This is part two in a series on self-publishing a children’s book. The next few posts don’t have to occur in the order I am writing as they will most likely take place simultaneously, but they are all crucial steps in the publishing process.
This post is all about choosing a book format. From the style of the actual printing and binding to the number of pages. There are more things to consider here than you may realize so I feel like this may not be as straightforward as you may think.
Children’s books generally fall into three formatting categories: board book, soft cover, and hard cover. Each format has its benefits and generally aligns with a certain age group. When figuring out what format is right for your book you’ll want to consider the age of the child you are targeting, how long the book is, and what type of experience you want the reader to have. In addition to those concerns, you should also consider the durability of the styles as some will stand up to more abuse than others.
Let’s break down the three formats in more detail:
This is the format I decided to go with because my book was very short and was targeted toward infants/young toddlers (ages 0-2). These children tend to be very rough on books so I wanted a format that could withstand rough handling, throwing, and chewing.
A board book gets its name from the sheet of cardboard that is glued between each set of pages. This makes the book more rigid and sturdy. Since that is the case a long book is not a good fit for this style. In general, these books range from 5×5 inches all the way up to a 7×5 inch book, the most common being a 7-inch square format.
Because this style has that extra cardboard in it, production is more difficult. I searched for a long time reaching out to printers I have done business with for years and I couldn’t find any that had this capability. Eventually, I was able to find Print Ninja and I have been very pleased with their online quotes, customer support, and overall quality of work.
This is a great option for a bit longer of a book (greater than 36 pages) that is targeted to a slightly older audience (1+). This style is a bit less expensive (depending on your paper choice) because it is much easier to print and bind. Speaking of binding there are 2 different styles available: saddle stitched and perfect bound.
Saddle stitching is simply sheets of paper folded in half and stapled down the spine. Just like you see in many direct mail pieces and pamphlets. Perfect binding is what your typical paperback book uses. It is a glue binding that holds multiple chunks of pages together is an organized manner. Choosing between these options will generally be based on the length of your book. The longer it is the more likely you will want a perfect bound book.
This last option is basically an upgrade on the first two. Either of those age groups and lengths would work well as hardcovers as well. A hardcover book, to me, is a leveling up play in the publishing game. Bound similarly to perfect bound soft covers, this option allows a lengthy story with a solid outer case. This is the style to use if you are interested in creating a book that will last. You can even add a decorative dust jacket to this style (but let’s be real, those are super annoying! Annoying enough that our local library takes the dust jackets off and gives them away.). I digress, a dust jacket can add a protective element to the cover while it lasts.
Making the decision
So there are the different formats with their explanations but now comes the hard part of making the choice. To make it a little easier here is a list of considerations that will hopefully make it a little easier to decide.
• How long is the book?
• What age group are you targeting?
• Do you want this book to be passed generationally or donated?
• Is cost a big factor to you?
• How much would you like to sell the books for?
• Are the books going to be shipped or displayed on a shelf?
• Are you comfortable printing overseas or would you prefer to use a US-based printer?
There is no one-size-fits-all format since every book is unique in its own way. But these general principles are helpful to consider as you work your way to deciding on which is best for your book. My final stats ended up being a 6×6 inch, 18 page, full-color, matte-finish, board book. What will yours be?