Are you writing a children’s book? Are you an independent author who hopes to self-publish? Not sure how to go about it? I receive many proofreading requests from first-time authors seeking help. Most of the requests that I receive are from indie authors who have found my website and are seeking help to get their children’s book ready for self-publishing. The most common phrase is, “I’ve written a children’s story. I am new to all this. What do I do next?” I thought it would be helpful if I put all the information that I give to clients here, in one place. Indeed some of this advice will answer questions asked by any indie authors, regardless of the audience age. So read on if you write any kind of fiction or are an editor for indie authors.
Proofread or proof-edit?
When you ask for help are you asking for a proofread or a proof-edit of your book? They are slightly different and I explain the difference in my services here. If you’re not really sure what kind of help you want, that’s fine.
Age bands in children’s books
I will ask you what age group you are aiming at, and the kind of story you’ve written. Generally, there are a lot of ways to categorise books. But all published children’s books have to be given BIC marketing categories, which have specified age groups based on interest level (not reading level), so publishers will categorise their books into age bands.
Children’s fiction and non-fiction will be split into these age groups: 0-5 years, 5-7 years, 7-9 years, 9-11 years, 12+ years. Most non-fiction for primary age is for the 5-7, 7-9 and 9-11 ages. The 0-5 age group can be broken down into 0-2 and 3-5 to specify board books or picture books.
Terminology for each type of book
Board books 0-2 Picture books 3-5 Early Readers 5-7 Young Fiction 7-9 Middle Grade 9-12 Teen 12-15 YA 16+
Genres (types) of children’s books
- Fiction, eg fantasy, horror (eg Goosebumps series), personal and social issues (by authors like Jacqueline Wilson)
- Non-fiction: hobbies and interests, reference (for topic research, eg volcanoes).
Use bookshops for ideas
Visit any bookshop and flick through a variety of children’s books. Choose a selection of ages and genres. This will help if you are unsure of where to pitch the vocabulary in your book. Looking at a selection will give you examples of how the writing and illustrations are presented. Also, see how the speech (dialogue) is punctuated, if applicable.
Choosing an illustrator
Have you written a book for younger children? You will need illustrations. Most new clients send me a Word document with the text. It would be useful to know how you visualise your story. The illustrations tell the story as much as the words do. Placement of the illustrations is crucial to the impact of your story. Have you chosen an illustrator? Have you thought about your cover?
If you need help choosing an artist, the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) has a directory (see below). From there you can choose a Partner Member who offers a service, eg illustration, book designer, etc. Perhaps you are going to illustrate your story yourself? Marvellous!
Writing a blurb
Have you written a blurb for your story? A blurb is a synopsis found on the back cover which summarises the story … without giving away the ending. There is a particular skill in keeping the blurb succinct. I can help you. I will offer to proofread your blurb, included as part of the final proofread of your PDF.
How can I help you?
I proofread children’s books using my decades of knowledge teaching reading in the primary classroom. Showing my students how to value books and enjoy well-written stories, I modelled how they could improve their writing by discussing how the stories were written. I continue to share reading time with my tutees as part of our tuition lessons. See the blog post I have written about How I Teach English.
If you are a children’s author, see my Rates page for the packages I provide. I have supported several independent children’s authors to self-publication. They’ve told me they’ve seen my Partner Member profile in the directory of the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi). Use the link to join.
As mentioned earlier ALLi has a range of helpful resources and guidebooks to support indie authors in the self-publishing process from editing to designing to publication. You want to be proud of the book you’ve written. You need it to be the best it can be. Your editor or proofreader will polish your book or know who to recommend. Good luck! I look forward to seeing your book published.
Recommended resource: ‘Pen to Published Podcast’ by Alexa Whitten (independent book publisher) and Alexa Tewkesbury (author, editor and proofreader).