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How do I Write Children's Books?

By Brendan McGuigan
Updated May 17, 2024
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Many aspiring writers dream of getting to write children's books, and there are few ways to so easily touch the lives of those most impressionable. With modern print-on-demand services, truly anyone can write children's books and publish them on their own, selling as few or as many as they can promote. Finding a traditional publisher is still a difficult task, however, and as with any area of writing, especially fiction, getting published requires a great deal of discipline and perseverance.

Before starting, you should be aware that setting out to write children's books is not a path to easy riches. Like most fiction, getting published is difficult in and of itself. Once published, finding a publisher who will spend the time and money to promote you extensively is relatively rare. And even once promoted, the odds of making it as a huge success remain fairly long.

The vast majority of children's books authors either supplement their income with other work, or make just enough to earn a living. While some do make it big and have good yearly incomes, the majority of even the most successful children's book authors are not millionaires. If you're committed to making an easier living writing, non-fiction may be more appropriate, even if geared towards children. And if you want a chance at making exorbitant amounts of money, young adult fiction is more likely where you want to focus your energy. Getting to write children's books is fun, however, and incredibly fulfilling, and most people who write them do it for the love of the act, not the financial rewards.

To begin with, choose the audience you want to target your book to. Some popular fields include ghost story style-books for children ages eight and up, short chapter books for children between the ages of seven and ten, easy reader books for kids between the ages of six and eight, and picture books for kids even younger than that. Once you know your target audience, familiarize yourself with what styles are popular by going to a library or a bookstore and checking out a range of books geared to that audience. Pay attention to award-winning books, but look at others as well, to see what seems to sell.

Before you begin actually getting to write children's books, you may want to try writing for a magazine first. Getting published in a children's magazine is quite a bit easier than getting picked up by a publisher, and the feedback and experience you get will be invaluable. A kind editor with some free time may even help shape your writing a bit, though you should by no means expect this. And once you do start submitting your actual book ideas to publishers, they will pay quite a bit more attention to you if you have a number of publication credits in your byline already, especially with recognizable names like Highlights or Cricket.

Before you start writing, try to take a look at your book in a somewhat cynical way, thinking of it from a business perspective. Editors are looking for books that are not only good, but will sell. This means that while seasonal books may sell, books that work year-round will generally sell better. While stories with Caucasians will sell, books that include a multi-cultural element or two will generally sell better. And while books that reference a current even may sell, books that will remain topical for decades to come will sell better.

Once you have your idea sorted out, it's time to actually start writing. Set out a time of day every day to write, and write. When you're done, have an editor friend take a first pass at it; then edit it yourself; then have more editors look at it. And when it's absolutely, positively as good as you can get it, send it off to your first choice of publisher. Plan on being rejected a few times, it's just part of the game, and don't let it get you discouraged. If you keep at it, and keep working on new books in the meantime, eventually you'll break into the fulfilling world of writing children's books.

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Discussion Comments
By john1373 — On Jan 17, 2010

A very rich and informative article.

Just a nit: 'exorbitant amounts of money' maybe consider 'oodles of money.'

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