How To Publish an Illustrated Book With Your Kid

Posted on January 29, 2012 by

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A fun project that promotes reading and creativity

I recently helped my elementary school-aged daughter publish a book.  A real book with with a shiny cover, its own ISBN, and an online “store” where you can buy it for $3.99 (she gets $1).  Check it out.

It was a wonderful experience for her.  She’s really fired up now about writing, reading and creating. We’ve read her book dozens of times (me to her, her to me, me to our cat, etc.).

This is also fun for adults (James Altucher says it’s better than a business card). I’m planning to publish a cookbook soon. Here’s how you can do it too.

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What you’ll have when you’re done

When you’re done with this project you’ll have a real paperback book your hands. You can have 1 to 10 copies printed for you at $2.15 each plus $5.00 for shipping (for a 24 to 100 page book). The print quality is very good, and the binding and cover are similar to the quality you’ll find in a bookstore.

You can associate an ISBN with the book at no cost if you like.  You can also sell it online, including at amazon.com.  This post is about how I published a book with my daughter, but it is also simple to publish something more complex.

What you need to get this done:

Time: However long it takes you and your child to write and illustrate + 2 hours.

Computing: A scanner and Microsoft Word.

Step 1: Choose a publisher (I recommend  createspace.com).

There are a lot of other options for doing this besides createspace.  I looked around a bit and decided that they seemed to provide the best combination of simplicity, quality and low cost. I’ve been happy with the result. Thanks to Max Dama for the pointer. If you choose another publisher (lulu.com is a good alternative) the steps are similar.

Step 2: Download a template

I chose to create a 5.5″ by 8.5″ book because this is the same size as a US Letter sheet folded in half.  It’s helpful to be able to fold a sheet like this for your child to get a sense of how big the final book will be.  Here’s the 5.5 by 8.5 Word template I used for my daughter’s book: internal-template.doc.  That template is based on the one provided by createspace for this size book.

Download it and take a look at the internal pages.  You’ll see that the main content pages have a large square on them.  That’s where the illustrations go.

If you’re interested in trying a differently sized book, or you want to start with one of create space’s templates, go to this page and scroll down a bit to view the templates for differently sized books.

Step 3: Write the book (this is the fun & easy part)

Print out multiple copies of one of the pages with the squares on them.  Have your child create a proto-book by drawing an illustration for each page within the square.  They should write text for each page outside the square.

I suggest, for a first book, that you stick with black and white, but you can have the illustrations in color if you like.

Step 4: Cut out and scan the illustrations

Cut out the illustrations.  You may choose to keep the border around the edge, or to cut it off.  If you cut it off, the illustration will not have the border in the final book.

You may find it helpful to mark the illustrations and text pairs with a small numeral somewhere so you can keep them in order.

Now use your scanner to scan in all the images.

Step 5: Assemble the book contents

Insert each of the scans into one page each (use Word’s insert>picture>from file option).

Then type the text below each image (don’t worry too much about exact formatting at this stage). My daughter and I enjoyed sitting down together and looking at each picture with me typing the the text as she read from the pages. You might find some other fun way to do this, perhaps your child wants to type in the text himself.

Once you have all the text and images in the Word file you can take time now to spruce it up.

Note that the odd-numbered pages will appear on the right.  I arranged things for my daughter’s book so that there were images and text only on the right.  This made the book a little bit more readable for kids, and it also helped get the book up to 24 pages (the minimum) more easily.

Step 6: The cover

For the cover, you’ll need to assemble a few things, as follows:

  1. A photo of your child for the “author’s photo” on the back.
  2. About 200 words of “about the author.”
  3. A title and subtitle (subtitle optional).
  4. A quote about the book or author (optional).
  5. An image for the front cover (optional).

Once you have all this, you’re ready…

Step 7: Submit electronically

Go to createspace.com and click on the start a title for free link.  Just follow the instructions.  The system will ask you for the information in an orderly fashion.

Step 8: Wait

You’ll have to wait a day or so for the publisher to review the book to make sure it will print properly.  They also scan it for illegalities (not sure exactly which ones to be honest). They’ll send an email when it is ready.

Step 9: Review proof and order

Eventually you’ll get an email informing you that the files are ready for you to proof.  If you agree it looks fine, you just click “approve” and you can order your proofs.  You’ll receive them by UPS. These proofs might be all you want to order if you just want a few copies for you and your child.  They are full quality prints of the book.

Once you approve the proof, your book is immediately available for sale online.  You can set a price higher than cost so that you make “a profit” on each copy printed.

Enjoy…

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