How to be a Good Children’s Book Author
Let me let you in on a golden truth, that you may already know……writing a children’s book is NOT an easy task. Mention to anyone in the general public that you write children’s books, and you can see their eyes glaze over, a quick smile spread across their face, usually followed by, “Oh, I would love to write one, it seems so easy.” Hopefully, you resist the urge to put them straight, but in the end, if they do try, they will learn the error of their ways. Children’s books, much like any other type of book, require that you have a few key factors going for you. It’s not simply a case of “if you write it they will come”. As a children’s author, and one that is successful, you MUST learn how to put on and wear with gusto your business hat.
Who is Your Target Audience?
Simply saying: “Kids” will not cut it. Young children markets are for children ages 2-7. Early Readers are for children 6-7 (and very mature 5-year-olds.) Middle readers are for those who are 8-11. Teen Fiction (teens) are 12-16, with a more loosely defined Young Adults for ages 17-25. For the sake of brevity, I’m going to assume that you are writing for the under 12 set, as the creation and the marketing aspects are different. Understanding the age group you are writing for is CRUCIAL. Know what they like, what makes them laugh, and what they are interested in knowing (whether you are writing fiction or non-fiction).
Secondly, when you choose an age group, use language that is appropriate. Most notably if the children themselves are doing the reading, then you must limit your word choices to those that are accessible to young readers. You can test your text out by plugging it into a lexicon analyzer. There are a ton of them out there, but this lexicon tool (Lexile.com) is the most popular. It will let you know if you have hit your target age group, or if you might need to work on your word choice.
Can the Average Child Relate to the Themes?
The theme must have wide appeal, come across without being “preachy’, and be an issue that is important to your target age group. Can a reader see themselves as the hero in the story? Does that character act in a relatable way? Is the storyline compelling with a distinctive beginning, middle and end? Is there an initiating conflict, rising action, climax, and resolution as any story (even adult books) must have?
Where’s the Action?
Beginning writers make the mistake of “telling” a story instead of “showing” the story. It’s the difference between looking at a snapshot and having someone tell you about what was going on, and someone watching a movie of it. Showing, which incorporates action, is one of the most significant hallmarks of a good children’s author. One of the challenges of being a children’s author is that the books are already short by nature. You have to manage to use structure, appropriate language, make the themes and characters relatable, and filled with action. Your task becomes even more difficult if you are writing a picture book, which is only 1000 words maximum.
The Art is in the Revision Process
A successful and enjoyable children’s story isn’t written in its perfect form the first time around. No one, and I mean no one, is that good. The craft of writing is in the revising process. Develop one. Adopt some trusted and knowledgeable readers who will give you honest feedback, even if it is hurtful. This refining, distilling, polishing, and buffing will finally make your children’s book ready for the larger world.
Know How You Will Publish
With the advent of self-publishing platforms galore, you don’t have to wait for a publisher to recognize your brilliance. There are a number of publishers out there, but they will charge you money to do so. Traditional children’s book publishers practice due diligence and only select those authors whose works meet the strictest of guidelines, and whose authors, themselves, have some savvy. Does the author already have a website, a social media platform? Not only must your book be marketable, but you, yourself, must be marketable.
Writing a children’s book is one part creativity, one part understanding of the readers, and one part business savvy. Put all of those together, and you have a winning combination that is better than summer break and a cold popsicle.
Want to learn what it takes to become a successful children’s author? Get writing tips, insider info, helpful tutorials and book promotion ideas to get your writing career started. The premise of all Full Cycle Publication works is to spark critical thinking while advocating a love of literature.