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Self Publishing My Children's Book


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By Helen Ross

Invaluable advice from the self-publishing trenches - Ed.

It is now a well-known fact that ‘it isn’t easy to get a publishing contract.’  So having acquired a number of skills and experiences over the years in my secretarial/PR/teaching and sales background, I believed I could take on the various roles required of a self-publisher.


Over the past 15 years I have read extensively on self-publishing, noting all the pros and cons. 

Knowing my niche
I had teachers and a number of children read and critique my book and illustrations and being a former primary teacher, I had a good idea of what made children laugh.

Costings and budget  
I investigated all possible costs beforehand, including:
Setting up my business

  • Accountant’s fees (info on business name, bank account, tax claims, etc.)
  • Registering a business name
  • P O Box No
  • Acquiring an ABN number (Aust Bus No)
  • Setting up web page
  • Business cards ……

Book to Computer file

  • Graphic artist (if applicable)
  • Scanning artwork
  • Printing (saddle stitch, burst bound, perfect bound)
  • ISBN number, Barcode


  • Book Trade Publications, and ongoing advertising

Deciding to self publish, I set up my business, as above. I began in October 2005 and aimed for a mid March 2006 book release, allowing myself about six months.


Book Style And Design
Applied a lot of lateral thinking, especially where I could cut costs without impacting on the finished product.

  • Editing & proofreading:  Had teacher colleagues act as editors and proofreaders.
  • Design & Layout of book: Advised that Adobe In-Design was the preferred computer program so undertook a 2 day In-Design Course. Finding layout, bleeds and colour processes confusing, employed the services of a recommended student graphic artist.
  • Book’s Cover design: I illustrated the book so adapted the cover from one of the illustrations, then conducted weeks of target marketing with teachers, librarians, children, parents, neighbours, relatives…
  • Setting RRP: Researched bookshops comparing pricing for similar stylebooks.  Set RRP early so I could organise an ISBN, Barcode and CiP (National Library catalogue no.) to avoid holding up the production process.
  • Worked on Copyright page, dedication page, back cover
  • Book binding, Most printers recommended saddle stitch for its durability for young readers, however had read that libraries and bookstores prefer books with a spine so title and call number could be clearly displayed. Nevertheless, found libraries and bookstores stock many saddle stitched books.
  • Final printing company’s quote: Having obtained a number of approx. quotes beforehand, the graphic artist and I selected a suitable company early on in the process (weighing up costs and quality of work).
  • Art board and Paper stock: Chose thicker art board for book’s cover than normally used because it was more durable and opted for a cello glaze for the cover.

Marketing Plan

  • Obtained Trade Journal Deadlines for Thorpe-Bowker’s AB&P (Aust Bookseller & Publisher) and Thorpe-Bowker’s Weekly Book newsletter
  • Registered with Nielsen BookData/James Bennett Data Collection 2-3 months prior to my book’s release. Free listing.
  • Placed advertisement in Thorpe-Bowker’s AB&P (Aust Bookseller & Publisher)
  • Set up website using templates, organising credit card payment with (free listing). Submitted site to major search engines.
  • Finalised business cards.
  • Set up my terms of trade
  • One week before release, placed an ad in Thorpe-Bowker’s Weekly Book newsletter


Once the proofs were ready the graphic artist and I examined them carefully with a ‘fine toothed comb’.

PLANNING MY BOOK LAUNCH (during pre-press stage)

  • Can be expensive, and if you don’t have a name it can be difficult to acquire interest from the media.  With this in mind I held my book launch at an annual community event that normally attracts approx. 5000 people and local media attention, inviting friends and colleagues. A week prior, conducted media blitz to local newspapers, local radio and TV stations. Placed a notice in community billboard section of local newspaper (free).  A local reporter contacted me for phone interview and she arranged for a photographer on the day. My story appeared a fortnight later in the local newspaper.


  • Registered with the main library suppliers eg. James Bennett P/L, Peter Pal …
  • Contacted large bookstores eg.Angus & Robertson for their distributor’s details, then contacted each distributor.
  • Door knocked local libraries, local gift shops, book stores
  • Approx. 6 weeks ‘exhibited’ at a large community weekend market for exposure.
  • Forwarded review copies to children’s book magazines eg. Magpies
  • Joined Copyright Agency Limited, Public Lending Right (PLR) & Educational Lending Right (ELR)
  • Legal deposits to National and State Library
  • Established Australia wide email library list
  • Contacted state schools and similar, setting up data base
  • Have found a niche with libraries, kindergartens and pre-school centers so continuing market strategies in these areas.

Maintaining full control over my book and making ‘executive’ decisions (including story, illustrations, book cover, layout, marketing) hasn’t always been easy. I’ve realised you can’t please everyone but have learnt a great deal through networking, attending trade exhibitions and getting out there. It is hard work but the journey has been very rewarding.
Would I do it again? I released my second book, ‘Santa is in our Chimney’ in September 2006, and currently working on a compilation of humorous stories for release in 2008. 

Copyright  © Helen Ross 2008
Visit Helen's websites to find out more:  or

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