Writing a book may seem like a daunting task at first (and it is) but once that’s out of the way you feel a weight lifted from your shoulders. Whether it’s a novel or a children’s book there’s a sort of euphoria that comes with producing an original work for the world to see. You’re either your biggest fan or your worst critic (sometimes both) but the one thing you have to keep in mind is that putting words on paper is only the tip of the iceberg. And trust me, if you’re not careful, you’ll be changing your manuscript’s title from whatever it is now to the Titanic.
Whether you’re writing a kid’s book or something for an older audience you’ll need an illustrator, unless you happen to be one (in which case you can probably skip this section). If you happen to be like the other 99% of the population, though, with no significant artist ability then finding someone who not only complements your work but also fits within your assumed budget is crucial. Children may seem simple-minded at times but they have an incredibly discerning eye when it comes to what they like and have virtually no filters when it comes to telling you the truth. That’s something to remember if you plan on thinking with your wallet. Cheap may be the way to go if you’re only going to put out one book, but if you want this to be a full-time thing you may want to give it a second (and third, maybe even fourth) thought.
You won’t get a second chance to make a good first impression and, although some books utilize illustrations/covers of a seemingly low quality to give their works a “unique” touch, it doesn’t work for everyone. Best case scenario you stand out, worst case scenario you look like an amateur. Therefore I suggest biting the bullet and doing the leg work to find a professional. The costs involved may be a bit prohibitive for some yet at the end of the day it’s an investment. And look at it like this: if you don’t believe in yourself or your work you’re better off putting that money to better use somewhere else. With that said, I hit quadruple digits with my illustrator (and I think she’s worth every penny), but there are definitely other illustrators who are willing to work with authors in a bit of a financial crunch. Depending on their skill set and if they’re being represented by an agent you have the opportunity to meet talented individuals for the right price. A few places to start might be the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Hire an Illustrator, and 99designs.
At one point in time they were the exclusive gatekeepers to the literary world but nowadays they’re more like its boogeymen, at least when it comes to traditional publishing. Nonetheless a good editor can be an invaluable asset on your journey. That’s exactly why they shouldn’t be overlooked or underutilized. It may be tempting to write a novel and try to publish it as soon as you’ve completed the first draft but that would be an epic mistake on your part (remember the iceberg?). Even sending a freelance editor your first draft wouldn’t be wise since you’d be giving them money out of haste rather than necessity. Instead take a few weeks and read over your work again in order to clean it up. Afterwards find an editor that has an interest in your writing genre. Their prices and experience levels may vary which is why you should dig a bit deeper before committing. See if they’ve written anything themselves and what sort of reviews they’ve received (not only for their literary work but for their work as an editor).
Unfortunately I bypassed the traditional publishing route so I can’t speak with any sort of authority in regards to that process, only that there are several more steps involved compared to self-publishing (query letters, rejection letters, contracts, etc.). As for my personal experience, though, freelance editors typically charge either by the word or based on a flat rate. If you’re writing children’s book the costs are minimal (I spent $150 per edit) but for longer manuscripts the costs may give you a bit of vertigo. This is why I suggest going with an editor that charges a flat rate. The prices are usually more reasonable and in some instances they’re willing to offer payment options and even discounts on multiple services. Good editors aren’t cheap, though (I hit quadruple digits with my YA novel), so, if nothing else, make sure you have these two things at the top of your list when conducting your search: developmental editing (big picture) and copy editing (finer details).
ISBN (International Standard Book Number) and Barcodes
These two items are absolutely essential if you’re serious about writing. Without them the rest of the world won’t even know you exist. Your ISBN is what identifies your book (and any subsequent formats or revisions) from everyone else’s in the literary world. Long story short, GET ONE! But if you’re not sure where to look you should know there’s only one official distributor for this particular item, and that’s Bowker. On their site you’ll find you have the option of buying one ISBN or several. You’ll also notice the price drops exponentially if you purchase them in a bundle (1 for $125, 10 for $295, or 100 for $575). If you’re on their site at the right time you can often stumble on discounts they’re having in regards to ISBN and barcode bundles (usually 10 ISBN’s, one barcode, and a few other items). I chose the second option (with a barcode bundle) which just so happens to be the most common choice and gives the greatest value cost-wise. Just remember, for each format or revision of your book (e-book, paperback, hardcover, new editions, etc.) a different ISBN is needed. And as for your barcode, this is what allows the physical copy of your book to be scanned by translating those ISBN’s into machine readable information.
I actually had a few more things I wanted to write about but honestly I feel like I’m rambling at this point, so I’ll save them for another day. Before I wrap this up, though, I wanted to touch base on one more item, namely contracts. And I don’t mean anything involving lawyers or fine print, but a simple agreement between anyone you may plan to do business with in regards to illustrations or edits or whatever (especially if said business will cost more than a few hundred dollars and take more than a week). If you don’t have one on hand for the type of business you plan to conduct it would be prudent to get one. Again, it doesn’t have to be fancy but it should lay out the terms of any agreements between you and the party you’ll be utilizing. If the person you’re dealing with doesn’t have one at their disposal, no worries. I found one online with a quick Google search then customized it to my needs for my illustrations. They’re good for clearing up any confusion and, if worse comes to worse, they’ll save you a lot of trouble.