Writing children’s books makes you dream? There are few pleasures as great as seeing a happy child’s smile after reading a great story.
However, the exercise is not as easy as it seems. Indeed, children are a demanding audience that stops on the first page if the book does not please them.
Likewise, just because you are a good author of adult books does not mean that you will be a good author of children’s books. It is an art in its own right!
In a few titles:
1 Children’s and children’s literature, a world apart
2 Which children’s book to write?
2.1 For which age group?
2.2 What style of book?
3 Writing a children’s book: the different stages
3.1 Find inspiration
3.2 A scenario that holds water
3.3 The writing style
3.4 The importance of images
3.5 Working with a designer
4 Publish a children’s book
4.1 Send your book to a publishing house
4.2 Create a children’s book yourself
Children’s and children’s literature, a world apart
Writing for children has not always existed. It only emerged in the 19th century before acquiring its letters of nobility in the 20th century. Originally, children’s books were mostly fables containing a lot of metaphors.
The story was a pretext to instill a certain morality in children: you must not steal, not lie, etc. The studies of hermeneutics (interpretation of literary texts) allowed us to understand that these stories were intended for both children and adults.
Nowadays children’s literature has grown enormously and there are many specialized publishing houses.
Which children’s book to write?
If you want to create a children’s book, you will need to do a little research first. It is not enough to have the imagination; it is also necessary to know your audience well.
Read as many children’s books as possible to immerse yourself in them and go to children’s bookstores. Remember, if your book is to appeal to children, it must also appeal to adults for them to buy.
Writing a children’s book
Nothing more beautiful than to share a book that one could write just for one’s own children.
Ask parents of children, librarians and teachers what they are looking for.
For what age group?
Before you begin, it is essential to determine the age of your future readers. Indeed, a book for young children is radically different from a book for young adolescents! It all depends on your sensitivity as a writer.
The age groups break down globally like this:
· 0–3 years: picture book only, intended to awaken toddlers
· 3–5 years: picture book with a story, to start reading the child
· 5–8 years: a colorful story for children who are still learning to read
· 8–10 years: true story with chapters and a plot that holds the road
· + 10 years: literature for adolescents and young adults
No matter what age group you choose, the most important thing is to adapt to your audience. The older the child, the more you can reduce the number of pictures and increase the number of words in sentences and pages in the book.
Beware of complicated words: be sure to respect the lexical field known by the toddler.
What style of book?
Once you have determined the age of your audience, you need to think about the theme of your book. Will he:
Your book can tell the story of a child or an animal for example. Certain subjects naturally fascinate children, for example:
It all depends on your audience. Likewise, you can choose to write a book with one objective: to make children aware of ecology, to introduce them to the world of space …
Be careful, however, to avoid moral lessons which can quickly displease. Likewise, a children’s book should remain fun and enjoyable to read, not seem like a boring lecture.
Write a secret book
Writing a secret book for children is a treasure.
“In books, children seek the secrets of adults”
Writing a children’s book: the different stages
To write a children’s book, you need to apply yourself as much (if not more) than for an adult book. Children are not fooled and quickly know how to recognize shoddy work!
Unlike adults, they won’t read a book they don’t like and will move on to the next one.
Be as creative as possible. Unlike adults, children will be much less likely to say to themselves “that doesn’t make sense”.
You can therefore give free rein to your imagination and imagine scenarios that are a little crazy or even drawn from your dreams. Try to remember your own childhood: what was your bedside book? What fascinated you?
To make sure you’re on the right track, regularly test your story directly on your target.
A scenario that holds up
Just because it’s a children’s book doesn’t mean it has to be simplistic. Despite their young age, they are quite able to understand a story.
Don’t neglect building your plot and give it as much importance as you would a grown-up book. Likewise, take time to create your characters.
These must be extremely engaging to appeal to your readers. Children love characters who experience epic adventures and come out of them grown up. It is a metaphor for their own evolution.
The writing styles
Every author has his own way of writing. However, when writing for children, you have to follow certain rules and adapt to their young age.
An active rhythm will appeal to young readers: above all, they must not be bored. Use short sentences with accessible vocabulary.
To tell the story, the ideal is to use the first person singular when it comes to young children. Indeed, it helps them to identify with the character. Avoid changing the narrator during the story so as not to lose them.
It is advisable to speak in the present tense, a tense that holds children’s attention better than the past.
The importance of images
Illustrations are crucial in a children’s book, at least as much as words. Up to 7–8 years old, try to put pictures on every page.
From 9 years old, you can gradually reduce the number of illustrations, until you completely remove them from 10–12 years old. For creating the illustrations, you have two choices.
If you are a good designer, you can decide to take care of it yourself. Otherwise, you will need to hire a professional designer. Another solution: embed photos or digital images in your children’s book.
Illustrations and write a children’s book
Children’s writing is important and illustrations so much more
Work with a designer
It is crucial to find a collaborator with whom the current flows well. If you do not know a designer personally, you can post a classified ad on a specialized site.
Clearly explain your book project and the type of designs you are looking for. Ask to see work already done to get an idea of the style of the designer: more caricaturist, manga or poetic?
The important thing is that your two universes match and fit together harmoniously. Once you’ve made your choice, you can make sketches to show your coworker the type of designs you’re looking for.
However, be careful not to restrict his creativity and give him free rein! You will then work closely together. Make regular mutual feedback to progress in good understanding.
Warning: Remember that you will probably have to share the copyright of your book with the illustrator. Talk about it beforehand.
“Reading, an open door to an enchanted world”
Publish a children’s book
Your manuscript is now ready to be read. All that remains is to print it and publish it, which is not always an easy task …
Send your book to a publishing house
First rule: target the publishing houses to which you will send your book. There are dozens of publishing houses specializing in children’s literature.
Do your research to determine which ones would be most likely to publish your book. This will depend on several criteria: age group of readers, type of literature, universe of the publishing house, etc.
The more you target, the more likely you are to be spotted by the right publisher. Don’t be discouraged: the children’s literature industry is often overcrowded and it can be difficult to stand out from the crowd. By dint of persistence and reworking your manuscript until it is perfect, you should achieve your goals.
Create a children’s book yourself
Maybe you are tired of waiting for a response from a publishing house, or maybe you only want your book to be around you. In that case, don’t hesitate to turn to self-publishing.
Write a book for your child
It may seem scary at first because you will have to manage everything from A to Z: proofreading and correction, choice of cover, printing and distribution, communication and promotion… However, it is an adventure rich in lessons and which will fill you with gratitude and pride when you hold your children’s book in your hands.