Last year, the children’s book industry saw a big boost in sales. Now, the industry is worth over $317 million in the US, alone.
What does that mean for anyone who is considering writing a children’s book? On the one hand, the market is ripe and new content is welcome. On the other, competition is steep as more and more writers and illustrators jump into the game.
If you know that you have what it takes to write a children’s book, then it’s time to make that dream come true! We’re here to help guide you through the process.
Read on for six tips for writing a children’s book that will surely be a huge hit.
1. Narrow Down Your Unique Idea
Every good children’s book starts with an idea. Who’s perspective are we getting? What is the central problem that our characters need to solve and how will they do so?
Brainstorm a few different variations of the same idea. Then, head to Google and do a little investigating. The goal is to make sure that your idea really is unique.
How can you be sure? Try searching for “children’s books” followed by a few keywords that best describe your idea. If similar books pop up in your search, dive deeper into their plot summaries and think of ways that you can make your story different.
2. Focus On Your Protagonist
Even if you’re writing for a younger audience, character development is still crucial. Even our littlest readers want to feel a connection to the character and to understand mannerisms and choices.
If you’re writing for readers who are ready for mid-length chapter books (think ages five through ten), you may want to start with your character development first. In a good story, the plot is propelled by the protagonist’s traits. These readers want to believe that a character is making choices that are true to who they are–otherwise, things get confusing.
3. Dive In and Meet the Appropriate Word Count
Young adult and adult fiction can afford to take several pages–even dozens–setting the scene, rather than diving into the plot. Younger readers aren’t quite ready for this slow burn, so make sure that you set up your protagonist and your plot in the first few pages.
Another thing to keep in mind is word count. Make sure you know who you’re target reader is and cater your word count to that specific age group. Here’s a quick breakdown of a good word count by age group:
- Ages 0-3 (board books): 0-200 words
- Ages 2-5 (early reader picture books): 200-500 words
- Ages 3-7 (picture books): 500-800 words
- Ages 4-8 (advanced picture books): 600-1,000 words
- Ages 5-10 (chapter books): 3,000-10,000 words
- Ages 7-12 (advanced chapter books): 10,000-30,000 words
As you can see, younger readers are reaching for books that are lighter in words. That means that you will need to “trim the fat” (edit the unnecessary details) as much as possible.
4. Keep the Narrative Simple
Remember, children’s stories tend to follow a fairly simple narrative. When you’re working within a limited word count, you can’t develop secondary and tertiary plotlines the way you may be able to in young adult or adult fiction. Instead, figure out the main problem your character needs to solve.
The solving part is where things can get a little more loose and fun! A good children’s book shows a protagonist running into at least two or three obstacles and overcoming them in order to solve the main problem.
When you’re constructing your narrative, keep in mind what kind of message you want your young readers to take away. Do you want your obstacles to be silly? Do you want them to teach a lesson about something more serious, like grief or hurt feelings?
Your obstacles need to reflect both the main problem and the message you want to send. Putting a silly obstacle in a serious children’s book, for example, can be jarring and disruptive to the tone.
5. Don’t Make Illustrations Secondary
If you’re writing a board book or picture book, don’t make the illustrations an afterthought. Readers who are reaching for picture books want those visuals to help them understand the story and connect to it.
Be honest with yourself about your own artistic abilities. There’s nothing wrong with a writer working with a talented illustrator to complete a children’s book, rather than doing the illustrations, themselves!
It can be helpful to have an idea of what your illustrations will look like from an early stage. The story will influence the art–and oftentimes, the opposite is true, as well.
6. Select a Publisher Who Meets Your Needs
The creative side is what most people think of when they’re getting ready to write their first children’s book. However, publishing is just as important. This is the phase where you decide how you want your book to reach an audience!
When you’re looking for the right publishing house to handle your children’s book printing, take a look at things like quality and pricing. Find a publishing house that will offer you a free quote on your children’s book before making you sign any contracts.
Publishing may not seem as exciting as writing, but nothing beats the feeling of seeing your children’s book as a final product!
Writing a Children’s Book Takes Imagination, Love, and Industry Knowledge
This is a great time to consider writing a children’s book, as the children’s book industry is booming. With our tips, you can apply imagination and love to the writing process, but also necessary industry knowledge.
Writing a good children’s book means understanding how young minds work. However, that doesn’t mean that you have all the answers all the time! Take a look at our parenting content to find new and creative ways to spend time with your kids.