How to Self-Publish a Children’s Paperback Book
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 intended for a young reader. It works just fine if it’s only 20 or 30 pages.
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 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 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 your finished product, which is helpful to know 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 formatting tools, such as:
- Generate and include page numbers,
- Include the title and 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 this article, I’ll focus on using KDP and what you need to do for creating a children’s book.
The first page should only contain the title. That's true for any book.
The backside (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 type 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 accurately 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, 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 images. That can help save the cost of paying an illustrator. You just need to make sure that they are free of copyright and offer a license to use commercially. That means 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. The artist appreciates it, 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 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 United States. 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. That is the preferential file of the book’s pages to be uploaded to KDP because all the formatting, including fonts and spacing, will be precisely used as you designed it.
Don’t forget to save it as the DOCX file first. That's 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. That is where all the books that you create will be listed. You go there 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
Just select the language in which you have written your book.
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.
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.
This is optional and only applies if you have already published a prior version.
Include your first and last name here. If using a pen name, use that.
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.
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 use MS Word to create your manuscript, it will give you the grade when you run the “Spelling and Grammar Checker” from the “Tools” menu.
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.
Think of the keywords people would use when searching for topics related to your book. You can enter up to seven keywords. That 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
Take your time selecting the appropriate categories for your book. That 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
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 ISBN to the copyright page of your book’s manuscript. See my sample shown earlier.
Just leave it blank, and it will be automatically filled in when your book is published. This is only required if you are not publishing your book for the first time.
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 you want. I recommend Black & White interior with cream paper. White paper is too harsh on the eyes.
You only will want to select a 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 weigh 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 standard 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 like Matte Finish because it doesn’t show fingerprints. I’ve used Glossy Finish too, but I discovered that it gets smudged easily.
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. That assures all formatting, layout, and fonts will be reproduced as you intended.
You can always come back to this section when you make changes, so that you can upload a revised copy. I had to change mine a few times when I caught mistakes that I made. It's essential 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. That 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 end up creating an incredible 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. 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 and 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:
- Preparing your files
- Checking your cover for quality issues
- Checking your manuscript for quality issues
- Checking your trim size
- Checking your fonts
- Checking image quality
- Checking margins and gutter size
- Checking your pagination
- Checking blank pages
- Generating a barcode for your ISBN
- Preparing a print-ready PDF
- Generating your Print Preview
- 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.
When the previewer is complete, you can click the “Thumbnail View” button at the bottom. This feature is useful to eyeball the entire book. It serves a functional 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 the 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.
This section shows an overview 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 experiment with different list-prices to see how your royalty is affected. Try entering different prices, and it will display your royalty after printing costs.
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.
Final Step: Order a Proof Copy of Your Book
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 into 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. I was pleased with the results, and you will be pleased with your children’s book too.
Questions & Answers
© 2019 Glenn Stok