Over the last couple of months, we have met people who have been thinking about publishing their own children’s books but do not know where to start. Sometimes the process of writing and publishing a book, especially a children’s book can seem daunting but like anything, it is doable if you know what you are doing. Since this is up our alley, we have put together a list of things you should think about as you work on your book.
Doing research on the book industry is a great place to start from when thinking of publishing a book. One can go to libraries, bookshops and visit online bookshops to examine the types of children’s books that are already on the market. In Ghana we have various bookshops and libraries however very few cater to only children.
Luckily Booskie has a wide variety of African children’s fiction books in its online bookshop. Our reading center also has a library for children which can also be helpful for knowing the types of books that have already been published. Market research can be done by interviewing teachers, parents, librarians among others on the books and stories that children like.
Know your target audience
It is important to know the market you are writing for. For a children’s book, you have to decide on the category of fiction or non fiction you would want to write on. Generally, children’s fiction books can be divided into baby books, picture books, chapter books, middle grade books and young adults.
Baby books are typically board books that are suitable for a newborn to the age of three. These are hard and steady and designed to be ‘mistreated’ by very young children who won’t know how to handle books.
Picture books are suitable for children between the ages of three and eight. Usually, when people think about writing children’s books they think about picture books. Picture books are usually 32 pages long with illustrations included. The sweet spot word count wise is 500-600 although it may go to about 1000 words.
Chapter books are usually targeted at children between the ages of seven and 10. Whereas picture books have pictures playing an essential role in the story, chapter books are prose heavy and have very few pictures. Word count wise, they are usually about 10,000 words long.
Middle grade books
Middle grade books are for children between the ages of eight and 12 and have word counts between 20,000 and 50,000. They are more complex in theme and style than picture books and avoid topics such as sex and drugs.
Young adult books
Young adult books usually referred to as YA books are typically written for children between the ages of 12 and 18 years. They usually have teenagers as the characters and have coming of age themes.
Prepare your manuscript
Using market research and target audience knowledge can help guide you when preparing your manuscript. In writing a book you have to decide on the plot, characters, setting, climax and resolution of a story. Characters of the story must be interesting enough to excite young readers. The plot should be simple not to confuse them. Writing a story entails using correct grammar and vocabulary thus it is very important to edit your work several times after writing it.
It's also imperative to give your work to a professional editor to edit it. This is where we find many books lacking and would strongly recommend working with a professional editor. An editor corrects all grammatical and spelling errors, fixes verb tenses, and improves the style of writing. Most importantly, an editor will enhance the story’s concept, the characters and dialogue. You can reach out to us at Booksie for the contact details of Ghana based editors.
Sample your work
After your work has been completed and edited it can be sampled by your target audience. A draft of the book can be given to a child to read and review. The feedback will help examine how well the target audience understands the story, is able to relate to the characters and if they enjoyed the story or not. Comments from the book can inform a writer on what to do next.
Writers might need to edit the book, rewrite the story or change certain aspects of the story. The draft can also be given to parents since they are the ones who purchase the books for the children. Feedback can be sought from people who have some knowledge or experience in the children’s book industry. Parents can give advice on the type of stories or information which they would not want their children reading. Teachers, educationists and librarians can also advise on the concepts and ideas written in the book. Booksie has a vibrant reading club and our community can help if you need readers to review your work.
Decide on a publishing method
One thing you need to consider is a publishing route for your children’s book. There are generally two ways of publishing books these days. You can decide to self publish or use a publishing agency. Self publishing is publishing a book without an established publisher. With self publishing the author has control over all the aspects of publishing the book and it’s process. The author decides on the number of pages, the language, illustration of the book and the quality of the book. The author owns the rights and royalties to the book. Self publishing is generally more expensive than using an established publisher. Getting distribution channels and marketing the books can also be a challenge. However in recent times self publishing has become easier because of the internet and the rise of online shopping. There are various platforms and online bookshops that are ready to sell digital copies of a book.
Using an established publisher or publishing company will give an author limited creative control over the book. The publisher will decide on many aspects in publishing the book with little or no input from the author. The publishing company also owns the rights and royalties to the book. Publishing companies take the cost of producing the book and are responsible for marketing and distribution of the finished book. They get to decide on the type of illustration that should be used and may even edit some of the content in the book.
Visit our Reading Centre in North Ridge for writing and publishing advice from our Creator who has industry knowledge and is experienced in teaching children how to read. We also have a community of readers who are ready to give feedback on a book.