5 Reasons to Self-Publish Your Children’s Book

Pile of children's books with children's cup.

In the United States, the total value of the children’s book market is $2 billion. Publishing groups show that the children’s book market is growing—even while the adult book market stagnates.

School principals, librarians, and parents are always looking to fill their kid lit collections. Does your book have a place in the market?

Yes! Your book has many roads to success. But for first-time authors, the options can be daunting.

Fortunately, we can unpack the ins and out of one popular pathway: self-publishing.

There are five great reasons to self-publish children’s book series, picture books, and even board books. Let’s jump in!

Table of Contents

Children's Book Publishing: What Are Your Options?

Many authors pursue self-publishing to great success. But, first, it’s smart to understand all your options.

There are three options in the publishing world. You can publish with a “Big 5” publishing company. You can publish through a specialized, small or medium-sized press.

Or, you can self-publish. 

Big Five Publishing

The “Big Five” publishers are big corporations. They’re appealing because they offer big advances (sometimes) and have published New York Times bestsellers. These companies include:

  • Penguin Random House
  • HarperCollins
  • Macmillan
  • Simon & Schuester
  • Hachette (which owns Disney-Hyperion)

Unfortunately, there are a lot of drawbacks. You’ll need an agent before you can even approach a Big 5 editor—and they’ll take a percentage of your earnings. 

Even if the editor chooses your manuscript, getting through this system takes time. In fact, it can take years for a book to go from acceptance to publication.

Is the potential advance worth all that?

Small or Mid-Size Press

Small and mid-size presses offer advantages over the Big 5. For some authors, mid-size presses are a good compromise option. 

You don’t need an agent to submit your manuscript. Smaller presses are more collaborative and may be built around a subgenre or social goal.

And, you’ll still get an advance—albeit a small one. But, you’ll still deal with limited creative control. And, you’ll have to conform to the press’s preconceived marketing strategy.

Self Publishing

Only self-publishing gives you full creative control. You can center your marketing strategies, and there’s no agent required!

The catch? You won’t get an advance. In fact, you’ll have to invest your own money. 

Yet, for many authors, the tradeoff is completely worth it. Here’s why.

Self-Publish Children's Book: Overview

Self-publishing is worthwhile. You’ll bring your vision to life, and you’ll keep the royalties.

For children’s book authors, self-publishing offers five critical benefits you won’t get anywhere else. 

Number one: Hone Your Vision

The self-publishing process lets you hone your vision. This may mean digging deep to find a great idea buried inside you.

Or, maybe you’re a person brimming with stories. Honing your vision lets you parse through your ideas to find which story speaks to you most urgently. And, you’ll discover why it must be written now. 

Stay True to Your Story

Self-publishing lets you stay true to your story. Nobody will push you to conform to market forces. Instead, you can write what you want.

Then, you’ll find the audience that’s already out there waiting for a book like yours.  

Editors Are Partners, Not Bosses

Editors are important for all publishing endeavors. But, for self-publishers, editors take on a slightly different role.

At a publishing house, the editor is the boss. They have the final say.

But, for self-publishers, an editor is more like a partner. They’ll give you great insight.

But, you can still publish your book without taking their advice. Only you know if their advice is off-base or on-point. 

Fill a Gap in the Market

Honing your vision in self-publishing lets you fill gaps in the market. Including gaps others might not see!

In a 2017 essay, writer and editor Rachel Payne praised self-publishing for putting out books that are necessary but aren’t seen as having a large potential market. 

She singled out the self-published book Maxi’s Super Ears. It was the only age-appropriate book she could find for a six-year-old getting hearing aids. 

There may not be many kids with hearing aids. So, publishers may pass on a manuscript about a hard-of-hearing child.

But for the kids who do need aids, this book proves hopeful and comforting. And it’s only available because the author chose to self-publish. 

Number two: Keep Creative Control

One of the most popular reasons to self-publish is to keep creative control. When you publish a book traditionally, you give up many options. Self-publishing lets you think through the best strategy for your work. 

Choose Art Direction

Children’s literature comes in so many styles. Would whimsical watercolors tell your story best? Or could tight, hand-drawn sketches make your historical fiction feel authentic?

When you self-publish, you know what you want from your piece. Then, you get to choose to bring it to life. 

Hire Partners You Trust

Traditional publishers have designers and illustrators on staff. Many presses, even small ones, want children’s authors to submit manuscripts without illustrations.

Why? Presses want to use their own staff. Even if you don’t like their style.

As a self-published author, you choose your partners. You only have to work with people you actually trust. 

Choose Publishing Formats

Keeping creative control means you get to choose which formats you publish in. There are plenty to consider! Your first children’s book could work as a:

  • Board book
  • Picture book
  • Chapter book
  • Middle-grade novel
  • Audiobook
  • Serialized story (in magazines like Cricket)
  • Subscription box surprise
  • Craft book 
  • Book-and-doll set

As the publisher, you can get as creative you want! Explore the many formats that bring a story to life. 

Number three: Market to Your Strengths

As a self-published author, you can use your strengths in book marketing. Not all marketing strategies suit everyone. That’s okay!

Learn about different promotion options. Then, discover what works for you. 

Your Assets, Your Challenges

You know yourself best. In marketing, learn to boost your strength to the highest it can be. Then, center it in the promotion.

This is more effective than struggling to minimize your weaknesses. You can ignore your weaknesses altogether.

Discover Your Skills

Start with introspection. Or, if you tend to be hard on yourself, ask a close friend.

Are you charming interpersonally? Are you a great public speaker?

Maybe you have other performance skills. Can you incorporate other performance modes when reading to children? Puppets, origami, and magic can excite children during a reading.

Or, maybe you’re also good at analysis, or essay writing. You can write about the importance of your book in a way that resonates with teachers and librarians. 

If you’re stuck on what your strengths are, consider a coach. A publishing coach or strategist knows the field. They can match your strengths to effective marketing tactics. 

Book Promotion: Not One Size Fits All!

Book promotion is a broad field. Consider your options to find what works for you. 

Social Media

Social media can be challenging, but some people are great at it. Why not try polls or giveaways to boost your online following?

Promotion Through Interviews

Other authors thrive on the interview circuit. Who might want to interview you about your work?

Don’t underestimate the power of influencers. Booktubers, BookStagram leaders, and popular hosts interview in magazines, podcasts, radio, and even tv.

Look for KidLit-specific shows like Brightly Storytime, Little Stories Everywhere, or PW Kidscast. 

Connect With Culture

You might consider related shows, or publications, that aren’t necessarily book-centric. For example, Bee Culture magazine has published interviews with novelists like Laline Paul, whose fiction centers on bees.

Another track is to explore whether your book fits the theme of a children’s literary magazine. Publications like Cricket, Zizzle, and Bumples publish book excerpts alongside author interviews.

Submit to Awards

Finally, you might be good at impressing award-granters in your field. Did you know the prestigious Caldecott award accepts self-published book nominations?

There are also awards for specific subgenres of kid-lit.

The National Science Teaching Association (NSTA) awards outstanding children’s science books. The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) awards the best in children’s poetry.  

Number four: Earn Higher Royalties

You won’t get an advance when you self-publish. But, many self-published authors earn higher royalties than their traditional counterparts.

In fact, many self-published authors earn 70% of the price readers pay for ebooks. They also earn 60% of the print-book price.

This makes it easy to earn a profit, even if you don’t sell millions of copies.

Meanwhile, traditionally published books earn authors a mere ten cents per dollar. Or less! And, they only earn that after the advance pays out. 

Number five: Flops Don't Count Against You

In the traditional publishing world, the rule is often, “one strike, you’re out!” When a publisher pays a large advance to a first-time author, the pressure is on. If the book doesn’t earn out, their career is sunk.

After one commercial flop, publishers often won’t take a chance on an author’s second book. Even if it’s completely different!

Fortunately, self-publishing doesn’t work that way. Commercial failure isn’t career-ending.

Many self-published authors bounce back if their first book flops. A flop isn’t a failure; it’s a chance to learn and grow!

Isn’t that a healthier mindset? You can take risks and make mistakes, just like everyone does. More importantly, you can discover something new—and win when those risks pay off!

Jumpstart Your KidLit Career

Set your first book up for success. At Publishing Push, we give you the tools to create, edit, and self-publish children’s book series (and stand-alone titles!).

Whether you dream of read-along audiobooks or a middle-grade mystery series, our expert teams can make it happen. Want to learn what that means for you? Contact us today!