(and not lose your mind)
It was a rainy afternoon (just kidding, I don’t actually remember what day it was) when I decided - HEY! I’ll write a kids' book. Like a little side project. That should be easy. All you have to do is write 500 words and sketch some stuff, upload it on amazon and call it a day.
I mean, how hard can it be? I wrote 120k in my last project - surely I can squeeze out 500 good ones on the go. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.
6 months after my initial idea, my day is full of things I am having to learn the hard way (youtube and lots and I mean LOTS of trial and error).
That’s the thing no one tells you: writing a kids book is hard. Someone once said it’s like you try to write a haiku about War & Peace. You need to condense your messages in a child friendly, entertaining way that’s easy for the parents to read (so they don’t get a dry mouth or a knotted tongue) as well as having colourful illustrations that the kids can focus on, and even better, it is also educational without being obvious.
Having had no prior experience in writing for kids or in rhymes, formatting a kids' book, illustrating and marketing one, it turned out to be a much bigger task than initially planned.
So how did I do it?
Here are the things that helped me most:
Invest in your tools
Make your life easy and invest in good materials. Like please. Don’t wing it. I got myself a HUION drawing tablet when I created my own illustrations, but I wish I had just bitten the bullet and purchased certain programs like Canva pro right away because you will end up needing them if you want your book to look good!
The technicalities of a fully illustrated kids' books vs a novel are wildly different. Things like text placement, flow, length, printing requirements are all things I had to learn the hard way. Courses at Udemy, for example, are very useful!
Know your genre
Read lots of kids' books in your genre and age group! Spend some afternoons at the library and get inspired. Look up the bestsellers and see what people say what they loved most about them.
Seriously. The internet can sometimes be an overwhelming place and looking for answers if you sometimes don't even know the question yet can be downright demoralising. But thankfully there are amazing people out there who share their wisdom.
Author tube is a great resource and I bet you a cookie that if you run into problems creating/ editing/ uploading your book or anything in between, you WILL find your answer there! Someone has gone through it and created a tutorial and omg bless author tube already.
I know I know. I KNOW. Facebooks is dead. Or kinda. At least most people seem to have a love hate relationship with it and are only still on there because they somehow feel bad they can’t follow Stacey’s from 6 grade graduation/engagement/wedding/baby announcement.
It feels like a necessary evil to have, but I REALLY recommend it for indie authors. There is literally a support group for anyone. I have found the most use out of “children’s book cover critic” “children’s book authors, Illustrators and self publishing."
Find a community
Last but not least, and to no one's surprise - The Writer Community on Instagram.
Seriously, these people are worth their weight in gold nuggets. Here I found my beautiful Arc readers, beta readers, people who give me pep talks and tell me I really REALLY don’t suck, a community who is eager to help and lots of inspirations, writing recourses and networking opportunities.
Patience is a virtue
Also, have patience. I, for example, have none and so I ended up with probably 15 rounds of proofs because the minute I ordered them I saw another thing I wanted to change. Let the kids in your life point things out you may have missed. This might be an amazing book from an adult's perspective, but it doesn’t mean kids enjoy it. My kids, for example, love books about farts and honestly I can’t see the appeal.
Yes, it sounds overwhelming, but trust me, holding your own book in your hand is absolutely worth it. Take it easy, take your time and enjoy your craft!
Meet Anne Alcott
Anne lives among giant rolls of cheese, romantic canals and masses of bikes in Utrecht, Netherlands. In her childhood she spent countless hours running through the Black Forest in Germany, imagining all sorts of fantastical creatures and enchanted portals to other worlds. After dabbling in theatre, visual arts and designing clothes her creative heart found the most fulfillment in telling stories for adults and children alike.
Crafting stories to show the beauty of diversity and to help children cope with difficult situations is one way for her to try and erase the stigma around people who are “different”.
You can connect with Anne on Instagram, both via her kidlit writing account @tinyhorsebooks and her adult writing account @annewithapen. Find out more about her kid's book When Things Get Too Loud on Goodreads.