What You Need To Know About...Writing a Kids' Story - The M Word

What You Need To Know About…Writing a Kids’ Story

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So you’re tucking in your little mushroom to bed and you’re beside the bookshelf choosing a book for them before they even get to ask (nothing like routine!). You’re reading along practising your best array of animated voices and impressions and it strikes you…This stuff is rubbish… I could write better than this in my sleep!

Well dearest, if you’ve had the urge there’s nothing stopping you (except that little person your tucking in, their constant need for love and attention, food and nappy changes, playing and education, the list goes on!) But if we were all to think that way the human race would long be extinct!

Writing a children’s book is easy, it’s everything else about the process that’s hard!

Here’s a basic recipe for a children’s book (cue the Rachel Allen voice).

You will need:

  • A beginning, a middle and an end – sounds simple but it’s true. Set the scene, tell the story, wrap it up.
  • A main character – animal, human, plant, body part, house hold utensil, vehicle, planet, freshly invented monster … There are no boundaries with a kid’s book, let your imagination run wild!
  • A main message – a moral, a warning, an invitation to hug, share, love etc. Every juicy tale, regardless of audience, has a message in it.
  • A defined target market – a ‘children’s’ book means 0 – 15 years old approximately. It’s very hard to produce a one size fits all so get your end user in your head and keep them there. General age groups are 0– 2 years usually board books; 3-7 years; 8 -12 years; 13 +. Your target could also have special needs or be for a specific group or setting. It’s a bonus to have a real-life ‘target market’ in close proximity to use as a crash test dummy throughout the process; there’s nothing like instant (and brutally honest) feedback to steer you in the right direction (or to crush your dreams)!

And viola, you have a story! Next steps are as follows:

  • Copyright it – Put a printed copy of your masterpiece clearly stating you are the author and the date, into an envelope, pop down to your local post office and register post it to yourself (yes really) and NEVER open it once it’s delivered.

Go the Traditional Route or Self-Publish – the Traditional Route means getting an already established publisher to pay you and print your book. It’s a tough business to crack but if you’re good enough (and lucky!) you’ll succeed. A list of publishers are available here – www.writing.ie . Self-Publishing is becoming much more popular as you basically become your own boss and DIY in your spare time (laugh at term ‘spare time’!).

Going to Self-Publish?

Then you’ll need the following:

  • An editor – Oh I’ve no doubt you’ve spent hours reading and re-reading and making edits but trust me, an editor is the best money you’ll ever spend. Some Editors charge by the word, others by the page.
  • An Illustrator – Everybody can doodle and draw and I’m sure you’ve looked at illustrations inside some books and laughed at their simplicity but, unless you’re really good and have the right software, do not attempt to illustrate your own book! Researching the books in your little person’s library is a good way to find illustrators, as is going to local art colleges and of course mother Google. Try to find an illustrator who’ll do design and layout as well.
  • An ISBN – Then the legal bit comes with obtaining an ISBN number from the Neilson Agency in London http://www.nielsenbook.co.uk/  . Don’t forget to purchase a barcode also, there are lots of vendors online for this.
  • A Printer – You’ll need to consider the following: size of book, hardback or paperback, page quality and type, binding style and any other extra’s you may require for example if you want a ‘lift the flap’ or ‘pop-up’ book. With the advent of POD (print on demand) getting a book printed is easier than you think. Just ensure you’re using a reputable company and do your homework in terms of shopping around for quotes.

Do all this and easy peasy… Ta-Da… You’re an author, well done!

Now all you need is a sales and marketing campaign and balls of steel to elbow your way into the world of books. Oh and one more thing…

You’ll need some Good Luck!

Good luck,






Emma-Jane Leeson
Emma-Jane Leeson
EJ has written and published “The Adventures of Johnny Magory” children’s books series whilst managing 3 children, an adult male, a dog, 2 cats, some hens & a full time career in HR. These books are written in rhyme and reflect on life growing up in Ireland - they're very IrisIh! Johnny Magory books aim to inspire and instill a sense of pride and passion in young children about Ireland’s landscape, wildlife, heritage and pastimes. "I'll tell you a story about Johnny Magory" www.JohnnyMagory.com