Interested in self-publishing books for babies and toddlers?
If so, and your target market is infants and toddlers, you’ll need to read up on the “board book business.”
What is that?
Board books are the colorful first readers with thick pages found in preschools and daycares — aka, the books friends and family shower you with the moment you give birth. (Because every newborn is the next Albert Einstein.)
How does one go about creating and publishing one?
Below, we’re breaking it all down — from board book printing to writing to marketing to distribution logistics.
- What Is a Board Book?
- Board Books on Amazon
- Board Book vs. Hardcover: What’s the Difference?
- What Is a Board Book Made Of?
- How to Publish a Board Book in 5 Simple Steps
- What Is the Size of a Board Book?
- How To Distribute Your Board Book
- Self-Publishing Your Board Book on Amazon
- 3 Excellent Print-on-Demand Board Board Companies
- How Much Does It Cost To Publish a Board Book?
What Is a Board Book?
Books are a vital part of human development, and most kids become interested in them early on — if only to stare at and throw around the room.
Board books are specifically made for toddlers between the ages of 1 and 3. Traditionally, they feature:
- Paperboard instead of standard leaf paper
- Bound and folded spines, resulting in more durability
- Bright colors and bold pictures that do a lot of the “heavy lighting” when it comes to storytelling
Moreover, board books are usually smaller than regular books, making them easier to handle for smaller hands still struggling with motor coordination. Some titles feature liftable flaps and pop-ops that entice and engage children’s imaginations.
What’s another benefit of board books? They’re safer. Here’s why:
- Thin paper in a toddler’s hands is a surefire recipe for papercuts; plus, sharp corners can easily damage the eyes.
- Regular books usually have UV varnish lamination (as opposed to plastic), which all too frequently ends up in children’s mouths, which can lead to myriad calamities.
- Board books normally have rounded edges, mitigating the possibility of minor poking injuries.
Due to the heavier page stock, board books are usually more expensive than paperbacks.
Board Books on Amazon
What is a board book on Amazon, North America’s most powerful publisher?
Or, perhaps more specifically, is it possible to publish a board book through the massive online retailer? After all, don’t they mainly deal in digital options?
In a word: Yes. Amazon publishes both online and traditional board books.
The first stop is signing up for the website’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) platform, which is free.
Once you get it up there, other publishing opportunities will open up, including the company’s CreateSpace program, which offers printing and distribution services.
You can also use an outside publisher and go the FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon) route.
The best option for you depends on your budget and sales goals.
Board Book vs. Hardcover: What’s the Difference?
Board books are made to withstand the potentially destructive hands and habits of toddlers and babies since the pages are made of durable cardboard that’s near impossible to tear or pull out.
They’re also fabricated to withstand the most fervent teething toddlers.
So what’s the difference between board books and hardcover options?
- Hardcover books were designed for people over the age of 6 who’ve mastered hand-eye coordination.
- The special coating makes board books much easier to clean than hardcover options.
- It is much easier for babies to turn the pages of board books.
- Board books are often safety tested to ensure they’re not in any way harmful to infants and toddlers.
What Is a Board Book Made Of?
Board book pages use something called “paperboard” instead of regular paper. Paperboard feels like cardboard and withstands the wear and tear babies and toddlers often inflict on whatever they get their paws on.
Two main types of paperboard are used for baby books.
- White board is a pressed cardboard made of white fibers with a white laminated surface. It’s the higher quality and more expensive of the two.
- Gray board is a pressed cardboard made from gray fibers and treated with a white laminated surface.
You can usually tell the difference by looking at the color of the edges of the pages when the book is closed. As their names suggest, white board looks white; gray board appears gray. However, some printers may dye the page edges white to try and pass gray board off as white board.
How to Publish a Board Book in 5 Simple Steps
We’ve discussed what board books are. Now, let’s dive into the nuts and bolts of getting one self-published.
Specifically, how do you make your own board book?
1. Write the Book
The obvious first step is writing the book. Start with an outline, then flesh out the idea.
But don’t fall into an ego trap and fool yourself into thinking that penning a book for babies is easy. It’s not. In fact, many writers insist that writing for children is harder than writing for older kids or adults.
Keeping the storyline concise is key. And once you’ve done that, go back and make it simpler. Most children’s books have less than two sentences per page, making it difficult to move a story along.
As such, word choice becomes paramount — as is mapping out a story that can be told in a few words and pictures.
You should also consider having your story critiqued by a professional children’s book editor to ensure you get it right before paying to have it printed.
2. Work on the Illustrations
Illustrations are the main feature of board books. Every page should feature colorful and enticing images that support — and partly tell — the story. If you’re not an artist, your best bet is to work with an experienced children’s book illustrator who can be invaluable when bringing a story to life.
Even if you are an artist, it may still be beneficial to collaborate with a graphics coordinator who can offer suggestions, punch up your image drafts, or improve the layout. Besides, another set of eyes is always helpful.
But working with someone else isn’t a requirement, and plenty of board book authors go it alone. If that’s your route, however, ask for feedback from friends and family.
Do yourself a favor, and don’t pick folks who will just tell you what you want to hear. Instead, find people who can offer constructive criticism (with a compassionate touch). Though emotionally challenging, all writers must learn how to take notes gracefully and incorporate the good ones.
3. Select a Printer
The next step is finding a printer and/or publisher that works for you — and your budget.
If this is your first foray into self-publishing, you may be tempted to go with an all-in-one solution that offers editing, printing, and distribution services. And sure, for many, this winds up being the best option.
But it’s not the only one. Also, not every one-stop-shop service offers board book support. And those that do may unreasonably raise their rates to accommodate the thicker paper.
So do your due diligence, and don’t be afraid to piece a customized team together.
If possible, aim to get your chosen printing company involved early on to avoid the pitfalls associated with custom publishing runs.
4. Get a Proof Copy
Before you order a run of books, get a proof copy made. Most printers will do this as part of the process, but some may charge for “the luxury.”
Do NOT skip this step. A large percentage of proofs come back with errors. If you miss them, you’ll wind up with a boatload of useless books; plus, you’ll have no legal recourse to force a reprint.
5. It’s Time To Market Your Book
Arguably, marketing is the hardest part of self-publishing. That’s why many people strive to land contracts with big publishers that maintain whole departments dedicated to the art of promoting their authors’ work.
Consider how you’ll market your book early on — even as you write it. Understand that it’s a time-consuming task that can make or break your efforts.
So, how should you go about promoting a board book? Here are some basics:
- Build a website that targets your audience. Include an interactive blog that chronicles your progress and features information related to the story. Once the book is published and ready for sale, include an e-commerce element so followers can purchase through you and other platforms. (First, double-check that your distribution contract doesn’t feature an exclusivity clause.)
- Submit your book to all the online marketplaces such as Amazon, kindle, and the like.
- Create social media accounts for your book and post frequently to get the word out.
- Consider advertising on websites that your target audience (moms, dads, and grandparents) frequent to increase your reach. If you publish through Amazon’s FBA (Fulfilled by Amazon) program, you can use sponsored ads to promote your book.
- Include links to your book’s sales page in your electronic signature and professional online profiles.
- Contact local schools and libraries to see if they want to carry your book.
- Ask local bookstores if they would consider carrying your book.
What Is the Size of a Board Book?
Board books are typically 5.5 inches wide by 7.9 inches tall (13.97cm x 20.07cm), making them roomy enough for large text and engaging, bold illustrations.
It is important to note that board books feature two-page spreads. The first page almost always sits on the cover’s back side.
The typical book features between 8 and 12 spreads, or about 16 to 24 pages. Regarding word count, most titles fall somewhere between 250 and 400 words.
How To Distribute Your Board Book
First-time self-published authors may find it challenging to secure retail distribution.
Most stores don’t like purchasing books straight from authors, preferring to purchase from one supplier instead of maintaining numerous accounts. But it’s not impossible to land a deal.
Try doing the following:
- Create a marketing pitch and sales plan to show how you’ll promote the book. If they believe it will sell well, they’ll be more willing to work with you.
- Organize book readings at local libraries and bookstores to generate some buzz.
- Reach out to the large and small distributors that work with self-publishers.
Book distributors like Amazon or IngramSpark have been known to strike lucrative deals with self-published authors. And who knows, your efforts may catch the eye of someone at one of the big publishing houses.
The key is not to give up. It may take months — or even years — to gain traction. Sticking with it, even through the lonely days, is worth the effort.
Self-Publishing Your Board Book on Amazon
Amazon doesn’t currently offer printing services for board books, so you must have them printed elsewhere. But they might be the best place to sell your book online.
The Amazon storefront is a solid option for distribution and reach. You have two options when working with Amazon.
- Merchant Fulfilled Network (MFN): Amazon will handle the financial transaction, but you’ll be responsible for storing, packing, and shipping the books on your own. They require a 24-hour turnaround, meaning you have 24 hours to send it after receiving the order.
- Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA): You ship the books to Amazon, and they will do the rest, including storage, shipping, customer service, and returns. Using FBA is also the simplest way to get the Prime badge, which many customers like because it translates to free and faster shipping for them.
With FBA, you’ll earn a little less, but the service they provide is worth it if you want to spend more time creating and less time doing the role of an administrative assistant — which is a lot more time-consuming than many people anticipate.
3 Excellent Print-on-Demand Board Board Companies
Print-on-demand board books cost a tad more than getting a full run printed in advance. However, there’s a significant upside: you won’t end up with hundreds of books that will eventually incur a discard fee.
Print-on-demand is often the best route for a first book. After all, you can always scale up if things take off.
Here’s our top-three list of print-on-demand businesses with considerable board book experience.
Print Ninja is a high-quality, reasonably priced print-on-demand board book service. Their bread-and-butter is collaborating with self-published authors.
As such, Print Ninja offers low minimum order quantities and has a solid track record for delivering top-shelf board books.
Pint Size Productions
Pint Size Productions is another printer that specializes in board books. They offer mass production and one-off printing for digital and offset runs. Pint Sizes’ website is also a treasure trove of valuable information for first-time board book authors.
Book Baby is print-on-demand with over a decade of experience manufacturing board books of all sizes, shapes, and colors. They can print just about any dimension on high-quality paper with extra-durable covers.
Book Baby also offers several self-publishing packages — including illustration experts — to help you with marketing your board book online.
How Much Does It Cost To Publish a Board Book?
So we’ve come to the big question everyone eventually asks: How much does it cost to publish a board book?
Generally speaking, you’ll likely need to lay out between a couple of hundred to a few thousand depending on the following factors:
- Content Creation: If you’re writing and illustrating everything yourself, you’ll only need to pay in time.
- Editing: Working with professional editors and layout specialists will come with a fee.
- Codes: Though many self-publishing platforms include them for free, some authors may need to secure their own ISBN barcode, which runs about $130.
- Manufacturing: Nearly all self-published authors must pay for printing runs. The amount will depend on the colors, book length, and various production options.
- Distribution and Marketing: Again, if you’re doing it all yourself, this will only cost you time. If you collaborate with professionals, prepare to pay a few thousand dollars.
Board books are a vital part of every child’s life, and creating them can be fulfilling. Don’t rush things. Take your time and get it done right the first time.
And if your first offering doesn’t fly off shelves, don’t give up. Perseverance is key. Eventually, you’ll find your market.
Good luck and happy self-publishing!