How to Write a Children’s Book: The Dos and Don’ts and Everything in Between – Kotobee Blog

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Have you ever thought about creating a children’s book but weren’t sure where to begin? It may seem like a simple task because we were all kids ourselves at one point, but as adults, we can lose sight of what it is like to be a kid.

J. M. Barrie, author of the famous children’s novel Peter and WendyWhen writing a book for children, a writer must strive to recall their childlike naïveté and trust. This is the beginning. Then, adults can come in to help by teaching the importance of being discerning and questioning information. This is the difference between the two: children believe, while adults learn to doubt.

This article provides a look into the various categories of children’s books, advice on crafting stories for young readers, a comprehensive guide on how to transform a concept into a published work, and a compilation of pitfalls to watch out for during the process.

Do you have a burning desire to understand the process of creating and bringing out a children’s book? If so, let’s start!

Types of Children’s Books

Children’s literature covers everything from ages 0 to 18. The children’s book industry typically divides this wide age range into smaller ones, and offers six main typesThere is a wide selection of children’s books available, that are tailored to fit different age brackets. To provide an overview of what is available, let’s begin by categorizing the books.

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1. Board Books 

Board books are an ideal present for babies because of their small size and durability. They have rounded edges to keep little hands safe and their pages are made of thick cardboard, making them resistant to damage. These books are usually 6 x 6 inches in size.

  • Reader Age Group: 0 to 3 years
  • Topics: Board books tend to be educational, with very simple plots (if any) and basic vocabulary. They can be used to introduce children to colors, numbers, animals, shapes, etc.
  • Length: Standard board books are usually a maximum of 20 pages or about 300 words. 
  • Design: Illustrations outweigh the text in board books. They rely on bright and colorful pictures to attract the attention of the youngest readers in the children’s book market. 
  • Examples
    • Counting on the Earth, illustrated by Ekaterina Trukhan
    • Forever My Baby, written by Kate Lockwood; illustrated by Jacqueline East

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2. Picture Books 

Picture books can be seen as an extension of board books, as they share many similarities. Both are heavily reliant on illustrations, however picture books contain more text and are made of paper rather than paperboard. Additionally, picture books often have an underlying plot, unlike board books which focus on more abstract topics or facts.

  • Reader Age Group: 3 to 6 years
  • Topics: The plot in picture books is still very basic, so topics can vary as long as they are easy to grasp. There is also usually the main character for readers to follow (often a child or an animal). 
  • Length: The number of pages can range from 8 to 48 pages, but the standard length is 32 pages, with a maximum word count of 900 words.
  • Design: Illustrations are still vital for picture books, and it’s standard to have one for each page. The format is slightly larger than board books: typically 8 x 10 or 8 x 8 inches. Picture books also come in different orientations: vertical (like typical books), horizontal, or square (like board books). 
  • Examples
    • Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons, by James Dean; illustrated by Eric Litwin
    • Stella: The Shark Who Loves Treasure, by Sarah Cullen and Carmen Ellis; illustrated by Zuzana Svobodova 

3. Early Readers

Also known as Easy Readers, these types of books are designed for children who can read basic texts, but not yet at a level that would allow them to start reading longer books. Publishers generally group their Easy Readers into levels of difficulty and series, providing parents with an easier path to choosing the right book for their child.

  • Reader Age Group: 6 to 8 years.
  • Topics: Early readers cover topics that are relevant to budding readers. They tend to be about friends, family members, and/or pets, and employ simple sentence structure to convey the story.
  • Length: Depending on the level, the word count ranges from 1,000 to 3,000 words.
  • Design: Still heavily illustrated, but with far more text than picture books. Their format tends to be that of a standard adult paperback: 6 x 9 inches. 
  • Examples
    • A Pig, a Fox, and Stinky Socks by Jonathan Fenske
    • The Bravest Dog Ever: The True Story of Balto by Natalie Standiford; illustrated by Donald Cook

4. Chapter Books 

Children who are independent readers can benefit from chapter books. These books contain plots that are more complex and introduce readers to more sophisticated language than traditional children’s books.

One of the most significant aspects of reading adult books is that they are divided in a traditional way. In addition, readers will often be left with a cliffhanger at the end of one chapter, making them eager to read the next.

  • Reader Age Group: 8 to 10 years
  • Topics: Since plots are more complicated in chapter books, there is room to explore an even wider variety of topics as long as they are appropriate for children. In other words, the content should be engaging and relatable, while also remaining suitable for a young age group. 
  • Length: The word count for chapter books ranges from 4,000 to 12,000 words, with 4,000 being considered shorter than average, and anything above 10,000 being longer. 
  • Design: Chapter books have some illustrations spread throughout the book (rather than being on every page) and tend to be black and white sketches rather than color illustrations. The format tends to be a standard 6 x 9, but the chapters are short (some can be as short as 2 or 3 pages long) and paragraphs also range from 2 to 4 lines each. 
  • Examples
    • Zoey and Sassafras: Dragons and Marshmallows by Asia Citro; illustrated by Marion Lindsay
    • Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl; illustrated by Quentin Blake 

5. Middle-Grade Novels 

Middle-grade novels, sometimes referred to as pre-teen books, are an intermediary step between chapter books and young adult novels. They are typically longer than chapter books and contain more detailed descriptions and more sophisticated plot lines with multiple subplots. Additionally, the themes in middle-grade novels are more complex than in chapter books.

  • Reader Age Group: 9 to 12 years (pre-teen years)
  • Topics: As mentioned earlier, starting from chapter books, topics can range widely. Just take a look at the titles of chapter books and middle-grade novels and you’ll see how utterly silly or strictly serious they can be! However, with middle-grade novels, themes can be a bit darker and/or more complex than those of chapter books. Genres can range from historical fiction and fantasy, to simple biographies and other nonfiction works.  
  • Length: The word count for middle-grade novels can range from 20,000 to 40,000 words.
  • Design: Middle-grade novels contain little to no illustrations. Paragraphs and chapters are longer than those of chapter books. They tend to have a standard format of 6 x 9 inches but are of course much thicker than chapter books due to the jump in the word count.
  • Examples
    • Wonder by R. J. Palacio 
    • The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Steward; illustrated by Carson Ellis
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6. Young Adults Novels

Reaching the last type of children’s book, the young adult novel, also known as YA, is made for an older demographic of kids. The issues explored in these stories are similar to middle-grade novels, but they are presented in much greater detail. YA books are tailored to teenagers and the issues they face in their daily lives.

  • Reader Age Group: 12 to 18 years
  • Topics: Just like middle-grade novels, YA novels cover a wide range of topics and genres; however, they typically do so from the perspective of teenagers. Therefore, they tend to discuss topics such as sexuality, bullying, dating, and coming of age.  
  • Length: YA novels can range between 40,000 to 120,000 words, depending on the genre and the level of complexity of the plot. 
  • Design: YA novels don’t contain any illustrations (unless these are pertinent to the story, such as with graphic novels). They can be as long as “adult” novels and if successful, they tend to be published as both paperback and hardback editions. They tend to follow a standard format of 6 x 9 inches. 
  • Examples
    • Looking for Alaskaby John Green 
    • The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky 

A Step-by-Step Guide to Writing a Children’s Book

Are you sure which kind of children’s book you want to compose? Now is the ideal time to take a look at a comprehensive guide on how to create and publish your new work of art.

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Step 1: Choose Your Target Readers

As a children’s author, you are addressing youngThe interests of readers can be quite different depending on the age group they belong to. For instance, a six-year-old and a sixteen-year-old would not likely read the same book. Because of this, it is important to consider who your target reader is when writing a book; this includes the content, structure, format, design, and even the paper type you decide to use.

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Step 2: Find Your Idea

Consider the potential market for your children’s book when developing your idea. While there is no limit to what you could write about, a more original concept will help you stand out. Even if the idea has been explored before in other books, a new way of presenting it on the page can make a huge difference.

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Step 3: Do Your Research—and Read!

Now that you are aware of who your intended audience is and have a great concept in mind, it is time to conduct some research. What other books are out there within your same genre and category? How have they advertised themselves to children? How can you make your book unique compared to the others?

By posing inquiries, you are performing your own market research which increases the likelihood of your book being successful. After surveying what is available, it is time to start reading! The more books you read in your genre, the more certain you will be in the way you design your book and offer the accurate information.

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Step 4: Create Your Main Character

Creating a successful story for kids necessitates careful consideration of the protagonist. It is important to craft a character that is recognizable yet distinct enough to intrigue young readers. To bring your protagonist to life, consider the following questions:

  1. What is a unique physical feature they have?
  2. What are their strengths and weaknesses?
  3. What are five things they hate?
  4. What’s their favorite hobby? 
  5. Why have you chosen them to lead your story?

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Step 5: Choose Your Conflict 

No matter how straightforward the plot may be, there needs to be a source of contention in order to move the narrative along and cause the characters to evolve. The type of conflict featured in a children’s book depends on what type of story it is and who it is aimed at.

An example of a conflict in literature targeting five-year-olds could be a cat trapped in a tree, while a story aimed at young adults may feature a character who is continuously harassed in school.

Step 6: Dive Right into the Story

When writing a book for children, especially those in the younger age groups, it is important to be aware of the limited space available. Texts should be kept as concise as possible, with brief chapters that keep the story flowing. This creates a sense of momentum that will draw the reader in and keep them captivated by the main events.

When crafting a picture book about a boy and his lost dog, it’s important to keep readers engaged from the start. This means there isn’t much of an opportunity to provide a significant amount of context or elaborate description. The focus should be on creating a captivating story that will have readers hooked from the outset, such as having the boy lose his dog right away.

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Step 7: Don’t Drag Out the Ending

The conclusion of a tale usually takes place after the resolution of the plot’s struggle has been reached. Endings in children’s literature should usually not be longer than a few pages. The reason for this is that the reader has already gone through the entirety of the thrills your book provides.

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The plot of this story revolves around May and her feline companion. May embarks on an adventure with her pet cat, encountering obstacles and challenges along the way. As the story progresses, May and her cat form a special bond, ultimately discovering the importance of friendship and loyalty.


ConflictMrs. May experiences the disappointment of not being able to locate Mr. Whiskerton, however, her search is immediately fruitful, as she soon finds him perched in a tree.


Falling Action:


The excitement of the story has been intense! Now that the fire brigade has come to the rescue of Mr. Whiskerton, it’s time to finish off the tale. A great way to do this is with a page that shows May happily embracing her cat, safe and sound at last.

Step 8: Write a Draft, and then Rewrite it 

A common fear that writers have is the intimidating blank page when they start writing their book. However, the best remedy for this problem is to simply start writing. It may not be perfect right away, but there will be something to build on.

So use steps 1 to 5 to build your confidence in the work you’re about to write and just put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard!). Once you have a complete first draft, then you can start your self-editingThis HTML paragraph outlines the basics of creating a website. Creating a website is a straightforward process. It involves selecting a domain name, choosing hosting and building the website. To get started, you will need to select a domain name that suits your website and register it with a hosting provider. After registering, you can then build your website using a web development platform, such as WordPress. Finally, you can add content and customize your website to make it unique.

Step 9: Choose Your Title

Having a great title for your book can be one of the most important elements of marketing it. It is the first thing that both readers and publishers will become aware of, so it is imperative that it grabs their attention. For example, if you spoke to an agent or publisher and said “I am writing a book about dragons attending a dance school,” the first question they would likely ask is “What is it called?”

Creating a memorable title is essential for children’s books as it is the first thing readers see. The title can be eye-catching, unusual, or entertaining, which will draw the attention of young readers. Along with the cover, the title will help the book stand out in the market.

For example, you can use alliteration (The Wind in the Willows; Horrible Histories), rhyme (The Cat in the Hat; It’s Time to Wake, Jake!), exaggeration (Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day)

It is clear that titles play an essential role in writing, so why is Step 8 dedicated to choosing them? The answer is that it is not always easy to come up with the perfect title before the story is written. You may have a general idea to begin with, but when you reach the end of the book, it may no longer be suitable. Writing the story should come first and then the ideal title will become apparent.

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Step 10: Gather Your Beta Readers 

Before putting your manuscript out there, it is essential to have it read by beta readers. As your book is aimed at children, it is important to be selective when choosing your readers. Although feedback from other children’s authors can be beneficial, the best comments are likely to come from parents and their kids. After all, they are the ones who will ultimately be purchasing the book and so can offer the most accurate insights into what works and what does not.

If you have children of your own, you’re in luck! Simply give them the manuscript and ask what they think (just like J. R. R. Tolkien did with his two sons when writing The Lord of the Rings trilogy). Or if you’re writing for a very young age group, test out your work by reading it aloud to them. For more detailed guidance on how to make the most out of your beta readers, check out this article

Step 11: Hire a Professional Editor 

So you’ve written andAfter revising your book based on the feedback from your beta readers, it’s time to give yourself a pat on the back for all your hard work. If you are new to writing for children, the next step is to hire a professional editor to further perfect your book.

But you’re not just looking for any editor; you need a professional children’s editor who specializes in books for your target age group and genre. Finally, if you’re not sure where to look for an editor, the Editorial Freelancers Association

Step 12: Get to Publishing

The journey of creating a children’s book has finally come to a close. Now, it is time to decide how to get it published. There are two paths that can be taken:

  • Self-publishing: If you’ve decided to self-publish your book, you might need to hire an illustrator, depending on the category your work falls under.  If you’re not an illustrator yourself and you’re writing a picture book or an early reader, you will definitely need to hire an artist. 

But don’t panic—unless your book heavily depends on illustrations, you won’t have to do so until your text is complete. Here’s a great articleSearching for the right illustrator for your book can be a daunting task. To help, consider the following tips: research illustrators online, look for portfolios that match the style you are envisioning for your book, narrow your search to a handful of candidates, and arrange an interview to discuss the project in more detail. By following these steps, you can find the perfect illustrator for your book.

  • Traditional publishing: If you’re going down the traditional publishing route, you probably won’t get to choose the illustrator you work with. Instead, most publishers will want to pair you with an illustrator of their choice. Later in this article, we provide you with a list of top children’s publishers. 

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Dos and Don’ts When Writing Children’s Books: A Checklist

Congratulations for making it to this section! Here are five golden tips for children’s book authors, along with five common mistakes to avoid. As you write, keep the list of tips nearby and see how many you can check off before tackling the list of mistakes to avoid.

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The Dos Checklist:

  • Your book has the right tone of voice that demonstrates authorial confidence without “babying” the reader or patronizing them. 
  • Your book includes vocabulary that is suitable for your target readers. Remember, if it’s too easy, they’ll feel talked down to, and if it’s too difficult they won’t have the confidence or will to read on.
  • Your book is of an appropriate length compared to other books in the same category.
  • Your book has character(s) with flaws as well as strengths. This is a sign of great characterization. In doing so, you make your characters feel real (even if they’re wizards or half-elves). When your characters feel real, your readers will believe in them. 
  • Your book is entertaining for young readers but can entertain their parents, too. This is not a must, but it’s definitely a plus. 

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The Don’ts List:

  • Don’t include too much text in picture books: your readers are at a more visual age, and the text mainly serves to complement the illustrations. 
  • Don’t model your book on other children’s books from your childhood. Although some books are classics that stand the test of time, it’s always better to get inspiration from current bestsellers.
  • Don’t choose a cover simply because you like its aesthetic; a cover makes a book’s first impression, and they are extremely important, especially for young children. Choose a cover that helps tell your story. 
  • Don’t make your book sound preachy. If there’s anything kids have enough of, it’s instructions on how to behave. Even if your book aims to teach children something, make sure the message is subtle and not too direct.
  • And finally, don’t go into children’s writing thinking it’s the easy way out because of shorter lengths and word counts. Writing books for children is an art and it takes talent and perseverance to get it right. After all, children can be the most honest of critics! 

Where to Publish Your Children’s Book

There are many ways you can get your book published: self-publishing, hybrid publishing, or traditional publishing. If you decided, however, that you prefer to self-publish your book and gain full control over the creative process, then here is an article that will help you do just that: Best Free Digital Publishing Platforms for Aspiring Authors.

You can also learn how to use Kotobee Author to create some outstanding interactive books for childrenFor those interested in becoming published authors, here is a compilation of some of the excellent children’s book publishers and presses that we find noteworthy.

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Random House Children’s Books

  • Children Categories: Babies and toddlers, beginning readers, intermediate readers, and young adults.
  • Examples of Bestsellers: Hattie Harmony: Worry Detective and Goodnight Racism 
  • Submissions: Manuscripts can only be submitted through literary agents.

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Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

  • Children Categories: Picture books, middle grade, young adult, and graphic novels.
  • Examples of Bestsellers: Think Big, Little One and The Wild Robot
  • Submissions: Manuscripts can only be submitted through literary agents.

HarperCollins Children’s Books

  • Children Categories: Board books, picture books, early readers, middle-grade readers, and teen/young adults.
  • Examples of Bestsellers: Stacey’s Extraordinary Words and Who Are Your People?
  • Submissions: All manuscripts must be submitted through a literary agent, except when submitting to the children’s native-focused imprint Heartdrum.

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Macmillan Children’s Book Publishing Group

  • Children’s Categories: Baby and toddler, young readers, children’s classics, children’s poetry, and young adult.
  • Examples of Bestsellers: The Gruffalo and Children of Blood and Bone
  • Submissions: All manuscripts must be submitted through literary agents.

Flying Eye Books

  • Children’s Categories: Picture books and children’s books for up to 14 years (including fiction and nonfiction).
  • Examples of Bestsellers: Professor Astro Cat’s Frontiers of Space and I Ate Sunshine for Breakfast
  • Submissions: Author submissions accepted for picture books and illustrated non-fiction books

Thames and Hudson

  • Children’s Categories: Activity books, picture books. pop-up books, non-fiction children’s books.
  • Examples of Bestsellers: Out to Seaand If I Had a Dinosaur
  • Submissions: Authors can send their proposals.

Laurence King Publishing

  • Children’s Categories: Picture books, activity books, and non-fiction books for young adults.
  • Examples of Bestsellers: Little Guides to Great Lives: Anne Frank and A Book of Monkeys (and Other Primates)
  • Submissions: Author can submit their work directly through email.  

Firefly Press

  • Children’s Categories: Younger readers, middle grade, and young adults.
  • Examples of Bestsellers: Crater Lakeand Lori and Max
  • Submissions: Author and illustrator submissions accepted (but only occasionally for works of fiction).

If you decided, however, that you prefer to self-publish your book and gain full control over the creative process, then here is an article that will help you do just that: Best Free Digital Publishing Platforms for Aspiring Authors.

Or you can find a middle ground and go with a hybrid publisherRather than relying on someone else for creative input, you can have someone to support you throughout the creative process and empower you to have control over your work.

And if you want to go the digital route and publish your ebook as an electronic book then you can use Kotobee Author to create some outstanding interactive ebooks for children.

Final Thoughts

Creating a children’s book can be an intensive process, however the reward of impacting the lives of young readers is worth it. Now that you are aware of the steps to take, there is nothing stopping you from writing a successful book.

When writing for children, it is essential to consider the age of your intended audience. Avoid including topics that may be too mature or complex for them. Children’s stories should be filled with the innocence and wonder of childhood.

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Frequently asked questions

Q1. What kind of book should I write?

This will depend on a variety of factors, such as the age range of your target audience, your writing style and storytelling abilities, and the type of message you would like to convey. Take some time to research the types of children’s literature that are popular, and consider what kind of book would be the most engaging and enjoyable to write.

Q2. How do I come up with a story idea?

Brainstorming is a great way to come up with story ideas. Think about your own experiences, or draw inspiration from the stories of others. Once you have an idea, you can use it as the basis for your book. You can also use online tools such as story idea generators or writing prompts to help you come up with ideas.

Q3. How do I create characters?

Your characters should be interesting and relatable, and should have a unique personality. You can create characters by researching the types of people that your target audience would identify with, and by modeling them after people you know. You can also use online tools such as character name generators to help you come up with names and personalities.

Q4. What is the best way to structure my story?

The structure of your story will depend on the genre and length of your book. Generally, it is best to start with a strong introduction, provide a clear plot, and have a satisfying resolution. You may also wish to include subplots and foreshadowing to give your story a more complex plot. Consider outlining your story before you begin writing.

Q5. What other elements should I include?

Illustrations are often important for children’s books, so consider working with an illustrator. You may also wish to include elements such as songs, activities, or games to help engage your readers. Consider your target audience and how to best capture their interest when adding these elements to your book.

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