Blog | writing craft | craft | writing for children and teens
September 15, 2016
Do you know what you have written? Because it's amazing the number of times people will pop up to say, "I wrote a book for kids, now what should I do?"
Answers to that question can be hard when I still really have no idea what kind of book you've written. Books for children can encompass beginning readers, picture books, chapter books, and novels. Everything from Charlotte’s Web to Where the Wild Things Are, to The Cat in the Hat, to The Hunger Games are children's books and they're all very different.
Children's books also include educational nonfiction, puzzle books, pop-up books, and board books. And every one of them would need to be handled differently in the submission stage.
So the first thing you need to do is figure out what you've written.
Is it a short story or a picture book?
Information about how each of these is defined is literally just a few clicks away on the Internet. So research each of these forms until you know, without question, what kind of book you've written. That knowledge ALONE will boost you ahead of a surprising number of new writers. And it will make choosing a market and addressing an editor much easier. It will also help you understand how to revise your book to make it even more of what it's meant to be. It's worth your time, I promise. And honestly, your research might just show that you've actually not written a book at all; you've written a short story. It's amazing how many new writers confuse short story and picture book. Again, a little Google searching will quickly find plenty of folks who have invested time and energy into making the two forms clear.
Who's your target?
Once you know for sure what you've written, you'll still need to be able to answer a few other questions. What age group are you targeting? If you say, "Children of all ages" or "Children from 3 to 18" then that just means you either haven't age targeted well enough to sell or you don't really understand your readers well enough. Publishers don't work with books for "children of all ages" or "children from 3 to 18." They want to target the absolute perfect reader for the book. Who among all the young readers out there will be enjoy and be served by this book? The age range in answer to that question will be much smaller.
What makes you think they'll like it?
Another question you'll need to answer is "why will someone read this?" Too many times, when asked this question, writers will answer with why they wrote it or why kids OUGHT to read it. Those might be interesting answers but they don't help you sell it. The question that will help you sell it is why will kids want to read this? Is it filled with exciting action? Is it funny? Is it tense? Does it feature a terrific, larger-than-life main character who will grab the reader's attention? Does it offer a glimpse into a fascinating and emotionally moving world? What about your book will engage the reader and keep them reading? That's a question that needs an answer.
Will it sell in today's market?
Here's another good question: why will your book sell compared to similar books? If your book was written to teach children about death, it's going to be competing with hundreds of books in the slush pile and dozens of books in print. So why should a publisher invest thousands into YOUR book? What about it will engage the buyer and make them want it? To know the answer to that question, it will be helpful to know what other books are out there that are similar to yours. The more you are familiar with the children's books published today, the more you'll know how you fit and how to fit even better.
"I wrote a book for kids, now what should I do?"
Simple: just answer the questions I've put to you above and you won't need anyone to tell you what to do. The process of finding the answers to my questions will answer yours as well.
Jan Fields is a full-time, freelance author and an Institute of Children's Literature Instructor. Would you like to have your own instructor teaching you on a one-on-one basis? Show us a sample of your work here.