Are you an aspiring children’s book author or illustrator? Do you dream of seeing your stories and artwork come to life on the pages of printed books? Children’s books are a big business, even more so than adult books.
Starting a children’s book publishing requires more than a love for storytelling. Whether you’re a budding writer, illustrator, or entrepreneur, this guide will help you navigate the world of children’s books and turn your passion into a thriving business.
A children’s book business involves creating and publishing books tailored for young readers. This encompasses various roles, including writing captivating stories, designing engaging illustrations, and marketing and distributing the final product. The business can be operated as an independent publisher or a self-publishing endeavor, allowing for creative freedom and control over the entire book production process.
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The children’s book industry is a multibillion-dollar market, with annual sales revenue of over $3.3 billion within the United States alone, according to IBISWorld. The industry publishes books for children and young adults across fiction, non-fiction, and educational categories. Major publishers include Scholastic, Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Hachette, and Macmillan.
While historically print books dominated, ebooks and audiobooks now account for a growing portion of sales. The rise of online retail also transformed distribution. Once focused on bookstores and libraries, children’s book publishers today sell through major online platforms like Amazon.
Steps To Start A Children’s Book Business
Step 1: Write a Business Plan
Creating a business plan is the first step to cover when starting a children’s book business. It’s exciting to imagine the books you’ll create and the young minds you’ll inspire. Yet, excitement alone doesn’t build a successful company.
A business plan is essential because it:
- Serves as a reality check and transforms your idea from a dream into a viable business strategy.
- Maps out your vision, setting clear goals for what you want your business to achieve.
- Helps you identify target markets, define your unique selling proposition, and plan your marketing and promotional strategies.
- Analyzes the costs associated with writing, illustrating, printing, and distributing your books, along with estimating potential revenue sources such as book sales and royalties to determine if your business is financially sustainable.
- Guides your decision-making as your business grows, providing a reference point for your progress.
Related: How to write a business plan
Step 2: Register the Business
Starting a children’s book business involves several legal steps. Since each state has different regulations, it’s important to check your local laws, but here are general guidelines to follow:
Choose a business structure: When starting your children’s book business, one of the first decisions you’ll make is choosing a business structure. This decision affects your legal liability, tax obligations, and administrative requirements.
Here are four primary types of business structures:
- Sole proprietorship: This is the simplest structure, where one individual runs the business. It’s easy to start up and has lower costs, but it also means that the owner has unlimited personal liability for the business.
- Partnership: A partnership involves two or more people sharing ownership of a business. Like a sole proprietorship, it’s relatively easy to set up, but all partners share liability for the business.
- Corporation: A corporation is a separate legal entity owned by shareholders, offering protection against personal liability. It’s more complex to set up and has higher administrative costs.
- Limited Liability Company (LLC): An LLC combines the benefits of a corporation and a sole proprietorship or partnership. It provides liability protection like a corporation, but it’s simpler to set up and offers more flexibility.
Related: Comparison of business structures
Forming an LLC sounds complicated and expensive, but using an entity formation service guides you through the process so you know it was done right.
Some popular LLC formation services include:
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Business name registration: After registering the business structure, you may need to register your business name. This process will vary depending on what business structure you pick. Sole proprietors and partnerships will often be required to register a “Doing Business As” (DBA), while corporations and LLCs register with the state during the formation process.
During this time, it’s also a good idea to check if the name you want is available as a web domain, even if you’re not ready to set up a website yet.
Obtain business licenses and permits: There are no licenses specific to book publishers, however, depending on where the business is located, there are general business registrations that may be needed, such as a sales tax permit and an Employer Identification Number.
Research copyright laws and permissions: Last, understanding copyright laws helps in protecting your intellectual property. Apply for copyright protection for any original book content you publish by registering copyrights with the U.S. Copyright Office.
Step 3: Set Up Operations
After getting the business legally registered, the next step in establishing a children’s book business is to set up operations. Here’s some things to consider at this stage:
First, identify whether you’ll be traditionally published or self-published. If you decide to self-publish, which is more common for new authors, you may need help to get the book ready for publishing. For a children’s book, illustrations play a pivotal role. They not only make the book visually appealing but also help young readers understand the story better. If you’re not skilled in illustration, platforms like Fiverr and Upwork are excellent places to find talented illustrators and designers who can help with pictures, layout, and book design.
If you’re considering the traditional publishing route, look for children’s book publishers and literary agents who are currently accepting submissions. Websites such as brookevitale.com, literaryagencies.com, and reedsy.com provide comprehensive lists of literary agencies and agents specializing in children’s books.
The next task is to identify potential suppliers for materials and printing. Whether you’re creating hardcover, paperback, or board books, you’ll need to find reliable suppliers who can deliver high-quality materials on time and within your budget. Consider factors such as cost, quality, turnaround time, and customer service when choosing suppliers.
You’ll also need to obtain International Standard Book Numbers (ISBNs) and barcodes for your books. An ISBN is a unique identifier for books and is required for all formats of your book (hardcover, paperback, eBook, audiobook, etc.). A barcode, which includes the ISBN, the price, and sometimes the currency, is used for scanning at retail points of sale.
Last, consider the distribution process, including shipping to bookstores, wholesalers, and libraries, as well as providing eBook files to online retailers. You can handle order fulfillment yourself or outsource to a third-party logistics provider.
Step 4: Create a Marketing Strategy
Marketing plays a vital role in the success of any new children’s book publishing venture. Without effective promotion, even the most captivating stories may struggle to find an audience. To ensure the success of your children’s book business, it’s essential to develop a strategic marketing plan that builds awareness of your books and connects with potential readers. A few tips include:
Know Your Audience
The first tip is to understand your target readership. Consider factors such as age range, genres, and whether your books are meant for educational or recreational reading. This knowledge will shape your marketing tactics, as picture books for preschoolers require a different approach than young adult novels. Take the time to define your audience and identify the messaging that will truly resonate with them.
Develop a Brand Identity
Once you have a clear understanding of your audience, the next task is to create a unique brand identity that reflects your values and appeals to your target readers. This involves developing a consistent visual identity, including a logo, color palette, and font selection, which can be used across all your promotional materials and platforms. An appealing and consistent brand identity can help distinguish your books in a crowded market.
Utilize Online Platforms
Having an online presence is essential for any business, and a children’s book business is no exception. Social media platforms and a well-designed website can serve as powerful marketing tools. They not only allow you to share information about your books but also provide a platform to engage with potential customers, receive feedback, and build a community around your brand.
Partnering with Relevant Organizations
Another effective marketing strategy is to partner with organizations that align with your target audience. Schools, libraries, and children’s clubs can provide excellent opportunities to promote your books. Consider attending events, book fairs, and reading clubs to introduce your books to new audiences. Such partnerships can also provide valuable feedback and insights into your audience’s preferences and reading habits.
Step 5: Prepare to Launch!
As you near the completion of your preparations to launch a children’s book business, there are more steps needed to ensure a smooth start. The needs will vary for everyone, but here are some of the common elements to address.
Business insurance: Protecting your business from unforeseen events such as liability claims to property damage. It’s important to assess the types of risks your business might face and choose an insurance plan that provides adequate coverage.
Setting up bookkeeping: Implementing accounting software will help you track daily transactions, manage taxes efficiently, and prepare financial statements. Tools like Wave Accounting (FREE) or Quickbooks are popular choices that can streamline your accounting processes.
Opening a business bank account: Keeping your business and personal finances in separate business bank and credit card accounts makes it easier to track the income and expenses of the business.
Preparing for the launch: Plan a launch event that makes a splash. Consider partnering with local schools, libraries, or bookstores to create an event that celebrates the unveiling of your new business. Offer readings, workshops, or other interactive activities that will attract your target audience.
Common Questions When Starting A Children’s Book Business
How much does it cost to start a children’s book business?
The total cost to start a children’s book business will vary on a number of factors, but a rough estimate might be between $5,000 and $25,000. Here are some typical startup costs to factor in:
Printing and distribution: This will likely be your biggest upfront cost, with an initial print run of even a few hundred books costing thousands. Print-on-demand makes the minimum needed to get started closer to $2,000-$5,000. If you want to print and warehouse inventory for wider distribution, expect at least $10,000.
Illustrations and design: If you’re not an illustrator or designer, hiring professionals is necessary. Illustrators on platforms like Fiverr or Upwork can charge anywhere from $200 to $3,000 or more, depending on the complexity and length of the book. Designers for layout and cover design might charge between $500 and $1,500.
Marketing: Initial marketing costs, including a logo, website development, and promotional materials, can range from $500 to $3,000. This varies greatly depending on whether you use professional services or do-it-yourself options.
Business registration: The cost of business registration varies by state but typically ranges from $50 to $500. This would include filing fees for registering your business entity, such as an LLC or corporation, obtaining necessary business licenses, and barcodes.
Office equipment: A computer, software, desk, and supplies will likely run you about $1,500-$2,500 to start.
Insurance: General liability insurance for a home-based business can cost $400-$800 annually.
How profitable is a children’s book business?
When starting out, a children’s book author can expect modest but viable profits.
Assuming you publish and sell roughly 2,000 copies of your book in the first year at $10 per book through a mix of online and local brick-and-mortar sales, that generates $20,000 in revenue.
If your printing and distribution costs are $5 per book, that’s $10,000 in expenses. Paying an editor, illustrator, and designer could cost another $2,000 (one-time cost). Additional expenses like website fees, marketing, insurance, and office supplies may total around $3,000.
That leaves $20,000 in revenue minus $15,000 in expenses, resulting in a first-year profit of $5,000.
However, as you publish more titles and scale distribution, you could quickly turn profitable.
What is the NAICS code for a children’s book business?
The NAICS code for a children’s book business is 511130 which is classified under Book Publishers.
The NAICS code (North American Industry Classification System) is a federal system to classify different types of businesses for the collection and reporting of statistical data.