As some of you may know, I published a children’s book Bandit Goes On A Picnic (here) last year which has been (and still is) such an exciting journey! Since then, I have gotten so many questions from friends, family and Instagram followers asking about how I was able to do it and how to get started. Who knew that so many of you were interested in writing a book of your own!? So today I thought I would share my journey and some things that I have learned along the way so as to help any of you who might have a similar dream. I was fortunate to reach out to some authors when I started on this project who were generous with their knowledge - so now it’s my turn to pay things forward.
Start with a story Idea
Bandit Goes On A Picnic was technically written and published by me, but the true inventor of Bandit was my Dad. As a child, I would ask to be told a story night after night (rather than pulling a book off the shelf) and my sweet Dad came up with Bandit the raccoon and all of his adventures and friends. Bandit quickly became my favorite storyline and so together, my Dad and I dreamed up a whole world around him. In college I had the idea to turn Bandit into a book and had my Dad retell me several of the stories so that I could write them down in detail - but that was about as far as I got. I worked on the text and got the stories crafted in a way that read well but I had no idea what next steps to take.
So… it may seem self explanatory… but start with your story. Get it written to the best of your ability. Then get feedback from trusted friends, family, etc to see if they see any holes or have any input. Take their advice to heart - it may not be easy to hear criticism of your beloved story, but this step helps! Then - depending on your particular story - seek out an editor of some kind to review and make corrections/suggestions as well. (I did not do this, but my story is pretty simple as it is a children’s book).
Research and Find An Illustrator
Years after college I decided to revisit the idea of publishing Bandit because I couldn’t shake the idea. I had no idea where to start so I just started asking anyone I knew if they knew anyone in the book world who could steer me in a direction. I met an author for coffee one day and she gave me some insight and she advised me to self publish (which I also recommend for any first time author- more below). Her next advice to me was to A) find a publisher and B) find an illustrator.
Being a designer, I have a lot of creative and artistic ability… but I am no good at drawing characters. However, I did have a very specific vision for what I wanted not only Bandit and the other characters to look like, but also for the overall style of the book itself. I knew I wanted the illustrations to be airy and whimsical and done in watercolor. So… I sought out an illustrator who’s work was already in line with my vision. How did I find her?…. by searching hashtags and stalking random children’s book and art accounts on Instagram!! No joke! The Instagram rabbit hole isn’t always that bad I guess.
Once you agree on terms with your illustrator I suggest doing character development and storyboard sketches of each page paired with the text for that page. Nail down the flow, direction, characters and scenes prior to having them do any final, painted or colored artwork.
Research and Find A Publisher
Once my Illustrator and I were well into the artwork phase for the book, I started researching publishers who work with self publishing authors. Self publishing basically means that you will front the investment and the publisher will essentially help you print and distribute your book. They will help get your book onto the appropriate lists to be purchasable by book stores and available online, etc. Most provide editing services and will help you get your book set up in the right format for publishing and printing. Some of them have in-house illustrators you can work with as well. But you will still mainly have to produce the final product and then market it on the back end - but the result is the ability to have control over what the final outcome of your book is. I worked with Archway Publishing (here) which is the self-publishing branch under Simeon & Schuster.
It is also hard to get signed on with a traditional publisher if you are unpublished and not in the author networks. So, if you pursue this route… you may end up spending a lot of time networking and pitching your book before you even really get to start on it… but there are perks that come with traditional publishing too… if you are able to get signed on with someone.
Finish the book
Once you have your story written and your illustrations finished. You will need to “put the book together” - as in layout the entire book into Adobe Indesign so that all artwork and text are laid out correctly per page and ready for the printer. You will also need to finalize the cover, get a copyright page set up, register for the book’s ISBN number (serial number within the book world) and finalize any “extra” pages that you may want like a dedication page or an about the author page. Your publisher will be able to help you get your book set up correctly for printing, they will handle the ISBN registration and the copyright. They will walk you through the final steps to take you from the manuscript/artwork phase and get your book ready for publishing. But you will want to research and be knowledgable (and ask questions) as you go so that you don’t let any details slip past you.
Market your Book
Once your book has been published and is available for sale you will need to do a lot of ground work to spread the word! I am still learning the ins and outs of this process. A good place to start is by 1.) posting about your book on social media, 2.) having family and friends help spread the word, 3.) hosting a couple book launch parties with friends, 4.) attending book readings or signings at local libraries or book stores and 5.) by just knocking on doors of book store and shops and asking if they will consider selling your book!
Publishing a children’s book had been about a 2.5 year journey for me… and its not for the faint of heart! BUT it has been such a fun project and I am so proud of Bandit Goes On A Picnic. Being able to share this accomplishment with my Dad and with so many friends who have cheered me on is priceless. I absolutely LOVE hearing from friends about how their kids ask for Bandit at night and it makes me motivated to publish more of the series! So for all of you with a book dream… just keep trying!! You can do it and the world will love to read what you have to share!
Visit our website for Bandit Goes On A Picnic at banditstories.com and get a signed copy! Below are a few of my favorite children’s books: