How to Write, Illustrate and Publish Paperback Children's Books

by katiem2

Everything you need to know to write, illustrate and publish your own children's book can be found here, learn how to do it yourself and become a published children's author now.

I wrote my first children's book 18 years ago. The idea came to me during the course of a routine day, while driving my daughters to preschool, after having a particularly difficult morning. The car ride was oozing with frowns and upset, it was then I became determined to teach my kids the value of life's little adversities. I believe defeat is a positive tool that builds sustainable self esteem. I began singing this fledgling book to my kids building on it as real life dictated until the real life experiences of my children built a good book. The books message is one of empowerment and learning the ability to not only like and love oneself but others too, even when it feels the whole world is out to get you. While it has taken me 18 years to get this book published, all the fault is mine. Writing a book of any kind may feel difficult but through trial and error I have learned how and so can you.

The Best Reason to Write a Children's Book

Tips for Writing Children's Books

I was reluctant to give this part of me away perhaps even afraid it was not good enough, after all my children's book helped forge a special bond between my girls and I. Together we sang the contents of the book anytime we needed, it became our anthem in good times and bad.  My book it translates into a lovely melody with catchy rhymes easy for kids to remember and make reading fun.  Just as we adults like to read for our own benefit so do kids, they need self motivation from time to time. 

My fears lifted after my daughters kindergarten class surprised me by singing the song along with a skit in a class performance. 

Goose bumps covered my body as I looked on in awe at a stage filled with smiling and dancing children singing the tune of my book. 

Surprised and honored by the magical performance my thinking shifted. 

I committed to publishing the book and it has been the most amazing experience. 

I want other parents to enjoy the same camaraderie I have built with my girls and all their classmates and you can.

I Like Myself Book Illustrations
I Like Myself Book Illustrations
Katie L McMurray

First Step to Writing a Children's Book

Write a Good Story

Let me make one thing perfectly clear, the most vital part of a children's book is a good story.  The contents should aim to teach valuable lessons with enriching experiences all while providing a child with useful skills. 

The formative years span from birth to 8 years of age.  This period is critical for optimal cognitive, emotional, social and physical development.   Any and everything introduced to a child during this period in their life affects the success of these four crucial building blocks. 

The 10 Elements Needed to Write a Good Children's Books 

  1. The best stories come from real life experiences, straight from the heart. 
  2. Human beings are never more attentive to storytelling than during the formative years, so tell a good story. 
  3. Kids are hungry for interesting tidbits of life and the great big world they call home. 
  4. Do not rush, let the story come to you in its own time, allow for a natural flow of ideas, do not force it, take it bit by bit.
  5. Use appropriate language, grammar and content relevant to books target age. 
  6. Be all inclusive, our children live and grow in a diverse world, allow a realistic view.
  7. Stay in the genre and or age range for which your ideas are most appropriate and beneficial don't force yourself into something that doesn't inspire you.
  8. Teach what you know by writing about the particular thing(s) that matter to you and the children in your life.
  9. Ask the best critic for the job to review your content, share it with an age appropriate child, read the story and observe how they respond.  Ask for input, ideas and opinions.
  10. Remember any and every children's book is for the kids, write it from a kids point of view, refer to your inner child.

Bonus - Draft your book however you find most comfortable.  Personally, I write mine by hand, I get stifled by a computer.  The computer is the finishing touch but not necessarily the starting point for a good book. 

Children's Book Illustration FACTS

Guidelines to Good Illustrations for kids books.
  • Kids learn a lot when they draw and color, in fact it is a great tool most educators use for the very purpose. 
  • Kids are inspired and encouraged to challenge themselves, to go for their dreams and desires when they witness others doing the same.  
  • Drawing your own illustrations is a testimony to children that you do not need to be a great artist to create great art and if you enjoy doing it, do it and have fun.  
  • In this digital age home crafted illustrations are a refreshing and very well received commodity in the publishing world. 
  • Books with drawings by a real person shine through as truth, kids always see the truth and respond well to such an example. 

Draw Your Own Book Illustrations

My Personal Drawings Used as Illustrations
I Like Myself Book Illustrations
I Like Myself Book Illustrations

How to Illustrate Your Own Children's Book

Why Illustrations are so Important

Illustrations are the biggest hurdle most would be writers face and often the reason many don't follow through on the dream of becoming a children's author. 

Let's get down to the real truth about the easiest and most affordable way for you to illustrate a successful children's book. 

I Like Myself Book Illustrations
I Like Myself Book Illustrations

3 Myth Busters about Illustrating a Children's Book

  1. You do not need to hire a illustrator to create a competitive book for children.
  2. You do not need to be a good artist to draw your own illustrations for a good children's book.
  3. Yes you can do it yourself just like me, I am not an artist. My secret being, like most kids, I like to draw and color, how well is the least important detail.  Relating to the kids common interest is the attraction.

Look to your right to see my work space while working on the book, I Like Myself 

How I Illustrated My Children's Books

Draw, Color, Scan and Load

What You Will Need to Illustrate Your Own Book

  • A large clean surface dedicated for drawing.
  • Copier paper without lines or other, it scans best and is sized correctly for submission. 
  • Good No. 2 pencils, these are more forgiving and can easily be erased others cannot.
  • Good Erasers ( you will be erasing any mistakes or dislikes, I did in all my illustrations you see here today, can't tell right? that is because I use good quality pencils and erasers.) Good erasers make it easy to erase flawlessly leaving no evidence.
  • Good quality colored pencils.
  • Scanner to scan the drawings onto your computer, save in pictures as jpg. for later uploads.
  • A Good computer or laptop with Microsoft word.

Investing in Myself

I get back aches after spending hours drawing at my dining room table, not doing that anymore.

How to Draw Your Own Book Illustrations

Below is a sample of my work, some better than others and yet I've included all four in my book.  Some days we do things really good and other days we just can't duplicate our best performance and that is okay and especially important for kids to know. I decided to illustrate my own books to send another message to the kids, you are good enough on your worst day and your best.

The girl hanging upside down in the tree was the hardest for me to draw.  Let me tell you there was a lot of erasing, hence the need for GOOD erasers. Once you invest a good bit of time into a drawing it is crazy to toss it out because it needs a bit of tweaking.  I kept working on it till it was good enough and felt right.  The girl hanging from the tree turned out to be one of my favorites. 

I have learned to keep working on a drawing until it looks just right.  I may add more colors in varying shades, out line etc.  Doing more always makes the art better.  I did throw some drawings away, there is no getting around that.  Actually I used those for scratch paper, doodle ideas a bit before I drew the final piece.

My Hand Drawn and Colored Book Illustrations

Sample of Book Illustrations
I Like Myself Book Illustrations
I Like Myself Book Illustrations
I Like Myself Book Illustrations
I Like Myself Book Illustrations
I Like Myself Book Illustrations
I Like Myself Book Illustrations
I Like Myself Book Illustrations
I Like Myself Book Illustrations

The Best Illustrating Space

I enjoy creature comforts but do keep wine, coffee and food apart from your work to avoid accidents.
I Like Myself Book Illustrations
I Like Myself Book Illustrations

What Makes the Best Book Illustrations

What You Should Draw for Children's Books

Once you have all your supplies, a comfy space designated for you alone begin. It is important to have a work space just for you, if your work area needs to be cleared away everyday it is unlikely you will pick up where you left off when inspiration strikes. 

I illustrated my book at the dining room table, but I had no kids at home or a spouse to join me at the end of the day. Therefore I could leave all of my work scattered about with no danger of it getting lost, soiled or other.

You must create a space where you enjoy working, the good news, time is your friend. 

Remember This

There is no need to rush, in fact you shouldn't in order to do your best most creative work according to your natural rhythm. 

Vital Step - Once I had a good drawing I knew would go in my book, or another for that matter, I scanned it and put it in a designated art keeper for safe keeping.  One day these babies will be worth a fortune to my kids.  Below is the case I use for storing all of my drawn illustrations. I also have a large art suitcase to house all of my tools when done with a project.  Keep everything together, there is nothing worse than losing your work or materials. 

Coordinating Pictures and Text to Document Using Microsoft Word

How to Section Book Content With Illustrations

Once you have a completed copy of your written story, think about how you want to break it down into a book.  The flow of the book must correlate with pictures to tell the story accurately.  I thought about my books content and imagined what pictures would tell the same story if there were no words and that is how it worked for me.

How to Build Paperbacks

Easily convert ebooks to paperback using kindle.

Creating Good Illustrations 

Building Your Book

  • Make a list of picture ideas and the amount of text, from your story, that will occupy the same page.
  • Work your way through the entire written content until thinking of a picture for each page, how much text will be on the page and where it will go.
  • I took the easy way out, I included the written portion of the page alone with nothing more and the accompanying picture on the next page, side by side.
  • Each time the page is turned the written bit of the story is on the left hand page and the picture is on the right or visa versa.
  • Type the written content using Microsoft word, it merges well with kindle publishing format. I love apple products but I use Microsoft for book projects only because that is how I learned. Kindle direct publishing does support apple, you will simply need to refer to the site for instructions.
  • When creating the word document build it as you want the book to appear.  Insert the illustrations in the word doc by using the insert tool for pictures.  You will retrieve the pictures and insert them into the doc just as you want the book to appear.
  • Once the word doc is completed to your satisfaction, sleep on it, you might think of an important addition or subtraction.  When you are certain it is done you will then upload the word document to the kindle site. 
  • Visit kindle direct publishing to learn the ropes, if you haven't joined KDP yet do so now. Again, go there during the creation of your illustrations and learn how to use it watching and reading the tutorials available.  The process is not hard, it just requires a bit of time before the actual publishing date to insure you don't get frustrated or confused. 

How to Create a Children's Book Cover

Where to Put Book Title

I created my cover last, I was unsure as to what the cover should look like until done with all of my illustrations and after absorbing the book layout. I knew the title but wanted it to sum up the entire book.  Sit down and draw the cover once you have an idea of what you want.  Don't wait until the end as I did, do it when the idea comes to you.  The drawing may find its way into the book instead of the cover, it is a process, let it flow.

You won't need to type of add the title to the cover, that is typed in later at the cover creation section of kindle direct publishing.  All you need is a great cover drawing.

How to Create Buzz for Your Book

Raise Awareness of Your Children's Book

Once I had drawn the cover and narrowed it down to two final selections I took it to the people. 

It is important to market your book when the opportunity arises but to do so without being spam like?  Nowadays people are fed up with having marketing shoved in front of them so you must be casual. 

I took to Facebook and asked my followers for help in the form of this question.  "Which book cover do you like best with or without frame?" 

I formed the question making it easy for Facebook users to weigh in with one simple word with or without, and all without taking but just a quick minute.

You can see the results for yourself in the picture above and to your right. The votes were overwhelming for the cover without the frame.  The entire process created lots of awareness. Voters became personally invested in the book, a very good thing! 

Picture taken with my cell phone, this post created awareness and a bit of buzz for my book.

I got some really wonderful feedback.
I Like Myself Book Illustrations
I Like Myself Book Illustrations
Publish it!: How to self-publish your book for free using Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), CreateS...

Self-publishing offers incredible opportunities for all writers regardless of the genre, subject or word count. You can write and publish short stories, poems, reports, novels; ...

View on Amazon

Publishing Your Children's Book

What to do when everything is ready to publish?

Kindle is the means by which you will deliver your children's book to the world.  Kindle has now added hard copy books to their online services and so you can do both. 

Sign up at Kindle Direct Publishing.  Between writing and illustrating your book, head over to KDP, sign up and learn how to use the services.  It takes a little time to get over the fear of messing up but it is very easy and with patience, no rushing, you will learn. 

It is vital that you take your time during this process. You do not have to finish your book once you start the kindle process, you can save each step along the way and pick up where you left off when time allows. You can also edit the details before publishing while saved as a draft.

Like my grandfather always said, "If it is worth doing at all it is worth doing right."

Where to Buy Illustrating Art Supplies

Supplies to Illustrate Children's Book

As I mentioned earlier it is important to get your hands on good quality tools to illustrate your book. It is also important to scan your original art uploading it onto your computer.  You will incorporate the images into the word document eventually becoming your book.  If you don't have a scanner I'm including the type I use below.

Note: Any standard white printing paper works for drawing the artwork, you can buy that anywhere or no doubt have some at home. 

Below is a shopping list for the things you will need to create your very own masterpiece.

Illustrating Tools

These are important to have for sketching.
Pro Art 3078 18-Piece Sketch/Draw Pen...

Exactly what I use, the best on the market in my opinion.

I bought mine at Blicks the first time for twice as much.
Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils, ...

Need for a proper variety of skin tones

Sanford 25085R Prismacolor Premier Co...

You may find this priced better at your local office supply store, check for sales.

Epson Perfection V600 Color Photo, Im...
Updated: 11/19/2018, katiem2
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katiem2 on 10/29/2018

Thanks to all who have bought this book, recently the sales have soared. It warms my heart to know many children across the world will hear this message and learn to love themselves, others and believe in the natural talents and importance of each and every diverse child they come to meet.

katiem2 on 10/22/2018

Mira, Thank you for taking the time to not only read but commenting on my newest venture in children's book illustrations. I do hope others like it as well because I am thrilled and happy doing it, great fun and very rewarding.

Mira on 10/21/2018

Congrats on your book! It shows that you both had fun doing it and did it with passion :) Pinning it

katiem2 on 10/20/2018

Sure, My mind doesn't rest, I get crazy ideas all the time, those are the best.

AngelaJohnson on 10/20/2018

Katlem2 - thanks for all the great ideas.

katiem2 on 10/20/2018

Angela, Your cookbook will become a very nice heirloom. I cherish cookbooks from my Mom and Nana. They wrote recipes out by hand in journal type books. Hey perhaps you could include some handwritten recipes, scan them as I do illustrations. If you have children they will be cherished to the moon.

AngelaJohnson on 10/20/2018

katlem2 - thanks for looking through my blog. I'm glad you like it. That's what got me interested in writing a cookbook. I've run across so much information, I could never put it all in a blog. Just in the past few months, have I buckled down and began concentrating on one thing (my first book). My blog has many food categories and I've been gathering information on creating several different cookbooks. But I'm determined to finish the first one before I continue on my other books-in-progress.

katiem2 on 10/20/2018

Angela, I checked out your blog and it is impressive, my daughter has a goose berry bush and has it ever gotten big. She made gooseberry jelly this summer. Haven't tried it yet but it looks very very good.

katiem2 on 10/20/2018

dustytoes, Thank you, and yes it was a lot of fun. I imagine you have some very good art in you should the opportunity arise. Nowadays most art is digitally created losing something in translation.

katiem2 on 10/20/2018

Angela, Good goal, one thing at a time. When I am doing a task I become single minded and totally focused on the task at hand. This is mostly a good thing but friends and family might not agree.

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