by Sherrie Wilkolaski

Are you a children’s book author?  Today is your lucky day.  I’m going to give you a few tips on how to write a better children’s book.  Having worked with many children’s book authors throughout my career, I’ve seen it all; authors with traditional publishers, agents, successful and some still trying to find their way.  What takes one children’s book author to the next level and turns that bubble of an idea in to a bestselling reality?  Let’s find out!

Audience.

Understanding your target audience is key.  It may sound cliché, however my experience is that many children’s book authors do not have a grasp on exactly who their reader is.

  • How old are they? I worked with an author who told me she was writing a book for kids in the 6-8 year old range.  Once I read the book, the content was more for the 12-14 age range.  Quite different.  In her mind, she was thinking about a younger age group, but her writing was more mature.  The fact that she wanted color illustrations also did not blend with what she was writing.  I would say it blew my mind, but I’ve seen this many times.
  • What can the audience comprehend, given the readers’ age range? We were all little kids once, so an author must take themselves back to that time in their life and understand what makes sense for a child…at that age. Using words that are not in their vocabulary won’t make for the best book.  Although, there is always an exception…if done right.  “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” comes to mind. Personally I’m not the best reference for what kids like at any given age, so I always bring in an expert.

Illustrations…Yes or No?

As the words “children’s book author” moves from an author’s mouth to my ears, I know that the words “illustrations” will soon follow.  This is an incredible stumbling block for most children’s book authors, however it doesn’t have to be.

  • Are pictures a must or will the book work with text only? Again, I must go back to knowing your audience.  Look at your competition and stick with that style and then make it your own.
  • How to find an illustrator? No matter what type of images you may need for your book, from cartoon characters to stencil drawings, there are so many resources out there.  First, I recommend reaching out a publishing professional to help you locate your best option.  It will save you money in the long run.  You may need an artist, and in some cases you can find royalty-free stock illustrations that will bring just what you want to your book…at a huge savings to your pocketbook.  There are also other graphics technologies that can turn photographs into illustration-like images.  No matter which direction you end up going, be sure to use a professional graphic artist to design the interior.  Children’s books that look homemade…will not sell.

Testing Your Content.  Have you told your story or have you been waiting to share it, once it is just right?  Don’t’ wait!  Get out there and start telling your story.  Do a reading at your local library, the elementary school, day cares and anywhere else you can find that will give you some time to read to your audience.

  • Use the feedback.  Children like to speak their minds, so you will get honest answers.  Did they like the story?  Who was their favorite character?  What did they like best about the book?  What did they like the least?  Would they want to hear the story again?
  • Make improvements.  Don’t be so quick to jump to the finish line. Investing your time in the research and development phase, will help you to publish the best book you can.  Of course, you’ll want a children’s book editor to review your final content to ensure it is all that it can be.

Secret ingredient:  If at the end of the day you produce an amazing children’s book, the next phase is marketing.  If the kids love your work, they will want more and they will tell their friends.  Word of a good children’s book can spread like wildfire.  Stay tuned…we’ll talk about children’s book marketing soon.  Focus on your book production, I don’t want to distract you with marketing just yet!  If your children’s book IS completed…be sure to get your book into the 2012 Bologna Children’s Book Fair, click here for more details.

Image courtesy of Michal Zacharzewski.

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Sherrie Wilkolaski

About Sherrie Wilkolaski

As the founder and president of Author’s Boutique and PubSmart Sherrie Wilkolaski is a Renaissance woman of the publishing industry. She brings to the writer’s table an effective fusion of marketing proficiency, best-selling accolades and a background in journalism. Her international public speaking credentials and social media savvy provide independent authors and traditional publishers a multifaceted strategy to achieving success. Sherrie’s specialized insight into the mechanics of the publishing process resulted in the formation of her distinctive boutique publishing house style, which bridges a client’s status from aspiring writer to published author. As a best-selling author, Sherrie has first-hand knowledge of the creative writing experience and the challenges involved in printing, packaging, marketing, and selling books. She has effectively harnessed the benefits of social media and site promotion to maximize an independent author’s circulation and public readership. In 2011, Sherrie co-founded traditional publishing house Pressque Publishing and is a consultant and publishing services broker for a number of small to mid-sized publishers and printers, including HP, and Infinity Publishing. She is columnist for Press Pass, Publisher and Editor of Luxe Beat Magazine and a featured blogger on a variety of industry publications. She is the former Director of Publishing Services at Lulu. Sherrie’s new radio program, PubSmart, is launching later this year. Sherrie sits on the board of the International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association and was a featured speaker at the 2013 Annual Conference in Hawaii presenting, “The Power of a Book”: How to Use a Book to Enhance Your Career/Credibility as a Journalist”. A global conference speaker, she addressed members of the HP Dscoop Graphic Arts Asia Conference in Beijing, China in 2013. Sherrie is the author of best-selling book, “How to Start a Wedding Planning Business” and the popular coffee table book series, “Cookies and Cocktails”. Her much-anticipated book “How to Bulletproof Your Book” is scheduled to launch in the fall of 2013. Sherrie is a broadcast journalism alumnus of SUNY College at Buffalo and is a 2012 graduate of the Yale Publishing Course.