Brief overview: The German Children's Book Market
Children's books are the second largest group of goods after fiction. Several thousand books are published each year. According to the economic figures of the Börsenverein there have been approximately 8,000 new releases in this space in 2019. According to the backlist currently around 25,500 children's books on the German market. In terms of sales, children's and young adult books accounted for a share of 17.2 percent in 2019. So the competition is fierce.
To play in the competitive market and become a children's book author, your book must be of a convincing quality and stand out from the crowd.
What age can you write a children's book for?
There are great differences in the age groups in the field of children's books. This concerns the length of the story, the relationship between text and image, and the complexity of the language. That's why it's especially important in this genre to think in advance about the age group for which you want to write your children's book. What do you want to achieve with the story? Is it about entertainment, do you want to impart knowledge or do you want your book to be a practice book for first-time readers?
The German book trade makes the following subdivision in the children's book product group:
- Picture books (0 - 2 years)
- Read aloud books (3 - 5 years)
- First reading books (6 - 7 years)
- Children's books up to 11 years
- Non-fiction and picture books (for toddlers and children up to 11 years)
You should find your book in one of these categories. Nevertheless, it needs an unusual theme and a special presentation to make your book stand out from the others. You don't just have to convince the little readers. After all, it is their parents or grandparents who will choose your book.
It can help if you get an overview of the genre. Browse through a bookstore, see what styles and language other authors use, and get inspiration for how to illustrate your children's book. Of course, you shouldn't copy anything, but find your own style. But it doesn't hurt to get some ideas from your colleagues.
What topics can you write about in a children's book?
The variety of topics you can write about in a children's book is high. For example, it is always about emotions, dealing with feelings such as courage, fear, joy, self-confidence or ambition. Friendships and family are also popular topics. Some books deal with everyday life in the family, new additions to the family or quarrels between siblings as well as the cohesion of friends. Experiences from everyday life also appear in children's books. These are about experiences in kindergarten, shopping, playing, on vacation or visiting the zoo. Animal stories, rhymes and songs or humorous stories are also popular. For older children, the themes are then expanded to include school, adventure, detectives and pirates, as well as fantastic stories and fairy tales.
To stand out from the crowd, you can choose a popular topic, but find a niche within it that is not yet occupied. The tredition author Judith Spörl writes, for example, about girls learning to glide. This is unusual, as flying is otherwise more a topic for boys. The author also addresses central aspects for children's books such as love, courage and friendship.
Once you have decided on an age group, the next step is to create a thematic concept that you can use to write your children's book. Writing down the plot in key words can help you avoid getting bogged down and keep a clear narrative structure.
Writing a children's book in the right language
If you want to write a children's book, you should speak the language of your target group. Books for children up to the age of two are dominated by pictures and drawings. Even for preschoolers, the sentences should not be too long and complicated, and you should use subordinate clauses sparingly. Only for readers aged eight and over can the sentences become somewhat longer and more demanding, but still not too complex and convoluted. Children like rhymes and onomatopoeia, and even neologisms go down well with little ones. Try out a bit and let your creativity run free.
Once you have a concept, know what you want it to be about, and have found your language, you can go right ahead and write your children's book.
What do children's books look like? Design, size and format
The layout and interior design as well as the format differ from "adult books" and classic paperbacks. The size is also much smaller. If you want to write a children's book, it is also crucial in terms of design how old your readers are.
How many pages does a children's book have?
For children up to the age of two, it is advisable to keep the length limited so as not to overwhelm the little readers. At tredition, the minimum number of pages in a book is 24. If possible, you should not exceed this number for very young readers and integrate many pictures. You should only use a few words or sentences per page. For three to five year olds, you can work with considerably more text. A guideline for this age group is about 10,000 characters per book.
Read-aloud books should contain no more than 80 standard pages and children's novels 100 to 150 standard pages. A standard page is 1,800 characters including spaces. You can find more information about the length of children's books on the blog authorworld.com.
Which format suits a children's book?
The page formats in the children's book market are diverse. Picture books for young children are often large and, for example, square or particularly wide. However, the format should match the content of the book, as texts and pictures have a very different effect on a square format than in a classic page format such as DIN A5.
At tredition, you can create a test print to assess how your story will look in the format you choose.
How can I illustrate a children's book?
Books for very young readers thrive on pictures, illustrations and photos. This allows emotions, situations and fantastic things to be depicted. The illustrations must be clear and understandable for young children. Just as with the texts, you should also submit the pictures to a critical test audience.
Many children's book authors work as a team and have their children's book illustrated. Maybe you have already found an illustrator. If not, we're happy to help through our network of experts. Or you can do the pictures yourself. To do this, you should be proficient in one of the common graphics programs and have technical knowledge of color images. Ideally, you should create them in CMYK mode (four-colour mode). This is used in digital printing and guarantees a good colour result. In RGB color mode, color shifts may occur.
An important selling point: the metadata of your children's book
The term metadata means all the necessary information that describes your book. Booksellers use it as a guide and it is also crucial in terms of marketing.
Metadata includes cover, blurb, and the short description that is displayed in online stores. Before a book is purchased, the potential reader comes into contact with this data. The first glance goes, for example, to the Cover. Here it must be directly recognisable whether it is a picture book, an adventure story for first-time readers or a children's non-fiction book. A pacifier or bib make it immediately clear that it is about the everyday life of a toddler. And a detective with a magnifying glass indicates a detective story for older children. Don't forget that it's not the children, but parents and grandparents who write the short description or the Blurb read. The rule here (as with other books, by the way) is short and snappy sentences that grab attention and convey the content of the book. You can write it humorously or build suspense if that fits the story.
With the metadata, your children's book can be placed in the right category in bookstores or online shops. This in turn leads to you being found by readers.
Becoming a children's book author: Publishing or Self-Publishing?
No matter what genre you're at home in, you should consider working in the Self-publishing or a publisher you want to publish. This decision depends on several factors.
Especially in the field of children's books, it is difficult to be accepted by a publisher. This is because the genre is popular and publishers receive countless manuscripts. Be prepared for long wait times, especially if you're applying to one of the big children's book publishers. How about trying a smaller publisher instead?
Or you can decide to self-publish. Then you can publish your book immediately and don't have to go through an application process. You have layout, typesetting and illustration in your own hands or you can let our cover designers help you and use the automatic book typesetting.
With children's books it is as so often in life: What seems particularly easy at first glance is actually more challenging than you thought. If you want to write a children's book, you have not only found a great opportunity to express yourself creatively. You are also helping to get even the youngest children interested in books. With good preparation, the support of an illustrator and an unusual topic, you can become a children's author and write and design a professional children's book.