Writing a children's book is tough. Writing a successful children's book can be even tougher. Today, more than ever, grabbing a child's attention can be challenging. With a myriad entertainment options comes less time for reading. Plus, there's more competition out there than ever. So how can you ensure kids decide to spend time with your book out of all the other things they could do with their time?
The answer ranges from knowing your audience to reading other great children's books to tapping into children's imaginations today. Here are five of the best ways to be a successful children's book author in 2020.
1. Know your audience
First and foremost, you should know who you're writing for. This is key to writing for any audience and is worth exploring in depth. If you think 'Children's Books' is one, all-encompassing category, think again.
Is your book a picture book, or is it a beginning chapter book? Children's books can be further categorized into chapter books, graphic novels, and non-fiction books. Each category targets a different audience. Try to remember how different your interests were when you were six compared to when you were a teen.
Identifying your audience is a great way to determine your genre. Here is a list of the most common children's literature genres:
· Realistic Fiction,
· Historical Fiction,
· Fairy Tales,
· Biography, and
Again, kids of different ages have different interests, so think carefully about the genre of your children's book. More often than not, being competitive means specializing: the narrower your target audience, the better.
2. Keep up with the trends
If you want your children's book to be competitive, then it's a good idea to keep an eye on what's popular in today's market. Take a look at the bestseller lists (New York Times, Amazon, and Penguin Randomhouse are good places to start).
If you haven't heard of David Walliams’, The Diary of a Wimpy Kid, The Tiger Who Came to Tea or Dog Man, you might want to take a glance at the top sellers at the moment. This doesn't mean you should copy their ideas, but if you are going to compete with them, you should get to know what is, and isn't, popular with your target audience.
3. Read the greats
Keeping track of what's happening now is a great way to stay competitive. However, there's always a danger of trying to catch a wave after it's passed. Oftentimes, the thing that makes competitive books stand out is their unique take on a familiar genre (think Eragon and The Hunger Games).
In order to be a popular children's author, try reading popular children's books from the past, especially those written for your audience. It's a good idea to remind yourself of some of the most inspiring quotes from children's books too.
There are thousands of excellent children's books out there, but here's a list of some of my favourites to get you started:
- Charlotte's Web
- Where the Wild Things Are
- The Very Hungry Caterpillar
- The Harry Potter Series
- Any book by Roald Dahl
- Any book by Dr. Seuss
- Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
- The Hobbit
4. When it comes to technology – tread carefully
The age of information gives us access to many new technologies and ways of reaching our audience. While this can be a huge benefit for authors as it opens the door to a potentially global audience, it's worth reminding ourselves of the potential pitfalls and traps we can fall into when using, or misusing, technology.
Try to be mindful of how you use technology. Ask yourself if it's integral to your book, or is it a gimmick? If it's a gimmick, it will probably weigh your ideas down until you sink beneath the competition.
Try to think about how your book will look in 5 years. How about 50 years? Will the story outlast the medium? Books written on floppy discs and mailed to readers might have seemed like a great idea in 1995. Only a decade and a half later, though, and they're nowhere to be seen.
Last but not least, it's worth talking about trends. Children are society's trendsetters, and there's a genuine danger of missing the mark by trying to keep up with the kids. Slang, fads, and fashions change quickly and could easily date your book.
5. Some things never change
Technology, fads, trends, and markets change, but the power of children's imaginations remains constant. Children choose what's best, so don't try to be over predictive. Try to get better at freeing your imagination instead of spending too much time on bestseller lists.
If you want to be competitive as a children's author, think about creating dynamic, interesting characters; weird and wonderful settings; and intriguing and exciting plots. If you're wondering how to write a children's book, try to tick all those boxes. You'll have kids lining up all over the world to buy your book!
What did you read as a child
If you want to be competitive as a children's author in 2020, keep these five different methods in mind. Try to keep up-to-date with trends as well as reading plenty of classics. Be mindful of your audience as well as how you're employing technology.
And finally, try to write a book that you would love to have read as a child. If you love it, chances are others will too.
Rachael Cooper is the SEO & Publishing Manager for Jericho Writers, a writers services company based in the UK and US. Rachael has a Masters in eighteenth-century literature and specialises in female sociability. In her free time, she writes articles on her favourite eighteenth-century authors and, if all else fails, you can generally find her reading and drinking tea!
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