"As an independent children's picture book author, funding my own book was super easy and cheap" ― said no picture book author ever, most likely
Absorbing the cost of your picture book is just one of many responsibilities indie authors have to face and accept. There is no cheap way to produce a children's picture book. I repeat: There is no cheap way to produce a children's picture book. In fact, seeking "cost-effective" options may actually decrease the value and quality of your book, and ultimately your sales. So, taking a financial shortcut is not an option.
But don't worry. Below are three important steps children's picture book authors need to take and the approximate cost of each. Yes, each step is going to cost you money. But with strategic planning and money management, you'll be prepared and have better insight into how much money it would actually cost to produce your picture book before you even begin.
#1 EDITING Getting your story edited is extremely important! In fact, it's the first thing authors need to do before sending it to an illustrator. Some authors may think that editing is not necessary since picture books typically are not text heavy and don't have detailed plots and characters like a novel. But it is a MUST. You'll be surprised at how many grammatical errors are hidden in your story. Or, you might be taken aback to find a hole in the plot when you thought it was good to go. That's why it's important to get another set of eyes to professionally and (objectively) edit your masterpiece.
Here are three types of editing:
Developmental Editing (also called Substantive Editing) ensures your story is clear, concise, and easily understood. In other words, it checks to make sure the story makes sense as a whole. So, instead of editing for spelling and grammatical errors at this stage, your story is mainly edited for structure, POV (point of view), character development, completeness, forward movement, voice, tone, and readability.
Copy Editing ensures there are no major spelling, grammatical, and punctuation errors and checks for accuracy, word choice, sentence flow, and consistency. This type of editing should be performed after developmental editing has been completed.
Proofreading ensures your story is free of very minor spelling, grammatical, and punctuation errors, as well as formatting issues, such as blank or missing pages. This should be done once copy editing and development editing have been completed and your story is in its final stages. It is the last step of the editing process before it reaches the illustrator.
Approximate range of cost: $40 - $200; some may charge a fee depending on the type of editing that is needed, while others may offer a flat rate.
#2 ILLUSTRATIONS There are all sorts of illustration styles out there --- and they all vary in price. Don't compromise the quality of your story by simply shopping around for a good deal. The most important thing is to find the best illustration style for your story. Period. Once that has been determined, follow some of the tips below and get the process started:
Contact that illustrator and ask about price - some illustrators charge by page; some charge by spread.
Discuss the number of pages the book will have, the size of the book, end pages, cover, etc.
Find out how long it will take to complete or give an estimated day you would like it done.
Ask about any other things the illustrator might require (ex.: photos for inspiration, previous versions of your books, etc.).
Approximate range of cost: $1,000 - $5,000
# 3 FORMATTING & PRINTING Ingram Spark and Amazon are great options for getting your picture book formatted. Some standard picture book sizes are 7.5" x 7.5", 7" x 10", and 10"x 8" (Note: Discuss book size before the illustration process begins). Picture books can include a book jacket, end sheets, front and back matter, and a dedication page. It all depends on what you have envisioned for your book.
And decide whether you want to take advantage of offset printing or Print on Demand (POD):
With offset printing, you can order large quantities of books (large print runs), which usually start with a minimum order of 500 or 1,000 copies, depending on the printer. Offset printing is a great option, especially if you plan to give away or sell a large amount of books and have the space to store them. (Some self-publishing companies offer to store your books in their facilities when you use their services for formatting and printing). Yet, it can be costly if changes need to be made to your story, as hundreds or thousands of copies have already been printed.
Print on Demand (POD) allows you to print any quantity of books you would like with no minimum order. Unlike offset printing, POD is a more cost-effective option for those on a tight budget. And if necessary, changes can be made more easily, costing you fewer dollars.
Approximate range of cost: Offset printing and formatting: $1,000 - $10,000 per order Print on demand: $3.00 - $10.00 per book