Welcome! I’m guessing you’re reading this because you’re hoping to write a children’s book, which is FANTASTIC news! We need more stories like yours on bookshelves. Before you get started, you’re going to want to know the process to write a children’s book.
So let me walk you through it step-by-step from idea to published book. (One note though — while these steps may take you less than a day to read, it will take a little longer than that to get a book in the hands of kids. I’d say at least a year or longer, depending on your goals and the time you have to commit.)
The Complete Process to Writing a Children’s Book. And How Journey to Kidlit Can Help You Get there!
Have you ever read a children’s book and thought to yourself, “This looks easy. I bet I could write one of these!”?
If you’re anything like me, you may have decided to write a children’s book and thought it would take you no time at all to get it published. (I seriously believed it would take me less than a year, but my first ever dummy book is evidence for why it took me over 5 years to see a book in print! 🙈)
Writing children’s books is deceptively simple.
In reality, it takes a knowledge of the craft, skill, and dedication to make your book work. After all, you have to have an idea, cast of characters, plot, and a level of enjoyment for the reader — and most of the time, you need to do that in less than 500 words. Talk about a challenge!
Because I don’t want you to spend five years trying to learn the process like I did, I’ve broken out the steps for you to see and included ways we can help you.
Step 1 – Start with an idea and make it a good one.
If you’ve ever read this article, you’ll know that coming up with an idea to write about is easy. There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of ideas coming to us every day. Deciding which of these is actually good though, is where it gets hard.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Research your story idea
- Read other comp books to make sure nothing like it exists
- Try to find a fresh or new way to approach this idea
To help you do this well, we have a Kidlit Idea Decoder to get you started. Get your copy here.
Step 2 – Start Writing your first draft
Once you have an idea to move forward with, you’ll want to start drafting your initial story. (I say initial story because it will normally take 5 or more drafts to get a story that’s close to publishing ready.)
Here’s what you need to know to make your story work:
- Who’s in your story? (AKA – your main character and any supporting ones.)
- Where it takes place? (AKA – your setting)
- What’s your character’s goal? (AKA – what they want most in the world.)
- What’s standing in their way of getting it? (AKA – the problem they’ll face.)
- How does it end? (AKA – your conclusion.)
This is a condensed version of everything you need. However, for each step, you will want to think deeply and make sure you’ve developed complete answers to each.
To help you do this, we’ve created a self-guided starter kit with worksheets to help you get started. Get your copy here.
Step 3 – Edit your story until it’s completely polished
This step will take you the longest because it depends on your skill level. Some people are more gifted writers or have been writing for a lot longer when they set out to write a children’s book. However, EVERYONE has the ability to write a good story — you just need the skills to make it happen.
Here’s what you should edit for:
- Readability — does it make sense?
- Authenticity — does each character sound uniquely themselves?
- Enjoyment — is it fun and enjoyable to read?
Since this requires a deeper understanding of how this all works together, we’ve created a self-paced course to help you understand the writing process better. It’s called the Journey to Kidlit Writing Masterclass and you can enroll here.
If you’re not ready for a course, or you’re more comfortable learning everything yourself, then I recommend studying books on writing craft and attending writing conferences to help guide you.
The Children’s Book Process to Publish Your First Story.
The next step in the writing process is to move to publishing. While this step does come after editing, this is normally the step that most writers rush to too quickly, which can lead to rejection.
So you don’t want to skip ahead and try to get here as fast as possible. It takes a good quality story to be ready for publishing.
You have 3 publishing options for your story.
As children’s book writers, we can be very consumed with the publishing process. (If you’re anything like me, you may have jumped right to this question as soon as the idea to write a book popped in your head.)
It’s natural to be excited and to want to see your book in print as soon as possible. But before you send your story to a publisher, I highly, highly recommend you have it reviewed first. This can be with a critique group or a professional — if you need someone to read your story, you can book a critique with me here.
If your story is really ready to publish, here are the 3 different options you can consider.
1 – Use a traditional publisher.
This is probably the first place you thought to publish your book, which would make sense. It’s the oldest and most common way books have been published since they were first created. But a lot has changed, so you want to make sure you’re submitting correctly to try to avoid unnecessary rejection.
Here are the steps to get started:
- Research a list of either agents or publishing houses to submit to
- Create a query letter to introduce yourself and your story
- Follow their submission guidelines and send them your manuscript
One important thing to note is that not all submission guidelines are the same, so you want to make sure you read and follow the instructions as requested. (If not, you could be rejected before they even read your story.)
To help you learn more about the process, I’ve created the Writer’s On-Submission Toolkit to help guide you. Get your copy here.
2 – Publish the book yourself.
Increasing in popularity over the past decade, self-publishing has never been easier. This is both a good thing and a bad thing for your children’s story. While you can get a story published overnight with one click, too many writers are publishing less-than-well-written stories, so it can make it difficult to get noticed.
Since you’re reading this, I’m going to assume that you’re not like one of those writers. Instead, you’re going to learn the complete process to write a children’s book that’s worth a child’s time BEFORE hitting publish.
But when you are ready, here are the steps to get started:
- Determine who you’re going to print with. (Print On-demand companies like Amazon KDP & IngramSpark are two of the most common.)
- Decide on a book size and find contractors to help you. (editors, illustrators, book designers, etc.)
- Create your final files and upload them to print.
Whenever you research the self-publishing process, you’re going to find a TON of information, which I know can be overwhelming. So I’ve created an introductory course to get you started without having to sift through all those articles. Sign up here.
3 – Use a hybrid-publishing house.
This is the newest of all the publishing options out there and it is rising in popularity. Hybrid publishing combines the expertise of traditional publishing with the freedom and speed of self-publishing. The only problem is, not all publishers are created equal so you have to know what you’re looking for.
Here’s how to find a hybrid publisher:
- Research list of children’s book hybrid publishers or vanity presses
- Review their list of services they help with (editing, illustration, final file creation, etc.)
- Hold a call or interview with them to get a better feel for the company and how they can help you with your book.
If this is an option that interests you, I recommend checking out our sister company, BiblioKid Publishing. They’re a full-service hybrid publisher who specializes exclusively in children’s books and have over 30 years of traditional publishing experience among their team. Visit their submissions site here.
That is the complete process to write and publish a children’s book for you! Plus, how we can help make it quicker and easier for you at Journey to Kidlit. Welcome again to your writing journey. I’m so excited to help you along your path to publication.
Brooke Van Sickle – CEO & Founder | Journey to Kidlit