So I want to write a kids book.

I’ve decided to write a book for children, what should it be about, I mean, what kind story and how many swear words can I get away with?

As for the swear words, best not have any unless it’s a parody of a kids book. But anyway, the general question when turned to Picture Books is not easy to answer.

Should it have a message? Maybe.

Can it just be funny? Sure, if it’s really funny.

Can I write a fairytale? Not if you want to sell any books.

Speaking of selling books, how many books do I have to sell to be considered successful? Not an easy question to answer except to say ‘lots’ nor as many as possible. But how many is ‘lots’ depends on issues like the advances involved and expectations. Another example of how keeping expectations low benefits one in life…

But how many is ‘a lot’? Pick a number.

I’m an actual Doctor so I should sell more books than Dr. Seuss. I doubt it.

No, really, I have a great message about kids place in a changing world and technology and the value of a pet in a lonely kids life. Isn’t that a good book? Maybe. But don’t forget to make it entertaining first and foremost.

I loved the Picture Books I grew up reading. Can I write one like that?

It would be better to write something new. Try and figure out what it is you enjoyed about those books when you were a child and find a new way to approach it. Be aware that nostalgia may be driving your love of a book you had when you were 8. Not that the book was actually that affecting. I can say from experience that several books I ‘loved’ as a kid are better forgotten. Not that I didn’t LOVE them at the time. But my love for them is tied to my life at that time. The book had become a surrogate for the innocence and naiveté of being 8.

Times change. People want new books for a reason. Try watching only 1950’s television. Some of it is entertaining and you can appreciate the directing/acting/writing or see it as a cultural museum tour but culture keeps moving and you need to make some effort to define yourself and your interests in current terms. That doesn’t mean we can’t be inspired and appreciate what came before us, but trying to repeat it for superficial reasons doesn’t work. Think of it this way, the big themes in literature haven’t changed tremendously since 500BC. It’s how we talk about them that changes. For me, relevance is a difficult to define term that is of top importance when it comes to having a successful Picture Book. And it comes from the author and/or illustrator finding a way to talk about issues in a way that feels refreshed and informed by our current world.

Speaking of the current world I have deadlines. I wish writing a good book was as fast as talking about them!


About mfearing

This entry was posted in Blatherings, picture books, Work in progress, writing fiction. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to So I want to write a kids book.

  1. Ric says:

    Mark you have touched a nerve and hit it on the head with a hammer! Your ravings get to the point of why as part of the group I didn’t pursue that market…nothing meaningful to project on them. Maybe Dr. Seuss didn’t dwell on that as he created, and maybe he could not help himself. I like to think it was probably a portion of both. Thanks for the words, my only advice knowing you is you can’t help it. So don’t worry, just do it! Your brain will sort it out.

    • mfearing says:

      Yeah it’s a tough market and I am willing to face the challenge most days. I get asked a lot by other people about it and of course when people find out what I do I get asked and I really am embarrassed at how little ‘wise’ information I have to pass along! I feel I’m still finding my way and I agree that some people can project much more directly the appropriate material for the makers. But honestly for most of us I think it takes real work to get your idea into the proper form to work in that market.

  2. jby95 says:

    Write a PB about candy. Better yet, anything with sugar. I really
    liked candy, when I was PB age. I still like candy. I never received candy, much, which kept me constantly starved for the sweet stuff. Recently, a woman fixed plastic caddies with large size boxes of candy, juice boxes, other sugar filled treats and a large popcorn for family movie night. I couldn’t believe it. My grandmother was a firm believer in moderation. Danish American moderation. We each received a small bowl of popcorn. If we were lucky, it had butter on it. If we wanted treats, we were given carrot and celery sticks. Children love sugar. Write about candy. Do not expect big sales from Danish American grandmothers.

    • mfearing says:

      You know…I did! But it was roundly rejected a year or so ago. Your note here made me think about taking it out and looking at it again. As happens with picture books, sometimes I do a first or second draft, maybe even a dummy of it and then it takes a while to approach it again and work out what went wrong. So I might take my candy story out!

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