If you had asked me five years ago if I would ever consider self-publishing children’s books, my answer would probably be no. I was adamant in my thoughts that traditional publishing was the legitimate and right way to do it.
My writing journey, though, taught me a lot, including that one can be a successful author by self-publishing (I prefer to say, indie publishing), traditionally publishing, or hybrid publishing.
Everything started when I got immersed in learning about the business and tried to take in every bit of information.
After much consideration, research, and more than 1000 hours’ worth of webinars and courses, article readings, writing group participation, and daily writing, I decided to self-publish.
But hear me out, I didn’t self-publish as my last resort.
Did I send tons of query letters to literary agents and was unsuccessful?
When I started, I didn’t even think of sending out query letters, simply because I was not ready. And I really mean it.
On the other hand, I wanted to self-publish for the need to learn by doing and experimenting with the process. And this experimentation taught me a lot, including what not to do when you are an indie author, and for that matter, when self-publishing children’s books.
You may also like: How to Self-Publish Children’s Books Without Crushing Your Spirits (A Comprehensive Guide)
If I had to press the reset button and start all over again, here are the things I would NOT do:
1. Rush to publish without proper research
I’ll be honest, the road to self-publishing is not easy. It is simple, depending on what you focus on, but it is not easy. But when you decide to publish without proper research, the process can become more complex than ever.
Since I started on this journey, I’ve learned that the best way of learning a skill is by practicing, which the book Overlap by Sean McCabe talks about beautifully. But not just any type of practice. You should practice deliberately. In other words, work hard on the areas you need to improve upon to master your skills.
But I also came to understand that when you’re self-publishing children’s books, the proper research about the specificities of the area makes a world of difference in the final product. In this case, your books.
Self-publishing children’s books requires a complete synchronization, from the conception to the production and distribution. And each process, which I discuss in detail in the article about the mistakes to avoid when publishing children’s books, is crucial for the creation of a quality book for the youth.
My background as a teacher allowed me a lot of time to read books for the kiddos, but I never realized the importance of really examining the pages until I reflected on how to improve my own books moving forward.
Now, I spend a lot of time reading and dissecting children’s literature—picture books, middle grades, and young adult books—to improve not only the craft but also my indie publishing business.
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2. Overlook the feedback of a beta reader
So, you think that the feedback of beta readers is only good for adult books, correct? Maybe, young adults?
They are certainly important for both categories. But they are as important for children’s books as well. Even for a “seemingly simple” product such as a picture book, beta readers can bring a different angle or perspective you didn’t see. Also, they can help you improve your book overall.
Let’s take, for example, my second book in the series Let’s Learn While Playing, Dinosaur Adventure: A Field Trip to Remember. This is the story about a class that goes on a field trip to the dinosaur’s museum and was based on a real event that happened during my time as a pre-kindergarten teacher.
I was so excited about the concept in itself, that I didn’t realize the gaps in the story. I only knew that among children who read all of my books, this one was their favorite.
But here is the catch: even though this was the most popular picture book for the kiddos, at the end of the day, this didn’t reflect on the sales.
But wait a minute, how so?
After I got several critiques from a diverse group of people, including teachers, readers, and mentees, I realized the story needed a little bit more of work and perhaps the cover art needed a revamp. And this is what I focused on improving afterward.
The updates are currently underway. Once everything is set and done, you will be the first to know.
3. Follow the hype
In this case, excitement gets the best of us. I know, I’ve been there.
But here is the problem: when we follow the hype, we tend to try everything everybody is doing. We use every “magical pill.” We cut every corner. We focus on things that don’t matter, even if it doesn’t serve us.
Eventually, we get burned out and don’t go anywhere. Even worse, we may even think of quitting and blame the entire world for our publishing demise.
I didn’t get to this point, but I got to a point when I was everywhere. I was on everybody’s mailing list. I tried every course I could afford. I was in every social media group available for writers. In the end, this was so exhausting, that at that point I just thought of shutting everything off.
My point is, focus on the things that matter. While it is totally fine to participate in webinars, take courses, and invest in your professional development, for the sake of your own mental health, direct your energy on initiatives that give you results.
It took me a while to figure that out. But after trials and errors, the situation finally got under control and everything fell into their perfect place.
4. Neglect creating a plan-of-action for marketing and promotions
I can’t stress enough the power you can find in planning. When you have a plan-of-action, things tend to run smoothly.
I am not saying you will not have problems. You certainly will. But when you have a plan, catching the issues and remedying them at the beginning becomes much easier.
For the writers who usually do things on the fly, what I’m going to say may not sit well, but I just want the best for your journey.
So, if you are serious about self-publishing for children or succeed in your self-publishing journey, you will need to meticulously plan your marketing and promotions strategies. And I mean that.
You will prepare your marketing plan in advance. This will give you the roadmap to organize your street team (if applicable); send advance copies for reviews or look for book reviewers; enlist the help of book bloggers for potential book tours; submit your book to promotional sites. Potentially even use Amazon or Facebook Ads. The list goes on.
You don’t need to do all of that. But for you to focus on the strategies that fit your time, budget, and above all, that give you results, you will need to have a plan.
Tip: If you try to partner with like-minded children’s authors, you can have fun while also gathering a team of supporters along the way.
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5. Undermine partnerships with writers in my niche
Depending on how you see this, partnership with children’s book authors can be the key to elevate your marketing strategies and push your book forward.
I am a big believer that we don’t accomplish anything by ourselves. Whether it is for peer support, commiseration, or the exchange of ideas, we need someone or a support team. This is especially true on the hard days.
When I first started, I knew early on that I love to write for the youth (children, teens, and young adults), and my experiences working with them helped me shape that. However, I looked for writing support mostly on general writing groups instead of focusing on the children’s niche.
Given that I found very little information about self-publishing for children—the reason I wanted to help children’s authors with tools and materials in the first place—I saw myself with few options.
Now, I understand that I could have invested in this more.
I strongly believe in the power these partnerships have. And if it is one lesson I can take from it all is that partnerships, whether you are starting out or you’re further along in your journey, are priceless.
The road to self-publishing children’s books is not linear. While there is a plethora of materials and information to guide you in your journey, perseverance is key.
By taking steps to avoid the traps and focus on your goals you can make the ride much smoother. With that, add a dose of discipline, patience, and laughter, and you are on your way to creating beautiful books for the youngsters.