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How to Write a Children’s Book

August 26, 2021 (Last Updated September 15, 2021)

Marcy G.

A book for kids is not a shorter, simpler adult book. If you’re a self-publishing children’s book author, or aspire to be, you know!

Children’s books need to combine insightful content and lively imagery to hold a child’s attention. It’s a challenge, but seeing a child connect with your characters and story is quite a reward.

The idea that writing children’s literature is child’s play is completely untrue! If you want to become a children’s book author, and you’d like some tips for publishing a children’s book, we have them. Let’s talk about how to write a book for kids.

Think through your topic, characters, and message

When you’re considering how to write and publish a kids’ book, start by researching other children’s books covering the same topic – it’s likely there are others. This is where you develop your unique concept and characters.

Children’s books seek to entertain, obviously. They also might contain an important message. Perhaps you want to inspire something in a child – a course of action or a different way of thinking. Maybe you want to help develop a good sense of humor (some books are just plain fun!). You can convey your story in short sentences, illustrations only, or a combination of both. It might be rhyming … or not! It might be witty or silly, or soft and contemplative. You get to decide the tone and the message, along with the words and pictures. Determine your topic, your underlying goal, and then map out your unique way to tell the story.

“Promise me you’ll remember you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, smarter than you think.” Winne-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne

Have an outline of expected length

Children’s books need to hold a shorter attention span, so you’ll want to write accordingly. Here are some suggested parameters regarding the length of a children’s book:

Ages 4 - 6: 1,000 words or less

Ages 5 – 9: 2,500 words

Chapter books for ages 7 – 9: 10,000 – 12,000 words

Short novels or middle-grade novels for ages 10 - 12: 20,000 – 25,000 words

Books for babies and toddlers might contain even less words or none at all. Picture books are a sensible option for very small children. You can use your creativity to impart information and entertain using images alone.

Some of the most popular children’s book formats are:

·      Picture books

·      Early reader books

·      Chapter books

·      Novels for young adults and teens (young adult fiction, or YA fiction novels, are very popular)

Don’t let these guidelines stifle your creativity, but it’s good to keep in mind that the most successful children’s books are often quite short and to the point.

Always consider the target audience for your children’s book and then write accordingly.

Consider your word choice and delivery – and be consistent

Children’s books do not need to contain only the simplest language. Many classic children’s books use longer sentences or richer vocabulary.

“In a warm and sultry forest far, far away, there lived a mother fruit bat and her new baby.” Stellaluna by Janell Cannon

Some, though, derive their success through short words or phrases or a soothing repetitive nature. Think: Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? By Bill Martin Jr.

You have options when it comes to your children’s book concept. Decide on your preferred delivery and stay true to that throughout the story.

Think like your audience

Ok, this might seem simple, but thinking like a child can be hard. (After all, you have not been a child for some time now!) When you’re considering how to write a children’s book, remember that kids are curious and interested in many subjects. They also want to be entertained, just like you.

Sometimes you have to find the balance between larger concepts and the youth and inexperience of your audience. Kids are thirsty for knowledge. Give them information in an entertaining fashion and don’t shy away from larger life messages. 

Some of the most popular kids’ books focus on big picture concepts, but the writing style appeals to a younger audience. Think of Dr. Suess. His books cover themes like self-confidence, kindness, and being unique - just to name a few.

If you can, get input from kids. This additional editing process for children’s books can be immensely helpful. (Don’t skimp on professional editing either. It’s a writer’s best friend. See 48 Hour Books website for information on editing services and how to find an editor.)

Children’s book illustrations are very important

Consider a professional illustrator for your children’s book. If you’re not an artist yourself, hiring a professional illustrator for your children’s book is a smart and beneficial move. So much of children’s literature is conveyed through illustrations. Chapter books and young adult fiction may not rely as much on imagery, but for younger audiences, it can be the key factor.

If you want to make it easier for an illustrator to translate your children’s book characters into art, start by fully developing those characters. The best fictional characters are unique individuals, just like actual people.

What do you think your children’s book character (or characters) would look like? What is important to them? What specific characteristics do you see in your mind when you think of them? Once you have fully thought out your character development, it’s important to convey this information to the illustrator. They can use this information, combined with their own creative process, to develop the right look for your children’s book. 

When your characters come alive through the images in your book, it’s magical.

Ready to print your children’s book?

If you’re ready to print a children’s book, 48 Hour Books offers great tools and services for self-publishing authors. Our free book templates make it easier to format a children’s book, and our friendly, knowledgeable customer service staff is always happy to help.

When it comes to your printing options, you can choose from a variety of binding styles including softcover (perfect bound), hardcover (case bound) or spiral coil bound (a good option for children’s coloring books or books that are in workbook format.)

For more information on how to publish a children’s book, visit the 48 Hour Books’ website.

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Sign up for the 48 Hour Books newsletter to learn how to self-publish your book — and get it printed faster with us than anywhere else.

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