Monday, 6 February 2012

Self Publishing Children’s Picture Books for POD

Self publishing children’s picture books mean understanding word formatting and image software. But that isn’t all, the page design, bleed settings and the colour of the page background will need consideration. It may seem complicated, but taking picture book production one step at a time is the key to getting your children’s book looking good prior to publication.

How to Create a Children’s Picture Book for Print

CreateSpace and Lulu are two of the biggest print on demand platforms for the self-published writer. Print on demand (or POD) means you do not have to fish out lots of money to bulk-print books to sell, as your books are printed only when a customer places an order. The publisher takes a cut, leaving the rest to you, so there is nothing to lose. This article concentrates on producing children’s picture books on Createspace.

The Best Size Format for Kid’s Books

Createspace has an array of trim sizes for different book formats. Picture books for the very young can be found at around 10x8” in size; baby books can be much smaller. The choice is up to you, but taking a look in the library to find children’s books most like yours and emulating a book format you like might be a good start. You can upload book templates (with margins and font settings ready prepared) from Createspace, or you can use the template as a guide and create your own settings. The general rule of thumb is, the larger the book, the larger the margins need to be to preserve some visual balance. The average margin settings are around 2.5cm for the outer margins, and 0.33cm for the gutter (binding edge).

Full Bleed or No Bleed for Print

Text should not extend into the outer 2.5cm of each page. More often than not, the book will contain no elements that extend into this outer margin. In such cases, use ‘no bleed’ when uploading your picture book onto Createspace.

If however, if you want images or other visual element to ‘float’ to the edges of your pages for design purposes, then you will need to select ‘full bleed’ when uploading your picture book onto Createspace. The question of full bleed or no bleed is a little complex, so I have covered this issue in a separate article.

Great Illustrations for Kid’s Books

A children’s book more often than not contains drawings, pastels, watercolours or oil painting

Formatting Pictures
s within. I prefer to scan the artwork (if the size allows) and saving them on Pictures. Set the scanner to at least 300DPI, or the images will look pixilated in print. If you do not have a scanner, use the highest resolution setting on your camera and shoot under bright, natural daylight (not artificial light or flash). Watch out for false light settings if your illustrations are on white paper, or the camera will automatically compensate and close the aperture up. I will take a light reading from a mid-toned object (like grey card) placed next to the painting and use that. Take care not to use wide angle lenses or your illustration will appear distorted. Zoom in a little, but not more than 4X or the image will be cropped and the image will be pixilated.

Place the painting/illustration against a stable easel (or the floor) and shoot perpendicular to it. If any of your illustrations need to occupy a double page in your picture book, as in a centerfold, take two pictures of your illustration: one for the left page, one for the right. Ensure the centre line is accurately calculated.

More about taking optimum photographs for book publishing can be found on my other article on improving image quality for pub books.

The Best Fonts for Children’s Picture Books

There is an array of fonts you can use for children’s picture books, some are scripty; others imply humour or informality. I like those that emulate handwriting, but take care the words are still decipherable to aid learning. Remember you can also change the colour of the font to complement the images.

Suggested font styles for children’s books might be: Bradley Hand ITC, Curlz, Kristen, Lucida Handwriting or Segoe Script.

Try out different sized fonts so that the text looks sufficiently bold for young readers. Blending images with text requires lots of experimentation and using the ‘print preview’ button. I have written a separate article on how to format images with text for print books, which might come in useful when producing your children’s book. Observe the point about inserting a dummy blank page at the beginning of your book, to see how facing pages will actually look when printed. This is crucial for getting an overall look of how images appear in context of one another or if an illustration crosses over a centerfold.

Page Colours for Children’s Books

You can also change the background colour of the book’s page. Click on ‘page layout’ on Word to find ‘page colour.’ Fine-tune the colour desired by clicking on ‘more colours.’ Pastels look good, as does punchy (but not too bright) colours.

Image Effects for Picture Books

With some simple image software or Word XP, you can create special effects to the images, by altering the outline shape of your illustrations, softening definitions or adding shadows. Captions can also be added if wished. PaintShop Pro has other effects such as ‘metallic, airbrush or sepia tones, which are worth tinkering with if you want to attain a particular effect with some of your illustrations.

Elementary Picture Book Production

Take note that most children’s picture books for the preschool reader are 32 pages long and around 1000 – 1500 words long. Add flair to your book by making the prematter as attractive as the main story, as the preliminary pages of your book will be the first thing a potential buyer will see when viewing the ‘look inside’ feature. Insert a graphic or sample illustration next to the copyright matter.

Tips for Writing Children’s Picture Books

Once you have uploaded your children’s book onto Createspace, order a proof copy. Issues otherwise invisible when viewing your book onscreen will suddenly become apparent. Solutions to problems that are likely to crop up are covered in the article links below.

Related Articles to Publishing illustrated Children’s Books

Beginner’s guide to using Createspace
Full colour bleed or no bleed when producing print books?
Formatting images with text for print books
Take great photographs
Create your own book cover


  1. Thank you for all the info. in your blog. Although I've been self publishing novels for a while this is my first attempt at children's books.

  2. Nice Blog...Thanks for sharing such informative posts..
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