Planning Your Children’s Book

I can’t stress enough the importance of laying out a plan for your book before you write one line of text or design a single illustration, especially if you are a children’s book author. Most children’s books have full-page images and possibly even text. So everything needs to fit together in a way that a child will be able to easily read it.

If you write children’s books then you need to look at things from a child’s perspective and ask yourself these simple questions:

  1. Are my image illustrations designed so that children can understand them?
  2. Do I want text added on top the image illustrations? Or on a separate page to the left or right side?

These are two very important questions about the layout that you should address in the very beginning. I get so many formatting orders for children’s books that were not planned ahead of time and it makes my job so much harder. Not only that, I would imagine that it would make it difficult for a child reading the book as well.

When it comes to children’s books the images play a huge role in telling the story so the design should be well organized and NOT be too busy especially if you want to add text right on top of the image illustration itself. Many authors that want their books formatted this way. Which is fine but some of them have so many design elements crammed into one image that there is not one blank spot left for the text to go. How could a child read a story like that??

This where planning ahead of time comes in. If you are going to have text on top of your image illustrations then you need to leave room for it. Leave blank spots where you want that text to go. If you don’t then you are not only making it impossible for someone to format it, but also impossible for a child to read.

These are the layout issues that I see all of the time. But there is another very important aspect of planning that needs to be addressed also. And that is with the creation of the image illustrations themselves. Whether you create your own image illustrations or hire out for it, there are guidelines that need to be followed if you are going to self-publish your book anywhere. Here are some critical ones:

1. You need to decide the print size that you want your book to be first and foremost.

2. The print size that you choose needs to be one from the list that the self-publishing company of your choice offers if you want the best distribution for your book… More on this later.

3. If your image illustrations are full-page THEY HAVE TO BE THE EXACT SIZE OF YOUR PRINT BOOK. Example: if your print size is 8.5 x 8.5 then your image illustrations need to be also. If they aren’t an exact match nothing can be done with them. They can’t be cropped without losing some of what could possibly be an important part of the story, and they can’t be resized because they become badly distorted.

4. They need to be 300 dpi in resolution. That is a requirement for all print book publication.

5. All interior design elements need to be kept away from the edge of the illustrations at least 0.375″. More space than that would be even better to be on the safe side.

These are standard guidelines that are listed on every major self-publish website. This information is free for everyone to read. And if you are a self-publishing author you should read these guidelines and have a good understanding of them before you ever create any books. If you hire someone to do illustrations for you then you need to make your specification crystal clear to whoever does the work. Spell it out for them in writing. Do rely on the fact that they are an illustrator and should know what the guidelines are for print book publication because they may not.

Yes, I agree a good illustrator should know exactly what the guidelines are for print books so their customers don’t run into an issue when they try to publish books with illustrations that they have created. But many of them don’t. I see this all of the time and by the time it gets to me it too late fix the problem. Nothing can be done with the illustrations other than getting them created all over again. I imagine this is a costly mistake for a children’s book authors.

Now I want to go back to #2, the print size that you choose. This is a very important one that people get wrong all of the time. Every self-publishing company has a list of print book sizes, (also known as the trim size), that they offer. On Amazon, it can be found here:

You can’t just make up a random size and publish it. Actually, I shouldn’t say that because on Amazon you can add a custom size BUT,  and there is a big but here, your book won’t be available for extended distribution. So it seems to me that if you want to get the largest distribution for your book then it is  best to choose a print size from the list in the first place.

This is Amazon’s rules. But you may not even have the opportunity to publish your book at all on another self-publishing site if it isn’t a print size from their list. So decide on a size and check the list from the site where you want to publish before you start your book. It will save you a lot of headaches later.

I see these issues on a daily basis in my orders for my Children’s Print Book Formatting gig, which is one of my most popular ones. All of them could have been avoided if a little planning had been done before the books were ever started.

I have mentioned most of these things in an earlier post that I did on Preparing Images for Your Book. But I see so much of this that I thought it was important to dedicate a post to book planning. And it goes without say that this can and should be applied to every book genre out there. Not just children’s books. A little planning goes a long way and it should be a part of an author’s process because there are guidelines that have to be followed in order to publish. So know them and plan for them. It seems that not that many people are doing it when everyone should be.

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