Traditional Publishing and Production

At Imagnary House, we began solely as a traditional publisher of children's books and YA literature, but we've since broadened our services into self-publishing options for indie authors. 

To help prospective authors and illustrators understand the benefits of traditional publishing, and what goes into publishing a book, we've outlined the basics of traditional publishing below. Remember that the integral difference between self-publishing and traditional publishing is that with traditional, we put up the capital to print, market and distribute the book, where as in self-publishing, that cost is carried by the author.

How Traditional Publishing Works

Sifting through submissions

We only open our unsolicited submissions July through September of each year, and generally take up to 8 weeks to reply. We always try to reply to all of our submissions and very rarely do any slip through the cracks. 

When we begin reviewing manuscripts, we mainly look at characters first, and then at the story. You can generally make a good story out of great characters, but we're yet to find someone able to do the same in reverse.  If the characters are strong and well thought-out, then we dive into the story and often from the first page, we can tell whether or not this fits our publication list. Rarely do we need to read more than 10 pages to make a firm decision. 

However, once we think something does fit into our publication list, then we read the full first three chapters or manuscript (if it's a picture book). Here is where we look for things like reader intrigue, sales forecasts, market approachability, and universality. Often, we'll even take it out of office to read to our children or friends' children (always in complete privacy of the author). If the book meets up to most of our guidelines, we flag it and send the author a happy email. 

What We Look For

  • We only publish children's literature, and we specifically do not look for any educational material or young adult literature. 
  • We only publish these genres at the moment: children's novels, picture books, comics, and graphic novels.
  • We are looking for stories that can travel and be translated into many other languages and cultures. This is because we want our African writers and illustrators to affect larger international audiences. We generally don't publish African-themed children's fiction.
  • We often do accept manuscripts from authors who don't illustrate themselves, but the chances of being accepted for publication if you are both a writer and an illustrator is far larger. 

A Little Tip: If you aren't an illustrator, it will definitely help your chances if you submit alongside an illustrator who has done some character sketches of your story.

Visit our submissions page to find out more about what's required to submit your manuscript to our submissions team.

How to write a children's book

Drafting the book

Our drafting process is where we hold meeting upon meeting and write email upon email discussing manuscripts and illustrations. We work on building character and story arcs as best as we can, and dive into classic and modern references that might aid our process. 

This process generally takes between 3-6 months per book, depending on how much we need to change and whether or not the book already has an illustrator attached or not. 

It's always book dependent, but we go through an average of 5 drafts per book before it's signed off for print. This is usually unavoidable, and the process is important, as you need time to understand different aspects of the story that are not always keenly visible on first or second read.

Producing/Publishing the book

This is when we print and digitise our books, and plan any marketing collateral needed for the book launch. 

The Book Digitising Process:

This is a fancy way of saying that we transform our books into eBooks and make them marketable for online communities. It's a simple process:

  1. We export the final manuscript into an editable InDesign file.
  2. We send the .indd to our digitising team with a detailed brief, who run it through various stages to transform it into ePub and AZW formats.
  3. We then run the newly exported eBook through a thorough review process with our editors and the respective author.
  4. Any changes are drawn on and sent back to our digitising team, who churn out the final version of the ePub or AZW. 
  5. We then register the eBook on various and selected eCommerce book-selling sites (such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Imagnary House, etc.). 

The Book Printing Process:

The printing process is also quite straight forward from the author's perspective. It goes something like this:  

  1. We send the final manuscript to our printers at least 2 weeks before the assigned print date with a detailed brief.
  2. Our printers mock up the book and deliver a proof to us, which we share with the author and ask for any final composition changes to the book. 
  3. If there are many changes, we will generally ask for another proof before the final print, and repeat this last step.
  4. We then revert to our printer and ask for the delivery period. 
  5. All the books are delivered to our distribution office in Woodstock, Cape Town.
  6. We inspect 10% of the printed books for any faults. 
  7. If any faults are found, we revert to the printer and repeat this last step.
  8. All the books are delivered by us to our book distributors or held in security for the book launch. 

Marketing the book

Marketing generally starts work on a project about 1 month into the Drafting Phase. This is so that they have some visuals to work with, and can plan their strategy according to the style of each book project. 

We always begin with a default plan that's made up of a digital strategy and a physical strategy. This plan is then tailored to each book project, and begins to take on a new life as our marketing team spend months planning its life-span. The default plan looks something like this.

Our Digital Marketing Strategy:

  1. Put together a social media campaign (reveal sneak peeks and PPC).
  2. Put together an email marketing campaign (reveal sneak peeks and drive purchases).
  3. Create a product page on our website and optimise it for SEO.
  4. Upload the manuscript to book reviewing/reading websites (i.e. Goodreads) and optimise for SEO. 
  5. Send the manuscript to book reviewer online publications.
  6. Send the artwork to art and lifestyle and online publications.
  7. Write and distribute PR to parent- and child-centric online publications.
  8. Create a series of Imagnary House blogs and publish periodically over launch date.
  9. Ask partner websites for features and offer appropriate special offers.

Our Physical Marketing Strategy:

  1. Organise a book launch campaign (venue, date, theme, invitees, and structure). 
  2. Organise a book reading tour (venue, date, theme, invitees, and structure). 
  3. Organise print marketing collateral and distribution. 
  4. Send up to 5% of books for physical press reviews.
  5. Send marketing collateral to all main retail bookstores (chain and independent).
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