Children/YA Lit

Post image for Writing for Children by Rebecca Talley

Many people make the mistake of thinking that writing for children is easier than writing for adults. That’s simply not true.

Children are much smarter than many adults think. They can spot a condescending tone, a sermon disguised as a story, or false notions wrapped in truth. Kids are savvy consumers and definitely know what they like and don’t like to read.

Writing for children demands the same kind of commitment to detail, dedication to research, and smooth writing techniques that adults expect. In fact, writing for children can be even more demanding because of the tight word counts and adherence to vocabulary/comprehension levels.

If you are interested in writing for kids, you might want to consider the following advice:

Spend time with children. You can do this by volunteering at a school, a Boys’ and/or Girls’ club, library, or after-school program.

Get to know the kids. Ask them questions and listen to their answers. Observe the kinds of books they read, the games they play, and the way they speak. Try to discover what issues concern them.

Read. In order to understand the children’s market, you need to be familiar with the books that kids read. Read from a variety of genres to see what is expected in each genre. Learn the vocabulary that populates children’s books and magazines. Determine what issues are acceptable for which age groups. Get a feel for the word count in each category of children’s books.

Share your writing with kids. Ask schools and/or libraries if you can read your story to their kids. You’ll be able to tell what works and what doesn’t when you read your work to your target audience. After you read, ask questions to determine how the kids understood your story. Apply what you learn to your work.

Observe kids. Take a notebook and go to a park. Listen to the kids play. Watch how they react to each other and their mannerisms. Pay attention when you’re at a restaurant, movie theater, or the mall.

Make a librarian your BFF. A librarian can tell you what books are popular, what the kids like to read about, and how they react to specific storylines. Take some time to pick a librarian’s brain and you’ll find she has golden nuggets of information.

Writing for children is as difficult as writing for adults, but it’s also very rewarding. Using your words to create a story that touches the life of a child is one of the greatest rewards of writing.

Rebecca Talley grew up in Santa Barbara, CA. She now lives in rural CO on a small ranch with a dog, a spoiled horse, too many cats, and a herd of goats. She and her husband, Del, are the proud parents of ten multi-talented and wildly-creative children. Rebecca is the author of a children’s picture book “Grasshopper Pie” (WindRiver 2003), three novels, “Heaven Scent” (CFI 2008), “Altared Plans” (CFI 2009), and “The Upside of Down” (CFI 2011), and numerous magazine stories and articles. You can visit her blog at

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Thanks for taking the time to write your blog.  I’m just getting my feet wet in the publishing world, and you have given me a place to start.  I have written a children’s picture book.  I’ve been rejected by three publishers so far, and searched dozens of other LDS publishers who are not accepting submissions in this genre.  Would you please direct me?  I don’t know what to do next.

The difficulty with picture books is they cost more to produce and yet the expected sales are lower than books for adults.

Extra costs for a picture book include the cost of illustrations, which can run in the thousands of dollars if they hire a really good illustrator, plus the cost of full color printing, which can be double or more than a book with no color on the pages.

In order for a publisher to justify the risk, you’re going to have to have a pretty awesome story line or be an established author with a large following to guarantee sales.

What you need to look for is a publisher who specializes in picture books. I don’t know if your content is specifically LDS, but if it isn’t, or if it can be changed to reflect general Christian ideas, you might want to try a Christian publisher. (Google “Christian Picture Book Publisher).

I’m not sure what to advise your for specific LDS content… Readers? Ideas?


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The Plight of the Picture Book

September 28, 2011

Thanks for taking the time to write your blog. I’m just getting my feet wet in the publishing world, and you have given me a place to start. I have written a children’s picture book. I’ve been rejected by three publishers so far, and searched dozens of other LDS publishers who are not accepting submissions […]

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How well have children’s board books performed in the LDS market? Is this an area for which publishers would like to see more submissions? I don’t have any figures on this but yes, I think there is a market for it and I think the larger publishers will consider board books. If they’re not selling […]

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Why do some [books] become “classics” while others which are just as good or maybe better never even heard of, or in some cases never even published? Classics become so because: they impress an editor/publisher as something that will appeal to a lot of people they actually get published they are marketed or promoted in […]

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They Want You to What?!?

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Some publishers want illustrations to accompany a picture book manuscript. If I’m not a professional illustrator, where can I find one? Should I consider finding an illustrator or just submit to another publisher who doesn’t require illustrations with the text? Who asks for that??!? It is so often NOT the case that a publisher wants […]

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LDS YA in the National Market

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If we look toward the national market, do you recommend we de-LDS the story (keep it clean and have morals, but no overt “Mormon-ness”)or do you think the national market would be open to LDS stories with LDS characters? Maybe it would help demystify our religion (some are still convinced we practice polygamy, etc.). Okay, […]

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Publishing YA

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A few more comments on publishing YA: Several of you have posted that you buy lots of YA books and so do your kids. Of course you do! And so do I. I probably buy upwards of 50 YA titles a year—and I don’t have any YA readers at home anymore. The reason? We’re writers—and […]

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YA Hard to Sell

January 8, 2007

Hi! Great blog. (Thanks) Here’s my question: I’ve spent the past year submitting my YA to LDS publishers. Every rejection I’ve received said the same thing – that YA is a hard sell in the LDS market right now. Why is this? YA seems to be hotter than ever in the national market. Thanks in […]

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