Lessons Learned from Creating a First Children’s Book – I


image source: cobaltpm.com

The Creation of the fairytale book Below the Floor is going well and as I mentioned in my last blog post, it is time to recap some of the lessons I have learned so far. Most of them are common sense, but it’s the simple things which can be overlooked easily. So, without further ado, here they are:
1. Drawing on yellow-ish paper brings its own challenges with it when it comes to doing the layout for your book.

From the beginning of this project I wanted the printed book to look like the illustrations were taken directly from one of my sketchbooks. I want it to feel like the “real thing”. As a returning reader you might know, that I use Moleskine sketchbooks because I like the way they behave with inks. What I like about this brand, the yellow-ish tone of the pages, turned out to be a little challenging when I created the first mockup book:

As the paper does not have a consistent pastel tone from one sketchbook to another, I had to adjust the colours for each illustration in order to ensure, that the background colour is the same for every illustration. This, of course, twisted the colours of some paintings a bit. If you change one base colour in a painting it affects most of the other colours, too, if you do not want to get an ugly banding effect (aka “colour steps”) within the illustration.

creating a fairytale book

Also, having any background colour for the illustrations other than white means, that you have to print this background tone onto every other page – even if it is an text-only page. Otherwise you would get white text pages and pastel coloured illustrated pages – which leads to point 2:

2. Drawing on yellow-ish paper might cost you more when it comes to printing.

As every page needs to have a pastel background, every page has to be printed in colour. If you have text-only pages and some full colour pages, some print-on-demand companies will charge you lower rates, as they would print the text pages in b/w and the illustration pages in full colour – and then assemble your book. By saving printing costs you can make your book more affordable for your readers.

But as I had planned from the very beginning to print and publish the book via Amazon I did not have to care about this issue, as Amazon just gives you two rates:

  • one price for printing the whole book in b/w
  • one price for printing the whole book in full colour (no matter if there are b/w pages inside)

So as Amazon does not have some kind of mixed-pages-special-offer, using the setup I have for my book does not do any harm, it does not cost the customer more. ๐Ÿ™‚

Nonetheless, I wanted to find a solution for this – just in case I end up not publishing with Amazon for whatever reason. And the solution is simple: Masking every pigmented (“coloured”) portion of each illustration. You can imagine this as making transparent every pixel of the unneeded pastel background. That way the illustations will keep their originally intended colours (with its pastel base tone, which I love so much) and I would be able to have a white background colour throughout the book, thus saving printing costs in case the book will get published with another publisher. Sure, it is a lot of work and you have to do it well, but if you have some routine with it, you can get through it within a reasonable amount of time. ๐Ÿ™‚


3. Scan the b/w illustrations – it will help if you want to publish it as an ebook.

While I was in drawing frenzy, creating the illustrations for the story, I considered scanning the inked (not yet coloured) pages for an ebook edition for one minute. As I did not think that anybody would want to read an illustrated fairytale on an ebook-reader, I just went on with my illustrations and did no in-between-scans.

Now, after having finished colouring all the illustrations, I have had the opportunity of getting my hands on some ebook-readers and I was amazed by the reading experience of the new e-ink screens. If I had scanned the inked pages it would have made it easier to create grayscale versions of the illustrations for ebook readers. Of course, this can be done starting from coloured images as well, but the other way around would have saved me some time.

4. It will take longer than you think it will.

At the beginning, I thought, that it would take me three months to create my first fairytale book. With all the delays, it took me roughly three times as long. Of course, this is not cool, but I guess, that this is part of the learning curve. I am sure I will be quicker with the following ones. ๐Ÿ™‚

5. Plan ahead the number of illustrations you will need.

While I was writing the story and while I was reading through it for the first time, I immediately knew the scenes I wanted to illustrate. Or I already had an image in my head and wrote the manuscript around it. This was a good thing, but also had a little drawback: Some portions of the book tended to be unbalanced, either there were too many or no accompanying pictures at all. So I ended up leaving out some of the illustrations and creating new ones. It was not much of a time loss, but still, a bit of planning ahead surely wouldn’t have hurt.


There are more lessons I had learned, which I will post in my next update. So stay tuned. ๐Ÿ™‚

18 responses to “Lessons Learned from Creating a First Children’s Book – I

  1. Pingback: How is the Fairytale Book Going? | I create worlds. John E. Brito's Blog·

  2. Great illustrations! Interesting to see how the whole project is beginning to come together, with all the different choices you’ve had to make along way. It all looks brilliant!


  3. Great illustrations and nice to see a post on learning from experience. ๐Ÿ™‚ I used Apple Co. to put my illustrations and a poem into a book and remember not knowing what to do for the background because they do not have other options than just white page. Good luck with publishing the book. ๐Ÿ™‚


    • Thank you very much. I guess, that limitations can be challenging in positive way as well. I mean, they force us to be more creative at the end. I wish you the best for your book, too :))


  4. Great post, I started my 1st children’s book in September of 2015.. It’s still not completed. This was once thought of as a simple task yet it has turned out to be challenging, tedious, and tormenting in several ways. However, I intend to finish and publish, for some reason I feel that after the 1st one is completed that the 2nd one will be better.


    • Yeah, I think so, too. I guess, that it gets easier the more often you do it, and this is true for everything. So, the earlier we start doing something and therefore the earlier we start doing mistakes, the better we are off on the long run. I wish you the best for your children’s book, Sarah. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Lessons Learned from Creating a First Children’s Book – II | I create worlds. John E. Brito's Blog·

  6. Pingback: Lessons Learnt from Creating a First Children’s Book – III | I create worlds. John E. Brito's Blog·

  7. Pingback: Below the Floor – First Printing | I create worlds. John E. Brito's Blog·

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