How I Wrote a Children’s Book: From Idea to Execution

Our guest today is a 30 Days or Less alumna and the author of a charming children’s book. As you can imagine, writing a book for children is no easy feat, especially for a first timer.

Carrie agreed to tell us about the process that took her from a simple idea she had while working in a day care to a published book.

We’re all cheering for her, and hoping Don’t Eat Your Boogers is just the first story in a series of successful books for children.

And if you’re in the midst of shopping for Christmas presents, consider giving this book to a booger aficionado, will ya’?

Take it away, Carrie!

I had always pictured myself writing novels or volumes of poetry, so I never dreamed that I would ever write a children’s book. However, in the fall of 2015 I launched Don’t Eat Your Boogers (You’ll Turn Green)

And it was one of the best experiences of my life.

This is the story of my process from idea to execution.

Step 1: Pursuing the Idea for Don’t Eat Your Boogers

I’m sure some people wonder where in the world did I get an idea to write about not eating your boogers. Well, as a former day care teacher, you hear everything.

I was teaching in the room for 2-year-olds in 2012, and we were at the height of cold and flu season. As you can imagine, germs ran rampant and noses were running like faucets. My co-teacher and myself were having quite a time keeping up with the constant wiping of noses.

All of a sudden I heard, “Eww! Don’t eat your boogers. That’s gross!” Immediately “you’ll turn green” popped into my head and I laughed silently to myself.

Over the next few days, I muddled over the title, came up with a story line and the name of my main character, Goober McGee. Friday evening of that same week, I went home and wrote out the first draft of Don’t Eat Your Boogers (You’ll Turn Green).

Then, as life would have it, I put it aside and forgot about it.

how-i-wrote-a-childrens-book_-from-idea-to-executionStep 2: Acting on the Right Catalyst  

In January 2014, I was taking a freelance writing course from Penn Foster Career School. My last project for the course was to submit a short story, a novella or a children’s story.

I decided to polish up Don’t Eat Your Boogers and submit it as my final project. By then, I had shown it to my mom and some of my coworkers, but I was excited to get an outsider’s point of view.

Much to my surprise, I got an A on the project and a lot of good feedback, including that I should try to publish it.

I sent the manuscript to Highlights magazine. It was rejected a few months later. An Usbourne Book fair at work inspired me to submit it to them too. Another rejection came along. My last try was with Cricket magazine. That was rejection number three.

The three major rejections left me disappointed and frustrated, but my instructor’s comments kept coming back to me. If the instructor saw something in it, then it must be there. I was not going to be deterred.

Step 3: Vetting Your Idea

In all the whirlwind of trying to get this story published, I forgot to factor in one important piece of the puzzle – my real audience. Adults could say whatever they wanted, but the opinion of the kids was the true test. So, I arranged to go down to the school-age room (ages 5-12) one afternoon and read it to them.

I was apprehensive because all I had was a story in black and white. No pictures. What would they think? Would they even listen? Let’s face it, kids are notorious for becoming wiggle worms during story time at school.

I explained to them that this was a story I wrote, and that I wanted to share it with them. I asked them to be honest about whether they liked it or not. I also told them that if they didn’t like it, I wouldn’t be mad. Their thoughts and opinions would help me rewrite the story and make it better.

Spoiler alert!

Some liked that Goober turned green. Some liked that he had to eat gross vegetables to get better. Others liked the fact that he ate his boogers in the first place.

One or two kids even said, “I want that book.” That’s when I really knew I was on to something. It was that moment that I decided to publish it myself.

(Gina’s tip: My friend, Sally Miller, is a pro at self-publishing. She has five Amazon best-sellers under her belt, and she has a super comprehensive course out that will teach you the nuts and bolts of self-publishing.)

How to write a children's book: Don't eat your boogers by Carrie LowranceStep 4: Finding an Illustrator

I didn’t have a lot of contacts in the industry, so I turned to word-of-mouth for finding an illustrator.

Maureen Cutajar, who formatted my books, referred me to a great illustrator, Jeanine Henning. I looked at her children’s books profile and really liked her work. I emailed her with some questions and we talked back and forth over the next few months while I saved the money for my illustrations.

It was absolutely fascinating to see Jeanine come up with each character sketch according to how I described them. They looked better than I’d ever imagined them.

Watching the character that I’d dreamed up go from pencil sketches to inks to full color was a very exciting experience.

Gina’s Tip: Not sure what niches you can specialize in as a freelance writer? We’ve done some research and brainstorming for you, and we came up with over 200 niches to choose from. Here’s the list:

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Step 5: Setting Up the Preorder on Smashwords

Once Jeanine finished designing my cover, I set my book up for preorder on Smashwords about three months ahead of time. Smashwords is an e-book publishing website that’s really easy to use. Once your preorder is set up, they will let you know the date by which you have to upload your full manuscript. Once your full manuscript is approved, you are ready for launch day.

Another thing I love about Smashwords is they distribute your ebook to lots of different stores, such as Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo and even to online bookstores overseas.

Step 6: Getting Ready for Launch Day

On November 2, 2015, Don’t Eat Your Boogers (You’ll Turn Green) was officially released to various online bookstores.

My boss allowed me to put up a display in the front lobby of the day care with my business cards and gummy booger candy. Once again, I went down to the school-age room, but this time I got to read my story in actual book form. I also passed out gummy boogers for all. The kids thought it was pretty cool that Miss Carrie had her own book.

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It still amazes me to think that, if I hadn’t taken that class and received feedback from a stranger, or read it to the kids, my book may still be stuffed in a folder somewhere. You never know where you will get the validation of something that makes you go for it.

I’m so glad I didn’t let rejection deter me. I’m glad I listened to the positive feedback and pursued a dream I never even knew I had.

You see, I never dreamed in a million years that I would write and publish a children’s book. Now I wouldn’t have it any other way.

carrie-lowrance-_-authorCarrie Lowrance is an author and freelance writer. She has been featured on Huffington Post, She Is Fierce, Parachute and Crosswalk. In addition to her children’s book, she has also published two books of poetry, Lithium Dreams And Melancholy Sunrise and The Safety Of Objects. You can connect with her at Freelance by Lowrance.

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32 thoughts on “How I Wrote a Children’s Book: From Idea to Execution

  1. I wrote a few stories for my kids years ago. Always wished I could bring them to life with illustrations in a book. They are somewhere in a folder. Maybe it is time to dig them out even though my kids are grown now.

  2. Thank you for writing this! It really gave me a lot of ideas. I wrote a children’s book for class a few years ago, and have been sitting on it until I have the time to get it polished, illustrated, and published. Maybe now is the time to give it a shot?

      • Book sales have been slow, but I’m always looking for new ways to promote. I have not earned back my investment in illustrations yet but I believe it will come. Some new opportunities have come my way recently and things are starting to move.

    • I’m so glad I could help Kerrin. Like you, my story started as a project I had to write for a class. I too also sat on it for awhile until I finally decided to pursue it. Get it out, polish it up and start chasing that dream. The thrill of the process in seeing your inner pages being formatted as well as your illustrations being brought to life is just as great as seeing the final product. You’ve got this!

  3. My 10 year old daughter has decided to write a children’s book and this has really helped in deciding what direction to take! Now to get her story on paper!

  4. Tips for finding reasonably priced illustrator. Check your local author groups many have illustrators to recommend. Check out local art schools for young students who may be interested in the experience of illustrating a children’s book.

  5. This article was so helpful! I have an idea percolating in my head, based on something my daughter did when she was a child. Would you tell a bit more about the formatting process? Why didn’t you do this yourself? Does it require specialized software? Things like that. Thanks so much.

    • Hi Alice,
      Since I am not very technically inclined, I decided it was easier for me to hire someone to format my books. The lady I use is very easy to work with, I send her my manuscript, digital cover (e-book), and she works her magic. Sometimes we have to converse back and forth if a question needs answered but overall it is a very easy process. Once she is done, she sends me all four files I need for Smashwords, Amazon KDP, ebook file for Barnes&Noble, Kobo, etc and a file for Createspace. Then I upload them and wait for verification that they have been approved. From there the digital versions either go on sale immediately or are placed for pre-order. For print through Createspace I upload the file, order a proof copy to inspect and then publish.

  6. Such great advice! This article is my guiding light in my Children’s Book writing process. Much appreciated Carrie!

  7. So i have a variety if stories that i have read from making up two characters ive now got them down on paper they arebt very long but my preschool love them! I just need the skills to male it sound as good on paper as it does from my mouth!

    • Hey Lauren,
      Just sit down and write what comes out when you’re speaking. You can always go back and edit later. Kids are always the best audience, they are so honest and will truthfully tell you if they like something or not. I wish you the best on your journey to your first children’s book.

  8. Can you share how much the illustrations cost? I’ve been dreaming of writing a children’s book for many years. I’m a first grade teacher and have so many great ideas but not sure how much I’d have to invest to get this dream off the ground. Anyway thank you so much for sharing your story it’s truly inspiring ❤️

  9. I have a romance novel that I have been writing and revising for years. I have no idea how to get it published or even where to start. Does this process work as well for other books besides children’s books?

  10. Thank you! Don’t know if anyone else out there feels like this….but, I am fearful and feel so inadequate. Even tho I know I have a good story written and sitting in a drawer. I have artwork published through a small curriculum publisher. But, I still do not feel confident enough to move forward! So, I am very impressed by anyone who pushes themselves to step into such difficult, unknown waters. I am taking that first step by researching online. And doing a lot of self talk! I can do this. Fear and insecurity are my only obstacles. Thank you, for doing it. Thank you, for encouraging me.

  11. Thank you for your story and congratulations. I am hoping to publish children’s books (including e books). My passion or niche is to write about safety and security in schools / awareness for children and parents on a number of topics. I want to keep the reading simple but informative and useful. My idea for my first title might be “ Hot Tips For Cool Kids”. Currently I post advice and tips on my Facebook page and have reached several thousand people from all parts of the world. Any advice?

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