Self-Publishing Child Book: Is it a Viable Alternative?

Self-publishing your child book is a viable alternative with three caveats.

You must:

  1. Do your own marketing and promotion
  2. Have a manuscript that is well-written and has the potential to be a hit
  3. Be willing to invest time and money in getting your child story published and marketing it.

It seems that the hardest part of becoming a successful children’s book author is marketing. Nonetheless, some child storybook authors have been quite successful through self-publishing.

According to the FabJob Guide to How to Become a Childrens Book Author, one author self-published and intensively promoted his book for three months. He then received a six-figure contract with a major publishing house to print the second edition. His marketing strategy included giving away 2,000 books to radio and TV stations and newspaper critics. So, although he was successful, don’t under-estimate the scale of the undertaking.

There are many self-publishing companies out there. Trafford Publishing ( seems to provide a very good service. They offer two options: one for $999 and one for $1,199. Aside from printing your book in full color, they also handle all the administrative aspects such as making sure your book is assigned an International Standard Book Number [ISBN]. Without an ISBN, most booksellers won't handle your book. They also place an EAN barcode (for bookstores) and UPC barcode (for other retailers) on the back cover, obtain full library cataloging -- this includes information essential to libraries, such as a Library of Congress number and Dewey Decimal System code. They typeset a copyright assertion in your book and deposit a copy with the National Library (a statutory requirement).

You can request their free guide: Have You Written a Kids’ Book? from their website.

A really cool feature on their site is the Publishing Profit Calculator. You can use it to calculate:

  • the weight of each copy
  • the print cost for your book (This is the wholesale price that you, as an author, can pay to buy copies at any time, in any quantity. If you buy 50 or more copies in one order, you will pay even less per copy.)
  • the minimum retail price. (The retail price must be at least 2.5 times the print cost so there is enough margin for the bookseller's discount and your royalty.)
  • your royalty, using various retail price possibilities and a number of typical sales situations (You, as author, set the retail price, so seeing the resulting royalties will help you decide a good amount.)
  • your potential profit from book sales, based on the number of copies you expect will be purchased through each channel.

Another interesting publishing company is AuthorHouse ( Like Trafford, they offer a free publishing guide. They also conduct free seminars (perhaps only in the US). Their service offering differs from that of Trafford. Unlike Trafford, they also offer:

  • copyediting
  • illustrating/cover design
  • promotional services
  • a booksellers return program

The last two services are particularly interesting. As part of their promotional service, AuthorHouse media specialists write a press release about your book and distribute it to 100 or 500 (for Expanded Promotion) targeted media outlets. They also send out review copies and facilitate interviews for you.

You can also hire a "Personal Media Valet" to make calls to editors and producers to arrange media coverage, and to contact bookstores and other venues to set up public appearances for you.

The booksellers return program is a pragmatic program that lets bookstores return unsold books. This greatly reduces their risk and increases the likelihood of their taking a chance on a relativel unknown author. I couldn't figure out how this program works exactly, but AuthorHouse claims that returns don't reduce your royalties.

Before you sign-up with Trafford, AuthorHouse or any other company, it's probably a good idea to understand how the whole process works. You can find out more about self-publishing in these two books:

The Self-Publishing Manual: How to Write, Print and Sell Your Own Book, by Dan Poynter

The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing: Everything you need to know to write, publish, promote and sell your own book, by Tom & Marilyn Ross

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