3 Real Costs of Self-Publishing a Kids' Book
If you've ever thought about how to make money on the side, you've probably considered writing a book. Many websites suggest writing books as an easy way to earn extra income.
I am here to set the record straight.
I have always wanted to write children's books, and I finally decided in 2015 that I would make this dream a reality. After several months of trying but failing to find a publisher, I came across a free webinar on how to make a lot of money with children's ebooks. The person running this webinar promised that it would take only a few hours to write and publish an ebook for kids using Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing program. He also said that he made $2,000–$5,000 a month passively through books with titles like Ninja Farts.
This was the push I needed to finally write my first book, find an illustrator, and publish it myself. By now I have published four children's books, and have a pretty good handle on what's involved. I came out with my first book, Blondie McGhee, and then quickly followed that with three others, all within a year. And here's what it's cost me. (See also: 5 Simple Ways to Find Your Passion)
Illustrators and Editors
The webinar host said that he used Fiverr to find an inexpensive illustrator. I looked into it but the quality of the illustrators I found on Fiverr wasn't up to snuff. I moved my search to Upwork and, after wasting $50 for lousy samples, I finally found my dream illustrator through the Upwork platform. For my fully-illustrated book, How to Sell Your Sister for Fun and Profit, I was quoted $4,000 for the whole project.
Given that one expert illustrator had quoted me $12,000, I considered the $4,000 a great deal, especially since this artist is very talented. I bit the bullet and paid the cost.
My other books, the three-part Blondie McGhee series, are not fully illustrated. I found a different illustrator for those and was able to get the covers done for only $100 each. I included about 20 inside illustrations in the first two books. The illustrator quoted me a reasonable price of $15 per black and white picture, but with 20 illustrations for each book, it added up.
Looking at similar kinds of children's "early chapter books" (the beginner level for children learning to read), I discovered that many contained 30–40 illustrations, but these books also had bigger budgets through publishing companies. I decided to forgo the illustrations inside the third book, and the book has still sold steadily.
I also hired an editor and voice actress for audiobook narration for my first Blondie McGhee book, which added $285 to my bill.
Some people can commit a weekend to writing a book, and that's great. I write freelance about 20 hours a week and am a stay-at-home mom to two little girls. The writing process for my early reader chapter books took more time than I had anticipated. I estimate it took me about 20 hours for each book to go from idea to publication. I spent about 15 weeks on each book, doing an hour or so of work each week. Individuals with more time to devote to writing could have probably completed my book in a week.
However, writing the book is not the only task that takes time. You then have to revise it, upload it, tweak it to Amazon's guidelines, write promotional copy for it, and market it. I try to devote an hour a week to marketing my books, including setting up advertising and giveaways, and sending out free digital copies to reviewers.
Some people write and sell very successful kids' series. It is possible, but I have also seen the flip side where people have invested their time and money only to beg for sales. I rarely make any sales online of the Sell Your Sister book. It sells better through in-person marketing at craft shows, but again, that is another time commitment.
So, Is It Worth It?
I was blown away when I received 20-30 sales of my first Blondie McGhee book in the first month after its release in 2016. I didn't know if the book was going to be liked by others. I was thrilled when I ended up selling more than 2,000 copies that year, and earned $3,000–$4,000 on the series.
However, the amount of money is quite small considering how much time and money I invested in the books. I usually make more from freelance writing in a month than I made in a whole year of selling books.
But, the main reason I wrote the books was because I had a dream of doing so, and that is the big difference. I feel like if you want to make a quick buck but hate writing, then don't bother writing a book. There are so many easier ways to make money. However, if you truly have a passion to write a book, then go for it. Don't do it for the money, but do it for yourself.
My Sell Your Sister book might never sell enough copies to break even, but the joy of knowing I achieved a dream is priceless. My two little girls know that I wrote them a book and put my best effort into it, and honestly, I would rather have that than be a millionaire making money doing something I hate.
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