What do Dr. Seuss, Shel Silverstein, and Laura Numeroff all have in common? These three powerful names are successful children’s book authors who have all made quite a dent in the children’s book world. Dr. Seuss has over 45 worldwide successful published children’s books. Shel Silverstein had the first published children’s book on the New York Times best-seller list. Laura Numeroff’s If You Give a Pig a Pancake was featured three times on The Oprah Winfrey Show and was noted as Oprah’s favorite children’s book of the year in 2000, also recommended by her first Kid’s Book Club.
These authors are known as some of the best children’s authors in history, but how did they do it? Though some may believe writing children’s books is a painless operation, assembling a flawless copy may be harder than it looks. But no fear! If you have ever wondered about creating your own children’s book, continue reading for a helpful guide into the world of children’s literature. In this piece, we will discuss:
- Is this for you?
- Finding Your Style/Audience
- Practicing Your Ideas/Making the Plot
- Getting Your Name Out
- Rewriting and Creating a Final
- Reaching Out to Publishers
Discover if this is for you.
Before you begin the peppy journey of children’s writing, I highly suggest finding out if it is for you. No shame, but some writers do not suit the children’s book style. There are some criteria to hit if you write for younger audiences.
Are you a children’s book writer?
Firstly, you must have a passion for writing. It might be hard to write a book if you do not consider writing to be a passion of yours! Some may think children’s writing is a piece of cake, but to become a children’s writer, you must completely change your writing persona. You are not writing for a general audience but a younger crowd. Your writing must be in the mindset of a child yet help them absorb a learning curve.
Where does your passion lie?
Secondly, you must be passionate in the field…if not the books, at least the children’s aspect. If you put a lot of time towards your future children’s book, you MUST feel some passion to inspire the youth. Children’s books are a guide to help children grow into the healthiest and happiest versions of themselves. To create content that will assist young readers and their growing minds, you must want to help.
I find many children’s book authors are previous teachers and parents themselves, and they strive to create useful children’s books because they have the passion to do so. If you consider yourself as someone who wants to design this content, then becoming a children’s book author may be the perfect role for you!
Find your style/audience.
Ask yourself: What am I looking to write? Do I want to illustrate a story with my words? Am I looking to write chapters or simple sentences for every page? These are a few of the MANY questions you will be asking yourself while creating your masterpiece. Before you begin creating your book, you must find out what it is you are actually making. For children’s books, I tend to find the best strategy is to start by sorting your audience. Are you writing for middle school students or toddlers?
What age are you writing for?
In general, the children’s book community is HUGE. There are too many genres and ages to count, so it is vital to keep in mind who you are aiming your content at. When you know who your audience is, it will help you decide what style you are aiming for. Consider what book style is sought after for the age range.
The perfect example is a graphic novel. Graphic novels are quite popular among young readers because of their use of illustrations blended with a fierce storyline and text. Though this might sound perfect for a young reader because of the illustrations, graphic novels resonate most with ages 13 to 17. So if you are hoping to write a children’s book for seven-year-olds, you should try to stay clear of graphic novels. (Unless you are absolutely set on it! If this was your original goal, anything is possible if you put in the effort!)
Once you have an ideal age and style, do not feel too attached! After some exploration, you may find an interest in something different. The best way to do so? Good old-fashioned research!
Research, research, research!
Ah, my favorite part of the entire process…researching! Now that you have a general idea of what style and audience you are aiming for, it is time to solidify your idea into a goal. The best way to locate your audience and style is by exploring previously published children’s books. Find out what is most popular in the children’s book community, and flourish your book goals by discovering books you hope to write yourself.
Get books in person!
The best advice I can give is to do the physical research. Countless websites have helpful recommendations and children’s books that will come in handy during your book process. Websites such as Goodreads and Rhcbooks are a great start to finding popular children’s books. (Or check our Bookstr’s Bookshop for some astounding recommendations!)
However, nothing, and I repeat, NOTHING, helps more than in-person research. As an aspiring children’s book author, I have read thousands of children’s books online and in paperback. I cannot stress enough that reading the book physically is much better than reading online. You get a more in-depth research eye while having the book in your hands. It may sound silly, but you get a better feel of the book’s size, the paper layouts, the physical imagery, and the word design. Online books cannot give the same appeal; it is a HUGE help when you have the book in hand.
Find books at your local library.
No need to buy a thousand children’s books. Head to your local library and check out as many books as possible. You can find local libraries using the Library Finder. Usually, libraries will have tables of best sellers, age groups, etc., so aim for a genre/age group that most interests you, and read until you cannot read anymore. Take notes on what you notice. Does anything in particular repeatedly come up? What lesson is the book teaching? Are there any similarities in characters and themes? What do you like/dislike? Studying can be a drag unless you make it fun, so enjoy the research! Think of it as if you are a child yourself, and go with the flow!
Practice your ideas and experiment with the plot.
After reading as many children’s books as possible, it is time to practice yourself. Try writing a rough draft of the text, but pace yourself! There is no rush to perfection, so take your time and figure out what you are looking for. Write a draft, a second, a third, and do not stop writing until you have found your perfect text. This can take some time, but do not give up! Writing is a very patient skill, and we all hit our writer’s blocks…but don’t let those keep you from finding your perfect words!
Get to writing!
Remember: you are writing for a younger audience! If your audience is under tweens, use vocab that will challenge them, not scare them off. The younger they are, the more inclined they are to illustrations, so adding colorful pictures to your story may best suit your specific audience. If you are writing for teens, they are still young! Do not veto your entire story if it is explicit, but you are writing for kids, and it may be best to sensitize some bits and bops.
While rewriting your text, feel open to any scenario! While writing, design new character ideas or storylines that could change your book experience. Your first plot may not be your ending result, so feel free to mess around with the storyline. It may even help you come up with a new plot for a whole other book, so get creative with your ideas!
Get your name out there.
As someone who is not online much, it took me a long time to realize the necessity of online presence as an aspiring writer. It is crucial to get your name out in the book community because of the amount of content that already exists. Books are a dime-a-dozen, and the best way to jumpstart an author’s career is to adopt an online appearance. I recommend starting with a social media page or two, such as an Instagram or Pinterest account.
Start your social media accounts early.
I also suggest creating an account before you have your final draft ready. You can then show off your progress with posts and updates of your advances and get the ball rolling before you reach the finish line. When you have a social media account, you will meet more people in the community who could help you with possible future publishers or illustrators who may want to help design your book.
Post until you cannot post anymore!
Dedicate ALL your content to your account and try to be as active as possible. Whether you are posting sneak peeks, progress photos, or wee storyline updates, it is a key factor as an author in 2024 to be posting your book content on social media. The more people who see your posts, the more your name will spread in the book community, and publishers love seeing an online presence!
Not a social media person?
If you are not big on social media, there are practical websites dedicated to helping grow the children’s book community. I recommend joining SCBWI or Nerdy Book Club Blog if you want to keep off the social media side (I do encourage you to have at least one social media account or website, then you will have an online presence solely dedicated to your work rather than just being a part of the community). Or be sure to update your LinkedIn with your book content. There are thousands of publishers on LinkedIn who will love to see your page full of updates, posts, and content dedicated to your book. If you want to read more about creating social media accounts, check out this useful social media blog from Bookstr!
Also, reach out to these publishers! It is vital to make connections along the way, and the more publishers you chat with, the more people will be curious to see what you come up with. Send a message introducing yourself and your project. Do not give up on communicating, and keep reaching out as much as possible. I recommend looking at publishing companies that spark your interest and checking out their people section. There will be a list full of company workers, and you’re bound to find the perfect candidate to reach out to.
Rewrite until you have a solid final draft.
After practicing your storylines and ideas, it is time to finalize your drafts. Take your time creating your drafts. You will make many, many rough designs for your book! Do not settle for your first copy. The more you redesign, the more ideas will flow, and the better your final will look. Some ideas to keep in mind while writing a children’s book are:
- Most children’s books have fundamentals of life lessons hidden within the story. Your book must have some sort of meaning to its tale, so focus on creating a story with a salient message in its words. Some examples are kindness, honesty, diversity, etc.
- Picture books are often for younger ages. Books with illustrations on every page are for ages two to five, so if you are hoping to design something for ages six to 10, the design is usually pages with fewer illustrations and more words.
- If you are making a picture book, there should be a page count of around 24 to 48 pages and 200 to 400 words.
- Not an artist? No problem. Children’s illustrators are all over the world. Advocate Art is an exceptional website where you can find helpful children’s artists with their previous designs. Or, try Upwork, a website where you can post your book idea and have artists reach out to you personally.
Thumbs Down to Rushing
Continue remaking your book until you feel it is ready to be reviewed. Remember, do not rush your flow and settle for a first draft. You want your book at its full potential before sending it off to publishers, so take your time crossing the finish line. Be sure to get your final results copyrighted before sending it off to anyone! This is a vital step! You do not want to lose your work due to a copyright violation.
Find a literary agent or publisher.
Advice on Self-Publishing
Though the process has been difficult, you are still a long way away from having your book put on bookstore shelves. The next step is finding your publisher. Though you may consider self-publishing on Amazon or a similar platform, I strongly encourage you to try to have a proper book company publish your work. As substantial as it sounds, self-publishing can be difficult because of how many self-published books exist. Unless you have a popular social media account to advertise your book, I recommend you not self-publish until you try to reach out to a few companies. Most places require a cover letter describing yourself and your book, so start writing some clean cover letters to send out!
Where should I send my manuscript?
As I mentioned earlier, social media presence is everything. If you are online, publishers will likely remember your name and be eager to see your content. I also recommend contacting a few literary agents who help organize your manuscripts to the larger publishing corporations. Many major children’s book companies, such as Hachette Book Group and Scholastic, will not accept unsolicited manuscripts, so if you are hoping to send your book off to companies like these, you should contact a literary agent. Here are some to reach out to:
Some publishing companies will have links on their website where you can send your manuscript for review without a literary agent. Here are some places you can send your manuscript through their website:
These are only a few companies, so do not fret if it does not work out. Thousands of other companies will love to see your work. The only rule is to not give up! Many books are scraped because of denials but think of it as motivation. Keep moving down the list of publishers, and soon you will find the right fit. Once you have your publisher, you’ll soon have a children’s book ready to change a child’s life! If you want more helpful information on finding a literary agent, read more on this blog that features advice on writing your query letter, how to find agents, and useful resources on getting your book published.
Remember these important steps: research, practice, and do not give up! Becoming a successful children’s author is no walk in the park, but with dedication and a focused mindset, you are more than close to flourishing. Once you make one, you will not be able to quit! Children’s books can be addictive, so keep your chin up, and soon, you will be creating hundreds of children’s stories that the world will grow to love.
For more information on how to become an author, check out the Bookstr Blog here.
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