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3 Considerations for Pricing Your Self-Published Book

In the self-publishing process, setting the retail price of a print book is one of the last things an author does before going live (publishing) on Amazon and other online booksellers. Some universal factors should be considered when setting the best price, one that offers you a good return on investment while still being competitive. When an author asks for our advice on what to sell their book for, we advise them to consider the following:

  1. The cost of comparable titles. Books of the same genre, similar content, and similar dimensions often cost about the same. Knowing the average cost of books similar to yours gives you a better idea of a strong price point.
  2. The value you place on the content. . . . If your book informs or instructs based upon years of experience, training, and expertise, you’re selling the value of your knowledge and experience. In that case, pricing your book a little higher than other comparable titles is fine; you’re selling what you know to those that don’t have the benefit of your experience and expertise. However, if you’ve written a fiction or a memoir, you can’t necessarily claim that your story is any more valuable than another writer’s, so you’ll want to price your book a little closer to comparable titles.
  3. The royalty structure of your self-publishing platform. When you are self-publishing, the platform you use for distribution, such as Createspace or IngramSpark, should have a royalty structure available for your review. Usually, they deduct the cost of printing and distributing the book along with administrative fees; other fees might apply as well. Therefore, you need to be sure to set a cover prce for your book that’s high enough to cover those costs while still coming away with an acceptable profit. Factors that come into play with regard to printing costs include: trim size, page count, color versus grayscale, paper quality, binding (hardcover versus paperback), and print-on-demand versus offset high-run (commercial) printing.

Once you’ve considered these three factors, it will be easier to choose a price that allows your book to not only be competitive with other works on the market, but also offers you a fair return on your investment.

Getting Started on Your Children’s Picture Book Manuscript

“You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.” —Madeleine L’engle
Congratulations on your desire to write a manuscript for a children’s picture book! The picture book is a tried-and-true medium, and its ability to stand on its own merit without animation and sound won’t change. In other words, all the apps in the world cannot replace cuddling up with an “old-fashioned” book at bedtime. With the enormous popularity of The Book With No Pictures, it is clear that the written word—the message behind the pictures—still has great importance to young readers.
It’s not uncommon for creative writers to have many ideas for a children’s picture book—so many, in fact, that getting started on the first one may feel a bit daunting. If you have several ideas that you’d like to bring to life, begin with a 100-word description of each story idea. Do this for your top-5 ideas, and then choose your favorite among them—the one that really resonates with you and the one you think will introduce your story world and main character in the most vivid light.
Focus your first book on one main character through which your story world/setting and secondary characters are introduced as they interact with the main character. (Those secondary characters can be your main characters in future books, if you’d like.) You can also start with two main characters, but in general, you want your young reader to be able to relate to the one main character you choose to place in the spotlight.
When writing for children as well as adults, a plot that follows the conflict, climax, and resolution formula ensures that your story has a solid structure. When writing for children ages 4 to 8, a clear lesson/moral as the ultimate takeaway makes for a memorable read and has the potential to make a difference in the child’s life.
Once you have your description of your first story, it is time to flesh out your ideas. This is an excellent time for unloading everything you’ve got into the story. Describe the images in your mind to the reader as if he/she cannot see the pictures or hear the voices. Who is your main character? Where is your main character and why? Who are the secondary characters? What are their relationships to the main character? What challenge is your character facing? How does he/she perceive that challenge? What strengths/weaknesses does that character have? And so on.
Keep asking yourself questions and answer them through description and dialogue. Turn off your inner critic, and simply write whatever comes to mind, no holds barred! This process of pouring everything you’ve got into the story—all the description, narrative, and dialogue you can think of—is an excellent start.
Don’t worry about page breaks at this point. Also, don’t worry about word count (the more the better during this unloading phase). However, keep in mind that the average length of a children’s picture book is about 500–600 words. But there are no hard and fast rules in the world of publishing, so your finished book may be longer or shorter.
Once you’ve done this, put the manuscript aside for at least a day but no more than three or four days to keep moving forward. When you go back, read what you’ve written and begin the process of weeding out anything that doesn’t move the story forward, reducing wordiness, refining your writing, and strengthening the message. You’ll do this several times. After each session, put the manuscript aside for at least a day (again, don’t allow too much time to pass).
Continue this revision process until you are ready to share your story with others—a few select children and adults you know and trust. Ask those people to be completely honest with you. Tell them you want to know what they don’t like about the story, as well as what they do like. This honest assessment is crucial, but you don’t have to incorporate everything they suggest. Simply consider their feedback food for thought. Then, use any suggestions they offer that resonate with you to further improve your story. Continue the process of setting the manuscript aside between revisions
Once you are confident that you have a solid story, begin the process of separating your material into pages, keeping in mind that some pages may have as many as 40 words and others may not need any text at all. A 32-page picture book is one industry standard you may want to target. Keep in mind you will have a title page, copyright page, and perhaps a dedication page so you are looking at around 28 pages devoted to the story and illustrations. Describe the illustrations you would like to see with each page, which will be used by the illustrator when creating the storyboard.
This is an excellent time to submit the material to an editor, who can correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation, but more important, can make further developmental suggestions and offer feedback on your ideas for the illustrations.
Where you go from there is a topic for another day. In the meantime, get writing!

Should I Quit My Day Job to Write for Children?

Recently, I was approached by a woman with a children’s book she’d written and illustrated and had printed through a printing service, as is. She sent me a PDF of the book, explained she was hoping to be able to substantially supplement her income with her book sales (so she could eventually quit her day job), wanted to understand her options, and asked, “Am I wasting my time?”
That’s a loaded question, but one that deserved an honest answer. I took a look at the PDF. The illustrations were rough but had real potential (she would need to do quite a bit of revision to bring them up to publishing standards), and the overall story had charm and substance, though it needed a good edit and some developmental work. I shared those thoughts with her, validated her raw talent, and then explained her options, before answering her question. Here’s the gist of what I said:
Breaking into children’s book publishing via the traditional method is a long process. The Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market is an excellent and insightful resource. When taking the traditional route, you will need to find a literary agent to represent you—for starters, check out http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/picture-book-agents. This agent would then shop your manuscript around to children’s book publishers. Since publishers typically assign their own illustrators to their book projects, you would not include the illustrations with the manuscript.
This is a very competitive field, so you will want to put your best work forward when approaching agents, keeping your query letter short and to the point and polishing your manuscript to near perfection prior to submission and following all submission guidelines, including manuscript formatting. This is a wait-and-see process that could take several months to a year.
The other route is self-publishing. Ideally, you want your book available as a print-on-demand book (no warehousing costs) for purchase through the top online booksellers: Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com. There are several ways to make this happen, but be aware there are costs involved—including editing, the creation of production files (which includes a professional cover and interior design), incidentals like purchasing an ISBN, and acquiring author copies (for personal use and sales).
In either case, marketing your book to the public is a time-consuming and sometimes costly process. So the truth is, the reality of book publishing these days is that it is difficult to produce enough revenue to make it a viable source of steady income, and oftentimes the investment made will exceed the returns. Of course there will be exceptions to this.
Then I answered her question, and I believe it holds true in all cases: “If you write because you love to write and you want to share your work with others, I encourage you to continue to do so. If that’s the case, you’re not wasting your time.”

The Responsible Self-Published Author

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There’s no right way or wrong way to publish your book. Each route to publication has positive and negative aspects. If you are considering self-publishing—which means opting into a rapidly growing market—there are some differences in, and perks to, the self-publishing process to keep in mind. Read more

Motivated Writing: Plan Ahead

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Sometimes, a story begins with a fragment of an idea. Perhaps a line of dialogue or a character’s face springing into your mind is all it takes to spawn an incredible story—a story that makes you want to drop everything and write. That urgent motivation to write is a powerful feeling. By planning ahead when you write, you can harness that energy whenever you need it.
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