Writing a Children's Book in 5 Steps
Hello friends and creatives! I hope you're having a great week! So far on the blog, I have been answering your questions about self-publishing, including how I got started on my book, the pros and cons of self -vs.- traditional publishing, and the 5 steps I used to illustrate my book. This week, I'd like to share the 5 steps I took to write a fun, endearing, and marketable children's book!
Keep in mind that I am simply sharing the tips and tricks that have helped me in my journey! I am always encouraging people to check out other blogs and resources for all things self-publishing as well. :)
So, without further ado, here are the 5 steps I used and would recommend for writing and editing your children's book...
Step 1: Define your book "category" and target audience!
Maybe you are only writing for your friends and family. If so, that's ok! But if you are hoping to reach a wider audience, you will want to do a little bit of marketing research before you get started. Here's how:
- Book category: When you start selling your book, it will be extremely helpful to know exactly who you are selling to. This includes your readers' age range, reading level, and the primary function of your book. Do you want to showcase beautiful artwork for readers ages 3-8? It may be a "picture book," which means you need to pay attention to reading difficulty, the number of pages, and words per page. I recommend the following resources for defining your book category:
- Target audience: From a marketing standpoint, you'll want to narrow down the specific interests of your audience. I recommend sitting down and writing a "buyer profile." In this case, your buyer are the parents of your readers! Just for fun, you can even give your "buyer" a name! Let's say her name is "Jessica." Here are some questions you'll want to ask yourself:
- Basic demographics: Around how old is Jessica? What is her marital status? About how much money does she make (how much does she typically spend on children's books and toys)? Does she work or stay at home with her kids?
- Interests and details: What is going to make her choose your book over other children's books? Does she have a deep appreciation for art and unique keepsakes? Is she a fitness instructor who wants to teach her kids about healthy eating? Does she have a special-needs child who would benefit from a book tailored just for him/her?
- For more help on narrowing down your "buyer profile," I recommend the following resource:
Step 2: Visit your local bookstore!
I did this early on in my writing process and I can't tell you how helpful and fun it was! If you have young kids already, I'm sure you are already very familiar with modern children's books and trends. However, if you haven't read a children's book since you were a child, or since your kids were little, this is going to be especially helpful for you. Here's what to look for:
- Trending themes and topics: One thing I discovered while shopping kids' books was that animal books are currently on trend! Yayy!! Exciting and lucky for me, since I had already painted a bunch of animals LOL. However, trends can also include writing themes, such as behavior (sharing), mental health (feelings), physical health (fruits and veggies), and more.
- Word count, reading difficulty, and page count: If you've already determined your book category and audience, you have a rough idea of the word count required. However, it helps enormously to see how other children's book authors have done this in books that are published and on the shelves. I took pictures of book pages in the store for my own reference later on!
- Price points: You will want to keep in mind that, as a self-published author, you may need to charge a little more for a hardcover book (for example) than Target or Walmart does. However, it is still helpful to have a starting point for how to price your book!
Step 3: Channel your inner child!
This is the fun part! If you have kids, this might be easy for you. But even if you don't (like me!) here are some fun things you can do to channel the child within before writing!
- Read the types of kids books that made you smile as a child. (Still keeping in mind the current book trends as well) For me, this included books by Shel Silverstein, Dr. Seuss, Eric Carle, and Jon Scieszka!
- Write as if your book is specifically for a child or child-like person you know! Between my child-like husband and other actual "children" in my life, I was inspired by the idea that I could put a smile on the face of people I actually know!
- Don't try to write like someone else. Are you terrible at puns? Don't worry about it! Your readers will be able to tell if your writing feels forced or contrived, so write in the tone that comes naturally to you.
- Play play play! Self-publishing is all about joy!! Play and explore with your writing! Don't be afraid to write something too silly, take chances with rhymes, or be "over-the-top" at first! You can edit down later, which brings me to my next point.
Step 4: Find some trusty proofreaders!
If you're like me, you have some English teachers in your family or friend group that would love to help proofread your book! If you don't, however, there are lots of other resources you can use on a temporary or hourly basis (see below!).
- Here on Upwork.com, you can hire professional, highly-qualified proofreaders on an hourly basis. You can even see their resume, and ask questions about their experience before hiring.
- Here on www.proof-reading.com, you can hire a proofreader by the number of words! This may be especially helpful for children's books that have a smaller word count.
- A few more than I've found from a simple Google search (please research before trying) include proofreadingpal.com, proof-reading-service.com, and reedsy.com.
Step 5: Find some fun-sized test readers!
If you want to make sure your reading level and theme is on target, you may want to ask a few friends or family members to have their children test-read your book! Most people would love to test-read something you wrote (how special is that?) and answer a few questions about it for you. Things to ask might be:
- Was the reading level appropriate for your children? If not, what was too difficult/eas for them?
- Was the content interesting and engaging?
- Would you buy this book for your children? How much would you expect to pay?
If you've read this far, thank you for tuning in! I hope this has been helpful for you and I'd LOVE to hear your follow-up questions or comments below! Sending love and elephant hugs your way as always!!