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Hard hitting lessons on why you maybe shouldn't waste too much time working on the wrong thing


Valerie Doubletone

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A few years ago I wrote a children's book. I did everything right: I had a great idea, I followed the publishing process, got a great cover design, and even hired an editor. But in the end, it didn't sell. Here's how you can repeat my process and spend time and money writing a children's book that nobody reads.

Why you should write a children's book

There are many reasons why you should not write a children's book but admittedly there are also a few reasons you maybe should.

Maybe you want to share your unique perspective on the world with a young audience.

Maybe you want to encourage children to read, or to explore their creativity. Or maybe you simply want to make a difference in a child's life. Yes, children's books can do that. Ahem.

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” Ernest Hemingway

Whatever your reasons, writing and publishing a children's book can be a rewarding experience but the reality is it will probably be a minor disaster.

And if you're worried that nobody will buy your book, you should be. There's already tons and tons of them! And loads of them are great! So while there may be many ways to promote and sell your work, even with a lot of effort, you will be lucky if you find any success at all.

So, er, don't hesitate – start writing your children's book today!

How to write a children's book

Writing a children's book is not as easy as it looks. You need to capture the attention of a child and hold it for an entire story. And frankly, do children even read any more?

Disappointingly, you also need to be able to do it without resorting to cheap gimmicks or crude humour. Here are a few tips to get you started:

  1. You might as well start by coming up with an idea. It can be something original or an adaptation of a pre-existing story, but it needs to be something that there's at least a billion-to-one chance children will enjoy.

  2. If you're still going, then what the heck, plan out the story before you start writing. This will help ensure that the plot is logical and engaging for the imaginary kids you think will be reading this stuff.

  3. Write in simple language that kids can understand. Avoid big words and complex sentence structures. Big words in particular will reduce your chances of success from very unlikely, to extremely very unlikely.

  4. Have someone else read your work and give you feedback. Typically the feedback will take the form of embarrassed silence. For this reason, do not show the book to anyone whose respect is important to you. And definitely not to anyone you are hoping to sleep with.

How to get your children's book published

So you've finished your masterpiece and you're itching to get it published? Great! There are a few things you need to do in order to make that happen.

The first step is to find an agent which is basically impossible.

I asked a literary agent what writing paid the best. She said, ‘ransom notes’.

Unfortunately an agent is essential because they can help you navigate the publishing process, which can be complex and confusing. They can also help you get the best publishing deal possible.

On the million-to-one chance you get an agent, the next step is to submit your manuscript to publishers. If a publisher is daft enough to like your book, they'll ask for revisions before finally publishing it.

So don't be discouraged if your book isn't published right away — there's a lot of vetting that goes into deciding which books get published and which ones don't.

Keep writing and honing your craft, and eventually your work will find a home, probably in the bin.

What to do if nobody buys your children's book

So what do you do if nobody buys your children's book? Strongly consider giving up! Publishing a children's book is no easy feat, and it can be quite discouraging if you don't get the results you were foolishly hoping for and realise what a waste of time it's been.

But maybe that doesn't 100% mean you should give up. Instead, a positive person with a strong mind would use it as motivation to keep pushing forward.

“You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.” Madeleine L'Engle

Things I failed to do included reaching out to local schools and libraries and see if they're interested in hosting a reading or book signing, setting up a page on Amazon or creating an account on Etsy to sell my book online. Who knew!

Apparently, there are plenty of ways to sell your work, all of which require more effort and commitment than you would have expected. I suppose you could decide not to give up until you find the right one for you.

How to use your children's book to find your purpose

So you wrote a children's book, and it didn't sell. Now what?

The trick is to remember there's still a lot of value in that book. It means you have a message to share, and that's something special. Use the effort you put into creating your book as a tool to find your purpose in life. What is it you want to share with the world? Maybe those dumb kids were never going to listen anyway.

Pinikl is designed to help people find their singular talent and help them focus on what they should be doing. Perhaps you weren't meant to be a children's author, but you just proved to yourself you've got the gumption to attempt something big and difficult.

Next step, make sure the next thing you do is the right thing.


In theory, writing a children's book can be an incredibly rewarding experience, and can help you find your purpose in life. In practice, why not focus on the things you're meant to be doing instead?

Still if nobody buys your children's book, don't worry – use it as an opportunity to learn and grow. Keep trying, and eventually you'll maybe possibly potentially find the success you're looking for.

[Insert quote from Julia Donaldson saying she regrets everything]

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