In March of 2016, I sat in my kitchen with a dear friend. We were looking at a pile of illustrations I had just completed for my first children’s book, Your Hands Can Change The World! I had decided to publish my book, and was telling her that I had no idea where to begin, or what to expect. Through the process of writing and illustrating my book, I had come to terms with the fact that while I have always dreamed of obtaining a lucrative publishing contract, what was most important to me was being a published author, even if I did it myself.
My friend encouraged me to follow my dream of being published, and helped me let go of my own judgements about not having a traditional contract. At the end of the day, I’m a published author. My book is selling, and children and families are enjoying the book.
I decided to go with a publishing company. I did a lot of research to reach that decision. The reason I chose to invest in a self-publishing company instead of doing it all myself through Create Space or a similar platform is because I wanted to learn as much as I could about the publishing process. I wanted a professional designer to help with the layout of my book, and I wanted a recognizable publishing company on my book jacket. I chose Balboa Press, a division of Hay House Publishing. My book has a spiritual bent, so I felt it was a good match. Balboa treated me well, went the extra mile for me and my book, and did a wonderful job on my layout design. I highly recommend them.
I’ve created this blog post to go through some of the major lessons I learned during the process. If you’re considering going with a professional company to publish your book, here are some things you should know:
- Know how much money it will really cost you as early in the process as you can.
I really underestimated the total cost. Initially I chose a simple package for color books that I thought would basically cover everything I needed. But when I really got into the process of production, I ended up adding some services at the last-minute. The sales department tried to tell me up front, and I thought they were just being “sales-y,” but they were right. I ended up investing $2,700 in the production of my book. I invested $1,000 in marketing services, which was a combination of services from Balboa and things I did myself locally.
I don’t have $4,000 lying around, so I decided to crowdfund my publishing costs through a Go Fund Me campaign. I was able to cover my marketing costs that way. The $2700 for the publishing package was provided by an investor. To be clear, had I not been able to obtain this financing, I would not have been able to go with Balboa Press. Make sure you know how much money you’ll really need to complete the process and plan accordingly so you’re not trying to create the money at the last-minute.
- Plan the size of your illustrations.
This was a shocker during my process. It never occurred to me that I needed to plan the size of my illustrations. Somewhere in the back of my mind I thought I would be able to scan the images and therefore they could be any size they needed to be. The designers at Balboa were able to make the pictures smaller, but making them larger made them look fuzzy and disproportionate.
The “trim size” of your book is basically the final size your book will be once it’s bound into a book with the spine and cover. My book is an industry standard size of 8.5” x 8.5.” Since the book is square and my illustrations were created on a 9” by 11” paper, there ended up being a small gap between the end of my illustrations and the end of the page. The designers at Balboa did an amazing job, and my book looks lovely regardless, but it was a concern for me. I really didn’t relax until I saw the final printed copy in my hands. Make sure you have at least a basic idea of what shape and size you’d like your book to be before you embark, just for your own peace of mind.
- Choose wisely on your publishing package.
As I stated, I started the process with a simple package that was basically “no frills.” It provided me with the design of my layout and a few free copies of my printed book once it was completed. I ended up paying for the fancier package that included the Library of Congress number for your book, the ISBN numbers, copyright numbers, and the seller’s buyback program. These are necessities for selling your book and when you add them ala-carte, the costs really add up. The people at Balboa Press let me upgrade my package instead of adding on the individual items, and I ended up getting much more than just the items listed above for the same price as if I’d added them one by one.
I also added marketing services late in the process because I wanted to give my book a good start. I paid for a social media ad through Balboa, and I do feel it was worth the investment. I also used the money I raised through my crowdfunding campaign for custom bookmarks, business cards, a banner, and fees associated with attending book fairs and art fairs where I could sell my book in person.
Overall, I feel that my process with Balboa Press has been positive. They are attentive to their authors, and they work hard to make sure I’m happy with my book and their services. When it comes time to purchase additional book copies, they always give me the best price possible, and they never bat and eye when I ask for rush shipping or quick turnarounds on printing times. Additionally, they did a great job designing my book. Despite my little hiccup with my image sizes, my book looks professional, and exactly how I pictured it while I was creating it. I’m currently working on my second book in the series, and I plan to stay with Balboa Press for my self-publishing needs.