How Kids Can Create Their Own Books

Working on the StephaniesThis summer my 6-year-old daughter, Lexi, and I wrote a book: The Stephanies. It was a much-needed summer project and this fall we raised money through Kickstarter to publish it and released it on November 6. A lot of kind folks have applauded this daddy-daughter project, but anyone could do it.

First of all, writing stories is awesome. Kids should have that opportunity to create stories and tell wacky, funny, unique tales. Every kid has these stories and turning them into a published book is just a process.

Old School Publishing
I did this myself as a first grader with my epic masterpiece known as Mike, The Cat. In 1986 we didn’t have print-on-demand publishing technology, so they just handed us a blank book and told us to get to work. That means there’s only one print copy of Mike, The Cat, but it still has a cherished place on my shelf.

That’s one way of making a book. Another way is to simply get crafty, print out your story and create a construction paper cover. In fourth grade I “published” another epic story, Fred and I the Spies, using one of those three-tab folders. You can also go up a notch and take it to a copy place for one of those spiral plastic jobs.

Print-on-Demand Publishing
But today we have new technology that makes it even easier and cheaper to print (and sell!) your book. It’s called print-on-demand publishing and it basically means that they don’t print your book until someone orders a copy. It’s more expensive per copy, but it saves you from having a basement full of books you can’t sell (as awesome as your book is, 79% of books don’t sell more than 100 copies).

We used CreateSpace for The Stephanies, a service of Amazon that I’ve used before. They have reasonable royalty rates, you don’t have to pay up front (this is big; you shouldn’t have to pay to publish your book—you should only pay for the copies you buy) and best of all the book goes on Amazon, which is really the only place you need to be.

The process was pretty easy: Lexi drew the pictures and I scanned them, doing some basic resizing and very minor photo-retouching in Photoshop. Then I did the layout in Microsoft Word and created the cover in Photoshop. I uploaded both files to CreateSpace and that’s about it. They have an online proofing option and you can also order a proof copy (highly recommended). Keeping the design simple helped. The more complicated you get, the more things can go wrong.

Digital Publishing
So far The Stephanies has sold more digital copies than print copies. Creating a digital version is even easier.  I used Pages to create an epub file, uploaded that along with a cover to Amazon’s digital publishing site and it’s available on the Kindle. Digital is a little more complicated than print since the text size and screen size can vary wildly depending on the device. Basically it means you lose a lot of control for how the final product looks and that can be hard with a picture book. But it seems to work well enough.

An Easier Way?
If that all sounds a little complicated, don’t worry. You can also check out Scribble Press. It’s a fun way to create and publish your own books online or using an iPad (though you can’t sell them—you can just share them and order print copies). They also have fun templates and fill-in-the-blank stories if you need help getting started.

Do you have a book you want to publish?

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