Dear Nina – I have an idea for a children’s book, how do I go about publishing?

nina-iraq Raghad Adday asks how to publish a book

Raghad Adday

I am  based in Baghdad and have recently turned 40. Following this landmark birthday I want to turn my dream of  writing children stories into a reality.  I wonder if you could help me understand the whole process better so I can make this happen?

One of my ideas is to write the story of the ‘Santa Claus of Baghdad’. This is a story about an Iraqi activist who has been helping Iraqi and Syrian displaced families for almost a year. He and his friends are going to very dangerous places just to distribute food and household material for the displaced and spent the Christmas night with them at the camps.  I would like to publish this and related stories in multiple languages. The targeted age group would be of 5-7 and 9-12. Illustration is an essential part of my stories (I actually keep many of my story details untold since I have them in my imagination for the illustrations part).

I would like this book of stories to have an educational focus and bring something to be shared for enjoyment. I am particularly keen on advice such as number of pages, the format of the book and how to deal with a publisher.

Best wishes,  Raghad Adday


Dear Raghad,

Thank you so much for getting in touch. You have asked specifically about things such as illustrations and the way you should structure the book. I have given a couple of practical examples below which should answer your questions, set within a wider answer that gives slightly different approaches to publishing also.

1. The traditional route: finding a book publisher

  • Look for a similar book to the one you are suggesting. I might suggest ‘ the Librarian of Basra’ – a book Mais Abousy spoke about in her recent interview for Nina, as being one she reads to her children..
  • Work out who the publishers are. In this case this book is published by Harcourt. There is some great guidance on their website as to what you need to do:
  • Finding a literary agent. Most publishers including Harcourt don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts, so you would need to find yourself and agent. As well as the guidance on their site you might consider reading the Writers and Artists Year Book can be bought on Amazon as a E-book or hard copy, this will give you all the publishing and agent contacts you need.
  • Susan Cohen from Writer’s House in New York is the literary agent. This is useful to know as she has published something similar – so it is worth contacting them
  • Finding an illustrator. If you go down this route you will have to create a synopsis of the story you are suggesting as well as a couple of sample pages in conjunction with the illustrator also. For a children’s book this is very important, the younger the target audience, the more illustrations you will need. You may want to consider using a someone like Azal, the ten year old Iraqi prodigy we recently featured to illustrate .  This would be very relevant and also create a great PR story, i.e. a children’s book illustrated by 10 year old Azal. Whoever you decide to chose needs to be someone you would consider working with closely.
  • The traditional publishing route is the hardest, but also the most lucrative in terms of financial return and awareness/ market. It will create a digital and printer version. They can also advise you re multiple languages.

2. Finding a government/ development partner to publish:

Very often cultural or political organisations will want to publish something relevant to creating awareness for their work and the countries they represent.

A River of Stories was published by an arm of the Commonwealth Educational Trust for example. This was done from an educational perspective, bring the countries in the Commonwealth alive to children and their parents through stories and poems. It is this is aimed at a variety of age groups.  This link takes you to a sample for some ideas.

You might consider the Iraqi cultural center in London as a publishing partner. They have budget to support publication of books. Once again you will have to create a synopsis and something for them to look at so they can decide whether this fits in with their work.

Their contact is

3. Self-publishing via Kindle

Self-publishing is an area that is becoming increasingly important in terms of reaching target audiences. Isabelle Callis, a Nina reader has kindly shared their own experience of self-publishing with us:

Publishing my book “A Gap year in the Gambia” to Amazon Kindle could not have been simpler. I used my usual Amazon account to log into  – Kindle Direct Publishing. This platform allowed me to design a cover, by selecting from different stock images, designs and fonts. I was able to write a description and upload a Word document to create the finished product, which was available for purchase online within 12 hours.

The great thing about publishing a book this way is that there is absolutely no outlay. You can test the market and gain reviews before you spend a lot of money on publishing a hardback or paper back. You can also republish or change the description as many times as you like.

The pricing, royalties and promotional side of publishing was covered by the extensive Help information. I was able to choose a great value price point for the book of £1.99 and was invited to join the kdp select programme, which allows me to earn good royalties and benefit from promotional tools. I was also encouraged to create an author page, to connect with readers further.

For children’s authors Kindle Direct publishing provides a specialist app, which enables them to upload images and enliven text through different font options. For those wishing to publish to paper, Amazon offers an on demand publishing service called CreateSpace, so you will never have a surplus of printed material lying around the house. This is definitely a service I will be trying out over the next few months.

The fact that I have been able to publish with no outlay and have been able to select a great royalty option has meant that instead of worrying about expenses and costs, my energies can be focussed on promoting my book and the charity it supports.  “A Gap year in the Gambia” is available through Amazon. 50% of all profits earned will go to the charity Project Gambia: People Feeding People.


So, dear Raghad, all of us at Team Nina wish you the very best of luck! Please do get in touch with Nina when you have those first few pages ready, we would love to give our readers a chance to see the outcome of your ideas and heard work.

Do you have a question to ask? Please get in touch with us at

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