What can possibly be easier than writing a book for kids? You don’t need to chalk out a long, logical storyline, characters do not have to be developed, and little readers are not going to complain if your book has hardly any repeat reading value. These are precisely the sort of misconceptions that any aspiring writer of kids’ books might have. Present-day preschoolers are a smart lot, and to get them engaged in reading, a book needs to have certain specific qualities. If you wish to write a book for the little ones, the following tips would be useful:
- Think beyond angels and fairy princesses – Disney has been there and done that. Tales with fairies and princes and demons tend to follow a set pattern, and you cannot really break out of it. That, in turn, rules out any possibility of your book becoming more popular than those churned out by other authors and self-publication houses. When parents buy books online for their kids, they look for stories with a modicum of originality. Cliched fairy magic and handsome young princes would no longer cut it.
- Think as a child – When you are writing for toddlers, you have to think like them. Many writers make the mistake of adopting a condescending tone while penning kids’ tales – which, as a result, seem boring to the little readers. Take time out to recall what type of stories used to fascinate you the most when you were of that age. Follow those ideas, and make sure that the plots you have thought are not dated.
- Do some advance research – Before starting to write, you should have a proper idea about the type of books that appeal the most to present-generation kids. And how would you get that? Simple enough. Browse through a few online bookstores, and check out the titles that are doing well at these places. You can also buy a couple of books and read through, just as references. Do not get ‘too heavily inspired’ from anyone else’s work though!
- Don’t underestimate the importance of pictures – A fat book with hundreds of text-only pages is precisely the sort of thing children stay away from. Colorful pictures and graphics are the life and soul of any children’s storybook. Ideally every page should have some text, and a couple of nice, interesting (you can introduce some fun element too) pictures. The average attention span of kids is way less than that of adults, and you must not bore your readers.
- Include a message in every story – And kindly make it subtle. One of the factors that has held up the popularity of Aesop’s fables to this date is the morales that each of them is accompanied with. It’s only natural that parents would look to purchase books online or from stores which would offer their kids some valuable life-lessons. ‘Just for fun’ books aren’t bad, but you can do better.
- Short sentences, easy words, simple presentation – An acclaimed English scholar need not necessarily be a successful writer of kids’ storybooks. The key lies in presenting the tales in a manner that the targeted readers find easy to grasp/understand. That invariably means the use of short, crisp sentences (not more than 6-8 words maximum). Stay away from using words that might be common enough for you, but tough for a 3-4 year old child. You cannot expect him/her to consult a dictionary to understand your writing, can you?
- Make your book interactive – Two-way communication is a must-have feature of well-conceived books for children. If you go through the best books online, you will find that each of them has puzzles, word games, treasure hunts, info tidbits and other such interesting add-ons. You can add small quizzes about the characters of your story as well. They would motivate kids to read your stories more carefully.
- Keep reading your own work – You won’t finish writing a kids’ book overnight, and it would be a huge mistake to even try doing that. Instead of being in a tearing hurry to finish and launch your book, take time out to read every passage that you write out. If you feel that kids might find any sentence/section of the story rather confusing, rephrase it in a simpler way. In fact, repeated revisions are vital for all writers – irrespective of whether they are writing a short childrens’ tale or a novel.
- Network with other writers - There are plenty of online communities of writers, on Facebook, Google Plus and other social media channels. Join a few of them (you can create your own writers’ group as well) and exchange ideas and creative thoughts with your peers. Keep track of the literary seminars and workshops that are held throughout the year. They are excellent sources for picking up valuable pointers to take up your writing skills by a few notches.
- Stay in touch with leading kids’ book publishers – The reason for this is simple: they know what type of books are in demand. Take a look at the list of best-selling books at the top online bookstores as well. Apart from getting an idea about what the ideal writing style and pattern should be, you will also gain some knowledge about the pricing strategy of your book. Above all, unless you are going for self-publication, your book needs to convince a publishing house.
- Do not aim to earn fat royalties from your first book – Successful authors earn in millions, but it takes time to reach that podium. First-time writers have to put their money-making concerns in the back-burner, and instead, make sure that their stories would indeed appeal to young readers. In addition, it would be a faulty strategy to attach inordinately high price tags to your books. People who buy kids’ books online or from stores have plenty of options – and it won’t be difficult for them to find cheaper and equally good (maybe better!) storybooks.
- Foster your readers’ imagination – At the very outset, we had advised you to stay away from writing cliched fairy tales. That, however, does not mean you should write only about everyday happenings – in which a tiny li’l kid would be least interested in. There should be enough elements in your book that would stoke the fantasies and imaginative powers of young readers. They should have the scope of thinking about things beyond what is written in your book. For instance, a inter-galactic sci-fi book should encourage kids to think about planets and galaxies.
- Connect with your readers – This is very important. Even before you put pen to paper (or start writing on your computer, for that matter) – start building a relationship with your targeted readers. Doing this is hardly difficult – create a Facebook page to connect with young kids and/or their parents. You can share snippets from your upcoming book, and find out how they are received by the potential buyers. Social media channels are a very powerful tool for generating a pre-release buzz for your books.
- Consider what might not be suitable for kids – Many famous fairytales authored by The Brothers Grimm have elements that are thoroughly unsuitable for the impressionable minds of kids. If you are planning to put a fresh spin on these ‘tried, tested and successful’ stories, make sure that you replace these unsavory bits with more kid-friendly stuff. Your books should never have a negative influence on readers.
Proper exposure and visibility – both at online bookstores for kids as well as physical bookstores – is important for generating a decent initial sales figure. Find out how you can manage this. Your style of writing should maintain a balance between ‘too tough’ and ‘too boringly simple’ (modern-day kids are an intelligent lot). Try to think out-of-the-box, include unexpected plot twists, and always have a happy ending (tragedies are for older readers, please!). For many, it is a challenge to write in a simple, lucid, appealing language – and you have to focus on mastering that skill. Follow these tips, and you should be able to start writing nice kids’ storybooks soon enough!