How to Create Picture Ebooks for Kids

Picture ebooks

Jennifer LaGarde via Flickr

Today’s guest post is by Laura Backes of Children’s Book Insider and Picture eBook Mastery.


Until recently, creating ebook versions of children’s picture books was something publishers reserved for their best-selling authors and illustrators. If you wanted to self-publish a picture ebook, you either needed to be a whiz at writing code, or you paid an ebook creation service to do it for you. (That said, it was possible to find a few services targeted toward publishing books for kids on Apple devices, such as Book Creator.)

Last September, Amazon released KDP Kids’ Book Creator, which allows the average Joe to create illustrated children’s books for the Kindle and upload them directly to Amazon. These books can be designed in the landscape format (to mimic the layout of print picture books) and can include text pop-ups that enlarge the text with a tap or a click, making it easier to read.

Side note: Using the KDP Kids’ Book Creator means you’re publishing through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing program. You can choose from several royalty structures within that program, and also choose whether or not to be included in KDP Select, which gives Amazon exclusive distribution of your ebook for a certain time period in exchange for marketing perks.

While the KDP Kids’ Book Creator still has a few rough spots (which Amazon is presumably ironing out in response to user feedback), it’s a good start. Those of us who have worked in children’s publishing for years recognized this move for what it was: a game changer.

Just how much has Amazon’s new free software changed the game?

With the release of the Kid’s Book Creator, as well as the Kindle Fire HD Kids Edition tablet, Amazon is investing in illustrated ebooks. And they need content.

So now comes the big question. Are you ready to ride this wave?

Not every self-published picture ebook will make it. Many will slip into oblivion as soon as they’re released.

Does Your Book Have a Fighting Chance?

Here are some positive signs.

You have a book that appeals to a niche market. Often publishers reject a manuscript simply because there isn’t a big enough audience to justify their expense to bring it to fruition. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the book shouldn’t exist. You’ll just have to make an effort to directly reach the consumers searching for the specific topic in your book.

If your story features a child with certain food allergies and how he must navigate snack time in preschool, you can write guest posts for parenting blogs that focus on these issues, or even blogs about nutrition and cooking. Many mommy bloggers welcome guest posts about all aspects of child care, and you can mention your book in your bio.

You already have a good online following. Jessica Shyba’s popular blog Momma’s Gone City, featuring photographs of her toddler and puppy at naptime, prompted publisher Jean Feiwel to offer her a two-book deal. Naptime with Theo & Beau was published by Feiwel and Friends in February, with a huge social media campaign using the hashtag #theoandbeau.

Could Shyba have chosen to self-publish the book and do the same thing? Sure. These days, authors and illustrators reach readers directly via their blogs, Twitter feeds and YouTube channels. Even if your blog is attracting the kind of people who would buy your picture book, you still have a potential customer base.

You want to begin establishing yourself as a professional author or illustrator. Waiting for an agent or editor to say yes can take months or years of submissions. Getting two or three picture ebooks out now means you’re working on creating a name for yourself and building a platform. If you do these books well, and market them smartly, you can build a reputation that can lead to more opportunities and possibly traditional book deals.

You have taken the time to study your craft. The quality of your work will be compared to those authors and illustrators who appear on the bestseller lists, so it must stand up to the scrutiny. Take classes in picture book writing and design, attend workshops, join a critique group, hire a professional editor. You want, and need, for your book to garner five-star reviews on Amazon, and not just from your mother. 

Why Your Book Might Not Make It

Your book has been rejected 25 times and you’re tired of submitting. Self-publishing won’t fix the flaws in a manuscript that had received nothing but form rejections from editors. Nor will it camouflage an ill-conceived story or writing that doesn’t appeal to the intended audience. You first need to figure out why the manuscript was rejected, and fix the problem.

You don’t have a solid marketing strategy. Complain all you want, but there is no way around it—if you want to sell books, you’ve got to market. And this goes for authors who are traditionally published as well. Don’t expect to post a link to your book on all your friends’ Facebook pages and call it a day.

You lack quality illustrations. This is crucial if you want your picture ebook to attract an audience. Remember that your first sales tool is your cover, and your second sales tool will be the first two pages of your book if you have Amazon’s Look Inside feature. If your illustrations look amateurish, the overall impression you’re giving potential customers is that this is not a professional product.

If you’re not an illustrator yourself, get the best illustrations you can afford. Start by checking the rates of some experienced illustrators. You can search the Illustrator Gallery of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, or find freelance illustrators at sites like elance.com.

If you decide to design your own illustrations, it’s wise to take a graphic design class so you learn the basics of font choices, image placement, and how things fit together best on a small screen. And speaking of the smaller screen, remember that the images should be clear and without too many tiny details so they can be easily viewed on a Kindle or iPad.

At the very least, the biggest hurdle toward successfully self-publishing picture ebooks doesn’t need to be the technology. Trust me, the KDP Kids’ Book Creator software is easy to use. Hundreds of authors and illustrators have already taken advantage of this opportunity, and are selling their books on Amazon—and they’re not all young upstarts who could use an app before they were potty trained!

Posted in Digital Media, Publishing Industry and tagged , , , , , , .
Laura Backes

Laura Backes

For 25 years, Laura Backes has published Children’s Book Insider, The Children’s Writing Monthly. She is the co-creator of Picture eBook Mastery, an online course on how to use the KDP Kids’ Book Creator software to produce, upload and market picture ebooks on Amazon. To get her free, four-part mini video course, “Yes, You Can Publish a Kindle Picture eBook!” go to www.pictureebookmastery.com/yesyoucan. Laura can be reached through writeforkids.org.

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22 Comments on "How to Create Picture Ebooks for Kids"

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[…] How to Create Picture Ebooks for Kids […]

Angie Dixon

Thanks for this. I’m interested in doing some children’s books, and I’ve been putting it off for a while. I would really like to self-publish them on Kindle, for various reasons, but I didn’t know that this new tool existed. That certainly makes it a lot easier. I’ll be looking into that and working out a strategy and action plan to finally move forward with this project I’ve been wanting to do for a long time now.

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[…] a kids’ picture book as an ebook. Laura Backes discusses the new programs and opportunities for publishing picture ebooks for kids. Much of the issue with picture ebooks was formatting—the illustrations gave ebooks problems. As […]

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[…] 2. How to Create Picture Ebooks for Kids […]

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[…] While the KDP Kids’ Book Creator still has a few rough spots (which Amazon is presumably ironing out in response to user feedback), it’s a good start. Those of us who have worked in children’s publishing for years recognized this move for what it was: a game changer.Just how much has Amazon’s new free software changed the game?With the release of the Kid’s Book Creator, as well as the Kindle Fire HD Kids Edition tablet, Amazon is investing in illustrated ebooks. And they need content.So now comes the big question. Are you ready to ride this wave?…  […]

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[…] Amazon's Kids' Book Creator allows the average Joe to create illustrated children's books for the Kindle and upload them directly to Amazon.  […]

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[…] Backes presents How to Create Picture Ebooks for Kids posted at Jane […]

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[…] Laura Backes post “How to Create Picture Books for Kids” where she answers the questions:  Does Your Book Have a Fighting Chance? and Why Your Book […]

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[…] Laura Backes post “How to Create Picture Books for Kids” where she answers the questions:  Does Your Book Have a Fighting Chance? and Why Your Book […]

netpholland

Do you have any advice on what programs are best for creating illustrations? The only art I’ve ever done really is with paint and pen on paper, not on the computer. I’d like to give it a go, I’m just wondering what software illustrators use, if you have any advice 🙂

Jane Friedman

Professional designers and illustrators typically use a combination of Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator.

Emily Grosvenor

I’m curious about the course but there doesn’t seem to be much information on the page devoted to it. I’m publishing my first children’s book and have been writing about the process. So many questions along the way! But it all boils down to this: 1. Have a great idea 2. Execute it like a boss!

Jon Bard

Hi Emily, You can find all the details about the course here: http://pictureebookmastery.com/about

Rachel HW

Do you know if Amazon is using this format for stories other than kids’ books? I have some fantasy and supernatural short fiction I’d like to include illustrations for, but beyond creating a website with a password, similar to webcomics, I’m uncertain how to sell them as digital books.

Melinda

Thanks! I’ve been trying to navigate my way into publishing a story book and this information has been the best so far. Great advice!

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[…] In The blog below  I will review the content and add to the topic of the article https://janefriedman.com/picture-ebooks-for-kids/ […]

Helen Canty

Working on E-Book with grandsons – but, it is more than books – it is a concept that could really help other children – how do I or can I trademark the title

Jane Friedman

Hi Helen – It’s not really possible to trademark or copyright a title.

Acacia

Thank you for this! It has been very helpful. I’m wondering if it’s a waste of time to draw out my book on paper? Forgive a novice I am not sure if I can upload the illustrations or if I should create them with software.

Leon

I’ve recently created a series of educational picture books aimed at toddlers and preschool aged children, and I found the self publishing part a breeze. Then it dawn on me that I need to get people to find them! As you mentioned, I need a solid marketing strategy… and this is going to be the real challenge going forward. Thanks for your tips.

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