing to note is that you don’t necessarily need an agent to find a publisher. If you do want an agent, you can try Writer’s House. If you don’t want to use an agent, check out Writer’s Digest’s “How to Sell Your Manuscript Without an Agent” for tips.
- Albert Whitman & Company
- EDC Publishing
- Castlebridge Books
- Holiday House
- Painted Words
- Action Publishing
- Flash Light Press
- Xist Publishing
Other children’s book publishers (that don’t have submission pages but may help give you an idea of what the marketplace is looking for):
- Blue Apple Books
- Publisher’s Archive (for a longer list)
- Jacketflap (more resources)
- Lee & Low
- Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Good children’s writing is not just limited to books. There are magazines, blogs, and other places where you can sell your stories. Evelyn B. Christensen has compiled a list of markets here. Molly Blaisdell also has a list.
And if you want to try and find a career in children’s writing, check out the Children’s Book Council.
Children’s Book Apps
One more thing to keep in mind about children’s stories is the app market.
Dashka Slater has a great interview with an app author, called “The Many Paths to Publication Part 6: An Interview with Tim McCanna,” where the author talks about publishing his book as an app.