Kayla Hicks - Author Kayla Hicks - Author

How Self-Publishing My Children’s Picture Book Worked Better For Me Than Traditional Publishing

5 min read

Sometimes when things don’t originally work out the way you planned, another door opens and things you don’t expect to happen

For a long time, I chased traditional publishing for my children’s picture book, and I almost got there.

Having been a self-published indie author of novels and novellas for young adult and adult target audiences for nearly 10 years, I was unsure I could self-publish a picture book.

I was unsure for many reasons. The first reason was that I was trying to grab the attention of a new target audience. The second reason was that creating and formatting a picture book was a whole new ballgame for me.

So, I decided to first seek out agents and small publishing houses for Dandelion.

And what was the craziest part about that was that I’d received three offers for Dandelion from small publishers.

Never in my dreams had I imagined that this would happen.

But, the truth was, it was bittersweet. Mainly due to the fact that each publisher had something that made an alarm sound off that it wasn’t right.

Here were the flags:

  1. The first publisher gave me tons of insight into how to make Dandelion better image quality-wise and formatting-wise but ghosted me in the middle of negotiations. Just never answered any more of my emails.

  2. The second one felt like a dream. Great contract and working parameters, but they only could offer the book in Ebook form. That wasn’t optimal for young readers. They need a hardcopy form of the book.

  3. The third one was a vanity publisher who wanted me to pay them $2,000 to help them publish my book.

This was the point that I had to decide if I could do it on my own.

I had some sort of proof with three offers that Dandelion was going to be a solid bet, but I needed to figure out how to format it on my own and market it.

So, my husband helped me dig into some research and we discovered I could format it using Canva.com.

After reading a ton about how it could be done and experimenting with the illustrations I’d created, I finally cracked it. I’d managed to format Dandelion and get a paperback through Amazon.

It didn’t feel real.

However, now that I’d managed to make Dandelion a reality, I needed to figure out how I could get it in front of my audience.

The good thing I had going for myself was that I had a small network from my teaching days, as I had been a preschool teacher for 9 years before becoming a stay-at-home mom.

So I began talking about Dandelion on my social media channels. And, I also documented my process as I went. By this I mean, I shared the illustrations as I’d made them and gave sneak peeks of the story.

And wouldn’t you know, luck had been on my side again.

I’d managed to catch the eye of an administrator who wanted to buy 450 copies for their childcare program. A copy for every child in their program. But, better yet, a big order such as that was going to put my book in the eyes of more readers online.

After all of this news began happening, I was facing major imposter syndrome.

How could this be seriously happening?

Then my mom, who is also in early childhood education, asked me what else I could do to help market Dandelion. And it got me thinking. I’d made all of this progress but how could I keep it going?

So, I decided to create a Dandelion Learning kit.

Creating this learning kit would help give teachers a reason to use it in their classrooms and provide parents with branch-off learning activities at home. And it would help Dandelion become a learning tool that built on the STEM, social-emotional, and inclusion concepts I’d envisioned in the first place.

I sat down and put my teaching skills to the test and came up with a decent-sized learning kit for classrooms to start.

I decided to offer ten classrooms a free copy of Dandelion with a learning kit.

The perk of this was that it was going to be ready to go upon receipt. Meaning I was providing them ready to start ideas and activities, and I was even laminating some of the pieces to keep them reusable. And it paid off.

I managed to get 10 classrooms to take one, 8 in my area, 1 in Nebraska, and 1 in the UK.

What my learning kit contained:

Now here I am a week from the book's release date and I can only hope that all of this hard work that I have put into the launch of Dandelion will pay off.

In the weeks to follow Dandelion, I managed to book a few appearances which I also never dreamed I’d manage to do either. I was able to book a guest reading and facilitating activities at an elementary school near me for 100 children after I’d reached out to several libraries and one had passed my email to the elementary school.

By publishing Dandelion on my own, I managed to rise to a challenge I never thought I could accomplish. And I managed to get Dandelion into the hands of little readers.