The 5 Most Common Mistakes Aspiring Children’s Book Authors Are Making
by Eevi Jones
When it comes to creating a beautiful children’s book, it pays to have a plan. And if not a plan, then at the very least a list of the most common mistakes to avoid when it comes to fulfilling your dream of becoming a children’s book author.
While making these mistakes can be quite costly, both in terms of time and financial resources, preventing them is fairly easy if you’re aware of them and know what to look out for.
Working with many aspiring children’s book authors, here are the most common mistakes I come across over and over again.
1. Not Knowing Your Who
There is a great quote by Meredith Hill:
“If you speak to everyone, you’re speaking to no one.”
And the same holds true for writing books.
The number one mistake I see being made by aspiring children’s book authors is that they don’t think about whom they are actually writing their story for. Most of us get so very excited about our story idea, that we simply start writing without first asking ourselves “Who is this story for? What age group am I trying to reach?”
More often than not I hear my clients and students say that their book is perfect for ALL ages. Now, I know that we as authors tend to love our stories. And we really do believe that every child would and should love and enjoy our book. But sadly, that’s just not possible.
To make any children’s book a success, we have to have a target audience in mind.
Now, when I say “Target Audience,” what exactly do I mean by that?
“Target Audience” is really a marketing term. And in our case, it describes an audience that an author intends to write his or her book for.
This, of course, is nothing new. In fact, we have the same audience targeting going on for books in other genres. For example, the book Do It Scared by author Ruth Soukup is definitely meant to speak and appeal mainly to females. More specifically, females that are also mothers and entrepreneurs.
But while the targeting for other genres can be rather broad as described with Ruth’s book, we have to be a bit more age-specific when it comes to children’s books. And here’s why:
Children’s books cover many years of our little ones. These are the years they develop cognitively the most, so each stage requires a different structure and setup of our books. And so, adapting to each stage and its cognitive ability is important if we want our books to be meaningful, educational, and fun.
Now, there are a number of different types of children’s books, and for my book How To Self-Publish A Children’s Book I created a list of the most common ones. Please know that there is no one true or accurate list of children’s book categories. This is simply meant to give you an idea of the basic word count and the associated age group.
To show you what a difference a couple of years can make, let’s look at two examples side by side: Jamberry for 2-5 year-olds by Bruce Degen and Amelia Bedelia for 6-10 year-olds by Herman Parish.
Looking at Jamberry’s double spread on the left, we see that the bright and colorful illustration extends across the entire two pages. The text is just 4 short rhyming lines, using very simple vocabulary typical for books for 2-5 year olds.
Amelia Bedelia for 6-10 year-olds, on the other hand, no longer has colorful illustrations. Instead, we see partial illustrations in black and white, that no longer extend across the entire page. The text has now become the main focus of the book, whereas with the book for 2-5 year olds, the illustration is the center of each page.
This change from 2-5 year-olds to 6-10 year-olds is quite vast!
So you can see that the various types of children’s books differ greatly in both their use of illustrations and the number of words. Beyond that, each different age group also brings with it a difference in
● Writing style
● Overall content and vocabulary
● And the overall design of the book
This makes our decision on what age group we are planning to write for very important, as every subsequent decision will depend on what type of book we’re choosing to write.
If you want to find out what age group fits you and your book best, and which one would play to your personal strengths as an author, be sure to check out my free Age Range Perfect Masterclass.
2. Getting An Illustrator Too Soon
Getting the illustrations done for your children’s book is truly one of the most exciting parts of the entire creation process, because it is here where our story’s characters visually come to life for the very first time. This step of the process is also one of the most time and resource consuming, which is why we want to ensure to get it right from the very beginning.
When it comes to the creation of your book’s illustrations, timing is everything. And wrong timing usually happens at two distinct points within the book creation process:
BEFORE THE AUDIENCE-DECISION HAS BEEN MADE:
Now, I’ve outlined above why it is so very important to have a target audience in mind from the very beginning of our book creation process. And knowing the age range of our audience also comes in handy when getting ready to find and hire an illustrator.
Before approaching an illustrator, we’ll want to consider things such as:
● Orientation (landscape, vertical, square)
● Size of each illustration
● Bleed vs. no bleed
● Color vs. black and white
● Number of illustrations
All these are important to know beforehand, because once an illustration has been created in a certain size and format (e.g. landscape), it is very difficult to make adjustments without major edits such as cutting off substantial parts of an illustration or complete redos.
We’ll also want to make sure that our chosen publishing platform offers the sizing option we’re looking to publish our book in. Because having to ask our illustrator for these types of adjustments would lead to an unnecessary increase in both time and costs.
BEFORE FINAL EDITS HAVE BEEN MADE:
Now, this one happens very often as well. As soon as we’ve completed our script, we get so very excited and immediately venture out to find and hire an illustrator for our beautiful story.
But unless the script has been edited and finalized, we’ll want to be careful not to hire our illustrator too early. Because any changes made to our script can cause a change in a scene’s details. Sometimes, a scene may even change in its entirety that a quick edit to our illustration won’t be able to fix.
And when that happens, we will have to pay our illustrator all over again.
So, when approaching an illustrator, we will want to make sure to do so with our edited and final script in hand.
3. Choosing A Confusing Cover
If anything has the power to get potential readers’ initial attention, it’s the cover of your book. If chosen poorly, it can turn away buyers that would have otherwise loved your magical story.
So in a sense then, covers are what will get our book’s foot in the door, and therefore contribute to whether or not a book will make it in this competitive market.
Each cover is meant to do exactly three things:
1. Get a potential reader’s attention
2. Convey a certain message or hint toward the book’s content
3. Appeal to its target audience (age group, in our case)
When it comes to children’s books, our chosen age group very much determines the look of the cover overall, how the cover is being created, and what is being depicted.
Looking at these covers right here. We can clearly see that they’ve been created for three different age groups.
By creating an age appropriate cover, we are essentially using visual signals that indicate what age group our book is for. It reassures potential buyers that they are looking in the right place.
When it comes to covers, it helps to remember that confused buyers rarely buy. So if a mom is looking to buy a book for her 4-year old, she expects to see a cover and a title that would speak to a 4-year old.
Generally, the older an age group, the more realistic the images and the less literal the titles.
Which brings me to my next point. Fonts.
4. Choosing The Wrong Font (Title Font Included)
When it comes to books, the choice of our used fonts generally indicate or hint toward:
● A genre
● An era
● A category
This, of course, is no exception with children’s books. As we generally want to make our title part of the illustration, we should pay special attention to what we’re trying to visually convey, besides the actual wording of the title.
Looking at these three different versions of this cover example below, they instantly have the reader experience different moods, feelings, and expectations of what is to come. Combined with Llama Llama’s facial expression, for example, this second cover would hint toward a scary or frightening story, while the font on the third cover might indicate a more traditional or even folksy story.
Besides conveying a certain message or feeling on the cover, fonts can also have a visual impact on the interior of our children’s books. Especially for smaller kids, we’ll want to make fonts fun and visually appealing. This usually means to use a bigger font for smaller kids.
Here, we can get really creative, as long as the font remains easily readable.
Besides helping to keep little ones’ attention, fonts could also be used to distinguish between different speakers, as I’ve done in one of my children’s books below by using two different fonts. And playing with the sizing and angles, different font sizes within a sentence could also be used to emphasize certain words.
When it comes to discovering fun and new fonts, I like to use sites like Dafont.com. Most fonts can be downloaded for free; but be sure to note that the fonts are the creators’ property, and are either freeware, shareware, demo versions or public domain. Check the mentioned license above the site’s download button.
Spending some time finding the perfect font for your story will make the reading that much more fun and appealing to your little readers.
5. Not Offering Your Children’s Book As An Ebook
Most of us children’s book authors dream of seeing our book in the hands of little readers. Rarely does this vision entail e-readers or other electronic devices.
But while ebooks aren’t the main medium used by smaller children and their parents yet, their usage has been consistently growing. The majority of parents prefer their kids to read print books, but the number of parents who prefer ebooks or who have no preference is increasing. In fact, 40% of children’s book purchasers say they read ebooks to their kids.
If you haven’t thought about creating an ebook version for your book, I’d like to encourage you to do so. Paperbacks still make up the majority of most children’s book authors’ sales, but an ebook version comes in handy during promotions and for review requests. Giving away review copies using this format is a lot easier and more cost effective than sending out paperbacks, especially for children’s books.
Rebecca Ruth, one of my readers of my book How to Self-Publish A Children’s Book, for example, followed this advice and used her beautiful ebook version to set up promotions that enabled her to share more cost effectively.
So if you haven’t yet, I’d encourage you to publish your children’s book as an ebook as well, even if in the end, it’s just for marketing purposes.
When it comes to writing your children’s book, it pays to have a plan. At the very least, we should have a very specific age group in mind. Because once we know the age we’re writing our book for, everything else will fall into place, as this will guide every subsequent decision we’ll make for our beautiful book.
Avoiding these 5 most common mistakes will make this journey of creating and publishing your very own children’s book so much more efficient and effective, as you’ll be able to save both time and resources by getting things right the very first time.
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