Children’s Book Launch on a Budget

Here are my suggestions to plan a book launch party on a budget.
Choose a location with plenty of parking for easy customer access. Freestanding stores or shopping mall locations generally have plenty of parking.
Also choose a location where the author will make money on the book sales. Barnes & Noble, Indie Bookstores, or a book consignment location generally take 50% of the retail price. Authors may choose to a launch their book at a kid friendly, non-bookstore location. If the target audience will be mature adults, a winery or local brewery is an option.
If the location has a coffee shop or bakery like Barnes & Noble, notify the bookstore additional staff may be required during the launch party. Many parents will purchase a coffee while the kids are quietly sitting during your reading.
Choose a time that is parent friendly, before or after nap time. I like the 2:00 to 4:00 window because attendees are fed and rested.
Try to call the “book launch” a “launch party” or celebration.  By calling the event a “Launch Party,” the message to attendees is come celebrate, relieving the pressure of purchasing a book.
I’ve seen launch parties over 300 attendees. That launch was for the third book in a popular series. I like to invite children, parents, teachers, librarians, and potential attendees with a postcard. Postcards look like a birthday party invite with: the book cover image and website on the front; date, time, and location on the back. People who don’t attend the party have the information to purchase the book.
Serve prepackaged snacks. Cake, cookies, punch, and sodas are traditional, however a designated server is required to serve and confirm food allergies. Cake, cookies, and punch are perishable and must be thrown away. They also require plates, silverware, and cups. Prepackaged snacks are clearly labeled, portable, and quantifiable for parents. Unopened prepackaged snacks can be returned or used for another event.
Giveaways entice attendance. Don’t give away more than you expect to earn at the launch. If planning to giveaway $500 at the book launch, consider donating $500 in books to a school. The donation may reach more readers than planning a launch party.
Set a budget and stick to it! The budget may be $2 per attendee. Bag of cookies ($.25), juice box ($.25), helium balloon ($.10), goody bag (bookmark, candy, stickers, notepad, coloring page, activities) ($1.00), party hat ($.40). For under $2 each child goes away with something entertaining. Be sure candy isn’t a choke hazard and goodies are age appropriate. If 1/4 of the attendees buy a book at full retail, an author should make a reasonable profit.
Advertise in free outlets in the area where the launch party will be hosted. Mention it’s a book birthday party full of fun events to celebrate the new book. Also mention readings or giveaways. Avoid saying: “buy my book,” “purchase my book,” or “bring your wallet.” The vibe should be “celebrate with us.”
  • Libraries: patrons check out the library’s free copy, don’t focus must time there
  • Preschools, Daycares, Mommy and Me groups, and schools: are your best customers and attendees
  • Newsletters: community, work, professional, and book newsletters
  • Radio: The Authors Show, local radio, public radio, etc.
  • Social Media: Create a Facebook Event on the Author’s Facebook Page
  • Family/Friends: family and friends will have probably purchased your book, include them to boost attendance numbers
  • Use banners, tablecloths, bookmarks, etc. during the launch party.
During a Skype School Visit, I invited a teacher and her class to attend my launch party. Her school allowed her to bring a small school bus of students to participate!
How many:
Personally invite three times the people you want to attend. If the goal is 300, personally hand out 900 postcards in your neighborhood: restaurants, hair salons, grocery, kids sporting events, church, etc. Be selective. Invite people you want to attend: children, parents, grandparents, teachers, and family.
Personal invites show you want people to attend. Invites left on windshields in a store parking lot show people they are a number.

Quoting Illustrations: A Simple Formula

Quoting illustration projects varies among professionals. The formula discussed in this post gives authors, indie publishers, and new illustrators a simple formula for quoting picture book illustrations.

This “Simple Formula” was created using the Graphic Artists Guild Handbook average $500 to $2,500 pricing for a color, single page, picture book illustration. Illustrators with a fine arts degree and little to no picture book experience $500 to $1,000 is a fair per page price.

$1,000 per page will be the example used. 

An average picture book is 32 pages. Whether the title and copyright pages are excluded, a front and back cover illustration is needed. 32 pages is a fair estimate for any picture book quote.

32 illustrations at $1,000.00 per page equals $32,000.00. Encountering an author or publisher who purchases illustrations outright is unlikely. Negotiating a percentage deposit and a licensing royalty* is standard for publishing budgets.

The formula works in this way. Ask for a 25% non-refundable deposit**, which equals $8,000.00 (.25 X $32,000.00 = $8,000.00), plus a 10% royalty on the book and all licensed products. If a book has a Net Sale of $10.00, the illustrator is paid $1.00 (.10 x $10.00 = $1.00) as a royalty.

Low budget desirable projects allow illustrators to decrease the deposit and increase the royalty. If the illustration budget is $4,000.00, ask for a 12.5% non refundable deposit, which equals $4,000.00 (.125 X $32,000.00 = $4,000.00), plus a 20% royalty on the book and all licensed products. If a book has a Net Sale of $10.00, the illustrator is paid $2.00 (.20 x $10.00 = $2.00) as a royalty.

Meet any desired illustration request, create income during non-illustration time, and save time quoting projects using this formula.

*Note: Understand the difference in licensing rights verses assigning rights. One limits the usage rights while the other transfers rights. 

**Note: Deposits are usually paid in increments throughout the illustration process. 50% deposit, 25% after layout, and 25% upon completion or vice versa.

Publishing Cheat Sheet

Managing the publishing process for the first time can be intimidating. A cheat sheet would be great! Below is a quick checklist of items you’ll need along the way. It’s the same list I use to stay on point.

Business Plan

A business plan creates a realistic budget and project direction. A business plan requires little money to create, but also time. Research multiple printers, illustrators, editors, and distributors to determine a competitive team for your business model.

Professional Editing

A professional editor is essential! Each has his/her own pricing structure and should commit from first edit to press proofing. Editors assist with: page count, layout recommendations, proofing, plagiarism issues, and of course editing. Professional editing services are well worth the investment!


One of the most common questions is how to obtain a copyright. Contact the copyright offices or fill out the form online. The average cost is around $45, well worth the investment. Barcode, ISBN setup, ISBN Metadata, and Library of Congress submissions are separate from the copyright process. ISBN standards require multiple ISBN numbers for printed and digital versions.

Copyrighting can be done in the final stage of publishing to include additions in text and illustrations. The publisher or author can submit based on their agreement. The publisher is also responsible for the ISBN and Barcode costs.


Printers need several items to quote a project: page count, binding style, paper stock, dimensions, deadlines, packaging requirements, and shipping destination. Printing options range from Print On Demand, “Green”, United States, overseas, award-winning, and eBooks. Production times vary from on-demand to three months, depending on the printer selected.

E-book conversion into e-readers, such as the Amazon Kindle or the Apple iPad is separate from printing expenses. These are sold online through places like iTunes or the iBookstore. A good business plan should include this income stream when projecting sales or negotiating illustration contracts.



Illustrators require the printer and graphic designer guidelines as well as the final edited story. Artists are liberal with time, however a professional illustrator creates according to timelines and budgets. Require communication throughout the illustration approval process using digital proofing. Digital proofing allows remote viewing for the author, editor, printer, graphic designer, and artist.

Three basic illustration contracts are: Purchase Contract, Copyright Contract, or Royalty Contract. A Royalty Contract usually offers unlimited use of the art. Each contract is based on the number of illustrations, artistic style, scanning, manipulation, and digital clean up.

Graphic Design

A Graphic Designer requires clean artwork along, the printer guidelines, additional book content, and the editor’s final edit. Graphic Designers provide scanning services, logos, professional layouts, and press ready production files. These services can be preformed by some professional illustrators. A fee and talent are required for this service as well. Samples should be provided.

As new resources are added and updated, this cheat sheet will be updated. Bookmark this page for future reference, I have.