The Joys, Trials, and Tribulations of Publishing Your Own Picture Book

fullsizerender-4-2This week I attended a “shoptalk” meeting of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators at my local Barnes & Noble in Ithaca, New York. To my understanding, they meet once a month at this Barnes & Noble and talk about various topics that have to do with writing and illustrating and publishing children’s books. The SCBWI has a bunch of chapters across the country. According to their website, they are”the only professional organization specifically for those individuals writing and illustrating for children and young adults in the fields of children’s literature, magazines, film, television and multimedia,” which is pretty cool. Some famous people on their board of advisors include Pat Cummings, Judy Blume (!), Laurie Halse Anderson (!), Matt de la Peña, Jerry Pinkney (!), and Jane Yolen, just to name a few (that I recognized, and my favorites).


Like I said, the meeting was held at Barnes & Noble. Barnes & Noble, of course, isn’t an independent bookstore. It’s a chain, the biggest chain, actually, of bookstores, with 640 retail stores across the country (thanks, Wikipedia). Which is why I was kind of surprised that they were hosting an event like this at one of their retail locations. I always associated chain stores with business and sales, not community and people. The last time that I went to an event at a Barnes & Noble to be honest was probably the Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince release party.

But after attending the meeting this week, it’s clear that there’s definitely a community– of readers, of writers, of fanatics, of coffee drinkers, of people that like to sit and talk about things that matter, and there’s even one at the Barnes & Noble near me! Which is AWESOME.  🙂

Anyway, the meeting started off with all of us going around in a circle and introducing ourselves. Name, publishing experience, what we’re currently working on. All were YA and middle grade and picture work authors and illustrators, and they were really encouraging when I told them about my future career goals. I felt like I was with my people. I was honored to be a part of such an esteemed group of artists.

The theme of the meeting was self-publishing. (for those of you who don’t know what that is, please see the definition below. Thanks Google!)


Self-publishing isn’t something I’m completely familiar with so this was a good opportunity to learn about it. Author of The Golden Cap Sally N. Kammerling and illustrator of The Golden Cap Marie Sanderson talked about their experiences with self-publishing.

These are their stories. *dun dun dun*

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Sally N. Kammerling (blue shirt, speaking) and Marie Sanderson (white shirt, to the far right), author/illustrator duo.

Sally N. Kammerling, author of The Golden CapKammerling wanted to tell her grandmother’s story about immigrating from the Netherlands to the United States in the early 1900s. She’d heard about her grandmother growing up, and had it in the back of her mind for a while. She spent much of her life writing articles for children’s magazines, and after she retired she finally decided to write this book that had been in the back of her mind for years.

Kammerling traveled to Holland with her husband to do research on how to go about writing the book. Upon completion, she submitted it to a bunch of publishers but wasn’t getting any responses she wanted. As in, they said that the book was great, but it wasn’t for them.

So she decided to self-publish. And once she made the decision to self-publish, she figured she needed an illustrator. Marie Sanderson was recommended to her by a mutual friend, so they got in contact with one another and started talking, and Sanderson started illustrating. Meanwhile, Kammerling had the text of the book professionally edited not once, but twice.

Once the book was getting close to being finished (designing and writing and editing) Kammerling needed to find a place to print it. She found a small press in Vermont, but the cost to print was too much per book. So she did a little research and discovered Create Space, a website owned by Amazon that allows you to print and distribute media (like picture books!) at low costs.

According to Kammerling, the most difficult part of self-publishing is marketing, especially if you aren’t accustomed to using social media. She decided she was going to target Dutch families, Dutch stores, and Dutch festivals, and is currently creating a Facebook page to promote her book.

The Golden Cap has now been out for about a year, and she’s been selling the book on consignment in Ithaca and Cortlandt, as well as on Amazon and Create Space. (click for links to buy the book if you’re so inclined)


The finished product.

Marie Sanderson, illustrator of The Golden CapSo Marie Sanderson connected with Sally Kammerling. It was good timing because she’d just recently read a book about immigrants coming to the United States, so she had a lot of background context and a lot of ideas.

She read Kammerling’s manuscript, and saw a lot of opportunity for images of landscapes, villages, and children, just to name a few. Because of Create Space’s specific formatting structure, she did have a few issues with illustrating that she had to adjust but ultimately was able to complete the book.

She started working on the illustrations. They were full sized paintings, originally, that were photographed and uploaded. They wanted the text to be integrated into the illustrations at first, but that was too complicated seeing as Kammerling wasn’t using Photoshop or InDesign, so they ended up putting the text underneath the images.


A dummy copy of The Golden Cap.

Neither she nor Kammerling had experience in self-publishing, but they conveniently found a book contract online for authors and illustrators and tweaked it. The book contract they found helped provide a basic structure to their agreement. They both suggest reading The Fine Print of Self-Publishing by Mark Levine for more information on self-publishing.

Extra Fun Facts About Self-Publishing:

  • In 2010, about 152,000 titles were self-published. In 2015, about 727,000 titles were self-published.
  • There has been a 21% growth in ISBN registration of self-published books in the last 3 years.
  • Print-on-demand is when an organization (like Create Space) doesn’t set a certain number of books for you to buy and sell on your own, but they print and sell directly to people in the quantity that they want/need.

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1 Response to The Joys, Trials, and Tribulations of Publishing Your Own Picture Book

  1. Dannyl2 says:

    Outstanding !

    Send this directly to Barnes and noble public relations

    Danny Livingston



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