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Writing Children’s Picture Books That Sell

By Ruth Barringham

Children’s picture books are so popular because even if parents themselves don’t read much, they will still read to their young children. Also grandparents buy picture books, as do teachers, schools, and public libraries. Picture books are always a great choice for a gift for anyone to give to a child too.

If you want to make a career of writing children’s picture books, don’t make the mistakes that many other authors make. Use the following information to help you create children’s picture books that sell.

Start by creating a character for you book that hasn’t been done before. Some examples are:

  • the ugly duckling who ends up saving the day
  • the puppy’s adventure
  • a small creature is disillusioned with life but finds out that they are much loved by everyone
  • the lonely little bear finds a friend

These characters and plots have all been done to death.

What you don’t want is an unremarkable character who is easily forgotten because there is nothing interesting about them - no flaw.

Instead, they must be

  • believable
  • memorable
  • exciting

And your character must also appeal to adults because they are the ones who choose books for young children. So make sure your books appeal to agents, publishers and parents, because it will have to pass through the hands of these critics before it can be loved by children.

But not only do you need a remarkable and fun character, you also need an exciting plot. Kids need a reason to sit still and keep listening, not just once but over and over again.

How to Plot Your Book

Your plot has to be set out simply for kids to understand, and only in 600 words or less because picture books aren’t long.

And here are the key ingredients:

a clear beginning to set the story/scene
an exciting incident to kick-start the story
a sense of escalation - the story must progress quickly
a brilliant ending, eg, twist, comedy, strong sense of satisfaction, tear in the eye

Your story can be quiet and gentle, yet still be dramatic, but it still needs a sense of movement and journey throughout.

Books that have bland characters and unremarkable plots or undramatic plots will end up in the slush pile.

And even if you can’t draw but you do have a brilliant idea for a 600-word story, some picture book publisher have their own artists that they work with to make your story come to life on the page.


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