Tuesday, February 15, 2011

“Hey! I have a great idea for a children’s book!” Part 4: Self-publishing Author’s First Step

This is Part 4 of my blog series on publishing a children's book. 
If you missed the first articles, read  
“Hey! I have a great idea for a children’s book!”: Part 1!
Part 2: Know your Publishers!
Part 3: Two Ways to Self-Publish

So, you’re going to self-publish! Congratulations! You join a growing community of people who are taking advantage of modern technology to make their voices heard. This is my advice for you if you are going to self-publish a children’s book.

Start with a Manuscript Makeover:
The first thing you should do is have someone else read, correct and critique your writing. You may need to hire a professional editor. Hire your own person from your local community, or some self-publishing companies have those services available. (I’d prefer to have the editing done before I even deal with the self-publishing company. Traditional publishers use their own in-house editors so if you are submitting to agents/commercial publishers I’d would not bother hiring your own editor.).

• Especially for children’s book genre, read it OUT LOUD. Read it to yourself and to others, preferably to children who are the age for whom your book is supposed to appeal.

• If you don’t know anyone who can help with this, there are critique groups out there you can join, or try social networking sites or children’s book/writers organizations where you might be able to contact fellow writers who are willing to read and give feedback.

• Know any teachers? They might invite you read to their class. They can also give good feedback on appropriate vocabulary and length of the writing.

• Your local children’s librarian may be a good resource for feedback about your wiring as well. He or she may be willing to critique your story themselves or read it to a story hour group.

• If you ask professionals to do editing for you, you should offer them fair compensation. Remember that this is just part of the investment in your project you may have to make.

• Be prepared to make changes for all sorts of reasons. Follow your vision but be open to advice about your writing style, mechanics, organization and concept. It’s not easy to take criticism, and you have to take personal opinions and taste into account, but remember that the people giving you feedback mean well and want you to succeed.
It takes me at least a half dozen drafts, and even then the editing process can continue for me throughout the process of doing my illustrations. I usually end up with at least 10-12 revisions, sometimes suggested by my editor, sometimes my own changes. I also like to step away and let some time go by, then re-read when I feel like I can look at the manuscript with a fresh eye.

Once your manuscript is truly ready for print, then it’s time for the next step. I’m going to walk through the process of using a self-publishing company in my next post...

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