Self-publishing my children’s book, Daisy the Honey Bee

bee and flowers

When I decided to start writing again after a hiatus of many years, I thought that writing a children’s book might be a good place to start. It did not take me long to discover that I was mistaken in thinking it would be easy.  What was encouraging, however, was the discovery of software that simplified the publishing process.

My goals

  • I wanted to write a children’s book with text and illustrations for the 8-12 age group.
  • I only had a limited budget so I needed to do as much as possible myself.
  • I wanted it to be in digital format first so I could test out the market with minimum cost. A print book is obviously far more expensive as the product has to be physically printed and shipped.
  • I wanted to publish it on Amazon because I already make money as an Amazon Associate and I know its potential as a search engine for people looking to buy.
  • I needed an easy way to format my book for Amazon.
  • I wanted readers to be able to read the book on multiple devices.

Kindle Kid’s Book Creator

It didn’t take me long to discover Kindle Kid’s Book Creator. You are able to download the software for free to make formatting a kid’s book super easy. I could import my text and images from Microsoft Word and KDP would automatically convert my book for Kindle, so I wouldn’t have to work with any complex conversion tools. I download a guide from the website too that showed me how to prepare the digital file of my book.

My Content

I have long been fascinated with bees and the life in the hive. I wanted to create content about bees that offered knowledge in a way that was interesting to children, so that they would absorb it without realizing that they were learning at the same time.

Daisy, The Honey Bee

Characters and plot

Just as with any other book, I knew would have to make my characters and plot believable. I  wanted the children to be able to put themselves into the life of Daisy, the Honey Bee, and the challenges she faced inside and outside of the hive.

Words

As soon as I had the rough outline of my story, I went to Microsoft word and started playing with words. Before I realized it, I found I was starting to write in rhyme. I hadn’t wanted to do this but the rhyming kind of took over and developed had a life of its own. I had to be careful to use words that were appropriate for the age group. It was a question of reaching a happy medium between words they would know and other words they may not yet know but would understand from the context. I wanted to help stretch their vocabulary. I used a free Flesch Grade Level Calculator to help me. This readability formula is very well-known, has a number of different names and is designed to test how easy the text is to read. It can give you a fairly good idea if the words you’ve used are suitable for the age group you have chosen.

Word count is another important issue with kid’s books.  Picture books for children up to age eight average 1000 words; easy readers for ages five to nine are usually about 50-2500 words; chapter books (short novels for ages seven to ten) typically are 10,000-12,000 words; middle grade novels (ages eight to twelve) are around 20,000-25,000 words, and young adult novels (ages twelve and up) may be 35,000 to 45,000 words. Of course there are many exceptions, but as a new author I thought it was better to stick fairly close to the norm.

Tone

The tone of a kid’s story is very important. I wanted to use my little story to teach them about bees but I knew I couldn’t just present the facts as though I was lecturing them. The tone of a kid’s book has to suit the subject and age group.  A light, upbeat tone usually goes down well with children.

Illustrations

Queen BeeWhile I was writing, I had images in my mind. Now, I had to bring them to life in some way. Hiring a professional illustrator would obviously be the perfect solution but my budget did not allow for this. I could have tried to find a novice designer who would work more for experience than money. However, I was a graphic designer when I was much younger and decided that I would have to revive those skills and do it myself. This was definitely the hardest part of the exercise for me and although I am proud that I managed to accomplish it at all,  I couldn’t quite capture what I saw in my mind. I have come to believe that hiring an illustrator is not something you should compromise on if at all possible. The same goes for your cover – this is what will make readers buy your book and it’s worth spending some money.

Proofreading and Editing

I have done plenty of proofreading and editing in my life and I felt confident that I could handle this aspect myself.  When I had finished editing myself,  I did get a friend to look at it with fresh eyes and pick up errors I may have missed (why is it that I never seem to pick up my own errors when I’m so good at finding the mistakes in the work of others!).

Publishing

What I had thought was going to be the most difficult part proved to be the easiest with the Kindle Kid’s Book Creator. I had my text and images in Microsoft Word and it took only a few seconds to import the PDF that I had saved. This tool supports importing a file from PDF, JPG, TIFF, PNG and PPM formats.

The first screen I saw was a welcome screen with a self-tutorial to get me started. I was prompted to add details about the book such as title, author, publisher and language. After I had entered all the details, and chosen how I wanted my book to be displayed (landscape, portrait etc.), I was given an options page where I had two choices: 1. to upload a manuscript with the cover already included; or 2. Upload a cover and then upload the manuscript — the option I chose.

ADD POPUP is a feature of the tool that allows you to add pop-up text to your book —  when a finger or a mouse is moved over it, the text pops up and becomes larger.  I decided not to use the feature this time as I already had plenty of text but it does offer great potential for a more interactive kid’s book and it probably won’t be long before audio is added too.

Once I had finished importing my content and cover, I simply headed off to www.kdp.amazon.com, signed in to my Amazon account and followed the steps to add a new title.  I selected the right age and grade to help readers to find my book in Kindle Stores worldwide. Previewing your book is important before you hit the publish button as it allows you to see your book exactly as readers will see it. You are given information about the pricing structure and royalties as well as suggestions as to suitable pricing.  The digital books created with this tool work on all Fire tablets, Fire phone, Kindle for iPad, Kindle for iPhone, and Kindle Android.

Marketing

What I have discovered is that it’s no good to just publish a book on Amazon and expect it to sell. There are so many books available that marketing is all important.  Amazon does have ways for you to advertise that don’t cost too much. I haven’t tried any of the paid advertising methods yet. I did try the free book promotion and was encouraged to see that it was being downloaded. When marketing digital kid’s books your promotions have to appeal to the parents and grandparents who will be buying the books.  Engaging parents on social media using the topic in your book is probably a good way to do this.  One of the best ways to sell is via your mailing list. The more people you sell to, the more Amazon shows your book to other buyers.

Last Word

Well, I managed to get my little children’s book out there into the world and had some fun along the way. I am experimenting as I go and I am still challenged by marketing which does not come naturally to me. I would rather do anything other than self-promote! Trying out the free promotion on Amazon was a good experiment and it felt good that people were actually downloading what I had written.
I would love to know whether you have published a kid’s book and what creative methods you have used to promote it. What made it stand out in the sea of other books out there?

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