How to Publish a Children’s Book in 5 Steps in 2021

Orange children's book

Eric Carle earns anywhere from $5 million to $8 million a year.

If you don’t know who that is – you’ll recognize the book he wrote.

‘The Hungry Caterpillar’ is one of the world’s most beloved children’s books – and it’s also one of the most profitable.

Not bad for writing about a caterpillar who eats everything in sight!

You might be considering branching into children’s publishing yourself – and why not? You’re creative, imaginative, and pretty skilled linguistically.

The only thing is – you’re not sure how to get started.

Don’t worry – I’ve got you covered. It’s pretty easy to publish a children’s book – and the only real investment is time

So, let’s get to it!

How to Publish a Children’s Book

Here are 5 easy steps on how to get a children’s book published this year.

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1. Decide on the genre

The first thing you need to do if you want to publish a children’s book is decide on the age of your target audience.

Children’s books vary from being simple picture books for toddlers to being young adult fiction novels.

There are the main categories for children’s books:

  • Picture Books/ Early Readers
  • Picture books typically have very few words – around 1000 or less.

    This is a great option if you want to focus on illustration, and hate writing. These books usually have rhyming or repetition, and teach children about something like colors or animals.

    ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ by Eric Carle is a classic example of a picture book.

  • Chapter Books

    These books focus more on written content than images and should have short, easy-to-read language and plotlines.

    They’re usually between 5000 to 10,000 words.

    A great example of a chapter book is ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox’ by Roald Dahl.

  • Middle-Grade Books

    Also known as ‘Tween’ books, these should be aimed at ages 10 – 13. These books are usually between 30,000 – 50,000 words, so expect to spend a lot more time working on these.

    The language should still be easy to read, and these books should focus on exciting and interesting storylines.

    Stories that perform well in this category are fiction (especially magic), ‘coming-of-age’ books, and stories inspired by historical events. 

    A popular example of a great tween book series is ‘Percy Jackson’  by Rick Riordan.

  • Young Adult Fiction

    This is for children aged 13 and upwards. These books are a lot more sophisticated and are usually between 50,000 and 100,000 words.

    Unless you hire a ghostwriter to help with this, don’t expect to write one of these quickly.I would actually avoid trying to publish one of these books unless you’ve already been working on a manuscript for a while.

    An example of a best-selling book series in this category is ‘His Dark Materials’ by Phillip Pullman.

Once you’ve identified the age range you’re targeting, it’s time to do a little research.

Research

Go through Amazon’s bestseller list for your age range, or see what’s selling well in bookstores. Read reviews and check out forums to see what parents loved and what kids loved.

(If you can get to one) see what is being positioned at the front of bookstores, or on display tables, to get an idea of what’s popular right now.

You can also just check their websites to see what’s listed as a bestseller:

Books for sale digitally
Use bestsellers lists to help you get ideas to publish a children’s book. 

Once you have an idea of what will be profitable, it’s time to decide on the plot of your story.

This can be hard or easy, depending on how creative you are and whether you already have some ideas stored away.

If in doubt, aim for younger children, as the plot doesn’t need to be complicated to keep them entertained.

You’ll also need to decide on your style of writing (so whether you’ll use poetry, repetition, 1st person, etc.)

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2. Write the book

This next step is definitely the most time-consuming.

Obviously, depending on whether you’re planning on writing a picture book or a full young adult novel, you’ll have more or less work.

Consider hiring a ghostwriter

If you have a great idea or you’ve already been working on a manuscript, this shouldn’t be too hard; but if you are starting from scratch, it might be a good idea to hire a ghostwriter.

You can find ghostwriters who have a lot of experience on freelancing platforms like Fiverr and if they’ve written books before, you’ll be spared most of the editing.

(However, it’s important to bear in mind here that ghostwriters for books don’t come cheap; especially if you’re looking for something in the 50,000-word mark.)

Once you’ve written your book, you’ll need to get some constructive feedback.

There are a few places you can go to find this:

  • Other Authors

    You can reach out to other children’s authors to see if they have any advice.

    Join Facebook or networking groups to meet people in your genre, or send direct emails to some of your favourite authors.

  • Ask Parents/ Children you know

    Probably your best source of inspiration – use people that you know to help you work out what works and what doesn’t.

  • Online parenting groups

    Join groups linked to parenting blogs, advice, or general information, and ask them for their thoughts about your book.

Once you have some idea about what’s working, you’re still not quite ready to publish. You’ll probably need a few more drafts before you have anything ready to send to a publisher or an editor.

Only when you’re truly satisfied with the content should move onto the next step.

3. Edit and add pictures

How to edit a children’s book manuscript?

(Freelancer, Upwork, or Fiverr are great resources for this!)

The first thing you’ll want to do when finishing your book is to hire an editor to make sure everything is flawless.

No matter how many times you edit something yourself, having an outside opinion is invaluable.

You can easily find freelance editors on sites like Freelancer, Upwork, or Fiverr, with rates that fit a variety of budgets.

If you’re planning on working with an agent or a publisher, you’re ready to send off your manuscript.

Assuming that you want to publish a children’s book yourself, however, you have a little more work to do here.

If you want to include pictures (advisable if your book is aimed at younger children) you’ll probably have to hire an illustrator to help you.

How to hire an illustrator for your children’s book

Hiring an illustrator is easy.

You can do so using the freelancing sites mentioned above, with prices varying depending on how much you need doing.

Fiverr home page
Use a freelancer from Fiverr to help you publish a children’s book.

If you’re using Fiverr for this work consider sharing as much information as you can before making your choice on illustrator.

Review their previous work. Ask them questions. Have them send you a sample to see if you’re both on the same page.

My recommendation is to find an illustrator who is experienced and charges between $5 and $20 per image. (Quality, cheap designers do exist. All of my infographics, for example, were made by a designer on Fiverr for $5 a piece.)

How to design a book cover for your children’s book

You should also consider working with a graphic designer for your cover. (Although you can create your own through ‘Photoshop’ or ‘Canva’.)

(Remember that illustrations and cover designs need to be exceptionally high quality if you want to publish a children’s book on Amazon. This is why it’s often better to hire a professional.)

Once you’re sure you’ve got everything in order, you’re ready to get published.

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4. Publish with children’s book publishers

As mentioned earlier in the article, there are a few different ways you can get published. Let’s break down what you need to know for each:

Publishing a children’s book via self publishing on amazon

This is an easy method – you just need to get signed up with KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing).

Amazon has a great step-by-step guide that shows you how to upload your manuscript and illustrations, add your book information (like target audience, price, and genre) and how to add a cover.

Publishing a children’s book through an agent

If you want to avoid any hassle like finding an illustrator, this is the best way to do it.

An agent will help you connect you with the right publishers, and get you printed faster.

They’ll also help negotiate a good deal for you with publishers, which would otherwise be difficult for someone breaking into the industry.

Most agents will take you on for free – if they ask for money, drop them immediately.

The only thing you’ll need to do is research a few different agents and send them ‘query letters’.

These letters just need to explain who you are, what your book is about, and why you stand out against other authors.

Just remember to only contact agents that you KNOW work with children’s books, otherwise, you’re wasting everyone’s time.

Publishing a children’s book directly through a publisher

This is perfect if you want help with marketing and hiring freelancers, but want to minimize the number of royalties you lose. But finding a children’s book publishers accepting submissions can be a challenge.

You will need to put a lot of research in here because each publisher has different rules.

Not only will you have to check their policies, you’ll have to check them specifically for your country.

For example, Penguin accepts unsolicited submissions in some countries, but in the USA they require you to have an agent before you pitch.

Google search example
It’s easy to find a publisher to help you publish a children’s book.

That being said, there are a few things you can do to increase your chances of being accepted by a publisher:

  • Aim for smaller publishers

    Smaller publishers equal less competition. An unagented submission is far more likely to get accepted through a company like this, and they’ll also have more time to work with you through the process.

  • Subscribe to newsletters and blogs

    There are several blogs and newsletters that are specifically designed to help children’s authors.

    Authors Publish Magazine has a great newsletter naming publishers, and Picture Book Plane and Published to Death have detailed publisher directories on their blogs.

Once you’ve found a publisher, or you have a book up on Amazon, the last step is to help people find it.

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5. Market your book

Regardless of how you decide to publish a children’s book, you will have to do some marketing.

Obviously, if you self-publish via Amazon, all of the marketing will be on you and it will take a lot more work.

With an agent or a publisher, you have the support of an established company and a website with traffic behind you. That, and someone else with a vested interest in your book making sales.

If you plan to market on your own, though, this section is very important.

There are a few ways you can go about marketing your book:

  • Social media

    Social media is today’s best way to get free advertising. You should start by creating social media profiles and business pages for your book (especially on Facebook and Pinterest because these are the most used by parents)

    Look into joining Facebook parenting and children’s groups, or utilize hashtags on Twitter and Instagram.

  • Blogs and influencers

    The parenting niche is one of the most popular niches for blogging. It’s also one of the absolute best places for you to promote your book.

    Contact bloggers and influencers, letting them know you’re a new children’s author, and that you’d like to send them a free copy of your book to review.

    This kind of publicity is priceless because they’ll likely have thousands of views every day, and their own social media where they can promote your work.

  • Email lists

    Sending out an email list can help get your book on the radar.

    You can either do this via an influencer or blogger, or by creating your own email list (a great tool for this is Mail Chimp)

    You can send an email to all of your ‘parent’ friends, asking them to forward it to other parents, or include any leads you get from social media or local schools and libraries.

  • Schools and libraries

    Contact schools and libraries, introducing yourself and your book, and see if they’ll agree to add your book to their collection.

  • Reviews

    Reviews are absolutely key to having a successful children’s book. You need to make it as easy as possible for readers to leave reviews, whether that’s on your publisher’s website, in bookstores, or on your Amazon page.

    If you really want to take marketing your book seriously, you can even set up your own website for it, that leads people to your Amazon page, tells them about the book, and lets them leave reviews.

    (You can create a website with Bluehost in a few hours, and you can get started for just $3.95/month via my link.)

  • Optimize your Amazon page

    Make sure that your Amazon author page is flawless.

    This includes writing an interesting book description and author bio and including keywords wherever you can.

    Amazon is pretty competitive for books, so do everything in your power to promote your listing.

  • Advertise on Amazon

    Amazon’s advertising system is pretty simple to set up. To do so, go to the Amazon advertising page to open an account. 

    From here, I recommend setting up an “auto_dynamic” ad. Amazon’s Ai will use the information on your book’s page to target customers. Start with $5/day. You’ll know if your ad is working if your ACOS (advertising cost of sales) is below ~60.

    blue and orange lines on a chartHere’s the ACOS for my “auto” ad for T1D Pro. You can see that the ACOS is quite low, meaning that the percentage of my sale spent on advertising is low.

Now you’re all set to sit back and wait for sales.

You should stay proactive throughout the process, and consistently work to improve your listing and your presence in the literary world.

If you’re self-publishing, keep trying new marketing methods to see what works and what doesn’t. It will take a few months of trial and error before they start to pick up. But once they do, you can start to think about a second book!

Tips on Publishing a Children’s Book (Do’s & Don’ts)

Do: 

  • Take inspiration from other authors
  • Of course, plagiarism is a no-no, but looking to other authors to help you along the way is fine.
  • You do need to be creative and stand out. But it’s just good business sense to see what’s selling and popular and steer towards it.
  • Make a list of authors you enjoy or admire, and work out what you’d like to emulate. Do you like their style of writing? Their use of dialogue? The way they rhyme?
  • Keep trying new things until you find your own voice.
  • Take your time getting it right
  • If you want to publish a children’s book, do NOT expect to get rich overnight.
  • This is something that requires a lot of research, a lot of marketing, and mostly, a lot of patience.
  • Expect to re-write your books multiple times, or to wait for months for consistent sales. You should go into this with a realistic mindset, or you’ll give up at the first hurdle.
  • Take your time negotiating royalties.
  • If you work with an agent, you’ll have someone to help you through the process.
  • If not, make sure that you do your research. Royalties are usually split between the publisher, the illustrator, and the author.
  • As a new author, you might not know much about this, and it’s easy for you to be taken advantage of.
  • Get to know the average pay in your genre and book type, and negotiate a good rate for yourself.

Don’t:

  • Pay anyone to get your book published.
  • If an agent or even a publisher asks you to pay for a publication, it’s a massive red flag.
  • A barista wouldn’t pay a customer to drink coffee, and it’s the same principle for an author.
  • If they don’t appreciate your work or value your book, just take your business elsewhere.
  • You’ll eventually find someone willing to take a chance on you – AND pay you for the opportunity!
  • Publish a children’s book if you’re not passionate about it.
  • If you don’t care about children or books, you’ll lose interest (and possibly time and money) before hitting success.
  • If you just want to make some extra money, there are a lot of better ways that offer higher returns. (Like starting a blog)
  • Take rejection personally
  • You will face a lot of rejection as a new author.
  • Everyone knows that J.K Rowling was rejected 12 times before Harry Potter was accepted. Expect to experience the same.
  • Don’t see it as a reflection of your skill or talent; you just might be a good fit for that publisher.

(If you ARE extremely sensitive to rejection and criticism, opt for an agent to help you. As they’re negotiating with publishers on your behalf, they’ll deal with the brunt of the rejection for you.)

How do I know if I should publish a children’s book?

Of course, it’s nice to make some extra money.

BUT. You should ONLY publish a children’s book if it’s something you’re excited about.

If you have kids, LIKE kids, or are a naturally gifted storyteller, it’s right for you.

If you just like money – it’s probably not the best idea.

Publishing a children’s book is hard work, and there’ll be a lot of ups and downs on the path to success. You’re unlikely to get past the first rejection letter if it’s not something you genuinely love.

If you’re often jotting down ideas for stories or characters, and it’s been a secret dream for years, keep reading.

But if you just want some extra income, check out some other side jobs I’ve written about that are a little easier instead. 

How much can I make if I publish a children’s book? 

Obviously, as with anything, how much you’ll make will be directly linked to how successful your book is.

If they’re going through a publisher, most new authors get an advance somewhere between $5000 and $10,000. The royalties are pretty low here too, with an average of 7% on print books and 25% on eBooks.

However, if you decide to self-publish somewhere like Amazon, all the money you earn is your own. The downside is, though, that selling and marketing on Amazon is a lot more work, so you might not make as much as you would with a publishing company.

Should I use a publisher, an agent, or self-publish?

When you’re ready to get your manuscript sent out, you’ll come to a crossroads.

There are three avenues you can go down if you want to publish a children’s book; self-publishing, via an agent, or directly through publishers.

  • Self-publishing via Amazon.

    This is my preferred method. This is the fastest way to get published, and if you stick to kindle, can save you the cost of an ISBN and barcode. You’ll also get 100% of the profits from your book.

    However, you will have to do a lot of the work without an agent (like illustration, cover design, marketing, etc.)

  • Publishing Through an Agent.

    An agent will take care of everything for you and help you find a publisher.

    They WILL, however, get a cut of your profits, as will the publisher.

  • Contacting Publishers Directly.

    This means you’ll have to find out who accepts new authors and pitch to them.

    This lets you cut out the middleman, saves you a lot of hassle with design and marketing, and brings you a good cut of the profits.

Conclusion

Whatever you choose will be based on the type of book and business model you’re looking at.

I would personally recommend an agent – even if you have to share the royalties, you’ll save on all the upfront costs like paying freelancers, and you’ll avoid the hassle of buying ISBNs and pitching publishers.

Once you’ve got all the hard decisions out of the way, you’re ready to take your first step towards publishing a children’s book.

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Hopefully now you know exactly how to publish a children’s book, success doesn’t feel so far away anymore.

I’d love to hear about your books and your journey to becoming a children’s author, so let me know in the comments!

About Matt Collins

With a rapidly growing team of readers, my mission is to teach hungry professionals how to maximize their net worth with scalable side hustles and responsible financial management practices.

My reputation is of the utmost importance to me, which is why I only provide completely honest, 100% true, unbiased recommendations for systems and software I know and trust.

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