children's book mistakes

Children’s Book Mistakes: Avoid These 7 Self Publishing Mistakes

Salmaan Ahmad

Salmaan Ahmad

July 10, 2024

Want to avoid children’s book mistakes? Self-publishing is an enjoyable creative pursuit, but it’s not easy. If you’re publishing a children’s book, make sure you avoid the worst children’s book mistakes that could doom your picture book before it even gets printed.

7 Children’s Book Mistakes to Avoid

1. Children’s book mistakes — not choosing a specific age group

Some picture book writers think their book is suitable for a wide variety of ages. However, there can be big differences in a child’s ability to read and understand complex ideas, even after just one or two years. Generally, a picture book for toddlers will be too simple for children who are six or older, and a picture book for 10-year-olds will be too difficult for three-year-olds.

The chosen age group also determines word length, content, illustration types, and writing style. A picture book for children up to age 3 may have no words and only pictures on every page. A reader for those aged 3 to 5 may have a maximum of 400 words, and a book for young readers aged 10 might have 5,000 words and pictures on most pages.

If you’re writing for middle grades, your book could be almost as long as an adult novel (20,000 words and up), and you will still need some illustrations.

Before you start writing, choose your age group, and make sure your style, word choice, and subject matter are all right for that age. Don’t hire an illustrator until you nail this down. That brings us to number 2.

2. Children’s book mistakes — hiring an illustrator too soon

Seeing the illustrations for your picture book is fun. Watching a talented artist bring your vision to life is a wonderful experience, and you can’t wait to make it happen. One of the most common children’s book mistakes is hiring an illustrator before you have a fully developed vision of your book.

That isn’t fair to your illustrator, and it isn’t great for your book. If you hire an illustrator too soon, you may feel boxed in by the decision, even after realizing that their style and vision don’t really mesh with the way your book has developed.

You may also find that your illustration needs to change once the book is in its final draft. What if you change the order of events, and now you need the picture that goes with that scene in a different spot? It is difficult—and very costly—to make changes to a final illustration, so don’t get the illustrations until you’re sure your book is finished.

Write it, plan the layout, and make decisions about the type and number of illustrations you want before you hire someone. Hold off until you’ve nailed down decisions about your book, like:

  • Choice of age range and audience
  • Orientation: Portrait, landscape, or square
  • Full-color or black and white
  • Number of illustrations
  • Number of full-page and double-page spreads
  • Preferred artistic style.

3. Children’s book mistakes — not understanding your market

With close to a million books being self-published every year, it’s important to know how to make yours stand out. Market research is important for any book, and skipping this step is one of the top children’s book mistakes.

You must know who the audience for your book is, and what is the best way to reach that potential audience. Also, you need a good understanding of your competition.

As a picture book writer, you must know which children’s books are popular—and why. If you look at the top selling picture books of 2023, you’ll notice some themes.

  • Earth and ecology: Several of the top picture books deal with the environment and science. They include Me and My Place in Space by Joan Sweeney, The Search for the Giant Arctic Jellyfish by Chloe Savage, and Ocean Friends by Little Hippo Books.
  • Goofiness: Kids can always be counted on to embrace silliness, and some top-selling picture books celebrate that. Check out titles like Wombats are Pretty Weird by Abi Cushman, The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr, and B is for Bananas by Carrie Tillotson.
  • Community and social values: Some of the most popular new picture books teach children about caring for others. They include One Small Thing by Marsha Diane Arnold, Paula’s Patches by Gabriella Adelman, and Autumn Peltier, Water Warrior by Carole Lindstrom.
  • Emotions: Some bestselling picture books help children deal with emotions, like Pocket Full of Sads by Brad Davidson, Grief Is an Elephant by Tamara Ellis Smith, and Cape by Kevin Johnson.

This doesn’t mean your book has to fall into any popular category, but you need to know that there’s an audience ready to buy it.

4. Children’s book mistakes — sticking to a small budget

One of the most common children’s book mistakes is when writers try to publish without a budget for design, printing, and marketing.

If you are only publishing for a small, limited audience like your family, your church group, or customers for your business that you already have, it’s fine to keep your costs down. These people are going to buy and read your book, even if it’s not professionally designed. If you’re self-publishing for your own benefit, there’s no need to worry about a large budget.

However, if you plan to go beyond that circle to a wider audience, you can’t do it without investing time and money into your book.

5. Children’s book mistakes — skimping on design costs

If you are publishing a novel for adults, you don’t need to hire an illustrator—but you should hire a professional to design a book cover.

If you’re writing a children’s book, one of the worst children’s book mistakes you can make is trying to skimp on illustration costs.

How much should you expect to spend? According to a survey of self-published picture book authors, the average cost was $1,600 to $5,000 for a 24-page picture book.

You can expect to spend:

  • $50 to $500 for a cover design
  • $1200 to $1700 for book design and layout
  • $2,000 up to $20,000 for full-color covers and illustrations by a professional artist

6. Children’s book mistakes — not hiring professionals

Self-publishing is great because you don’t have to wait for a publisher to give your book the green light. You also keep complete creative control of your work.

But that freedom comes with its own price, namely, the need to pay for your production costs and advertising. If you don’t have an unlimited budget—and most first-time writers don’t—focus first on the interior design, cover design, and illustrations. You should use professional graphic designers for at least these parts of your book.

Spend money on design and illustration, and hire the best artists you can afford. That will help you avoid the children’s book mistakes that come from shoddy-looking design. When you are ready to print, be sure you choose an experienced, professional printer. That will help you prevent one of the common children’s book mistakes, which is a book that looks unprofessional.

7. Children’s book mistakes — writing too much text

One of the top children’s book mistakes made by children’s authors is writing too much.

In a children’s book, you don’t have to build a back story, develop secondary characters, or evoke rich settings. Save all that for your adult novels. In a picture book, you have only a few pages and a few words available to grab a child’s attention.

Get to the main action quickly. By the second page, the main action of the plot should be set in motion. Create a problem for the character, and build a series of obstacles the character must overcome before reaching a happy conclusion.

Here are average word lengths for children’s books according to age:

  • 0 to 3: 0-200 words
  • 2 to 5: 200-500 words
  • 3 to 7: 500-800 words
  • 4 to 8: 600-1,000 words
  • 6 to 10: 3,000 to 10,000 words divided into chapters
  • 8 to 12: 10,000 to 30,000 words divided into chapters

Avoid These Common Children’s Book Mistakes

Writing a children’s book is exciting and fun. To make it more enjoyable, avoid the common children’s book mistakes that can doom first-time writers. When you are ready to print your children’s book, contact Publishing Xpress.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

© 2024 Publishing Xpress. All Rights Reserved.

Email Quote