Making and Publishing a Children’s Book, Part 1


I’ve been writing, ranting, and debating about books, art, self-publishing, and digital publishing non-stop since launching The Illustrated Section a few weeks ago. It’s time to stop talking and start CREATING.

I’m going to make a picture book!

This is the first in what will be a regular series of posts that will go through the entire process, from sketch to sale. So here we go…

My Goals:

    1. Create a finished picture book.

    2. Publish it digitally.

    3. Integrate it into my self-promotion (portfolio, website, etc.)

Although I am going to sell this book after I’m done with it, my main goal is still to find a traditional publisher, if not for this book, then for my other books or for freelance illustration work. Everything I do, including artwork, digital publishing, and promotion of this book, is to find an audience for my work (and publishers that will pay me for it). Think of it as one big promotional sampler.

As a disclaimer, this is not the traditional way picture books are found and published. It is generally recommended that you NOT submit finished books to publishers, as they will often want to edit the manuscript, match specific artists to writers, and art direct the illustrators. Self-publishing is often frowned upon in the children’s industry. If you are a new artist or writer, I recommend reading this blog post. I am going against the grain with this project because a) I want to create work for my portfolio and b) I want to experiment with digital publishing. Notice these reasons do NOT include “I want a shortcut around traditional publishing” or “this book isn’t good enough to submit to publishers” or “I think publisher’s submission policies are stupid”. So keep in mind, I know I am breaking the rules and why I’m doing it.

See, I have spent a lot of the past year making comics. Comic people have a VERY different view on self-published work because the industry thrives off of independent creators. This issue could take up many blog posts in and of itself, but in short, many comic artists create the work THEN go out and promote it, sell it, and submit it to publishers. I think this is a swell idea because it gets the artist CREATING, and it builds an audience for your work. At worst, at least you end up with a portfolio piece that fits right into the industry you want to work for. And hey, you might earn some extra money on the side while you’re doing it.

This is my attempt to bring this mentality into the children’s book arena. I am a fan of the “make stuff, show it to people” way of doing things. I want to make a picture book, so I’m gonna buckle down and do it. It is highly experimental. Follow at your own risk.

Choosing a Story

I have several picture book ideas that have been stewing for the past several years, and I’ve picked one in particular to use for this project. I have very specific reasons why, and I think they are factors that every artist should consider when choosing a major personal project such as this. They are:

    1. Simplicity

    Most of this book concept is character-oriented, with little or no scenery or background. If I’m going to be working on this in my free time (which can be close to non-existent), I need something low-key so I can get this finished in a timely manner without it overwhelming me.

    2. Market Potential

    Of all my ideas, this one is the toughest sell for traditional publishers. I’m not saying I don’t think it has potential to be a very good print book or to do well commercially; I just think that if using traditional submission processes, this one would be the least likely to get picked up, simply because it is not as “traditional” as my other picture book ideas. This makes it prime for a more experimental method of approach.

    3. I really like the book.

    I simply want to see this book finished. If I’m going to take on a big project like this, I’ve got to have the passion to back it up. I like this book a lot.

Getting Started

I already have the book storyboarded and written. Sketches are still very rough at this stage. They are more like thumbnails. I put it together in a preliminary PDF and have sent it around to some trusted individuals for feedback (a highly recommended step in this process).

Throughout the course of this series, I’ll be keeping the gist of the story under wraps. However, I’ll will be freely sharing my thoughts, process, methods, and artwork. Please leave your comments and questions. I hope you enjoy taking this ride with me and learn a lot in the process.

And now, here’s your first look at what’s to come. The story is called ONCE UPON A TIME (original, huh?)