The Dark Side of Publishing for Children: Meh. It’s Easy

Publishing for children is easy. You’ll see. If you haven’t already, then one day you’ll just sit down and casually write about a friendly dog named Spud (It’s a lazy example, just roll with me…) and how he likes apples and paper airplanes and that’ll be that. No worries about anything else. It’ll get edited, re-edited, illustrated, edited again, formatted, published, manufactured, then marketed by magical fairies all while you’re asleep. The next day you’ll wake to sunshine and a mile-long line of children and parents alike, all eager to read it…

Only, that’s obviously a load of crock. Despite the “Write a Picture Book in 3 easy steps” nonsense people claim, it’s much more complicated. Which, truthfully, isn’t to say I can fault the outsider who believes, if not in the fairies, then in the notion that writing a children’s book is easy. Children’s books are, after all, short and seemingly simple in nature. Just don’t forget the special circumstances of the audience, which is to say you’re writing for children, but selling to adults. Then there’s the delicate emotional development and reading skills of those kids, who are much more selective than you may originally believe. 

To all the “hardworking” folk out there slaving away at their 9-5, it probably seems like authors just sit around in a perpetual state of story-time while illustrators doodle all day. But, when done right, from start to finish, publishing for children truly is significantly harder than most people’s casual assumptions lead them to believe. Harder still if you’re self-publishing, because now you have to wear both the creative and the business hat. Sure, you can rush out an inferior product, but your book will suffer in the long run as poor reviews and a lack of repeat business tanks you. However, to some, creative stress is a welcomed stress. Meaning, if you enjoy the creative process then it won’t FEEL like “work”. But, the same can be said about anyone who enjoys their job. I genuinely love telling stories, and there is a huge stress relief when I illustrate. It’s therapeutic. What’s it like for you?  

Oddly enough, I put in more hours creating my children’s books than I did managing at Walmart, the largest retail chain in the world, and I’m nowhere near as stressed and unhappy. True, I’ve had to push aside video games and cut 90% of my TV time, but for me, it’s worth it. Actually, that’s a bit misleading, I’m still getting my screen time. To be more accurate, I’ve had to switch my viewing preferences to tutorial videos and how-to shows in order to learn more about this creative life I’m pursuing. Still, I’ve happily forced myself to be more productive because of how much I enjoy doing this.

For me, the stressful effort doesn’t come until after the book is published and my creative mind has to switch over to the business side. It can’t be avoided though. Advertising and marketing are essential, and they’re not something that can be ignored. Perhaps they will be a strength of yours, but if they’re not, then utilize your “Why” that we discussed earlier to motivate and push you through it. I scatter bits of marketing and advertising here and there as I’m creating my books, but the large part comes after. This is the point when you are (or will be) the most excited (and nervous!), because you’re finally getting a chance to see how people react to what you’ve worked so hard on.

It’s also at this point that you’ll begin to invest more financially because ads and marketing materials aren’t free. Let’s not forget the more immediate risk, however. Failure and heartbreak. A ridiculously large percentage of the world won’t care about your book, but that’s perfectly fine. 1% of the seven billion world population is still 70 million, and that’s more than enough. Have patience. It’ll start slow, but push through the apparent disinterest and remember that good things don’t grow overnight, but from the effort you put forth.

So, yes, it’s true, writing for children isn’t physically demanding, there aren’t high stakes on the line, and the day-to-day stresses are much more self-imposed. Generally speaking, of course. Yet, creating children’s books is a delicate combination of words and illustrations intended to not just entertain children, but to kindle their desire to read. Don’t downplay the difficulty just because it doesn’t line up with the generally conceived notion of “work”. I’m by no means saying you can’t write a children’s book. I’m merely saying to get it out of your head that it’ll be easy. It’s a lot of responsibility, but it’s doable.

Especially for you.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: