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What Makes a Good Children's Book - 6 Important Characteristics

Updated: May 31

Writing a children's book can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience, but it's important to recognize that it's not always easy.

What makes a good children's book?

Lots of aspiring authors wonder what makes a good children's book but the real question is...


...what makes a great one?


Truthfully, writing a picture book is no easy task. Traditional publishers are increasingly picky about the picture books they deem worthy of accepting. And you'll only have success with self-publishing if you're willing to put in the time, effort, and money to produce a high-quality book.


Parents and teachers want to ensure that children are reading engaging content, and kids--the target audience--are often the toughest critics of all!


With countless titles on the market, how can you ensure that your book stands out in a sea of competition? Well, you're in luck. In this blog post, we're covering 5 important characteristics of a great children's picture book.


What makes a good children's book:


#1 A Relatable Topic


A relatable storyline is essential for a good children's book because kids need to be able to connect with the story and the characters. This means choosing themes and situations that are relevant to their lives, whether it's starting school, making friends, or dealing with family changes.


While this may seem obvious, we've seen many aspiring authors try to be so unique that they end up writing about topics that children just don't care about. We don't want that for your book! Start by thinking about the real-life scenarios that children face - and often struggle with - every day.



#2 A Hook or Powerful Message


Every great children's book has a purpose. It teaches a concept, models a desired behavior for children, makes children laugh, provides coping mechanisms...the list goes on. But every successful children's book has something compelling about it that makes people want to buy it, read it, and share it with others.


So when you're writing your own children's book, you need to keep your "why" in mind. What is the point of your book? Why will people enjoy it? If you can't answer those questions, then you're also going to have a hard time marketing so make sure you stop and regroup. Purpose is important!



#3 Character & Plot Development


Even though children's books are short, you still need to develop tension and show growth of some kind. Think of it like a roller coaster; if your ride only goes in a straight line...booooring! The reader needs to be taken on a journey.


Even comical children's books like Don't Push The Button keep us captivated with every page so it doesn't matter if your story is heartfelt, serious, or just for entertainment, give us some movement and progression.


Need more help with this? Check out the video below:


#4 Adults Love It Too!


While children are the primary audience for children's books, it's important to keep adults in mind because they are usually the ones reading picture books aloud time and time again. Parents and teachers alike are also the people purchasing children's books with the highest frequency so if they don't enjoy a book, they won't add it to their cart or add it to their bookshelf.



#5 Engaging Illustrations

If you're planning on traditional publishing, then you're off the hook for this one - your publisher will handle it for you.


If you're self publishing though, then you'll need to hire a freelancer if you're not an artist yourself.


Illustrations can make or break a children's book. Even if your story is compelling, if the art is bad, readers won't give the story a chance. (People really do judge a book by its cover!)


If you're self publishing, make sure you invest in quality illustrations that complement your story and enhance the reading experience.



#6 Revisions


I'll admit, this one is more of a "to-do" than a characteristic but I promise, it's a CRUCIAL element!


Here's the thing...your first draft is never publication ready. It's not supposed to be! The purpose of your first draft is to get your concept down on paper because the revision process is where the real magic happens. That's where characters start to come to life, meaningful layers are refined, unnecessary details are cut, and your children's book idea is elevated.


But when you're writing a book, your perspective is biased so it's important to get outside feedback from beta readers, critique partners, and even your target audience. If at all possible, I always recommend a professional developmental edit no matter which publishing route you choose because there's so much value that a kidlit expert can provide to help you improve your story.

 

So there you have it!


By keeping these elements in mind, you can create a book that not only captivates young readers but also stands out in a crowded market. Picture books may not be as simple as they look, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a more rewarding career. Even better is the knowledge that your book will entertain a child or help them learn something new. Get feedback from others, refine your craft, and your book is bound to become a storytime favorite.


Want help with writing your children's book?


Tips for writing children’s books

Are you ready to finally turn your picture book dreams into reality?

Join our Write Your Picture Book 5-Day Challenge and get the guidance, support, and motivation you need to bring your story to life. This is FREE and delivered daily to your email inbox.


Over the course of five days, we'll cover everything from brainstorming and outlining to crafting compelling characters and developing a strong plot.


Don't wait - sign up now and take the first step towards making your picture book dreams a reality! Click here to register.

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