Did you know you can create and publish a children’s book for free?
I just published two books recently (The ABCs of Halloween and The ABCs of Christmas) and I’m working on a few more! They are all very simple books that I’m working on right now. ABCs, colors, shapes, numbers, etc. I’ve also published some journals on Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing! But I can talk about that another time! It’s also easy and free!
Since becoming a stay-at-home mom I’ve been trying to find ways to make some extra money while being at home raising our sweet 7-month-old daughter. I’m constantly on Pinterest trying to get ideas for this blog, side hustles, ways to save money on one income, and things like that. Cause while we are getting by on one income it has created a lot of stress for both of us. And I know other families are feeling the strain of basic living expenses being so ridiculously expensive right now.
Back in August, I had a cute idea for Halloween-themed ABC flashcards and was playing around with designs on Canva when I thought what a cute book it would make for our daughter! Cue the hours of Google searching to find out how I could turn my random designs into a put-together real-life in my hands’ book. As a graphic designer, I knew I would have no problem using either Canva or Illustrator to create designs and placing my work on templates for printing. But I didn’t know anything about how to publish or where. And would it cost me money to publish a book?? I know they say (who is “they” anyway?) you have to spend money to make money…but let’s be honest. The goal is to spend no money or as little as possible to make money. So after looking through a few options I found Lulu Printing and Amazon KDP had free publishing options. Both are direct printing meaning they only print your book when an order comes in. All you have to do is create it and publish it on the websites. They take care of the printing and shipping to the customer! Both also have e-book publishing options and an assortment of other types of printing. Definitely take a look at all the different printing and publishing available. You never know what kind of ideas you can turn into printed projects!
I do suggest ordering a proof copy for yourself to make sure it looks correct! This does cost money but you get a discounted price being the author and is also not required unless you want to sell globally on Lulu. I’m glad I did that with my first book, The ABCs of Halloween. Cause I was sleep deprived with our baby going through a sleep regression while I was suffering from insomnia when I was creating it – usually late at night after my baby and partner were both asleep – and accidentally designed the cover and back on the wrong sides! I got my book in the mail and the back was the front and vis versa. lol, I laughed pretty hard at that! Checked the inside to make sure everything looked correct and if any colors needed adjusting and fixed it in about two minutes on my computer and had the revised version published in no time. That is why we always triple-check our work, y’all!
I’m going to give a short step-by-step list and then have more in-depth steps below!
- Create an account on Lulu or use your Amazon account to create a KDP account.
- Create an account with Canva.
- Download the correct-sized template from the site you chose.
- In Canva create a new project with the size of the template you’ll be using.
- Create your cover in Canva.
- Create the inside in Canva.
- Upload your files to your website of choice.
- Add all the details and pricing.
- Double-check…Triple-check everything!
- Publish it!
Ok, so there are more details to worry about than a simplified 10-step list. Before I go more in-depth about the steps above let me address a few things you might be asking yourself right now.
What kind of children’s book will I write? Well, that’s actually a pretty easy one. There is such a wide range of subjects and ages you can write for. I have an infant so I started with holiday-themed Alphabet books! Along with those I’m also working on children’s books about shapes, colors, animals, and numbers. Even religion/faith, hygiene, holidays, life lessons, pretty much anything you can think of! Or you can base it on a free-for-use children’s story like Cinderella (NOT the Disney version. The original story! But maybe cut out the gory bits.) or hundreds of other loved stories! Or create something completely new!
I’m not a graphic designer! How can I design a children’s book? First, if you’ve got a good eye for color I think you’ll do great! You do not have to be a college graduate or take any classes to do your own designs. Second, if you use Canva it is even easier! There are tons of free-for-use pre-made artwork that make it simple. Like everything in life – experience and practice are how you advance your skills! Don’t hesitate to make multiple sample designs for a project and narrow it down to one before creating your entire project. You can always recycle or update rejected designs for other projects later!
Is Canva really that easy to use? Heck yes, it is! There is a free version that is perfect for simple books or you can get the paid version and have an even larger menu of pre-made graphics to use for more in-depth art-heavy stories. I personally am using the free version until I can start making money from the side hustles I’m working on.
1. Create an account on Lulu or use your Amazon account to create a KDP account.
This one is pretty self-explanatory! Go to Lulu.com to create an account. Follow the steps to get everything active. Feel free to look around, check out their shop of other self-published authors, and look through the guides they have to see if there is anything that pops out as interesting. You can publish on just Lulu or Amazon KDP or both! Most likely you already have an Amazon account. Good news! You don’t have to create a new account to use Amazon KDP. You can click on the link I’ve provided a few times above, log in, and it will then give you instructions on starting your KDP account.
2. Create an account with Canva.
Go to Canva and sign up for a new account. You can select a free or paid membership – I suggest starting with the free account! I’ve used it for a few years now for my blog, social media, and other graphics – all using the free version.
3. Download the correct-sized template from the site you chose.
Both Lulu and Amazon have guides containing the SVG files for the templates you’ll need. Download those into a folder on your computer, tablet, or phone. While designing is a lot easier on a computer, for me anyway, don’t be discouraged if you are using your phone or tablet. It just takes some practice and getting used to using the app and it’s no problem!
To know which sized template you need you will need to take a look at the sizes offered for the website you are using. For a children’s book, a hardcover 8×8 is a good size! Or you could go smaller or larger just depending on your preference for book size. You can also choose a soft cover but for children’s books, hardcovers really are the best! Decide which size you’d like best and download the template for that size. Or you can publish your book as an e-book!
4. In Canva create a new project with the size of the template you’ll be using.
In Canva click the Create a Design button at the top of the website. Choose the custom size option, choose the correct measurement type, and input the template size. You’ll get a blank page to start with. Go to your uploads options on the side of your design screen and choose to upload files. Upload the template. If the size is correct the template should not need any size adjusting. You can lock the template in place so you don’t accidentally move it while designing.
5. Create your cover in Canva.
The template is the back, spine, front cover, and bleed. Take note that the back cover is on the left side and the front is on the right. Basically, if you were holding a book open but the cover facing you is how the template works. If you need some ideas check out some children’s books online. DO NOT COPY someone else’s work. You are simply looking for trendy styles and inspiration. Canva has tons of free graphics and template designs you can choose from! You can start from scratch with your design or use a template and change it up to be your own.
6. Create the inside in Canva.
You will need to create a new project for the inside pages. The inside pages are single-page-sized (it is not the same width size as the cover template). Make sure you keep all the important designing within the bleed. You can add more pages in the same project so that all pages are in one file when you upload them.
7. Upload your files to your website of choice.
On your website of choice start a new project and follow the prompts to upload your files.
8. Add all the details and pricing.
On your website of choice continue to follow the prompts to file in your details all the way from author info to pricing.
9. Double-check…Triple-check everything!
This speaks for itself.
10. Publish it!
This also speaks for itself! lol
Congratulations! You’ve published a book!
Now you market that book! Share your book on your social media sites, make a pin on Pinterest, tell your friends and family, get a couple of author copies to send for free as a collaboration with influencers to share on their pages, and many other ways. Your main goal is to drive traffic to your book. Don’t expect your book to suddenly start selling if you never market it! There are probably millions of other children’s books out there available. If you don’t market yours it will get lost in all those books.
When I start a new book from scratch next time I’ll get screenshots to add to these steps to make navigating the websites easier. I’ll be writing a blog post soon talking about ways to market your book, products, and even yourself as an influencer. Keep checking back for more posts!