Believe it or not, I can never have enough advice on writing (and living, for that matter;). As always, it is wonderful to get advice from someone kind-hearted, experienced, honest and professional, and if you are lucky to be friends with such a person – all the better.
Today I am so pleased to welcome award-winning multigenre author, a hard-working and optimistic mother, and an admirable human being Traci M. Sanders. You may have read my reviews of her books here already (children’s, romance, non-fiction). She is here today to promote her amazing series of non-fiction books and shed some light on writing children’s books. Since I myself write children’s books, I plan to follow her advice as best I can.
AUTHOR’S BIO – TRACI SANDERS
Traci Sanders is a multi-genre, multi-award-winning author of ten published titles, with contributions to three anthologies. An avid blogger and supporter of Indie authors, she writes parenting, children’s, romance, and nonfiction guides. Her ultimate goal is to provide great stories and quality content for dedicated readers, whether through her own writing or editing works by other authors.
NEVER UNDERESTIMATE A CHILDREN’S BOOK
TIP 237: Know your audience – part 1 – children’s books and middle-grade fiction
The following tip can be found in Beyond The Book: Tips on publishing, marketing, and networking to build your brand, available now in digital and paperback format.
Before writing a book of any genre, it’s important to know your audience—know their likes and dislikes as far as characters and plots, and know their attention spans.
Middle-grade books would obviously not be as short as picture books, but not as long as traditional novels either. As well, some adult readers might feel cheated by a novella-length romance book.
Here are a few guidelines for children’s books and middle-grade fiction:
Children’s picture books:
- Animals are always favorite character types for kids this age.
- A typical picture book is 32 pages, and around 24 illustrations, 500-600 words, no more than 1000, 1-2 single-spaced ms pages.
- Young children respond to faces, especially faces of children their age.
- The words should be challenging enough not to bore the adult who may be reading it to the child, but not overly sophisticated that the early reader can’t read it alone.
- Avoid preaching or lecturing, to parents or kids. A subtle lesson on friendship, sharing, or the like is acceptable, if done tastefully.
- Make sure the book has an actual plot, not just words thrown together haphazardly, even if they rhyme. It has to make sense to be memorable.
- Use child-friendly artwork.
- Bad guys never win, if any bad guys even exist in these books.
Early readers – first chapter books for kids:
- Target age is 4-8 years old.
- May or may not have real chapter breaks, could just be small images or large words that separate the sections.
- Typically, no more than 1,500 words, 3 or 4 single-spaced ms pages.
- Font size is smaller than that of picture books, and the verbiage is a bit more challenging to encourage early reading skills.
- Very few images, but the ones present may be black and white rather than color.
- Reads much like a 30-minute television show. The conflict is simple and is solved fairly quickly.
Children’s Chapter Books:
- Target age group is 6/7 to 9/10 years old.
- Even more so than in picture books, don’t be preachy. Kids this age hate that.
- Between 5,000 and 15,000 words, between 30-40 single-spaced ms pages.
- Very few pictures, if any. If they are funny or sketched images, (cartoonish), they may work.
- Doesn’t use adult language, sexually-oriented words, or overly sophisticated verbiage.
- Fantasy, comedy, and mysteries tend to be big sellers in this age group.
- The story doesn’t “talk down” to kids this age. Nothing cutesy.
Middle-grade fiction books:
- Target age group is 8-12 (often called tweens).
- No pictures needed, except for cover art, of course.
- Middle-grade fiction can be anywhere between 20,000 and 35,000 words, some even up to 50,000 (for advanced readers), around 40-60 single-spaced ms pages.
- Contain some teen-ish content/language. Perhaps a slang word or two, but no profanity or sexual situations.
- The kids run most of the show in these books, solve their own problems, with very little help or interference from adults.
- Real-life issues are popular in this genre – boy/girl interactions (typically not sex, though), coming-of-age problems (pimples, menstrual cycles, betrayal by best friends, peer pressure, etc.,).
- Kids learn life is not always pretty – child abuse, divorced parents, death of loved ones, during this stage of life.
- Relatable characters and lots of action.
Certain guidelines must be followed if you are writing for traditional publishers, but even if you are self-publishing, it’s a good idea to stay within the realm of themes, page count, and structure.
Award-winning author of parenting, children’s, and romance titles
~Reviews keep authors writing~
Thank you so much for sharing this advice, Traci. I will make sure I check it before publishing another kidlit!
And FYI, dear readers, here are some of Traci’s other books, just to show you where her vast experience comes from.
Her recent contributions to two interesting anthologies of short stories.
These are two contemporary romances with different settings, but a common message – love will prevail.
And finally, from Traci’s previous career days of childcare provider – parenting guides and children’s picture books.
Keep writing, Ms. Sanders!
PS: THIS JUST IN FROM TRACI SANDERS:
I’ve decided to give away two prizes during this tour:
*ONE unsigned paperback copy of Before You Publish Volume I
*ONE unsigned paperback copy of Beyond The Book Volume II
To enter, all you have to do is email me a proof of purchase of a digital copy of either of these two books during the tour.
I will draw TWO winners total, at the end of the tour. Please email your proof of purchase (can be a screenshot) to email@example.com