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How Do I Publish a Children's Book for Free

By Dakotah Jennifer

The Children’s Book industry is currently expanding with more and more diverse authors putting their work on the market. Though it is a bit of a smaller industry compared to others, it is ever-growing. The Publishing industry is already difficult and in such a small market, things can get muddled. Here are some important tips to help you get started in the publishing world!

First, you should read up on important foundational information. It is important to be prepared, so make sure you take steps to understand your audience, research your market, get feedback from others in your sector, and become acquainted with the children’s book writing community. Whether you're publishing within a publishing house or by yourself online, it’s important to educate yourself on the must-know details.

There are many ways to publish a children’s book for free, first, we’ll tackle the ways to publish a children’s book not for free. Companies like Blurb and Lulu can help you get your book laid out and printed, but it is still your responsibility to pay for the copies (which are usually only sold in bulk), sell them, and get your profit margin.

A 5 by 8-inch softcover book starts at $3.99 for 24 pages and charges five cents per extra page and that number steadily climbs if you want images with color. Lulu has a global distribution option, but the costs are so high you’d have to make a 20-page picture book cost thirty dollars to make fifty cents. Next is BookBaby, a custom book printing service.

So, here are the best cash-free and hassle-free choices:

Finding an Agent: Often, an agent makes it way easier to break into the market. Though it is less common, there are agents for children’s books! Agents like Ethan Ellenberg, Betsy Amster, and Scott Miller look for Children’s Fiction. For help on finding an agent, check out this article!

Submit Directly: Some smaller publishers take direct submissions. They’re not too hard to find, but publishers like Wilson Book Group, Pelican Publishing Company, MB Publishing, Albert Whitman & Company, and Flashlight Press are just a few that take submissions. Most ask for an outline, a cover letter, a summary, or even the full manuscript. If you’re interested in picture books specifically, there’s a great list here.

Self-Publishing: Self-publishing is a great option if you have already generated an audience and community that would support and spread your work, or if you are ready to get your work out into the world ASAP. Zetta Elliott, a self-published children’s book author, was tired of rejection and decided to publish herself.

“My first traditionally published book with ‘Lee & Low’ won several awards, but I couldn’t get an agent or interest editors in my twenty other manuscripts. Most of the writers I know who self-publish are people of color who have been systematically excluded from the traditional publishing community.” Sites like Draft2Digital, Amazon KDP, BookBaby, and Barnes & Noble Press are great self-publishing platforms that take a percentage of your sales but don’t ask for any up-front costs.

○ Draft2Digital: Through this platform, you can publish your book to sites like Amazon, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Scribd, and more. They take 15% of your net royalties.

○ Amazon KDP: This platform can publish to all Amazon sites (even internationally). If you are a numbers person like me, here’s the compensation outline for publishing on Amazon sites: when your book starts selling you will earn 60% in royalties, but you will have to subtract the printing price ($0.85 + ([page count] * $0.012)), then add in the expanded distribution, and you can make around 40% of the original price.

○ Barnes & Noble Press: With Barnes and Noble Press, authors make 65% of the set ebook price, and 35% of the retail & distribution price.

Whether you want to aim your work at a big publishing house, or you want to use a free online self-publishing service, there are pros and cons on both sides. If you want help assessing those, you can read our article How to Get a Book Published for the First Time. In the meantime, write and edit your draft, read up on other authors, and do some agent research—the publishing world is your oyster.

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