Self-publishing An Illustrated Book

How I Illustrated And Self-published A Book


I recently completed a huge project of illustrating and self-publishing my first illustrated book called Enchanted Valley. In this blog post, I'd like to share with you some of the lessons I learned during the creation of my book.


Often Things End Up Taking Longer Than You Think

If I have learned anything from working as an artist, it is that every art project always ends up taking about twice the time to complete than I expect at the beginning of a project. At those initial stages of a project, there is always a lot of enthusiasm and excitement. In the beginning I always feel that I will be able to complete the project in no time at all and it will all go very smoothly and pain free. Deep down, I know that this is never the case and every project will have its struggles, but somehow that beginner's enthusiasm always makes me forget the amount of work I am signing up for.

Eeva Nikunen Illustration

How To Push Through?

The Enchanted Valley illustration project is something that I was planning on completing in about three months, but in the end, illustrating a 76 page book took me over six months to finish.

In my experience, one of the toughest parts of any project is when you are half-way through. Some of the initial excitement has already worn off and you see the magnitude of work ahead of you and you have no idea how you are going to be able to do it all. The most important thing to do at this stage of the project is not to give up.

When I arrive at this stage where I feel that all the tasks before me seem too overwhelming and I realise that the project will take much longer to complete than I initially anticipated, I try to remember the feeling I had when I first began working on the project. What was my initial vision? Was the book inspired by a piece of music perhaps? Maybe I need to listen to that piece of music again to give me an extra boost of inspiration. Also, I try to imagine how good it will feel to finally hold the finished product in my hand after all the sweat, tears and hard work.

I found that with the Enchanted Valley illustration project, once I got over the half-way stage, I found myself getting really excited and inspired again. With any creative endeavour you will go through ups and downs. If you just don't give up and keep going, things will start working out and you might even come up with new ideas that you want to add to the project that you didn't think of before.

Eeva Nikunen Illustration

Sometimes Things Go Wrong

In addition to keeping yourself motivated throughout the project, it is important to remember that sometimes things you have little or no control over can delay the completion of your project.

This happened to me a few times during my book illustration project. I ended up spending a lot of time at the beginning of the project waiting for a sample book that ended up being totally the wrong type of paper. The images didn't look good, the paper texture wasn't suitable for writing which was one of the criteria I had, because my illustrated book is also a journal and people have to able to write in it. I also had a completely different cover design that I ended up changing for a new illustration. This made me feel that I had wasted a lot of time on things that didn't work out.

I also made the mistake of not scheduling enough time for printing and shipping. I had calculated that after the pre-order campaign of the book, I would have the books in my house within two weeks of making an order to the printers. The delivery time for the books ended up being closer to a month and I am still waiting to have all the books shipped to the wonderful people who believed in this project enough to support me with a pre-order purchase.

My advice is to schedule extra time for anything that can go wrong during your project so that it won't be terribly delayed due to outside forces or miscalculations on your own part. I personally will leave twice the amount of time for printing and shipping in my next book publishing campaign.

Eeva Nikunen Illustration

I Finished Illustrating A Book, What About Marketing?

One of the most important things when working on a personal project, is to remember to share it with people. This can be one of the toughest parts of the whole self-publising process. I feel like there are lots of things I could have done better in terms of marketing my book when I was working on it. I thankfully have a mailing list that I have cultivated over the past three years and an engaged social media following that gave me the confidence that there would be interest in the type of book I was creating.

The advice I would give is that you have to get people excited as you are working on the project. Share the things you are making to your mailing list and on all your social media platforms. Show people how excited you are about your project and they will get excited too.



Was All The Work Worth It?

Most definitely! Despite a few struggles during the project, I am very happy with the final product. One of my biggest dreams has always been to publish my own illustrated book and I hope the Enchanted Valley journal will be the first in a series of many future books!

The most important things with any creative endeavour, is to not lose faith and keep pushing through no matter what. In the end it will all be worth it.

Thank you for reading!

Eeva Nikunen

Eeva Nikunen is a fantasy artist who creates illustrative style fine art paintings and book illustrations.