At first glance, publishing a children’s book seems easier than an adult one. One might think that it’s easy due to fairy plots, smaller sizes, and unpretentious readers. But in practice, it’s not so. Kids are an exceptional target audience with its demands. Furthermore, you can’t just write a nice story.
To avoid unexpected difficulties, we’ve prepared a detailed guide on how to publish a children’s book. So, if your dream is to become a children’s author, it’s time to stop putting it off.
You should take many steps when you get on the children’s author road. Use this guide on how to write a children’s book to make your way easier.
- Define your target category
- Choose the format, size, and genre
- Analyze your competitors
- Come up with a title
- Find your writing style
- Choose simple words
- Create solid characters
- Add important elements
- Use beta reading
- Proofread and edit
- Illustrate your book
- Choose the right publisher
- Promote your book
Now, let’s learn these steps in greater detail.
What to do before writing a children’s book
One day, an excellent idea for a children’s book comes to your mind. You can’t think of anything else as you see yourself as a successful children’s author in your fantasy. Unfortunately, the idea solves nothing so far. You have to transform this idea into a book. But there are some essential things you should consider before writing.
1. Age category
Unlike literature for adults, children’s books differ not only in genres but also in age categories. Kids with an age gap of even 2 years think and perceive the world differently. You can show the same idea in an easier or more complicated way depending on the children’s age.
There are such stages of child development:
- Babies, toddlers, and preschoolers (0-5 years).
- Early readers (5-7 years).
- Lower middle grade (7-9 years).
- Middle grade (9-11 years).
- Teen (12+ years).
- Young adult (14+ years).
Usually, books for younger children are shorter and contain a lot of pictures. And on the contrary, books for older kids are longer, and they may not have any illustrations at all.
2. Target audience
Obviously, age category matters in defining your target audience. But except that, you have to learn more about children’s personalities. You should find out what are your readers’ hobbies, interests, and tastes to write the story they would like.
Keep in mind that parents are your target audience too, as they choose books for babies, toddlers, and other early readers. That’s why it’s essential to know what kind of book they prefer to purchase. Is that fiction or educational literature? Does it contain pictures or other interactive materials?
To learn more about your target audience, you can:
- Research on social media and forums. Online groups where parents share their experiences can be helpful.
- Conduct the questionnaires. You can do it online via emails or social media or ask parents in the parks or during kids’ activities.
- Analyze the bestselling children’s books. All you need is to find them on Amazon or at the physical bookstores and try to find out how they attract buyers.
When you choose a genre, you should consider the age category first. You can’t choose a novel if you write for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. Obviously, it will be a picture book with minimum words and maximum illustrations. But those authors who write for older kids have more freedom. Children’s literature consists of various genres:
- Picture books
- Poetry and verse
- Folklore and tales
- Realistic fiction
- Historical fiction
You should consider what genre will suit your idea the best.
In most cases, the size of the book depends on the age category too. Let’s see how many words the book can have:
- 300-1000 words for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers
- Less than 10,000 words for early readers
- Between 10,000-30,000 words for lower middle grade
- Between 30,000-60,000 words for middle grade
- About 60,000 words for teens
- Over 60,000 words for your adult.
However, it’s more about a tendency than a strict rule. The bestselling book can differ in size.
If the number of pages is really essential for you, there is a tip. Go to the Amazon online bookstore and find a section with bestselling children’s books. Each book has a detailed description, including a number of pages. You can analyze several books and find out the their average size.
Why should you analyze your competitors? It’s a great way to find mistakes the authors make to avoid them in your career. Also, you can learn about their weaknesses and strengths. Competitors can help you to understand how to promote your book, which places and activities you should visit as an author, and more.
There are some ways to define your competitors:
- Amazon. Here you can find a list of bestselling children’s books by the age category or genre and the names of their authors.
- Goodreads. This book community includes book reviews, lists of best authors and books, book ratings, etc.
- Offline bookstores and libraries. You can find shelves with top children’s books at the physical stores. Also, here you can discuss these books and authors directly with readers and buyers.
When having discovered who your competitors are, you should learn more about them. The best ways to do it are:
- Read reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, and other platforms.
- Visit their official website.
- Explore competitors’ social media.
- Read their success stories and interviews.
- Just google them.
Okay, now you’ve decided on age category, genre, and size. But that’s not all. There are three other steps left before diving into the writing process:
- Define the main goal of your book. A children’s book should teach something. Make sure that your story is filled with valuable insights.
- Make a plan for your book. It shouldn’t be detailed, and you can change and complement it during the writing process.
- Do research. If you write what you don’t know, get to know it. It’s especially essential for young adult writers. Your book should contain true facts.
Wow! We’ve finished with the preparation process. It’s time to move on.
What to do while writing a children’s book
Finally, it’s time to put your computer (or even typewriter) on the table, open a blank sheet and start writing. You probably have your own tricks and methods, but we want to share some specific recommendations on writing a children’s book.
Use simple words and sentences.
Kids have a poor vocabulary as they just start exploring the world. That’s why you shouldn’t use complex and rare words like in the novels by Jane Austen. It’s better to choose words that children use in their everyday life. Except that, use simple grammar structures and short sentences. They are more accessible to kids’ brains.
Try to show, not to tell.
When writing, try to immerse young readers into the book. Children have excellent imagination skills. Don’t directly say ‘a mysterious house’ if you describe a mysterious house. But instead, write that the house stays in a shaded forest on the outskirts of town, and its windows are always closed.
Add memories from your own childhood.
We all were kids, so everyone has bright memories filling their souls with warmth. Neil Gaiman, a famous British writer, in his class ‘The Art of Storytelling’, recommends adding personal stories from childhood to the book you write. They make your book vivid and intimate to readers.
Use beta reading
Beta reading means test reading an unpublished book or other work. Beta readers give feedback to the author and help improve the story. In the case of a children’s book, the best test reader is a kid. Feel free to show chapters from your book to your children or nephews. They can help to understand whether the story is clear and logical enough for a young audience. Indeed, you can show your manuscript to your spouse but remember that adults have bigger life experiences and different perceptions of the world. Their opinions can not be entirely objective.
Polish your manuscript as much as possible
Even if you are going to use the services of a professional editor, it’s important to make your manuscript perfect. The easiest step is to use special tools to check grammar and typos, for example, Pro Writing Aid. For more deep editing, follow these three steps:
- Leave your manuscript alone for a week.
- Print it out as it helps to see the book in a different form.
- Read the story, or at least dialogues, out loud to find weak points.
10 writing insights from top children’s authors
The world boasts thousands of children’s writers. But some of them are more successful and remarkable than others. Their books are included in the top lists, for example, the 100 Best Children’s Books of All Time. If you want to get into such a list someday, you should learn from the greatest. So, here are 10 secrets from top children’s authors that will help you.
- Never shelter children from the world. (Roald Dahl)
- Always try to use the language so as to make it quite clear what you mean and make sure your sentence doesn’t mean anything else. (C.S. Lewis)
- Kids, if anything, are harder to write for because they are a more discerning audience. They will not stay with you if you go off on a tangent or if you give them extraneous information that doesn’t serve the story. You really have to tell a tight story. You have to give them humor, suspense and believable characters. All those things that adults want too, but you have to be really on your game when you’re writing for kids. (Rick Riordan)
- A good picture book should have events that are visually arresting – the pictures should call attention to what is happening in the story. (Chris Van Allsburg)
- I just write what I wanted to write. I write what amuses me. It’s totally for myself. I never in my wildest dreams expected this popularity. (J. K. Rowling)
- I prefer to surprise myself as I’m writing. I’m not interested in it if I already know where it’s going. So I have only the most general sense of what I’m doing when I start a story. I sometimes have a destination in mind, but how the story is going to go from Point A to Point Z is something I make up as I go along. (Lois Lowry)
- When you’re starting off as a young writer, you look at all the stuff that’s gone before and the stuff that’s influenced you, and you reach the ladle of your imagination into this bubbling stew pot of all of this stuff, and you pour it out. And that’s where you start from. (Neil Gaiman)
- I try to have reasonably happy endings because I would hate any child to be cast down in gloom and despair; I want to show them you can find a way out of it. (Jacqueline Wilson)
- And before I’d got to the end of the first paragraph, I’d come up slap bang against a fundamental problem that still troubles me today whenever I begin a story, and it’s this: where am I telling it from? (Philip Pullman)
- Writing for children is murder. A chapter has to be boiled down to a paragraph. Every word has to count. (Dr. Seuss)
5 writing mistakes to avoid
Okay, you know how to write a children’s book. But let’s find out how not to write. We prepared some common mistakes children authors make.
- Overwrite in picture books. If you write for babies and toddlers, remember that they explore the world better by eyes than by ears.
- Make the moral of the book too transparent. Kids have to learn the lesson themselves and find out what is bad and what is good.
- Include a lot of physical characteristics (long nose, big ears, color of clothes, etc.) that could be illustrated instead. Probably, you want to develop kids’ imagination. But if you’ve already planned illustrations for certain moments, you don’t need to describe it in detail by words. It will be extra work.
- Write in a difficult language. As we said before, choose words that kids use every day.
- Make the beginning of the book all roses. The opening should be inviting, even in the children’s book. It’s not just ‘sun shines, and birds sing’. Come up with a hook.
Most likely, that’s not enough to help you become a better children’s writer. We recommend you never stop learning. Read books by other authors to understand which plot points, twists, conflicts, and characters work and which ones don’t.
What to do after your children’s book is written
Well done! You’ve overcome the midpoint of the way to getting your children’s book on the bookstore shelves or Amazon website. Now, it’s time to send the muse on vacation and start solving organizational issues. One of such issues (which is most essential) is what publishing company to choose. There are two main types of publishing companies: self-publishing and traditional publishing. Let’s find out the pros and cons of both options.
- 100% guaranteed publishing. There is no need to stay in line, trying to impress the publisher.
- Flexibility. You decide when and where to publish your book.
- Creative freedom. Your book will look just like you want. If you want a particular children’s book cover design, nobody can argue.
- Higher royalties. You can earn up to 60% off of each book sale.
- More responsibility. The risk of failure lies entirely on you.
- More time and energy. You have to find all the necessary services and release your book yourself.
- Predominance of ebooks. Most self-publishing companies offer ebook releases. But this format is not suitable for all kids. Children prefer to hold and touch physical books.
- You need to do marketing. Promotion takes a lot of time and effort. If you don’t have enough experience with marketing, it can be challenging.
- Publisher takes care of every detail. You don’t need to think about editing, book cover design, illustrations, marketing, and other stuff.
- Publishing company pays for everything. There is no need to pay out of pocket as the company is interested in publishing your book.
- Distribution to physical bookstores. Publishing companies print and distribute your books through the bookstore networks they work with.
- Effective marketing. Its marketing team specializes in book promotion and knows a lot of tricks.
- Long publishing process. Because of long waiting lists and competitors, you can get your book published 1-2 years later.
- Limited creative control. Due to the experience, the publisher knows what sells better. Also, the company pays for everything. So, your hands are tied a bit.
- Lower royalties. You can expect 5-25% of royalties.
How to write a query for your dream agent?
If you decide to choose traditional publishing, here is a little guide on how to write a query to increase your chances of getting noticed. Your letter should include:
- The greeting. A simple one is better than too formal.
- Your connection. Explain why you choose this publisher.
- The summary of your book. Mention the story’s hook. Don’t tell about all the characters and events, only the essential ones.
- Your bio. Include facts that concern your author’s career.
- The attached file with the manuscript.
Also, there are some recommendations on what you should avoid:
- Spelling and grammar errors
- Too many words
- Lies about yourself
- Asking when the book is ready.
Keep in mind that publishers are busy people. They don’t have time to chat with you.
How to choose an illustrator for your children’s book?
Those authors who prefer self-publishing may need illustrators for their books. Here are some tips on how to find the best one for you.
- Decide what you need precisely. You can do it only after the book is finished. Make a list of illustrations you need, look through other children’s books of the same style, and create a storyboard.
- Do deep research. The Internet boasts a lot of great illustrators. You can find and evaluate them on:
- Contact the illustrator whose works you like. You should discuss each detail of cooperation.
- Make a written contract. In this case, all terms, dates, and services will be documented. It’s a good guarantee to get your illustration well done in time.
What extra materials can you add to your children’s book?
Interactive children’s books are becoming more popular. Such books are great for early development as kids like to interact with them. We prepared some ideas on which extra materials you can add.
- If you write picture books for the little ones, use some touchable materials for pages and book covers. For example, there can be some fluffy materials in the picture with animals.
- You can add 3D images to the spreads.
- Also, the book can include simple board games at the end of the book.
We’d like to highlight the interactive books with digital features as this market has the potential to grow by $ 590.23 million by 2025. To stand out among your competitors, you can create a mobile application that will revive the book character through the phone camera. In this case, QR codes come in handy. They open links where the readers can upload the application. Except for the app, QR codes can lead to thematic songs, videos, some extra information about the book, or your website.
What to do after the children’s book is published
Congratulations! Finally, you can hold your children’s book and touch its beautiful cover. But it’s not the time to relax. Now it’s time to tell the world about yourself and your book. Your book shouldn’t collect dust in a corner. Let’s find out how to promote it.
How to promote a children’s book?
Even if you choose traditional publishing and your publisher provides marketing services, your contribution to the book promotion will not be superfluous. So how to do it effectively?
- Work with local libraries. It’s a great way to promote your book on the local level. Librarians know their visitors very well, and they can tell you how to reach out to local kids.
- Create book merch. It can include soft toys representing your characters, cups, stickers, T-shirts, whatever. Kids like getting such things in addition to the book.
- Develop social media accounts. If you still don’t have Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter accounts, it’s time to create them. Social media is the best way to interact with readers. What’s more, most kids use social media a lot.
- Cooperate with book bloggers. But first, learn more about their target audience to make sure it includes your potential readers. Today, there are many book bloggers among kids who can share their reviews on your book.
- Send newsletters. Email marketing remains one of the most effective marketing tools. You can share news, interesting facts, information about upcoming meetings, etc.
- Arrange meetings at schools and bookstores. Where is the biggest chance to meet children? Right, at their school or kindergarten.Also, you can arrange meetings in the children’s book section at the stores. It’s a good place to communicate with kids and inspire them.
- Visit book festivals. There you can not only meet readers but your colleagues as well. Also, you can network with professional critics and journalists.
- Ask people to leave reviews. Reviews from real people on Amazon, Goodread, etc. are a good reason (especially for parents) to buy your book.
No matter what promotion strategy you choose,remember that your target audience here is both children and their parents.
Well, you’ve already learned a lot about how to publish a children’s book. But we want to finish our guide with the most frequently asked questions. In this section, you can find short answers about children’s authors’ royalties, secrets of bestselling books, and some other stuff.
How do I get my children’s book noticed?
You cannot do without promotion. The best ways to promote your children’s book include interaction with book bloggers, email and social media marketing, meetings with readers, etc.
How much money can you make from a children’s book?
It depends on the publishing company. If you choose traditional publishing, you can get an advance of $1,000-10,000. In the case of self-publishing, royalties can be over 60%, but only from sold books.
How do you market a children’s book on social media?
Actually, there are various ways. For example, you can run contests, show behind the scene moments, promote upcoming releases, ask your readers questions, share quotes, and more. Don’t forget to do it regularly.
Do children’s books sell well?
In 2021, book sales were lower than in 2020. But some genres were sold very well, including juvenile fiction (+13.7%) and young adult fiction (+5.5%).
What makes a children’s book a bestseller?
There is no one precise way. But you can increase your chances if your book has an interesting plot, high-quality and bright illustrations, and easy and engaging language.
Do children’s ebooks sell well?
If we talk about children’s books for teens and older kids, ebooks usually sell well because such readers already have their own electronic devices to read them. But speaking about picture books and other genres for little ones, ebooks are not so popular. In this case, kids want to touch and hold books in their hands.
How much time does it take to publish a children’s book?
If you choose self-publishing, it can take a couple of days. For example, your book appears within 24-48 hours on Amazon. Traditional publishing is a longer process. It can take from 1 to 2 years.
Now you know almost everything about how to publish a children’s book. Remember that this process consists of four steps: preparation, writing, publishing, and promoting. And each of them is essential.
During preparation, don’t forget to consider the age category, target audience, genre, and size. And the competitor analysis helps to find out how to build your career. While writing, use simple language and don’t ignore beta reading. Polish your manuscript as much as possible before going to the publishing company.
The publication isn’t the final point. After that, you need to promote your book with social media and email marketing. Visit book festivals, arrange meetings with your readers and create cool book merch.
We hope that the world will see a great children’s author soon.
Have you ever written books for kids? Feel free to share the difficulties you met or helpful tips in the comments.