Making sure you get the children’s book you want the first time around is never easy, but with these awesome tips, you’ll be creating amazing children’s books just like a professional in no time!
Most new authors end up reaching out to experienced freelancers who promise the world only to leave with a bitter taste in their mouth and their wallets a little emptier. Don’t get us wrong, there are some fantastic freelancers out there (both of us work as freelancers!), but not all of them know as much as they promise you.
This can be especially true when you hire artists to create pictures and designs for children’s books. While an illustration may look absolutely fantastic unless it is designed correctly and with text in mind, it may end up causing you a lot of grief down the track when it comes time for the layout and formatting of your book.
- Choose A Trim Size – Decide on a trim size before you start on your illustrations. This can save you a lot of money and the heartache of incorrectly sized illustrations. There are standard trim sizes for print on demand companies if you want to produce the lowest cost print book, then make sure you choose one of the standard sizes. Custom trim sizes will cost more to print, pushing the minimum price of your book up. A landscape trim size isn’t offered everywhere either, so make sure you do your research and choose a trim size before getting illustrations made. Here are the standard trim sizes for Kindle Direct Publishing as an example.
- Allow for Bleeds – Make sure you ask your illustrator to create the illustrations with at least .125 extra on each side to accommodate a bleed. If they don’t add this, your trim size will end up lower than 300 dpi which is the recommended dpi for print. Lower dpi will result in low-quality print and digital illustrations.
- RGB Color Spec – Your illustrations should all be in red-green-blue (RGB) if you are doing print and eBooks. eBooks use the RGB, and when you get your final formatted print-ready PDF, it will be saved in CMYK.
- Think About Your Text – If you want to have text on the illustrations, you need to make sure your illustrator knows this, create a storyboard and even send them the manuscript so that they can use that to figure out the spacing needed. If you have illustrations that are busy with no plain background, you won’t have the readability, and your finished book won’t look professional. You can use white blocks for text as well.
- Leave the Text for Formatting or Layout – The text shouldn’t be added by the illustrator. This is up to the formatter. There are several different reasons for this. One is that you want active text for eBooks. If you have a flattened illustration people can’t highlight text in the eBooks. This is used for some reading aloud and other options. It is also a requirement for some platforms to have live text. Two, most illustrators don’t think about trim lines, margins, justification, fonts or bleeds which end up with the formatter having to request changes to the illustrations which can be disappointing and expensive.
- Think About Your Page Count – Most print on demand platforms have a minimum page count. For Kindle Direct Publishing this is 24 pages. Just make sure your story works for the platform you are uploading to. Also, whenever you add pages think about multiples of four. If you have 25 pages, for example, your book will have three blank pages to take it up to the next multiple of four.
- Covers and Interior Are Submitted Separately – Your paperback cover is not part of the interior You need to submit both the interior print-ready PDF and the paperback PDF. You also need the final page count for any paperback or hardcover book before you can do the paperback cover. This is so that you can determine the size of your spine. So, if you aren’t 100% sure of the final page count wait till it’s complete as you will avoid disappointment when you try and upload.
- Gutter People! – Remember the gutter! This is where the illustration meets the spine. Make sure if your illustrator is working on full spreads (left and right-side pages together), that they make sure all characters are at least .5 inches away from each edge. This will avoid trimming main characters and cutting them in half in the gutter.
- Fixed Format Rules for Children’s Books – All children’s picture books should be fixed format eBooks. Amazon uses Kindle Mobi’s, and the rest of the platforms use ePubs. The formatter will reduce the illustration sizes for those, so just make sure your illustrations are 300 dpi for the print. They will take care of the rest.
- Plan, Plan and Plan Some More – We can’t stress this enough. Make sure you research and plan out your book. Make sure you don’t cut corners as this always leads to disappointment. Use a storyboard to plan the illustrations and give as much feedback to your illustrator as you can before accepting the final files. If you can touch base with your formatter and give them one of the illustrators to check out before moving ahead with the rest, it could save you a lot of costly re-work later. Allow time for every stage of your book, so that you’re not rushing to meet unrealistic deadlines.
Check out our Children’s Book Layout page to see some of our fantastic layout designs and previous work!