How to Self-Publish a Children’s Paperback Book

Updated on February 21, 2019
Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok published five paperback books and has received a Lifetime Achievement Award from HubPages for his writing expertise.

This is a detailed review explaining how to self-publish a children’s paperback book and let Amazon handle printing and order fulfillment at no cost to you.

How I Began Writing Children's Books, and You Can Too

I once wrote a couple of silly stories for the fun of it. I never considered them useful as children’s stories at the time. However, years later I reexamined my stories and gave them a new purpose.

I reworked the stories. I added illustrations as a visual for children to appreciate and included inspirational concepts to make a young reader stop and think. With these changes, I transformed my stories into content for two children’s books.

If you have an idea for a story that's simple, but with a trace of influential content for learning, you might have something that serves the purpose.

The next step is to put it all together as a physical book. It doesn’t need to be long since it’s meant for a young reader. If the result is 20 or 30 pages, that works just fine.

Self Publishing and Order Fulfillment

I’ll show you how to create and self-publish your own paperback book for Children with Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) platform.1

After you’re done, Amazon will list your book for sale on their site. They will also print and ship when people order. Your royalty for the sales will be deposited into your designated bank account, or you can have them mail you a check.

Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) platform is free to use to create your own book.

What Is the Difference Between a Publisher and a Printer?

A publisher usually offers all the necessary resources to sell your book. They do the marketing in addition to arranging the printing. You can use those services, but they can get costly with no guarantees of success. As an alternative, you can do it yourself.

When you are the publisher, you need a printer. KDP is the printer and you are considered an “Independent Publisher”.

You decide if you want to hire a publisher or if you are comfortable with the burden of marketing by yourself. You can always just let Amazon sales occur when people searching for books stumble upon your book. It's all dependent on how much effort you want to put into it.

A website or blog is a good start, in addition to posting in social media. There are a lot of resources online that you can search for to learn how to market your book.

What’s the Cost of Using KDP?

It costs nothing to use KDP to create and print your book as an independent publisher. Amazon makes money from the sales of your book and pays you royalties based on the difference between your chosen retail price and their printing costs.

When you purchase your own copies, you only pay printing costs, which I find to be very reasonable. For example, a 55-page book with black & white interior is $2.15 and with color interior the cost is $4.70. The retail price is dependent on how much you want for your royalty.

Creating Your Manuscript

You can use any decent word processor to create a doc file of your manuscript. I like to use MS Word. It has a built in spelling and grammar checker. It also shows you the grade level of you finish product, which is important when writing for children. You need to be sure you keep your writing at the proper grade level for a child.

MS Word also has built in formatting tools, such as:

  • Generate and include page numbers.
  • Include the title and/or chapter name on all headers or footers (if desired).
  • Include a larger gutter near the spine.
  • Chapter and section breaks.
  • ... and so much more.

In my opinion, it has everything you need for creating a professional print image of the pages of your book that’s compatible with KDP.

If you need a detailed tutorial for formatting the book’s manuscript with MS Word, I cover that in another article, “How to Properly Format and Self-Publish Your Book.” The link is in the references.2

For the purpose of this article, I’ll focus on using KDP and what you need to do for creating a children’s book.

  • Layout

The first page should just contain the title. This is true for any book.

The back side (page 2) should be blank.

The next page (right hand page) is a duplicate title page but with more content, such as the subtitle or short description, and the author’s name.

The flip side of that title page is the copyright page (always on the left). I’ll go into detail on that below.

Adjacent to the copyright page (on the right) you can start with an introduction, foreword, or preface—whatever works for you. This could also be the table of contents page if you prefer to use one.

  • Copyright Page

The copyright is always on the left (even numbered page) after the title pages. It starts with the title and subtitle, followed with a list of genres (the kind of literary or artistic work).

When you use KDP to print your book, you are the publisher as well as the copyright holder. Therefore, you should indicate that properly on the copyright page.

See the sample of my copyright page below. Notice how I said “Imprint: Independently published” under the ISBN number. Later KDP will assign you a free ISBN number, and you should come back to your manuscript and enter it on this page.

  • Illustrations and Images

You can find a lot of material on the Internet to use for your illustrations and images. This can help save the cost of paying an illustrator. You just need to check and make sure that they are free of copyright and offer a license to use commercially. This means that you may make a profit with its use.

Two of the best sites (in my opinion) that have free images and illustrations are Pixabay.com and Unsplash.com. I use both of them. They both have copyright–free content that’s in the public domain.3

If you look elsewhere, such as Google Images, then you need to locate the license and carefully read it. Remember to check that it can be used commercially.

For best results, the resolution should be 300 DPI (dots per inch), so download the highest quality image when multiple options are available.

You do not need to provide credit to the creator when you use images from Pixabay or Unsplash, although I prefer to do so. It's appreciated by the artist and it also shows your credibility for being honest. I include that information on the copyright page. See the “Image Credits” on my example copyright page above.

  • Public Domain Due to Expired Copyright

In some cases you may find very old images that are available for commercial use because their copyright expired.

In the United States, anything that was first published before January 1, 1924, is in the public domain. However, if you use these images, you can only let Amazon sell your book in the U.S. I’ll explain how you limit distribution to specific territories later in this article. Amazon makes it easy.

  • Save as a PDF File

MS Word has an option to save your manuscript as a PDF file. This is the preferential file of the book’s pages to be uploaded to KDP because all the formatting, including fonts and spacing, will be used precisely as you designed it.

Don’t forget to save it as the DOCX file first. This is what you will edit if you find something you need to change before publishing.

How to Enter All the Data

Once you have completed your manuscript, you can start using KDP to create your book.

Using Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing

If you have an Amazon account then you can use the same user name and password to log into Kindle Direct Publishing. The URL is kdp.amazon.com.

You’ll find yourself in the ‘Bookshelf” section of KDP when you log in. This is where all your books that you create will be listed. This is where you go when you work on a new book or need to make changes to works in progress. A few things can even be changed here after publishing, such as the retail price.

To get started creating a new book, click the “+ Paperback” button. You can create a Kindle E-book too, but I think a paperback is best for a children’s book.

KDP also makes it easy to create a Kindle version after you completed a paperback version, but that’s not the subject of this article.

As soon as you click the "+ Paperback" button as shown below, you will begin with the first step. I'll walk you through each step below …

Step 1. The Paperback Details

Language

Just select the language in which you have written your book.

Book Title

The book should have a title and subtitle that is displayed in Amazon’s detail listing. These two fields are also used to generate the cover when you run the Cover Creator that I’ll discuss below.

Series

If your book is part of a series, enter the title name and number of this version. If it’s a single book by itself, then leave this optional section untouched.

Edition Number

This is optional and only applies if you have already published a prior version.

Author

Include your first and last name here. If using a pen name, use that.

Contributors

If you wrote the book yourself and no one else contributed to it, leave this section blank. Otherwise, this is where you would include their names and specify if they are another author, an editor, illustrator, photographer, and so on.

Description

This is where you will enter the description of your book. It will appear in Amazon’s detail listing of your book and is most likely the first thing people who are browsing will read. So make this a good sales pitch.

I recommend including the Fletch-Kincaid Grade Level in the description. If you used MS Word to create your manuscript, it will give you the grade when you run the “Spelling and Grammar Checker” from the “Tools” menu.

Publishing Rights

If you own the copyright to your book, select that option. If you want to place it in the public domain, chose that option. There is more detail about understanding rights in Amazon. Just click the option to read that if it concerns you.

Keywords

Think of the keywords people would use when searching for topics related to your book. You can enter up to seven keywords. This will help people find your book when searching on Amazon.

Keywords you might consider using:

  • Children’s Books
  • Growing Up & Facts of Life
  • Early Learning

Categories

Take your time selecting the appropriate categories for your book. This helps people find your type of book on Amazon. All available categories are there. Just scroll through them and checkmark two that you want.

For example, I used the following for my book because I have comic graphics and I wrote the story based on my version of a fairy tale:

  • Comics & Graphic Novels > Adaptations
  • Juvenile Fiction > Fairy Tales & Folklore > Adaptations

Adult Content

Since we’re discussing books for children, I assume you don’t have any language or situations that are inappropriate for children under 18. Click “No” in this case.

Step 2. The Paperback Content

Get a Free ISBN

This is easy. Just select this option and one will be generated for you and placed on the back cover of your book. It will also show you what your ISBN number is. Before you go to the next step, copy and paste your number to the copyright page of your book’s manuscript. See my sample shown earlier above.

Publication Date

Just leave it blank and it will automatically be filled in when your book is published. This is only required if you are not publishing your book for the first time.

Print Options

There are four print options you need to specify:

1. Interior & paper type:

The defaults in this section are already set and most likely may be what your want. I recommend Black & White interior with cream paper. White paper is too harsh on the eyes.

You only will want to select color interior if you have color images on the pages of your book. Keep in mind that this will increase the print cost of your book. You’ll want to keep the price low enough so that a buyer will not hesitate to select your book for their child.

On the other hand, however, color is an important consideration. Children like to look at color images. So you need to weight one consideration over the other and make your own decision on the interior being back & white or color.

2. Trim Size:

This is the page size. 5x8 inch and 6x9 inch are common sizes for paperbacks. But you can choose whatever works for your type of book.

This needs to match the page size you specified with MS Word, otherwise an error will occur later in the review stage and you will need to correct it to match.

3. Bleed Settings:

Just leave the default as “No bleed” because bleed is only used if you want your images to run off the edges of the page. I could never see a reason for this, except with the cover—as you'll see when we get to that. (The cover creator automatically uses bleed).

4. Paperback cover finish:

I personally like Matte Finish because it doesn’t show fingerprints. I’ve used both and I discovered that glossy finish gets smudgy.

Step 3. Upload Your Manuscript File

This is the section where you can upload your file of the pages of your book. Most file formats are accepted, but I recommend that you save your manuscript as a PDF file and upload that. This assures that all formatting, layout, and fonts are reproduced as you intended.

You can always come back to this section when you make changes, so you can upload a revised copy. I had to change mine a few times when I caught mistakes that I made. It's important to get everything right before publishing.

Step 4. Create the Book Cover

KDP has an option to upload a premade print-ready PDF file of your cover (front, spine, and back). However, unless you are an advanced user of image software, it’s best to select the option to use Amazon’s free Cover Creator.

Click the orange “Launch Cover Creator” button shown below to get started with the cover.

This step will take time. It starts by giving you options for various covers. If you like any of them, select it and most of the work is done for you.

I noticed it even uses suitable color selections by default, although you can change any of that to your preference. Feel free to experiment. You can always click the “Start Over” button for the Cover Creator without losing anything.

While working on the cover, you can select images from their free-to-use library or you can upload your own images (if you own the copyright or have other rights to it). The minimum resolution must be 300 DPI (dots per inch).

After you had uploaded your image, you can align it, resize it, and place the text of the title and subtitle over it. You can also change the fonts for the text.

Note that you should align your image to bleed past the indicator lines as shown in my example below. This will assure that you don't have empty space on the edges.

You’ll see how flexible this is when you get into it. Play with it and experiment. You might just create a wonderful cover design that you would otherwise have paid a lot of money to a professional artist to make for you.

The Automatically Created Spine

The Spine is created for you with your title and author name, and its width is adjusted automatically based on the number of pages in your manuscript.

If you have less than 100 pages then no text will be on the spine since it would be too narrow, as is the case with my book shown here.

Step 5. Run the Book Previewer

Now that you got this far, it won’t let you go any further unless you click the “Launch Previewer” button. This step will take time, so you might want to go do other things while it’s running.

If you do decide to sit there and watch it, you’ll see it display the status as it goes through the following steps:

  1. Preparing your files
  2. Checking your cover for quality issues
  3. Checking your manuscript for quality issues
  4. Checking your trim size
  5. Checking your fonts
  6. Checking image quality
  7. Checking margins and gutter size
  8. Checking your pagination
  9. Checking blank pages
  10. Generating a barcode for your ISBN
  11. Preparing a print-ready PDF
  12. Generating your Print Preview
  13. Generating a print-ready file

When it’s finished scanning all the items above, it will display your cover design on the screen. The left-hand column has the "Quality Check" results. It will indicate any problems you need to work on before going to the next step.

If it says, “Print Previewer didn’t find any issues" then you’re in good shape. However, review everything in the proof on the screen anyway.

Read the text you placed on the rear cover. Read it out-loud. That helps when proofreading. Also check the formatting. Make sure everything is lined up just as you expect it. Make sure all the content, including important parts of images, fall within the dotted lines on the edges. Those lines indicate the trim size.

Once you publish a book you can’t change it anymore. So get it right before going to the next step. You’ll be glad you did. I remember finding errors in my first paperback long after publishing. It’s not a good feeling.

Thumbnail View

When the previewer is complete, you can click the “Thumbnail View” button at the bottom. This is useful to eyeball the entire book. It serves a good purpose, but in my opinion it doesn’t come close to the advantage of reviewing the proof of the cover and interior pages. So click on that too. You'll see how the final product will look.

Download a PDF Proof

In addition, I recommend you save a PDF Proof to examine. Click the link at the top right corner to “Download a PDF Proof”. This is a print-ready image of the interior of your book. Carefully read through the entire thing, paying attention to placement of titles, header and footer text, and page numbers. Make sure everything is just as you want it to be.

Once you’re satisfied, click the “Approve” button at the lower right. This is not publishing, it's just saving the data generated by the previewer.

Summary

This section shows a summary of the details. The cost of printing is also displayed here. Since all the steps have been completed, this figure is accurate. It’s the price you pay if you order your own book. Deciding on the retail price comes next.

Step 6. Specify Your Paperback Rights & Pricing

Territories for Distribution

In most cases you’ll want to select “All territories.” However, if you had used images that only are free to use commercially in the United States (or some other country), then you’ll need to limit distribution to those territories.

For example, if you found illustrations to use in your book that are out of copyright because they were copyrighted prior to 1924 in the United States, then you are free to use those illustrations ONLY in the U.S. according to the Creative Commons license PD-US-expired.4

Pricing & Royalty

Now for the fun part: You can try entering various list prices and it will display the royalty you will receive after printing costs. You can experiment with different prices to see how your royalty is affected.

If you want to allow sales in other venues besides Amazon, put a checkmark in the box next to “Expanded Distribution” shown in the image below. Your royalty for those sales will be displayed. It’s lower because a third party vendor also gets their share, so adjust your list price accordingly. However, keep in mind that you don’t want to overprice your book, especially if you’re an unknown author.

Use your best judgment, but review similar books within the same subject category and page count to see where you fit in.

Step 7. Terms & Conditions When Publishing

This simply states that when you click the orange “Publish Your Paperback Book” button, you agree that you comply with the KDP terms and conditions.5

Before you publish, I highly recommend you order a copy of your book that you can carefully review. It makes a big difference when you have a physical copy to examine.

Order a Proof Copy of Your Book

Humpty Dumpty’s Four Seasons: A thought-provoking variation to the original fairy tale.
Humpty Dumpty’s Four Seasons: A thought-provoking variation to the original fairy tale.

You can’t always find mistakes when going over your book online. I noticed a few things that I needed to fix when I examined my proof copy. It’s worth the small cost for ordering a copy of your book before you publish, as I did with mine.

When you're satisfied with your book, you can log back in to your KDP account and click that orange publish button (shown in the previous image above).

It may take up to 72 hours for Amazon to review your book before it appears in the detail page on their site. They will send you an email when it's approved, or if they found any problems that might cause printing problems.

However, this is rare since the previewer that you ran earlier already confirmed the accuracy of your uploaded files for printing.

My book, “Humpty Dumpty’s Four Seasons” was listed on Amazon the day after I clicked the publish button. You can see how the listing looks on Amazon. I was pleased with the results, and you will be pleased with your children’s book too.

 

© 2019 Glenn Stok

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    • Glenn Stok profile imageAUTHOR

      Glenn Stok 

      2 months ago from Long Island, NY

      Don, You should go ahead and do it then. KDP provides all the tools to make it possible. I have another article where I explain how to format the pages of your book. It’s the second reference at the bottom of this article.

    • ControlledChaos1 profile image

      Don 

      2 months ago from Tennessee

      How is it that I didn't know about KDP? I've thought about publishing stuff at certain times in my life, but never went through with it. This seems like a good way to put your stuff out in the world at a very minimal cost and you've laid out a very detailed walk-through. Very good article.

    • Glenn Stok profile imageAUTHOR

      Glenn Stok 

      2 months ago from Long Island, NY

      Thanks, Natalie, for spreading the word about this article. I’m already seeing that there are many people who want to write children’s books but don’t know how to go about it.

    • Natalie Frank profile image

      Natalie Frank 

      2 months ago from Chicago, IL

      What a great article! I've revisited this options many times but get caught up in one step or another. I'm listing this on all my social media channels as I'm sure it will be helpful to lots of others as well. Thanks Glenn!

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      2 months ago from UK

      This is a fascinating, useful and very detailed guide to self publishing, using Amazon.

    • Glenn Stok profile imageAUTHOR

      Glenn Stok 

      2 months ago from Long Island, NY

      Heidi Thorne - Thanks for confirming what I said about the importance of writing for the proper grade level. That's why I recommended to include it in the book's description, so parents know what grade level it relates to.

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 

      2 months ago from Chicago Area

      Lots of good how-to, step-by-step info here!

      But I think children's books are very challenging from a content perspective. There's reading level to be considered, maturity level, etc. A lot of authors, too, equate "children's book" with "picture book," and that's just not true. As kids get past the early primary grades, their need for picture books wanes quickly. So being able to market the book in terms of who the ideal reader is in terms of grade level can be important.

      Thanks, as always, for sharing your experience and expertise!

    • Glenn Stok profile imageAUTHOR

      Glenn Stok 

      2 months ago from Long Island, NY

      Ken Burgess - Thank you for your kind remarks about my article. Instructionary is a good term for what I aimed to achieve with it.

    • Glenn Stok profile imageAUTHOR

      Glenn Stok 

      2 months ago from Long Island, NY

      Venkatachari - In addition to the margins at the top and bottom, you need to set the margins left and right. And the gutter should be set as well, to allow more room for reading near the spine if the book is thick—has a lot of pages.

    • Venkatachari M profile image

      Venkatachari M 

      2 months ago from Hyderabad, India

      Thanks for the further suggestions, Glenn.

      I am exactly going to do what you said in the reply to me below.

      My book is well-designed regarding cover page and other things. I provided the table of contents also at the beginning which indicates page numbers. Only thing is that there is no numbering of the inner pages. Now, I understood how to do it. Further, I have to put the margins at the above and below each page by selecting the margin options. Other things are okay. Bill Holland has a paperback copy of my book already. I hope you can view it at amazon.com if you are interested in Economics. The Title is "Introduction to Economics- Basic Principles & Concepts by Venkatachari M.

    • Glenn Stok profile imageAUTHOR

      Glenn Stok 

      2 months ago from Long Island, NY

      Nell Rose - As I mentioned in this article, KDP does not charge a fee for using the site to create your book. All tools can be used for free. That includes the Previewer. Amazon makes money later when people purchase your book.

      Your only cost, as I also mentioned, is the print cost of your book when you do decide to order a proof copy. I gave an example, but the cost is dependent on the number of pages in your book.

    • AMFredenburg profile image

      Aldene Fredenburg 

      2 months ago from Southwestern New Hampshire

      Amazing; really valuable info! Thanks, Glenn.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      2 months ago from England

      Great advice Glenn, I should have read this first, lol! how much does it cost for the preview paperback? Never done that before. I tend to publish then buy. if its wrong then change it.

    • Glenn Stok profile imageAUTHOR

      Glenn Stok 

      2 months ago from Long Island, NY

      Venkatachari - You can update the content without creating a new book as long as you don't change the title or other details. From your description, I would suggest you take advantage of that.

      Amazon will print your book exactly as you designed it, so you need to verify that you did everything right. That's why KDP forces you to run the Previewer. Then you should examine the proof of all your pages before publishing.

      MS Word will place page numbers for you if you enable that option. Any other decent editor will do the same. Word also lets you set the margins and gutter spacing. You can make things easy my downloading a template DOCX file from KDP for the trim size of your book. All the layout is preset for you. Then just copy and paste your content into that.

    • Venkatachari M profile image

      Venkatachari M 

      2 months ago from Hyderabad, India

      Glenn, this is a wonderful tutorial.

      I have already published a book for students on Economics subject. I went through all those steps mentioned by you several times while doing so. But, my final print is not satisfactorily done. I didn't number the pages. I thought Amazon will do it automatically. Further, my text is not aligned properly as I did not give any space at the top or the bottom of the pages. I should rectify these things later and resubmit the text to change the look. I haven't done it till now. Your tutorial will be of much help to me while resubmitting it.

      Thanks for providing this wonderful guidance to us, writers.

    • Ken Burgess profile image

      Ken Burgess 

      2 months ago from Florida

      This may be the very best instructionary article I have read, well written with a plethora of relevant information, thank you for taking the time to put it all down and sharing the information.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      2 months ago from Sunny Florida

      This article is so detailed and this comprehensive review of publishing a book is excellent. I have not ever published a book, but I am thinibg about it. I found this article so helpful Glen.

    • Glenn Stok profile imageAUTHOR

      Glenn Stok 

      2 months ago from Long Island, NY

      John Hansen - Create Space has been merged with Kindle Direct Publishing in one single platform. The issue with direct deposit is still the same for some foreign countries. Authors in the U.S. can have direct deposit for free. Banking regulations get in the way. Sorry that doesn’t help you though, since your only option is to be paid by check.

    • Glenn Stok profile imageAUTHOR

      Glenn Stok 

      2 months ago from Long Island, NY

      Rochelle Frank - I also use a Mac. Microsoft has a version of MS Word for the Mac in a package with Excel and Powerpoint included. But you can use other editing software too, as long as it allows you to control the trim size of pages.

      If you copy your “print ready” pages into a pdf file, you still need to make sure you set the trim size to match the size of your book.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      2 months ago from Queensland Australia

      This is a very helpful article, Glenn. I have published one book of poetry on Lulu and an anthology with a number of authors on Create Space, however, formatting and such has stopped me from self-publishing more. the problem with Amazon is that they would not pay royalties to an Australian bank account or PayPal. I had to choose to be paid by check and they charged $8.00 for each check processed, so unless you make a lot of sales it isn't worth it. Maybe this has changed now, I'll have to find out.

      I have probably written a dozen children's books as a ghostwriter for other people. I never thought to use Pixabay for illustrations instead of paying an artist. This encourages me to write some in future under my own name. Thanks for the comprehensive information.

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 

      2 months ago from California Gold Country

      Thank you for that info. I do not use MS Word. I'm a Mac. I think there might be some adaptions I can get. Cover is no problem, I do my own art. Also I have"print ready" pages with art and text. Can I just copy them into a pdf? Sorry if I have too many questions. With all the info you have already given I should just do my own trial and error. I DO really appreciate all of the information you have given.

    • Glenn Stok profile imageAUTHOR

      Glenn Stok 

      2 months ago from Long Island, NY

      RTalloni - Thanks for noticing that Robert. When I was working on my two children’s books, I kept notes as I was going along so I’d be able to write this tutorial.

    • Glenn Stok profile imageAUTHOR

      Glenn Stok 

      2 months ago from Long Island, NY

      Rochelle Frank - If you want to print a book in landscape, just set the width wider than to length in the MS Word Page Setup. But make sure you choose one of the available trim sizes. They are listed under “Paperback Manuscript Templates” in the KDP help section. You may have to create you own cover thought.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 

      2 months ago from the short journey

      Thanks very much for this information that includes a look at your experience with helpful tips. As always, a useful and well done post.

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 

      2 months ago from California Gold Country

      Wow, Glenn, this is very comprehensive. I had no idea that they did this. I and almost tempted to try it. Are all of these in the same format or can you chose a “landscape” configuration?

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