The most beloved children’s books, the ones you remember long into adulthood, inspire a sense of joy, adventure, magic, and wonder. As an aspiring writer, you might read those stories and wonder how your children’s book can rise above the rest and position you for success.
There’s no simple answer. The process of becoming a children’s author may look different for everyone, however the most successful authors made a name for themselves through a combination of hard work, talent, planning, persistence, and even a bit of luck.
If you plan to write and publish a children’s book, use these tips to help you strategize from beginning to end.
Clarify your goals
Some people simply want to create stories for the kids in their lives. Others want to build a career as children’s book authors and earn a living by writing children’s books. If you aim to sell your book to a wide audience, that will influence your story and design choices, as well as your publishing, distribution, and marketing approach. Ask yourself what you want to achieve from publishing a children’s book. Is the process more about personal creativity or professional advancement? Maybe it’s a bit of both. Heading into the writing process with clear motivations can help set you up for success.
Read dozens of children’s books
Think of this step as part research, part inspiration. Check out the classics and the contemporary book award winners, browse the kids’ section at your local library or bookstore. As you read, you’ll notice similar themes or character behaviors that make for good storytelling. Also pay attention to the way the text and pictures work together on each page. Making note of which creative choices you like and which ones you don’t will help you craft your own story.
Know your audience
If you haven’t spent much time around kids but you expect to magically be able to captivate them with your words, you could be in for quite a surprise! The key is knowing what makes kids tick—what catches their eye, how their attention span works, what inspires laughter or curiosity. Take some time to explore your own inner child and hang out with the kiddos in your life to see their imaginations in action.
Write every day
Aspiring children’s book authors need to flex their writing muscles regularly—even daily—in order to improve their skills and thrive as professionals. If creative writing is not something you are used to doing, this can feel like a hurdle. There are a lot of elements to keep track of when you start creating a children’s book, so try to stay focused. Rather than jotting down a bunch of different storylines, try writing one at a time until you map out a beginning, middle, and end. Once you finish a rough draft, you can go back and work on the details, like rewriting dialogue or developing characters.
Manage your expectations
Becoming a successful children’s book author can be more difficult than becoming any other kind of author. There’s a lot of competition, because everyone thinks that writing for kids is easy. In reality, the road is steep! You must write for kids because you absolutely love it and not because you are expecting instant acclaim or money. Start your book project with realistic expectations for the “big picture,” so you can focus on the creative side of things and make each “little picture” extra special.
Join a community of children’s authors
These days connecting with other writers can take almost any form. Avid social media users can find countless literary organizations and creative forums to follow online. If there is a writers’ group that meets in your area, check it out. Go to readings, conferences, and book fairs, where you will cross paths with authors at all career stages and learn from experts in the industry. Your goal should be to join a writing community to help you absorb as much as you can about the world of children’s literature while making writer friends and developing a professional support system.
Find an illustrator
If your drawing skills are up to par, you may decide to illustrate the book yourself. Otherwise, you’ll need to collaborate with an artist or illustrator. This person is going to bring your words to life and create an even more vivid and emotional story, so choose wisely. Find someone whose pictures stand out and whose creative style is a good fit for your story. You’ll also want to discuss your individual goals for publishing a book, so you both go into the project with similar expectations. Be ready to work as a team, and remain open to their ideas. A creative partnership based on trust, respect, and good communication is key!
Ask for feedback
What better test audience for your children’s story than real kids, right? Reading a draft of your book to children or asking them to read it with you can be enlightening (be ready for direct, honest feedback since kids rarely hold back when asked for opinions!). However, you’ll also want some focused feedback from fellow writers, ideally experienced authors or editors who know the children’s book genre well. They can give you expert tips on your story idea, structure, and illustrations.
Be prepared to rewrite
As every author knows, the first draft is not going to be the best version. Writing a children’s book can seem deceptively easy, but a lot of care and creativity goes into making each page memorable—it could take hours of revision to get one drawing or one sentence just right! So be patient as you rewrite, redraw, and reorganize your story. If you stay open-minded about the process, you just might make an exciting creative discovery.
Build an audience
You can start creating excitement around your children’s book before you even finish writing it. The simplest and fastest way to get the word out and cultivate an audience is to tease your book on social media in the months and weeks leading up to your launch. Maybe you’ll decide to reveal a character detail or a couple of sketches along the way. If you start building a group of fans before you finish your book, imagine all the attention you will have when it’s time for publication!
Promote your book
Once again, the early bird gets the book sales. Even if you’re still revising your children’s book, start putting together an email list and drafting a launch announcement so you’re ready to hit send when the book goes to print. It’s never too soon to begin building an author website with promotional materials, book images, and an author bio. Create a press release to showcase your book, and get in touch with local libraries and bookstores to schedule reading events and storytime activities. If you plan to self-publish, learn how to market and promote your book ahead of time so you can keep friends, family, and new readers in the loop.
Time to bring your creative vision to life! Check out the exciting possibilities for your children’s book in the making. What will your story become?