How you can create your own childrens book: A great “at-home” activity for these times.

In chatting to a few people it seems there are quite a few who have children’s stories or who would love to write one with their child or children.

From the experience writing Eddy’s Treasure (US, AU, UK) with my son, Michael, I can say it is a very worthwhile thing to do and you wind up with a pretty awesome keepsake. I’ll say more on that front in a few days time as it goes on sale on April 6th. Suffice to say, Michael and I have gained a lot from this and think others would too. So here’s how you can achieve the same for under A$200:

If you haven’t seen the sneak peek of the book, here it is again (provided by the artist):

It may surprise people to learn all the artwork for the book (ten illustrations plus cover) cost A$150. This was the main expense. If you create all the images and text yourself your cost to produce a book would be under A$50.

Our overall book length is 24 pages and in hardcover form it costs about $18 per copy (it would be $9 for paperback) for you to purchase as print on demand (ie: you can order from a single copy to thousands). The only reason ours is this expensive is because Michael insisted we make the book landscape. Had we chosen a portrait or square book, these print costs would be halved. We chose hardcover because the aim was to create a memento we could give to family and friends and that seemed appropriate… and more hard-wearing (good for my kids).

The steps are quite simple:

  1. Write the story. Eddy’s Treasure is only ~300 words. Stories don’t have to be long.

If your book is for you and your family, why not make it about something related to you? Eddy’s Treasure is set at Michael’s grandmother’s house and I used photos taken there to give the illustrator an indication of how we wanted the illustrations to look. You could write a story about getting a puppy, new sibling, or anything which your family has experienced or wants to.

  1. Storyboard the story – ie separate the text into the paragraphs you want on each page. Add a description of what image you’d like to accompany each piece of text. There are many ways of doing this. Some children’s books have the text on a blank page opposite the picture (saves on illustration costs), some have text and images on every page. I chose to put a faded out copy of the image with the text over the top on my pages with writing. I did this because I think it looks better than plain white. It doesn’t cost any more to do it this way, you pay as though every page is full colour, so it seemed like that was making better use of it. Curiously, it’s often the first thing people comment on when they read the book. So far everyone has liked this design choice. Many have commented on what a great idea it was to do it that way.
  2. Sketch images of your scenes. Stick figures or photos of similar scenes are fine (this can be a good activity to occupy your child in these home-bound times). The artist just needs a guide to work from. If you ask the artist to only imagine something from the text, you might be disappointed. You can see the first few pages of what we sent to our illustrator HERE.
  3. Sign up with your printer, so you can download free templates to send the artist. There are numerous square or portrait sizes to choose from, but only one landscape size (if you use the same printer as me, which was IngramSpark, see their paper sizes and costs here). However, the cover size will vary depending on whether you’re going to have a hardcover or paperback. Knowing the dimensions required beforehand will save much angst later.
  4. Contact an illustrator (there’s a link to ours at the end of this post). Obtain quote and discuss needs. Make sure you specify what size you want the images and cover to be. If you’re illustrating your book yourselves, then skip steps 6-8.
  5. Illustrator will provide some sketches.
  6. Check them over and discuss required changes. Repeat steps 6 & 7 until you’re happy.
  7. Receive final sketches. Approve them to receive images.
  8. Layout book. You can use something as straightforward as MS Word (just format page to the size of your book), when complete use the save as pdf function if you don’t have adobe (there may be some settings to change to make everything work such as turning off image compression and embedding fonts, these setting are in a sub-menu of the save dialogue box).
  9. Upload files – I use Ingram Spark. Registration is free and they are pretty simple to use. There are codes available that give you free setup and revisions to your books, this will save you $50, so it’s worth googling (and if you find the right one, free revisions). This, effectively means the only costs you’ll have are the illustrations & an ISBN (You’ll need one if you want distribution to online bookshops, if it’s just for you, family and friends, you can get a non-distributable SKU instead. These are free.)
  10. When Ingram (or whoever you use) approve the book (usually takes a couple of days), place an order for a proof copy. (depending on your chosen book size, paper and colour choice this will cost between $13-$25).
  11. Receive and review proof. Even with a three hundred word story, there may be typos which don’t get noticed until you see it in print. Things may be slightly out of place which will need tweaking. Do not skip this step.
  12. Upload revised files if needed. Order another proof if needed.
  13. Order as many copies as you want. Enable distribution if you want (this will get your book into all the online retailers).


Illustrations: $150 + Proof copy ~$16 + Final copy ~$16 + You locate a code for free setup = $182 (Assuming you choose a non-landscape design). Non-distributable SKU (only you can order).

For us: Illustrations $150 + Extra rights $20** + Proof copy $26 + Final copy $26 + ISBN $10 + Distribution & setup $FREE (We had a code) = $232.

Other things to note:

If you go the ISBN route and you’re Australian, you will need to send “legal deposit” copies to the national and your state library. (search “legal deposit australia” for details)

Minimum page count is 18 pages. Don’t forget to allow for a title page. Look at some existing books for layout ideas.

Hardcover books cost roughly twice as much as paperback to produce. You can easily go for both (they use the same interior, it’s just the cover which needs resizing as hardback covers ‘wrap around’ the book, so you need to crop or resize your cover image).

Think about your RRP if distributing it. For Eddy’s Treasure we set it at A$34.95 (US$19.95). This is high and we don’t expect to sell many, but at that price we make under $3 profit. It’s worth mentioning we could have had an RRP of A$9.95 if we’d gone for a square shaped paperback, but a low RRP wasn’t our goal in producing the book. The good thing is that you don’t have to pay for distribution, nor “stock” since it is all print on demand. It is awesome to be able to show people your book for sale online at Amazon, Book Depository, Readings, Dymocks and thousands of other retailers.

If there are other details you’d like to know, please leave a comment below.


* I used for the artwork, as I’d published Horizons by Henry Grossek, which used her illustrations, and I liked her work. If you want to use her services on Freelancer, please sign up using this link as it means I get a referral credit.

**Cost for the illustrations was A$150. I chose to spend an extra $20 to purchase all the rights of the illustrations. This wasn’t necessary, but does mean I can use them in other ways in the future.

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