Posted in Author Resources, Demystifying publishing

Advice to Self Publishers from @ReadWithRiver

So you want to launch a self-published book. Common Problems
to Avoid &
Boundaries with Influencers
You Need to Respect.
Research First: Picturebooks are not just ‘faster to write than novels’ and if you don’t respect them or read them, then you have no business writing them.

We can tell when reading, if the creator doesn’t actually like picturebooks.

Recommendation: go to a library, read two hundred different picturebooks written in the last five years. Then go back to your idea and ask yourself ‘is this going to work?’
Get it Edited: Your computer spell check program is not adequate for editing a book.
You need more than one editor, who you are not related to. by blood or marriage.
They should be looking at things like structure, logical consistency, dialogue believability, if it’s in verse is the meter good?
If you’re including marginalized groups you are not a part of you need to hire a Diversity and Inclusion consultant/sensitivity reader.
Rhyming is hard : Picturebooks do not need to rhyme.
Unless you are a poet or a musician, its likely you’re going to struggle with writing in verse.
Bad poetry is unforgivable and if it’s a little bit off, all anyone will focus on is exactly where it is off.
Often people who force rhyming stories ignore the more important part, the plot, the character development, the dialogue, all so that they can force rhymes.
Ditch the rhyme and write something true.
The Picture in Picturebook is Key: The illustrations of a picturebook are arguably more important than the text. People can forgive a boring story if the pictures are beautiful. There’s no forgiving an ugly picturebook.
You need a real artist, who knows how to do picturebooks.
You also need someone who can do Cover Design, and text lay out (which the illustrator may not know how to do.)
For the love of Jon Klassen do not use a weird font or comic sans, just don’t.
Costs to consider: Paper, Printing, & Binding. If you skimp on this the quality will be bad, fewer people will promote it-unfortunate I know, but just a fact.
Ordering samples
Editors, lay out designers, cover designers,
Reputable illustrator will be 3k minimum
Website costs
Review copies, shipping, promotion
Setting up social: If you open up your Instagram/Twitter/Tiktok account three days before you launch nothing is going to happen for you.

If you’re just opening up your social accounts right now with the intetion of selling a book for Christmas you have missed the boat by six months.

All of the reputable influencers have their content planned until Christmas, most traditional publicists get out all the stuff they want featured in December out by August-October.
There must be some way to get immediate promotion: You can pay people. (Not me, do not ask me..) But you can approach people and be upfront that it’s a paid ad opportunity.
Influencer standard is $10 per a thousand followers so do the math before asking, some people may ask for more if you want it done quickly.
Kirkus also has an expedited review program for self pub but it’s gonna cost you about $400 USD.
I only want free publicity: You can pay people. (Not me, do not ask me..) But you can approach people and be upfront that it’s a paid ad opportunity.
Influencer standard is $10 per a thousand followers so do the math before asking, some people may ask for more if you want it done quickly.
Kirkus also has an expedited review program for self pub but it’s gonna cost you about $400 USD.
Book influencers are friends. Behave Accordingly. We tell each other about self published authors who are difficult, audacious, rude or threatening.
We share screenshots of your spam messages.
No means no, do not keep badgering someone, do not investigate them or show up at their place of work, do not do it.
If people are refusing to respond to your messages, ask yourself, did I have a bad interaction with an influencer? Because if you did, that’s why noone is answering.

Posted in Demystifying publishing

What Happens to Banned Books?: Demystifying Publishing Part 9 with @readwithriver

What's the deal with banning books? What happens to the books? Who is most affected? Let's discuss!
Demystifying Publishing Part 9 with @readwithriver: What happens to Banned Books? #Bannedbooksweek
The History of Banning Books. As long as books have existed, people have tried to ban them. Banning books has always been about maintaining existing hierarchies of power, and control. Empathizing with people who are oppressed by those hierarchies is considered a threat to that power. In 1121 CE Abelard was forced to burn is hown book…he was also castrated. They didn’t play around back then. (Source Bond, S. ” Top 5 Ancient and Medieval Censored Books TO Read During Banned Book Week” Forbes, 2016.
Banned Books Today. Are banned books illegal tools of the devil? …No…Books are banned by individual school boards, libraries, schools, etc. You can still buy them, they are often harder to find.
Does banning a book make it more popular? “No Publicity is Bad Publicity”-P.T. Barnum. Books by already famous authors often see a jump in sales when they have a banned book. “Whether or not there is a benefit often hinges on how high profile an author is at the time of the challenge.” (Source King,N. “Banned Books Week: How the Blacklist can Goose a Book’s Sales” Marketplace.org, 2013.)
IF You’re Not A Famous Author… not a good time. “A lot of these authors who are challenged are not famous….Wealthy authors who sell a lot of books can hire publicists and attorneys to defend them, but your average mid-list author can’t. They’ve got to take these battles on personally.” (Source. King,N. “Banned Books Week: How the Blacklist can Goose a Book’s Sales” Marketplace.org, 2013.) “As an author of a recently challenged book, I will not trade freedom for profit. And I wouldn’t trade freedom for profit, even if the math was on my side.” (Sara Hockler, Sarahockler.com, 2010)
Who is most Impacted? Children. “THe history of children’s book publishing in America offers insight into the ways in which traditional attitudes about “appropriate” stories often end up marginalizing the lives and experiences of many young readers, rather than protecting them.” (Source, Ringle, P. “How Banning Books Marginalizes Children,” TheAtlantic.com, 2016.) “When we say ‘this book is inappropriate’ we’re telling those childrne your situation…your family…your life is inappropriate.”-Kate Messner
What kind of books get banned? “In 2019, eight out of the 10 books on the association’s list featured L.G.B.T.Q. subject matter. For 2020, however, that majority was fractured, with the addition of books that touch on racial injustice and police violence toward Black people and books by authors of color.” “In this case, we’re seeing an effort to stigmatize and vilify stories about racial injustice.”(Source, Waller, A. “Books About Racism and Police Violence Fill Out List of ‘Most Challenged Titles.” NYTIMES, 2020.)
Banned Books Week Since 1982 every year in September Banned Books Week is celebrated to fight against challenges, and support books that have been banned. A Coalition of Organizations works together for banned Books Week. Check it out to learn more.

Sources

Source 1: Bond, S. ” Top 5 Ancient and Medieval Censored Books TO Read During Banned Book Week” Forbes, 2016.

Source 2: King, N. “Banned Books Week: How the Blacklist can Goose a Book’s Sales” Marketplace.org, 2013.

Source 3: SaraH Ockler, SarahOckler.com, 2010

Source 4: Ringle, P. “How Banning Books Marginalizes Children,” TheAtlantic.com, 2016.

Source 5: Waller, A. “Books About Racism and Police Violence Fill Out List of ‘Most Challenged Titles.” NYTIMES, 2020.

Posted in Demystifying publishing

4 Reasons why it’s important to Preorder Books if you want to help an Author Succeed

Have you ever wondered why publishers and authors are always publicizing preorder availability? There’s some very practical reasons for it!

Preordering a book that doesn’t arrive for months or years might seem unnecessary but your decision to preorder directly affects the book’s chances of commercial success.
1. Pre-release, preorders signal to publisher there will be interest, and they can adjust print runs to accurately meet demands. THe size of an initial print run announces to the world the confidence the publisher has in a book’s commercial success. The bigger the print run, the more confidence, the more buzz. Under printing can be a huge problem, because often people who cannot find a book in stock when they want it, will forget about it and not come back and buy it later.
2. Preorders then build buzz and encourage larger orders from big retailers. The buzz around the book is a great sales point that gets big retailers to make larger initial orders to prepare for consumer demand. This is of course not a good thing if after the fact nobody buys them, because they’ll be returned. But having them ordered and in stock means that they are available and a book has a chance to succeed.
3. Post-release, preorders sales count as part of first week sales. These inflated numbers allow books to launch and climb the rankings onto the bestseller lists which guarantee continued sales. Being on a bestseller list is one of the best things that can happen to a book commercially. People who have never heard of it, and might have never considered buying it, will go out and buy it because it is on this list.
4. Support independent Bookshops with guaranteed sale for their stock, helps mitigate risks. Independent bookshops help authors with creating readership and awareness. Preorders are guaranteed sales, and it allows retailers who operate on small profit margins and are risk averse to have a guaranteed sale on a book. Independent bookshops work hard to create opportunities for local authors and illustrators, to help them create buzz and get books out there. Supporting indie bookshops is supporting the culture of books.

Special thanks to the team at Walker Books for answering questions about this issue as well as UK Book Publisher, Editorial director at Andersen Press, Libby Hamilton @LibbyHamHam on Instagram

Posted in Demystifying publishing

What Happens to Books that Don’t Sell? Demystifying Publishing Part 7 with @ReadwithRiver

“What Happens to Books that Don’t Sell? It’s Not Good.”
Books Shall Gather no Dust. A book launches. Retailers have ordered copies from publishers, the publishers are paid. But what happens if no one buys that book from the retailer? New books can be returned to publishers if they’re not purchased with approx 3-12 months after the launch (depending on the contract.) The window for success or fail is tiny!
The Death of a book, Destroyed. Unsold books that are returned to the publisher, are usually immediately sent to be destroyed, turned into a liquid pulp. That pulp is then reused to make other things, most notably pulp fiction books.
Alternatives to Destruction? The publisher can accept the return, check each book for damage, scan it back into the warehouse and it can sit in the publisher’s warehouse taking up space in hopes someone else may order it. But this is costly, and wasteful compared to pulping. Sometimes the unwanted stock is sold at a loss to places like BookOutlet (which is why their prices are so cheap!) There is a cost to cheap books, you the consumer however are just not the ones paying it. The publisher, author, and all of the people involved with the book are the ones to pay.
The History of Pulping: A long history of returns. As early as the 17th century book publishers were ripping apart pieces of unsold books to create new books. To this day the pulp from destroyed books is used to create paper to…MAKE MORE BOOKS!
All’s well that ends well? Recycling does not make this okay. Huge amounts of waste in creating millions of books a year, shipping them back and forth, just to be pulped to be turned into more books. Huge loss of profit for the publishers with real consequences for the employees who rely on them. Disaster for the author/illustrator who now have to carry around this commercial failure for the rest of their careers. Publishers see those sales records and are scared to reinvest.
5 Ways to Support a New Book! Visibility and word of mouth are the biggest factors to commercial success of a book. If a book isn’t visible no one is going to buy it. 1. Leave reviews on Good Reads, Amazon, Indigo, etc. 2. Request it at your local library and school libraries. 3. Talk about it with your personal friends and on Social Media. Word of mouth has power. 4. Purchase a copy for yourself if you can, Pre-order preferably. 5. Give books for gift giving occasions.

Further Articles/Sources about this topic:

https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1995-02-05-bk-28123-story.html

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2002/mar/19/fiction.stephenmoss

Where Books Go To Die

https://nymag.com/news/intelligencer/houghton-mifflin-harcourt-jonah-lehrer-2012-8/

Posted in Demystifying publishing

The Timeline of Making a Book in Traditional Publishing: Demystifying Publishing Part 6 with @ReadwithRiver

The amount of time it takes to put out a book can vary wildly in the traditional publishing industry. This is dependent on a number of factors, for example books without pictures do not require illustration and can be put out fairly quickly. Where as in some cases a book can take over two years between acquisition and actual publication.
The starting point here is the acquisition of the book, so when the publisher makes the decision to purchase a text. A meeting is held of all departments and if the okay is given, then negotiations begin between the author/agent and the publisher. Eventually contracts are signed (At this point the author/agent receive part of their Advance) and announcements are made.
Next comes first round of edits and design decisions. For picture books that means choosing an illustrator and them getting to work. For non picture books that means cover and text design.
The illustration process can take up to a year, and some illustrations require more time consuming labour than others.
MORE EDITING> While sales does the sell-in.
Printing and Binding, and Sales.
Delivery to warehouses, and then to retailers.
Promotion, marketing, publicity, and sales.
Debut!
After debut season is over, the book no longer receives the same publicity and marketing push as it did in it’s debut. Unless it was highly successful
Posted in Demystifying publishing

5 Factors that Influence the Decision to Publish & How to Address Them as a Writer: If you’re a writer you need to know this

5 Factors that Influence the Decision to Publish and how to address them as a writer.
  1. Suitability of Text
  2. Author Track Record
  3. Comparable Titles
  4. Author Platform
  5. Buzz
Profit Not Public Service: Publishers are surviving in a capitalist society, just like us.

Book Failure= Financial disaster, not just for publishing executives but everyone in the publishing industry chain.

Taking a chance on an author is a risk for the entire chain with very real consequences. So any reticence to taking on big risk should be seen as responsibility for employees, not just conservatism.

The 5 factors all contribute to creating a picture of risk vs. reward, profit vs. loss.

1. Suitability of text

this issue before in previous parts of this Demystifying publishing series, please refer to them for more details on suitability of text.

Text must be enjoyable and suits: the intended audience, publisher’s catalogue, direction of trends and, vision for future of publisher’s list.

2. Author Track Record

Author’s sales record is indicator of future success or future commercial failure.

“But what if I’ve never Published a Book?”

So, fortunately for you, this is actually a Schrodinger’s cat kind of situation and BETTER than having a bad sales record. There’s no record of failure yet, so there’s equal possibility of failure or success, the only way to know for sure is to see what happens next.

3. Comparable Titles

Comparable titles are used to build a case for the financial viability of your book (MSS) Mention them in any submission to either agent or editor.

So “You Matter” “All Because You Matter” and “I Believe I Can” are titles comparable to each other because they have similar themes.

Good comparable titles must be: recent, specific and, successful.

Bonus Points if it’s from the publisher or agent who you’re submitting to.

On Comparable titles

For the love of everything do not compare your story to HARRY POTTER or THE CAT IN THE HAT or, GOODNIGHT MOON, etc.

Don’t do this when querying an agent, or an editor, or an influencer reviewer, just don’t do it.

It tells everyone you don’t actually read children’s books because you don’t know the current market.

Also it kind of makes you sound like an ass.

4. AUthor Platform

Authority: Relevant credentials are key for Non-Fiction authors

Less important for fiction authors.

Relevancy is key here, if you have a PHD in Psychology, and you’re writing about Rocket Ship Engineering, that is not relevant. So, not really helpful.

Quantifiable visibility within target audience: aka do you have people who will buy your book?

“Influencers” & Author Platform

Unlike every other luxury consumer good industry (which is exactly what book publishing is,) publishers are slow to see Social Media Influence as genuine proof of money making platform.

This attitude is changing and some big publishers are now producing books by influencers.

This shift will partly be thanks to the NYT article from March of 2021 “How Crying on Tik Tok Sells Books”

Most publishers don’t know a lot about Social Media Influencing and change will continue to move slowly. But it’s happening.

5. Buzz

Are people actually in the industry talking about your work?

How can you get them talking about you? Twitter is actually a good place to start, a lot of publishing industry people are on Twitter. And if you follow me you know I’m abysmal at Twitter, I just don’t enjoy it, not enough pretty pictures, so this is a piece of advice I do not take for myself. I’d rather cry on Tik Tok.

Attending industry events, book launches, meeting people. Doing this in the pandemic might be harder but not impossible. Virtual events are hosted all the time and often you’ll find editors or other senior members of publishing houses showing up to them.

Having a well respected agent is also key for generating industry buzz, see my previous blog in this series on Literary Agents.

Profit & Loss Assessment

So when you put all of these things together, along with some other numbers for production, distribution, etc. They start to build a profit and loss statement, they will assess the commercial viability of your manuscript proposal, and from this statement they can decide whether or not to offer to acquire it and also, how much money they can offer you as an advance.

Posted in Demystifying publishing

Literary Agents: The Fairy Godparents of Publishing

Demystifying Publishing Part 4 with @readwithriver

Demystifying Publishing Part 4 with @readwithriver  
Literary Agents:The Fairy Godparents of Publishing
A very practical Cinderella story.
What does an agent do?  Why do you want one? How do you choose one?
Saves and Shares are appreciated!
Fairy Literary Agents 
A very practical Cinderella story.
Once upon a time there was a writer who could not get to the publisher’s ball to have her manuscript read. “Oh how I wish I could go to the ball.” Then one night after many years of wishing one of her queries* was answered! An agent appeared.  
*See part three on How to Query.
Fairy Literary Agents
Pumpkins and Glass Slippers
Her Fairy Literary Agent used her editing magic to dress up her manuscript and get the writer past the gates into the publisher’s ball to dance with the editor.  Most editors especially at big houses will only look at manuscripts brought to them by agents.  These editor-agent relationships are cultivated over many years.  Even for publishers that accept open submissions (see part 3) manuscripts submitted by agents are seen faster and are given a response even if it is a reject.  Instead of six months, you can expect half of that time frame or less for a response.
Fairy Literary Agents At the Ball
Once the writer’s work was past the gates, it was up to the writer to make the editor fall in love with her work.  A Fairy Literary Agent can help you streamline your work, they can get you an audience with the best editors but, they can’t force an editor to love it or to like you.  That’s your job.  Editors call a meeting with the author before an offer is made to see if they will be easy to work with.  You CAN talk yourself out of a book deal. 
Fairy Literary Agents Finding you the right prince!
Not every publisher is one you want to work with.  Agents look for skeletons in editors’ & publishers’ closets and steer their clients away from sketchy partnerships.  They have a history of working with various editors and teams and they will know who will be the best fit for you and your work.  Traditional publishing is a team sport.
Fairy Literary Agents Contracts
Standard contracts are NEVER in the author’s best interests. Your agent negotiates for you until it is. Beforehand: financial matters like royalty percentage &, production matters like cover approval. During: intervening in decisions that negatively affect the integrity of your work.  After: making sure your work continues to be in print and if it is not, fighting to revert rights back to you to resell.  This is just a fraction of what they negotiate.
Fairy Literary Agents, agents succeed if you succeed. 
Agents usually make 15% of the author’s cut, from advance and royalties.  They only get paid if you do.
This is NOT lucrative. Agents sometimes have second jobs, or take on more clients than they can reasonably handle to make a living wage.  This is a career people choose because they love doing it, not because they’re trying to make a mint.  A good question to ask an agent before working with them is how many clients they have and how much time they will have to work with you personally.  No one is more personally invested in your success than your agent, their livelihood depends on it.
Fairy Literary Agents: Finding the right agent for you
Having an agent is a relationship that ideally will last many years.  It’s important you get along well.  Often agents will take a client on for only one manuscript as a trial period.  It is vital you have an agent who you trust & who shares the same editorial vision you do. Head to readwithriver.ca for resources in finding an agent & querying.

Resources to help you find Literary Agents:

US Literary Agent Listings

https://www.writersunion.ca/literary-agents

http://www.ardorlitmag.com/literary-agents.html

https://literaryagencies.com/literary-agents-childrens-books/

https://www.pw.org/literary_agents

Posted in Demystifying publishing

Demystifying Publishing Part 2 with @readwithriver: Which is better for Authors Traditional or Self Publishing? A Cakefographic

So you’ve invented a great cake recipe (story) and you want to share it with the world and ideally make a little coin too. You have two major options, sell your recipe to a Bakery (a traditional publishing house) or sell it yourself, homemade (self-publishing.) Your friends and family all love your recipes (writing) and are encouraging you to make the leap and get yourself out there. Which option is best for you? Well, that really depends to be totally honest on what it is you want to get out of it.

Production! The baking and decorating of the actual cake!

BAKERY (Traditional Publishing)Homemade (Self-Publishing)
Whole team of editors that specialize in each step of the editing process to refine your manuscript! They may have ideas you don’t like and compromises are made.
There are several types of editors that work in a house, structural, line, copy, proof and, production editors.
You are your own editor, or you hire a freelance editor,
ideally multiple editors to ensure the best quality.
There are a number of companies that offer freelance editing services.
Contracts and works with professional illustratorYou contract and work with illustrator at your own expense. You may want to hire an illustrator to do a small commission first of one page, before committing to the whole book, to ensure quality, but also that they can deliver on time.
Team for lay out, cover design and, printing. Cover design is separate from the illustrator.If you are printing a whole run yourself (as opposed to print on demand services like Amazon where they take a cut of the profit) then the printer often offers lay out design services for a fee (expect that fee to be over $1,000) If you wish to order a sample of your book before committing to a print run, a sample single copy will probably cost about $300. And then people order print runs in numbers of about 500, 1,000, or 2,000 copies at a time. Which you’ll have to store somewhere.
Will meet house standards and conform to house brand on every level. A traditionally published book is a team effort and a team product. The standards of your book will be whatever you set them at, but every single choice, from the binding to the paper type to the set of the font is going to be your choice.

Marketing and Distribution: Awareness of product, and where/how it is sold.

Bakery (Traditional Publishing House)Homemade (self-Publishing)
After printing and binding your book, publishers have warehouses where they store your books before shipping them off to retailers.Either you find a place to store your books (I hope you have a big cellar) or you do Print on Demand services where the profit margin is much lower, and you have less control over the quality of the final product.
If you only sell E-copies of your book then it’s much easier you can avoid a lot of this. But if it’s a picture book, you’re going to have a limited audience, people generally do not buy E-Books for children.
Your new book will be sold and marketed in all of the major stores that sell books, Costco, pharmacies, airports, grocery stores, major bookstore chains, independent bookstores, library wholesalers, and online retailers like Amazon.
Publishers also arrange for marketing within these stores for your book.
You will need to find accounts (stores) to take your book stock and sell your books. Call up libraries, library wholesalers, go to indie bookstores and talk to the owner, book fairs, craft fairs.
The internet is your friend here, there are many options for selling your book online.
Marketing includes online paid advertisement as well as in store co-op placement for visibility. Some things you might not realize are paid marketing in fact are, those tables in the bookstore with the “picks” are not genuine recommendations usually, they’re in-store co-op placement. They have been pre-arranged with the publisher for discounts.
Online marketing can look like featured books on the homepage of Amazon or Indigo.
Marketing is paid advertisement and paid placement. Awareness is key, if people aren’t aware of your book no one is going to buy it.

Money Money Money: Making a book costs a lot of money

Bakery (Traditionally Published)Home Made (Self-Published)
Pays author an advance on sales. After that advance is earned out the author receives royalties that can vary between 7-15%. If the author has an agent then that agent usually takes 15% commission on their royalties and advance. Author retains 100% profit or up to 75% when using services like Amazon.
E-royalties for digital sales are a standard 25% this is a very good deal for publishers over time because they only pay for the base costs of creating the book, editing, lay out etc. Eventually those costs are covered and they don’t have to worry about PBB costs (paper, binding, printing,) shipping costs, the e-copies just continue to rake in revenue. A lot of authors do not like this!Successful Self-Published authors of adult novels (and there are many authors who are very successful selling e-books on Amazon) will try to retain their electronic rights when publishers try to buy their books. So that means they will sell the publisher only the print rights or co-edition rights (translations) but keep their full rights to their e-copies which continue to exist on Amazon.
Publisher takes on all the financial risks. If the book fails, the publisher suffers, the author walks away with their advance (but their sales history in tatters, recovering from a flop of a book is even harder than getting a first book published.)Author takes on the complete financial risk for everything, and you’re looking at total investment of $10-15,000 to do book that is comparable to a trade published book.
Kick Starter and other crowd funding options are also possible, anyway you slice this cake, you’re going to be doing a lot of jobs you’ve never considered.

Publicity: Publicity is Buzz created around a book that is FREE (not a paid ad)

Bakery (Traditionally Published)Homemade (Self-Published)
Have connections to traditional media, Industry magazines, Newspapers, TV shows. Cold call traditional media, local newspapers, etc.
Have a network of reviewers and influencers.You need to develop a relationship with reviewers and influencers (a professional one.) Publicists at traditional houses have databases of influencers who they have cultivated a working relationship with overtime. When looking for influencers you may want to send your book to, check their highlights for their policies around accepting self-published submissions, it’s usually laid out clearly for you, and if you don’t follow them, you won’t get a response.
Make sure you have set aside a budget for physical review copies, influencers will not feature self published e-books.
set up tours for authors.You can arrange your own tours! Libraries, independent bookstores, local fairs or events, schools. There’s even a website where authors who are available for school visits can put their information in.
They have a professional reputation which gives them authority in finding publicity opportunities. Build an engaged social media following. No short cuts. It’s not about the number up top but the number who care enough to actually buy your book and leave reviews on places like Amazon and Good reads. Fake followers will not buy real books.
launch party set uplaunch party!

Quality Control: Standards are key

Bakery (Traditional Publishing House)Homemade (Self-Publishing)
Standards vary from house to house, but there is a house style, there are expectations.
Remember that not all publishers are the same, some are tiny operations and some are gigantic worldwide corporations, so expectations will vary.
Bigger doesn’t always mean better, in fact some of the smaller publishers are known for taking the time out to produce much higher quality work, for example Enchanted Lion, Flying Eye, are both smaller publishers who produce top notch work.
You’re setting the standards of quality here. However at the end of the day quality may come down to how much you’re willing to spend, and a little bit of luck in choosing the right thing if this is totally new to you.
the first time you bake a cake, it’s not always a great cake. There’s a learning curve here.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it, just to be kind to yourself if it’s not what you imagined.
Mistakes can still be made.
I’ve seen plenty of boring crappy books made by traditional publishers.
Mistakes can be made, however self-published authors can be fastidious and take proofing very seriously. If anything they have an emotional connection to the work that will drive them to check five hundred times, that you may not always have with a traditional team.
Entire teams of people checking it at every step of the way to ensure that it meets the standards of quality of the publisher. You’re responsible for checking every step of the way, from little things like margins, to space between the lines. It helps to find multiple opinions and when possible print samples BEFORE committing to anything.

Homemade Options: If you’re going to do it yourself, do you have to do it all by yourself?

Type of Self-PublishingDescription
Fly SoloFrom editing, to lay out, to printing, to storing, shipping, marketing, publicity, you are responsible for all of it. It’s entirely yours.
AmazonYou do all of the editing, lay out, illustrations etc. When you are done you upload a PDF to Amazon and sell through their service. You will receive between 35% to 70% royalties depending on the price of your book and which of their programs you use.
For adult E-Books this can be very successful.
Their print books are absolutely awful quality however so it’s much harder to do this with print picture books and have them look half decent. I have seen a couple that were so good in content that they overcame the terrible quality but they’re incredibly rare.
This is the best option if you don’t want to spend any money at all, if you just want to put a story out there, and have it out there, you can do this for free, and if any of them sell, you will get a cut.
Pay to Play (sometimes called “Vanity Press.”)Companies that print your book for a price (you pay them.)
They vary in price, quality and services provided.
Some offer full services that a traditional publisher provides, they hook you up with an illustrator (often not a very good one) and they do lay out, get it printed, some of these services even take on the marketing for you and approach influencers on behalf of their clients for reviews.
CAUTION: There is a huge variety of reliability with these companies, they can be incredibly predatory, some will take your money, then print your book on Amazon. I’ve heard of people who got their books missing pages. DO NOT jump into the kitchen with the first company advertised to you on Google. You might be swindled.
Check for reviews, check for product quality (order other books they’ve produced), find authors who’ve worked with them and reach out to ask about their experiences. It’s a lot of money to flush down the toilet.

Other Considerations: Errant thoughts

On Hiring Illustrators

If you’re going to do a picture book, the illustrations are almost more important than the actual words. People can forgive meh writing in a picture book, but they absolutely cannot forgive bad pictures. So be wary of hiring random people on Craig’s list that promise to illustrate your book for a thousand dollars. There are a few artists out there who churn out self-pub books like a factory, they take the money, give what’s basically clip art, then move on to the next one. The result is not professional quality by any stretch of the imagination.

A really excellent illustrator might charge about $10K, if it’s a full 32 page picture book, and then after you’ve sold that amount they will likely require that you split royalties with them going forward. Unless you negotiate to pay them outright.

You might be able to find promising illustrators who will work for less, consider college art students who are new to the game.

Making the leap from Self-Pub to Traditional

There are many authors who are unable to find traditional publishers to take their Mansucripts, so they self-publish it. If it does really well, then publishers buy the rights and re-release it. A few examples of picture books and authors that started out self published and were then picked up are:

“Race Cars” by Jenny Devenny which was picked up by Quarto and further edited by Charnaie Gordon.

Dr. Cara Florance whose self-published Biology picture book was discovered by Chris Ferrie of the Baby University book series, after a social media post. She now writes for the “Baby University” book series, and has her own book series called “Baby Medical School.”

“Hey, Boy” by Benjamin Strouse and Jennifer Phelan was also self-published, then picked up by Simon & Schuster.

So if you want to be traditionally published, it’s not impossible to start your path with self-publishing and then make that leap.

Where do you make more money?

So if you’re only selling e-books, then conceivably you could make a lot more money. However, it’s more complex than just the percentage of the money you make per book. It’s about how many books you’ll be able to sell overall, that requires marketing, publicity, etc. A traditional publisher has the means and connections to distribute widely for you, world wide even.

Additionally if you’re selling print copies, traditional publishers have the ability and the set up to keep production costs down, print larger print runs, and have the distribution network to sell at every store. You may only make 7% royalties on one book, but if you’re printing your own books by yourself in a run of only say a thousand books, then you’re only going to make a your larger percentage of profit on a very small number of books. If your Publisher can sell fifty thousand copies, and you can only sell maybe five thousand, where is the better deal for you?

At the end of the day, do what feels right for you. It just matters how the cake turns out.