The Ultimate Guide to Publishing Your Children’s Book: Traditional, Indie, and Self-Publishing Explained

There are many steps involved in the publishing process, from writing and editing to finding a literary agent or publisher, and finally to marketing and promoting your book. While the process can seem daunting, with the right guidance and resources, anyone can publish a children’s book.

In this comprehensive guide, we will provide an overview of the three ways to publish a children’s book, including traditional publishing, indie publishing, and self-publishing. We’ll cover the steps involved in each method, as well as the pros and cons of each approach. Whether you are just starting to write your book or are ready to publish, this guide will provide you with the information and resources you need to successfully navigate the publishing process.

And if you haven’t already, learn How to Write a Children’s Book That Kids Will Love.

The Three Paths to Publishing Children’s Books

Before you begin the publishing process, it’s important to understand the three paths to publishing a children’s book. Each approach has its own benefits and drawbacks, and the method you choose will depend on your goals, resources, and preferences.

Traditional Publishing

Traditional publishing is the most well-known method of publishing a book, and it involves submitting your manuscript to a literary agent or publisher for consideration. If accepted, the publisher will handle the editing, design, printing, and distribution of your book. This method can be difficult and time-consuming, as it often involves submitting your manuscript to multiple agents or publishers before finding one who is interested in your work.

However, traditional publishing can be beneficial in that it provides access to the resources and expertise of a publishing company. Traditional publishers can help ensure your book is of high quality and reaches a wide audience. Additionally, traditional publishers often offer advances and royalties, which can be a source of income for the author.

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Indie Publishing

Indie publishing, also known as independent publishing, involves publishing your book outside of a traditional publishing company. This method can provide greater creative control and a faster publishing timeline than traditional publishing. Indie publishers are often smaller, independent companies or individuals who specialize in publishing and marketing books. They may offer a range of services, from editing and design to distribution and marketing.

One of the benefits of indie publishing is that you retain creative control over your book, including the cover design, illustrations, and formatting. Additionally, indie publishing can be more profitable than traditional publishing, as you retain a larger percentage of the royalties. However, indie publishing can be a more time-consuming process, as you may need to hire your own team of editors, designers, and marketers.


Self-publishing involves publishing your book entirely on your own, without the assistance of a traditional or indie publisher. With self-publishing, you are responsible for all aspects of the publishing process, including editing, design, printing, and distribution. This method can provide the most creative control, as you are in charge of every aspect of your book.

Self-publishing can also be the fastest method of publishing, as you are not relying on the approval or timeline of a publisher. Additionally, self-publishing can be the most profitable, as you retain all of the royalties from your book. However, self-publishing can also be the most expensive and time-consuming, as you may need to hire your own team of editors, designers, and marketers. Additionally, self-published books may not have the same level of distribution and marketing as traditionally published books.

robot reading near truck of books

Research and Refine Your Manuscript

Before you begin the publishing process, it’s important to research your target audience and refine your manuscript. This involves editing and proofreading your work to ensure it is of high quality and aligns with your audience’s interests and needs.

One key aspect of researching your target audience is understanding their age range, reading level, and interests. This information can help you determine the style, tone, and content of your book. It’s also important to research the competition in your niche and identify gaps in the market that your book can fill.

Once you have a solid understanding of your audience and competition, it’s time to refine your manuscript. This involves editing and proofreading your work to ensure it is error-free, engaging, and compelling. Consider hiring an editor or using editing software to help you refine your manuscript. Additionally, consider using AI tools to assist with editing, such as Grammarly or ProWritingAid.

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Illustrations (If Applicable)

Traditional Publishing Route

If you are doing the traditional route, most publishers prefer you do not send illustrations. 

Publishers usually prefer to have control over the illustrations in a book, as it helps them to create a cohesive and marketable product. By providing illustrations themselves, they can ensure that the artwork fits the tone and style of the book, and that it will appeal to the target audience. Additionally, illustrations can be expensive to produce, and the publisher may not want to take on that cost unless they believe the book has strong commercial potential.

Self-Publishing Route (and Indie Publishing too!)

If your book requires illustrations, it’s important to find the right illustrator to bring your story to life. The illustrations should align with your story and audience, and should be of high quality and visually appealing.

When looking for an illustrator, consider their style, experience, and portfolio. Look for illustrators who have experience in children’s book illustrations and have a style that matches your vision for your book. You can find illustrators through online marketplaces, social media, or by asking for recommendations from other authors or publishing professionals. Make sure you know how to work with them to get the best results all around.

AI Generated Illustrations

If you’re looking for a more cost-effective option for illustrations, consider using AI-generated illustrations. There are a variety of AI tools available that can create illustrations based on your specifications, such as Canva or Artbreeder. While AI-generated illustrations may not have the same level of creativity or personal touch as traditional illustrations, they can be a more affordable and efficient option for some authors. Additionally, you can always hire an illustrator to refine or adjust the AI-generated illustrations if needed.

Cover and Layout

Your book’s cover and layout are crucial elements that will attract readers. Work with a professional designer to create an eye-catching cover and layout that accurately reflects the content and style of your book.

Ensure that the layout, fonts, and other design elements complement the story. Again, AI tools can help with book design, and there are many online platforms that offer pre-made templates and design options.

For more reading, check out:

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Choose Your Publishing Method and Platform

Once you have refined your manuscript and illustrations, it’s time to choose your publishing method and platform. Depending on your goals and resources, you may choose traditional publishing, indie publishing, or self-publishing. When choosing your platform, consider your budget, goals, and audience. Each platform has its own benefits and drawbacks, so it’s important to research and compare your options before making a decision.

If you choose traditional publishing, research literary agents or publishers in your niche and submit your manuscript according to their guidelines. 

If you choose indie publishing, research independent publishers or consider hiring a team of editors, designers, and marketers to help you self-publish. 

If you choose self-publishing, consider using an online platform such as Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing or IngramSpark, or opt for offset printing and distribution services.

Finding an Agent or Publisher

Overview of the traditional publishing process

When it comes to traditional publishing, the process can be lengthy and competitive. After finishing your manuscript, you’ll need to research literary agents or publishers that work with your specific genre. You’ll then send a submission package, typically including a query letter and sample chapters, and wait for a response. The query letter is essentially a sales pitch for your book, explaining what it’s about and why it would be a good fit for the agent or publisher you’re targeting.

If a literary agent is interested in representing you, they will work with you to further refine your manuscript and pitch it to publishers. If a publisher is interested in your book, they will offer you a contract that outlines the terms of the publishing agreement.

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Tips for finding a literary agent or publisher

One way to find a literary agent or publisher is to research those who work with your specific genre. You can also attend writing conferences or workshops, network with other writers, and use online resources such as Publishers Marketplace and Query Tracker. It’s important to research potential agents or publishers thoroughly, including their submission guidelines and previous works.

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Submitting directly to publishers

Some authors choose to bypass the literary agent route and submit their manuscript directly to publishers. This can be a more challenging path, but it can also be a good option for those who have researched publishers that work with their specific genre.

Understanding the publishing contract

If a publisher is interested in your book, they will offer you a contract that outlines the terms of the publishing agreement. It’s important to thoroughly review and understand this contract before signing, as it can have a big impact on your future royalties and rights to your work.

Learn about the logistics of traditional publishing.

Negotiating a contract and signing with an agent or publisher

If you receive an offer from a literary agent or publisher, you may have the opportunity to negotiate the terms of the agreement. This can include negotiating the advance, royalty rates, and rights to your work.

Beware of vanity presses and small/medium publishers

While there are many reputable small and medium-sized publishers, there are also vanity presses that charge authors for publishing services. It’s important to thoroughly research any publisher you’re considering and be wary of those that require you to pay upfront for their services.

Self-Publishing Your Children’s Book

If you’re looking to take complete control of the publishing process, self-publishing might be the way to go. With the advent of technology and the internet, it has become easier than ever to self-publish your children’s book. Here are some key considerations and steps to follow:

Budget considerations for self-publishing 

Self-publishing a children’s book requires an investment of time and money, and gathering funds is important to cover the costs of editing, design, printing, marketing, and distribution. Unlike traditional publishing, where the publisher takes care of the expenses, self-publishing requires the author to bear the costs upfront.

Before diving into the self-publishing process, it’s important to set a budget. This budget should account for editing, illustration, design, printing, and marketing costs. A great way to save money is by using AI tools for editing and illustration, which can help produce professional-quality work for a fraction of the cost.

How to gather funds for your project

If you choose traditional or indie publishing, you may want to gathering funds for your book project:

  • Crowdfunding. Consider using crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter, Indiegogo,  or GoFundMe to raise funds for your book project. Crowdfunding platforms can be an effective way to gather funds for your book project, and allow you to offer rewards to backers in exchange for their support.  Create a compelling campaign that highlights your book and its value to potential backers.
  • Grants and scholarships. Research and apply for grants and scholarships that support independent or self-published authors, such as the Self-Publishing Relief Fund or the IngramSpark Scholarship.
  • Personal savings. Consider using your own savings to fund your book project, but make sure to create a realistic budget and plan for potential expenses.
  • Partnering with sponsors. Look for sponsors who are interested in supporting your book project, such as local businesses or organizations that align with your book’s theme or message.
  • Pre-orders and presales. Consider offering pre-orders or presales of your book to generate early revenue and gauge interest in your project.

Whatever method you choose, it’s important to have a clear plan in place to cover the costs associated with self-publishing your children’s book.

Choosing an online publishing platform

There are many online platforms available for self-publishing your children’s book, such as Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, Barnes & Noble’s Nook Press, and IngramSpark. Some of these platforms offer AI tools for formatting, distribution, and marketing.

Offset printing options

For those looking to create physical copies of their book, offset printing can be a cost-effective option. There are many online printing services that offer competitive pricing and can help bring your book to life.

Obtaining an ISBN

Obtaining an ISBN (International Standard Book Number) and copyright for your children’s book is an important step in the self-publishing process. The ISBN is a unique identifier for your book, which makes it easier for booksellers, distributors, and libraries to track and sell your book. You can obtain an ISBN by purchasing one from your country’s designated agency.

To obtain an ISBN, you can visit the website of the International ISBN Agency ( From there, you can select your country and follow the steps provided to apply for an ISBN for your book. You will need to provide information about your book, such as the title, author, publisher, and format. Once you have obtained an ISBN, you will need to include it on your book’s cover and copyright page.

Registering for copyright

Copyright protection is important because it provides legal ownership of your book and its contents. Copyright laws protect the author’s work against unauthorized use or distribution. As a self-publisher, you are responsible for obtaining copyright protection for your work. You can register your copyright with the appropriate government agency in your country.

To register for copyright, you can visit the website of the United States Copyright Office ( From there, you can create an account and follow the steps to register your copyright. You will need to provide information about yourself, your book, and pay the required fee. 

You will need to provide information about yourself, the book, and the copyright owner. You will also need to submit a copy of your book or manuscript. Once your copyright is registered, you will receive a certificate of registration. This process can take several months, so it’s important to plan ahead and allow plenty of time for the copyright to be processed. Once the registration is complete, you will receive a copyright certificate.

It is important to note that the requirements for obtaining an ISBN and registering for copyright may vary depending on your country or region, so it is recommended to check with your local authorities for specific instructions.

Marketing and Promotion

Marketing and promotion are essential components of publishing a successful children’s book. Even if you choose traditional or indie publishing, it’s important to actively promote your book and build your author platform.

When marketing your book, it’s important to target your audience and use a mix of online and offline marketing strategies. Consider building a website, engaging with readers on social media, and partnering with influencers or book reviewers to promote your book. Additionally, consider investing in paid advertising on platforms such as Amazon, Facebook, or Google Ads.

Creating a marketing plan

Once your book is complete, it’s important to develop a marketing plan to promote it to potential readers. This plan should include social media promotion, book reviews, and other promotional activities.

Pre-launch strategies & release day

Building buzz before your book’s launch is key to generating sales and building an audience. Consider offering pre-orders, hosting a launch event, or engaging with bloggers and influencers to help spread the word. 

Before your book is released, create a pre-launch plan that includes building your online presence, generating buzz through social media and author events, and offering pre-orders or special promotions. 

On your book’s release day, it’s important to have a plan in place for promotion and outreach. Once your book is released, continue to promote it through book signings, school visits, and online marketing efforts. This could include running a sale, offering signed copies, or doing a giveaway.

Gathering funds for marketing

If you’re working with a limited budget, consider using crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter or IndieGoGo to raise money for marketing activities.

Tips for Gathering Funds

Self-publishing can be a rewarding and cost-effective way to bring your children’s book to life. By utilizing AI tools and online resources, it’s easier than ever to create a professional-quality book and market it to potential readers.

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Tips for Publishing and Marketing Your Book

Congratulations! You’ve successfully self-published or secured a publishing contract for your children’s book. However, your work doesn’t end here. The next step is to market your book effectively to ensure that it reaches your target audience. Here are some tips to help you through the publishing and marketing process:

  • Be patient and persistent. Publishing a book takes time and effort, and rejection is a common part of the process. Don’t get discouraged and keep working on your manuscript until it is the best it can be.
  • Research and follow submission guidelines carefully. Whether you’re submitting to a literary agent or publisher, make sure to follow their guidelines precisely to increase your chances of success.
  • Network with other authors and publishing professionals. Join writing groups or attend conferences to connect with others in the industry and learn from their experiences.
  • Working through the editing process with your publisher or editor. Once you’ve secured a publishing contract, you’ll work with an editor to refine your manuscript. Be open to feedback and suggestions, and work collaboratively to ensure that your book is the best it can be.
  • Designing your book’s cover and layout. Your book’s cover and layout are crucial elements that will attract readers. Work with a professional designer to create an eye-catching cover and layout that accurately reflects the content and style of your book.
  • Exploring distribution channels. Distribution is key to getting your book in front of readers. Explore different distribution channels, such as online retailers, brick-and-mortar bookstores, and libraries, to ensure that your book is available to a wide audience.
  • Creating a website and using social media to promote your book. Create a website or blog to showcase your book and share updates with your readers. Use social media platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook to build your author brand and promote your book.
  • Partnering with bloggers and influencers to expand your audience. Partnering with bloggers and influencers in your niche can help you expand your reach and promote your book to a wider audience. Reach out to bloggers and influencers and offer them a free copy of your book in exchange for a review or social media post.

Remember, marketing is an ongoing process, and it takes time and effort to get your book noticed. Stay committed to promoting your book, and keep exploring new marketing strategies to reach your target audience.

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Publishing a children’s book can be a challenging and rewarding process, but with the right resources and guidance, anyone can succeed. Whether you choose traditional publishing, indie publishing, or self-publishing, take the time to research your target audience, refine your manuscript, and choose the right platform for your goals and budget. And remember, marketing and promotion are key to building your author platform and ensuring the success of your book. Good luck on your publishing journey!

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