Writing a Children's Book Challenges
I run into authors who want to wander into writing children's books. Usually they're talented and creative moms whose own kids have been the lucky recipients of their writing gifts. Now these moms want to share their work with other kids and parents.
The task seems easy enough, right? Simple words, maybe some pretty pictures. Wrong! Writing a children's book can be tough. Self publishing and marketing a children's book could be a legal nightmare. Here are just some of the challenges.
I don't have to tell any parent that kids can grow fast, both physically and mentally. What was a favorite toy or pastime today may be viewed as babyish tomorrow. So knowing the age level of the target reading audience is critical. There is no homogenous "child" book market. It goes all the way from preschool up to young adult (YA). A book for a fourth-grader will be completely different than one written for a four-year old. A professional children's book editor can be of great help in this determination.
Reading Grade Level
Children's ability to expand vocabulary and comprehend complex language structure matures over time. Do you know what's appropriate for your target reader age group? Tools such as the Flesch-Kincaid Readability Index may be utilized when a book is being evaluated for reading grade level. Again, a professional children's book editor can be of assistance with this issue.
Children's Book Content Issues
Though this should be obvious, certain types of content, language and subject matter are inappropriate for children. Consulting attorneys, editors and regulatory bodies familiar with children's content issues is recommended to help ensure compliance.
Writing a Children's Book is NOT the Same as Writing a Children's Picture Book
I've observed that prospective children's book authors, especially those who are considering self publishing, are often enamored with the illustration side of the children's book equation. Often they're considering the illustrations before they even finish the book's text!
I can understand why this happens. It's part of the visualization process. Having a mental picture of some future accomplishment can be very motivating. In some cases, these authors may be illustrators themselves. So they may be toying with the visuals while they are working on the text.
But I would encourage all children's book authors to stop and consider the following issues.
Often when authors think "children's book," they automatically think "picture book." Not always the case! Children's need for illustration to accompany book text wanes as they mature intellectually. Knowing the tipping point between what is an appropriate amount and type of illustration and what is overdoing it can be difficult. Again, the age and reading level needs to be determined before deciding on illustrations in terms of amount and type. Getting expert editorial advice on illustration appropriateness for various age and reading levels is highly recommended.
A huge consideration for self published authors when it comes to illustration is money. Depending on the quantity, complexity and production demands of the designs, hiring this talent could run into the hundreds or thousands of dollars. Plus, the time investment needed to review the work of potential illustrator talent could also be significant.
Want the pictures to print in beautiful color? Though prices have come down considerably over the years as technology improves, full color printing can still be as high as triple (or more!) the cost of black-and-white.
Think getting a traditional book deal will solve the illustration cost and effort issue? It could if the publishing house accepts responsibility for this aspect as part of their contract with the author. But realize that the publisher may also insist on who illustrates the book. This can cause disappointment if the author was hoping for more artistic control. They forget the principle of "they pay, they say."
Marketing for Children's Books
Important: Do not market directly to children without legal advice since it can be subject to prohibitions and regulations relating to children's advertising and privacy! Consult an attorney familiar with advertising regulations for children and children's products before doing ANY children's book marketing.
Because children, especially the very young, are probably not buying these books themselves, children's books must also appeal to parents. This can require careful targeting well beyond the marketing capabilities and finances of self published authors.
Self published authors who are not willing to do the research and investment that this marketing could take may want to pitch the book idea to a traditional publishing house instead. The publisher may have more experience and resources to address these issues. Do research to find publishers that are experts in the children's book arena.
Don't Go It Alone
Of all the genres of book writing, children's book writing and publishing is demanding and should not be attempted alone.
- Strongly consider if pursuing the traditional publishing route, as opposed to self publishing, would help deal with the higher liability and costs that children's books present.
- Whether considering the traditional or self publishing option, get an editor that is experienced and dedicated to the children's book market!
- Consult attorneys and commercial insurance providers familiar with the marketing and distribution of children's books and products to help ensure compliance with applicable regulations, especially when self publishing.
Disclaimer: Both the publisher and author have used their best efforts in preparation of this information. No representations or warranties for its contents, either expressed or implied, are offered or allowed and both parties disclaim any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for your particular purpose. The advice and strategies presented herein may not be suitable for you, your situation or business. Consult with a professional advisor where and when appropriate. Neither the publisher nor author shall be liable for any loss of profit or any other damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential or punitive, arising from or relating to your reliance on this information.
© 2017 Heidi Thorne