Do you have an idea for a children’s book that you just can’t let go?
As a children's book author with four, soon five, titles under my belt, I'm fielding more frequent questions about my experience in children's book writing and publishing - from how to get started to how printing works. When I started working on Aya & Pete, there weren't as many diverse children's book authors and publishers whom I could turn to for advice. So instead, I applied skills honed from my long legal career and started researching as much as I could about the world of children's book writing, publishing, and distribution. Along the way, I've been fortunate to make and meet friends and mentors who help me to better manage the business side of things and improve on every story I write, but that took some time to get there.
When I first started conceptualizing Aya & Pete, I had no idea where to start or what I was doing. Fast forward to now, and my team and I have published 4 books in the Aya & Pete series (with more in the pipeline), and we have toys and our mobile app - Aya & Pete, Play. Learn. Explore. Our Aya & Pete collection is sold at Nordstrom, is available at the New York Public Library, as well as independent bookstores nationwide, and we've created a custom guest amenity for the Four Seasons Hotel.
After giving some thought to everything I've learned along this journey, I'm sharing with you some behind the scenes insights into my experience developing, writing, creating, and publishing children’s books! Let's dive into it...
Why do you want to write a children’s book? We believe that everyone has a story, and in the words of the incomparable Toni Morrison, “If there is a book you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” Maybe you want to share your knowledge, skills, unique experiences, or insights. Or you’ve noticed there’s a gap in the children’s book landscape that your story is uniquely poised to fill.
This is what encouraged me to create The Amazing Adventures of Aya & Pete. I’m super passionate about travel and world-schooling my children, we've spent years living as expats in various countries and experiencing first hand what the world has to offer. When I could not find any travel-themed books that shared fun and practical information about the world from a child’s perspective, I decided to create them in the best and most beautiful way possible. We wanted Aya & Pete to reflect the beauty and diversity of children around the world, and we wanted to capture children's imaginations, spark their curiosity about different places and cultures, and encourage them to learn more about the world they live in. These are values I hold near and dear so I wanted to create children's content that embodied that.
Whatever the reason, consider your WHY!
Are you a good writer or a passionate storyteller? Although children’s books may seem easy, writing is a skill that is honed, developed, and improved over many years of practice. Consider elements like character development, story arc, and narrative details to keep children interested, engaged and excited to read your story again and again. With Aya & Pete, we wanted to share more than just information about different places, so we created characters with whom children could relate and see themselves in.
Even if you're not a great writer, and even if you are, find the help you need to get your story polished. We invested early on in two editors and we have a team of early readers to proof our stories prior to publication. Don't try to do it all alone - Fiverr and Upwork are great resources to get started.
HOW you write is just as important as WHAT you write!
- Have you considered how you plan to publish, market, and sell your book? Books are a notoriously bad business. You will make very little money on your first, second, or even third book! Writing a book and plopping it on Amazon is like throwing a stone into a vast ocean. It will sink quite quickly before anyone ever notices it. Sage advice would say create your marketing plan or build your platform before launching your book, then you'll know who you're writing for and have a ready client base eager for your book when it lands.
Consider also whether working with a traditional publisher or whether self-publishing is the right path for you. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. Working with a big publisher offers prestige and can take a lot of marketing work off your plate, your work may gain faster exposure in a shorter time, but you’ll also lose some ownership and control over your work. Self-publishing offers the benefit of greater margins, likely through DTC (direct to consumer) selling on your personal website, Amazon, or through your network, but it takes time to build an engaged audience and repeat customers.
Think about WHERE you want your books sold and how you plan to get them there.
Think of a Master Plan! Children’s book writing often starts, and ends, as a passion project. I tell aspiring writers that unless you have the next Harry Potter, you’ll make precisely $57 dollars selling 10 copies on Amazon and that will be that. Instead, do like Erik B and think of a Master Plan for your children’s book concept. Can it be a series? Do you have licensable characters? Can you create a kids’ channel, workshop, or speaker series based on your book?
Whatever it may be, have a bigger plan for long term growth and scalability.
Find and Hire People Who Know More Than You! One of the best decisions we ever made for developing Aya & Pete was hiring our illustrator. Now you've probably heard me sing Carolina's praises many times on social media. But really, she came to our project with a wealth of knowledge and experience that would have taken me forever to grasp just from reading or researching. It helped that she also had an art style that precisely matched what I wanted to create and she immediately understood our vision for Aya & Pete.
And here's something no one talks about - I absolutely could NOT afford our illustrator's rate - it far exceeded my budget for a "passion project." But in the end, I understood that I wasn't simply paying her for beautiful artwork, I was paying for her expertise and professionalism, which has come back to me in spades. So, be extremely picky and conscientious in choosing the artist who will help to bring your children's book and story to life. It really can make or break your project.
If you'd like more of a deep dive on any of the above items or something else that maybe I didn't touch on, don't hesitate to reach out. You can book time with me to talk through your ideas for your children's book or brand! I look forward to seeing what story you want to see in the world!
- SerenaDid you find this series on children’s book writing and publishing helpful? Send us a note or share this email with friends to let us know and we can create more like it!