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9 Steps to Write an Amazing Children’s Book [+ additional tips]

a featured image that says so you want to write a children's book?

Okay everyone, I’ve been doing some research into this for a long time, and I’ve finally decided to put it all down in one big post. 

For my own writing (don’t ask me what my pen name is), I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a children’s book for some time. So far, I’ve identified several key elements that I have to do first, like choosing my target audience, incorporating engaging elements, and (of course) the illustrations.

Now if YOU want to publish a children’s book, you can do so either with self-publishing or traditional publishing.

I’m going with self-publishing, because it’s a great way to start, and it’s no longer difficult or too expensive to do.

But there’s a lot more to do, and in this article I’ll break it all for you.

Note: I’m not getting into the publishing side too much in this article. Instead, it focuses more on the writing.

With that in mind, let’s get into it.

Prep Work: What to Do BEFORE Writing a Children’s Book

Before we get started, it’s important to do a little prep work, and answer some questions before we put all that time and effort into producing a children’s book. Some of the considerations we should make include:

  • Ensure Parents Will Want to Buy Your Book: It’s important to ensure parents will want to buy your book to market to younger audiences. Otherwise, you’re left with a book no one will want to buy, because even if the kids will like it, they don’t have purchasing power.
  • Primary Purchasers: The primary purchasers of children’s books are females aged 30-44.
  • Understanding Your Audience: To better understand your audience, spend time with age groups and parents, talk to parents and teachers, and give surveys.
  • Structure Matters: Understanding the basic structure of a children’s book is important for successful writing.
  • Templates for Writing: There are several templates available for writing a children’s book. Be sure to browse through your options to find something that appeals to you and will appeal to your target audience.
  • Develop a Logline: You can create a logline that encapsulates the plot and hook to concisely explain your book’s concept. Doing so will not only help you get a clearer picture of what you want, but will make marketing the book that much easier.
  • Things to Avoid: Avoid confusing age categories, too many words, obvious morals, bland titles and characters, slow starts, and low-quality illustrations.

And with that out of the way, let’s get into the full step-by-step process that I’ve uncovered from my research. I’ll be following this format for my own books.

Step 1: Pick Your Fave Format

It turns out that publishing your book in both ebook and paperback formats can be super beneficial. So, let’s dive into the pros and cons of each format to help you make the best choice for your own children’s book project.

You might already know that paperbacks are the most popular format for children’s books. They can easily be sold on platforms like Amazon or even in physical stores. 

But here’s something to consider – children’s ebook usage is actually on the rise! 

Parents’ preferences are shifting towards ebooks (thank you iPads), or they may not have any preference between ebook and print formats. This change in mindset could work in your favor if you’re planning to self-publish your book.

Now, ebooks come with their own set of perks. They’re useful for promotions, and you can send them out for cost-effective review requests, which can help spread the word about your book. But hold on a second, there’s a study from the University of Michigan that suggests ebook storytime might be less effective than physical book storytime. 

Why? It appears parents focus more on the technology than the content. That’s something to think about.

So, while the popularity of ebooks is on the rise, physical children’s books are likely to remain a hot commodity in the foreseeable future. It’s all about finding the right balance and catering to both types of readers. 

Consider offering your children’s book in both formats to reach a wider audience and maximize your potential for success.

Step 2: Figure Out Who You’re Writing For

This is a crucial step when it comes to writing your masterpiece – knowing your target category and age group. Trust me, this can make all the difference in how well your book is received.

Before you even start writing, it’s essential to identify the target age range of your readers. When publishing on Amazon, make sure you provide the appropriate age range to avoid any negative reviews from confused buyers. 

You’ll need to adjust the illustrations, word count, and writing style to suit the target age group, so it’s crucial to have a clear idea of who you’re writing for.

Children’s books typically fall into one of five categories: 

  1. Board Books
  2. Picture Books
  3. Chapter Books
  4. Middle Grade Chapter Books
  5. Young Adult Books

Each category has its own unique set of age ranges, word counts, and illustration requirements. For example, younger children need short words and sentences, and they adore colorful illustrations and fun characters. Additionally, a lot is going to change based on the format. A choose your own adventure book, for example is going to be very different than anything else.

Keep in mind that each stage of child development calls for a different story structure and book setup. When marketing to parents, it’s especially important to emphasize the benefits of your book for their child’s age group. 

For instance, Board Books should have a good message and subtle education, while Young Adult books should touch on themes that resonate with older kids.

Speaking of Young Adult books, it’s worth noting that they might not always be considered children’s books. However, some traditional publishers may still classify them as such. 

So, it’s essential to be aware of the distinctions when marketing your book.

Step 3: Choose a Catchy Title

Let’s chat about another crucial aspect of your book – choosing a winning title. Remember, your title should guide your writing, but don’t be afraid to improve or change it later on as your story evolves.

The perfect title should let your story’s personality shine through while also being easily discoverable. 

Keep in mind that an excellent children’s book title should grab the reader’s attention, clearly convey the story’s theme, be easily searchable, and include relevant keywords. Doing this will not only entice potential readers but also help your book appear in search results on platforms like Amazon.

Here’s a little tip – consider using subtitles to improve your book’s marketing by including additional keywords for searchability. This way, you can attract even more readers looking for books just like yours.

But before you dive headfirst into writing your children’s book, it’s a great idea to do some research on potential genres with good market potential and less competition. This can give you an edge when it comes to marketing your book and reaching your target audience.

Simply dive into the options on Amazon and see what comes up!

Step 4: Get Your Writing Style On

Now that we’ve covered the importance of titles, target audience, and genres, let’s talk about finding a writing style that suits your book, the target age group, the story itself, and, of course, your own preferences.

Writing for children is an entirely different ball game, so you’ll need to adopt a new mindset and an appropriate writing style to engage your young readers. 

There are plenty of writing styles to consider, such as rhyme, past or present tense, and first or third person. The key is to experiment and find a style that works best for you and your story.

Rhyming: If you’re leaning towards using rhyme, make sure your rhymes are consistent and of high quality. Kids love a good rhyme, but only if it flows smoothly and naturally. 

Tense and Narration: children generally prefer present tense and third-person narration, but don’t let that limit your creativity. Feel free to explore different approaches to find the best fit for your story.

Remember, there is no right or wrong writing style; it’s all about preference and consistency throughout your book. A consistent writing style will help you create a more cohesive and enjoyable reading experience for your young audience.

Step 5: Add All the Important Stuff!

So, you’ve nailed down your target audience, chosen a writing style, and crafted the perfect title. Now, let’s dive into the essential ingredients for a successful children’s book: themes, memorable characters, and relatable dialogue.

When writing your book, be clear about your core message and ensure your story has a distinct beginning, middle, and end. The five essential elements of a good children’s book include:

  1. Unforgettable characters
  2. Suspenseful action or hook
  3. Realistic dialogue
  4. A solid storyline
  5. An instant recall factor that makes readers want to come back for more

Children love stories with relatable characters, suspenseful action, age-appropriate language, and happy endings. Aim to create a book where the character remains memorable long after the story has been read. This will keep your young readers engaged and eager to explore more of your stories.

Now, while structure is crucial, it’s essential to remember that there’s no one-size-fits-all formula for children’s books. Forcing a structure onto your story may hinder its potential, so allow your narrative to develop organically while keeping those essential elements in mind.

Once again, research is key. Study the books that other authors are producing for your age group and audience, and try to structure your book in a similar way.

Step 6: Create Characters That Rock

Now, let’s delve deeper into what makes a character truly memorable and how they can convey the core message of your story.

Solid, unforgettable characters are the heart and soul of any great children’s book, even those for the youngest readers. 

Characters contribute to better recall and help drive home your book’s core message. The best characters in children’s books are usually around the child’s age or slightly older, have colorful personalities, and make bold choices that drive the story forward. These characters resonate with young readers, making it easier for them to connect with the story.

When crafting your characters, ensure they speak in a dialogue style that mirrors the readers’ speech patterns. By doing so, you make it easier for children to understand and relate to the conversations taking place in your book. 

Remember, characters with relatable desires and dreams will be more engaging for your target audience, so take the time to develop well-rounded characters with depth and personality.

Step 7: Make Your Story Totally Engaging

Let’s talk about the secret sauce to ensuring an engaging story that resonates with young readers – good endings, deliberate character choices, suspense, and cliffhangers.

For children’s books, particularly those aimed at younger audiences, a good ending – preferably a happy one – is essential. Happy endings provide closure and satisfaction, leaving readers with a sense of accomplishment and a positive outlook on the story’s message.

The main character should make deliberate choices that move the story forward. These choices not only drive the narrative but also allow readers to see the character’s growth and development throughout the book.

Suspense and cliffhangers play a vital role in maintaining reader engagement across all age categories, but especially in middle-grade or older audiences. By keeping your young audience on the edge of their seats, you’ll ensure they’re eager to turn the page and find out what happens next.

Incorporate age-appropriate suspenseful questions or situations to drive your story’s progression. For example, in picture books, you might explore the transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly. In middle-grade books, first kisses or achieving a goal can provide the suspense needed to keep readers engaged. And for YA books, self-realization or saving the world can serve as the driving force behind your story.

Step 8: Check Your Work – Don’t Be Sloppy

Let’s talk about the critical step that comes after completing your first draft: proofreading and editing.

While it’s essential to self-edit your work initially, hiring a professional editor is crucial for ensuring your book is polished, error-free, and ready for publication. Editing is a valuable investment, especially for books longer than 600 words, as it helps you put your best foot forward in the highly competitive world of children’s literature.

A good editor can help with spelling, grammar, and book structure, improving the overall quality of your book and increasing its chances of success. Unbiased, independent professionals can work wonders for your manuscript, refining it into the best possible version of your vision.

Step 9: Time for the Illustrations

By now, we’ve explored the importance of storytelling, unforgettable characters, and polished writing. But what about illustrations? They’re the cherry on top that brings your words to life and engages young readers. 

There are really just three options for adding illustrations: 

  1. Doing it yourself
  2. Hiring someone
  3. A combination of both

The illustration process involves several steps: 

  1. Choosing orientation: First, choose the orientation of the book (vertical, horizontal, or square) based on the type of story you’re telling.
  2. Planning image sizing: Next, plan image sizing carefully, taking into account trim size and bleed allowance to ensure the illustrations look perfect in print.
  3. Creating a storyboard or book dummy: Create a storyboard or book dummy to plan illustrations and match them with text. This will give you a clear vision of how your book will look when it’s complete.
  4. Combining text and illustration: Decide how to combine text and illustrations – either as part of the image or separate – based on your book’s unique needs.
  5. Choosing an illustrator: When choosing an illustrator, consider various sources, such as online portfolios, social media, or artist communities. Look at their experience, style, and reviews to ensure they’re the right fit for your project.
  6. Paying for illustrations: Paying for illustrations will depend on factors like complexity, skill level, experience, location, and delivery speed. It’s essential to budget accordingly and understand what you’re paying for. 
  7. Obtaining illustrations: Finally, obtain high-resolution images (300 dpi) and raw files for your illustrations, and ensure you have the intellectual property rights through an art release form or outsourcing site agreements.

Don’t forget that the book cover is an important illustration – it should attract the right readers and reflect your story’s essence.

Frequently Asked Questions About Children’s Books

Lastly, here are a few questions we should all be asking before we decide to write and publish a children’s book.

Is it necessary to copyright a children’s book?

While deciding to copyright your children’s book is a personal choice, you should know that you already possess the copyright as per U.S. law the moment you create the work. Nonetheless, registering the copyright with the US Copyright Office further safeguards it.

What should I avoid when writing a children’s book?

Avoid sounding preachy or overly instructive and ensure your story has a satisfying resolution. Keep in mind that children appreciate patterns and routines, so maintain consistency with rhyme schemes, phrases, or character behaviors.

How can I turn my children’s book into an ebook?

Amazon’s Kindle Kids’ Book Creator is a free, easy-to-use tool that helps convert illustrated children’s books into ebooks. The software allows you to import artwork, add text, and create Kindle Text Pop-Ups without needing HTML/CSS knowledge.

Should my children’s book include a subtitle?

Having a subtitle is beneficial for marketing purposes as it enables you to use keywords, key phrases, or synonyms that potential readers might search for. It also allows more creative freedom and helps convey the book’s topic.

How to write a description for a children’s book?

Study descriptions of similar books to understand audience expectations in terms of length, word choice, and style. Your book description, like the cover and title, is crucial for attracting potential buyers. 

In which category should I list my children’s book on Amazon?

Amazon has numerous categories for children’s books. Select the most appropriate category based on your target audience, ranging from board books for ages 0-3 to young adult chapter books for ages 12-18. 

What makes an ideal cover design for a children’s book?

An excellent cover design is visually appealing, professionally executed, fun for children, and communicates the book’s theme. Follow a guide for creating standout book covers, then use a book mock-up for your marketing efforts.

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