Interested in writing your own children’s books? Read below to learn about my process and recommendations.
Why I Write/Illustrate
I started writing and illustrating when I was pregnant with my firstborn in the fall of 2018. Influenced by my work in tech and graduate studies, I wanted to ensure my daughter’s library included books about STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).
Our top 5 favorite (non-STEM) books that I highly recommend are:
- Here We Are, Notes for Living on Planet Earth by Oliver Jeffers
- Love you Forever by Robert Munsch
- Oh, the Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss
- I love Mommy by Laura Gates Galvin
- Goldilocks and the Three Bears by Estelle Corke
What I found at local bookstores surprised me. I didn’t find any books that talked about up-and-coming STEM topics I know are critical for our future generations. Now, there were wonderful books about basic science fundamentals, which made me very happy.
The following are my daughters’ top 3 favorite basic STEM books and I highly recommend them.
- Baby Loves Gravity by Ruth Spiro
- Baby Loves Thermodynamics by Ruth Spiro
- Rocket Science by Alex Fabrizio
Note: I think Chris Ferrie’s Baby University Collection is great for older children (10 and up), adults, or as a gift for a scientist or engineer.
If you are thinking about writing/illustrating your own children’s books, I would recommend brainstorming an area where you could carve out your own niche (where you are especially suited to make a contribution). Think about your special skill set, your interests, where you spend much of your time, or a topic you know more about than others. Or, if there is simply a story you want to tell. Today, there are children’s books that range all the way from life lessons Ray Dalio’s Principles of Success to mindfulness books like Breathe like a Bear by Kira Willey. There are many new genres that didn’t exist 10 years ago, and still room for growth.
What I Write/Illustrate
I was interested in purchasing books about up-and-coming STEM topics for my daughter. To my surprise, I found nothing about what I call ‘emerging STEM’ topics which I was surrounded by (and many that work in tech are). Examples of these topics include:
- artificial intelligence
- interplanetary travel
- self-driving cars
Now, I know from research that
- 90% of a child’s brain is developed by the age of 5
- synaptic growth of a child’s brain doubles by the age of 3
- it’s never too early to learn about science and technology
My husband and I wanted emerging STEM topics to be fun for our kids and for others, not be something that’s looked at as too complex, boring, or hard. So, my husband and I decided to do something about it.
Tinker Toddlers™ was founded in 2018 in sunny California to inspire and to teach basics to the youngest learners (and adults) about emerging STEM topics. Machine Learning for Kids was our flagship book, and the first in the world to talk about machine learning for such a young age.
To get started in your writing journey, I recommend visiting your local bookstore and perusing on amazon.com books to study categories, types of books that are popular, etc. Note anything that surprises you or topics you find are missing.
How I Write/Illustrate
I am an indie author, through and through. This means I self-publish my own books and don’t go through a traditional publisher like Penguin House. I strongly believe in not having any gatekeepers between me and my readers, a slogan I first heard from the Self-Publishing Show. This also allows me to move faster, and be 100% in charge of every aspect of my publishing business. For me, I enjoy learning and executing on the different aspects of this business, from being creative to being an advertiser.
If you are thinking of being an indie author, I recommend doing as much as you can in-house. You may not like some aspects of the self-publishing business, but having a deep understanding of it will help you optimize your sales and business in the long run.
I focus my advertising efforts on a single platform (i.e., I don’t go ‘wide’ as they say in the self-publishing community). Most of my customers are on Amazon, and because I am limited on time, I stick with the Amazon platform as my primary distributor (paperback and eBooks). My secondary distributor (paperback and hardcover) is IngramSpark. Perhaps one day I will sell books from my own website and order in bulk from overseas.
Until you know if your book sells well, I recommend publishing on Amazon’s KDP instead of trying to do too much, too soon. There is lots to learn and it takes time. Be sure to pace yourself so you don’t get burned out.
Here are the top 4 resources that help me stay on top of my game:
1. Amazon’s KDP
When I published my first 3 books, I had no idea such a large indie (self-publishing) community existed both locally in my city (Sacramento) or online. I simply followed the instructions on KDP and published (and ended up winning KDP’s bestseller month award for my book Solar System for Kids the first month it was out!). That was an extra $500 bonus! Publishing on Amazon is free.
I recommend investing in your own ISBN numbers for paperback and hardcover books. One ISBN number will run you about $125. I purchased 100 ISBNs for $575 because I knew I was going to write several books.
This easy-to-use software (which I purchased for about $100) is fantastic for metadata optimization, including what categories to slot your books into, what titles are selling, what keywords to use, etc.). When Dave Chesson, founder of Kindleprenuer and this software, sends an email or puts up a YouTube video, I always read it immediately. He offers lots of value and this is the number 1 tool I recommend getting, even if you’re just thinking about writing/illustrating (in all genres, not just children’s books).
I can’t recommend this software enough. It’s fantastic and I couldn’t do what I do without it.
Also known as SPF, this is both a free podcast (I listen to on YouTube) and also a course. As a serious writer/illustrator, I did invest in the Self-Publishing 101 Formula (it was about $2,000 when I took it in 2019). Although it is geared for adult books (novels, non-fiction, etc) and not for children, I did pick up lots of information (tips and tricks) and how to up my own writing and advertising. It’s also great to be part of a private Facebook community that has lots of children’s authors and are extremely helpful. Mark Dawson himself is getting into writing children’s chapter books.
If the course is too expensive for you, I would recommend listening to their free weekly podcast on YouTube to get oriented or stay on top of the self-publishing community. If you are interested in taking the SPF course, sign-up on their waitlist ASAP. SPF only accepts a certain number of students at a time.
Laurie’s courses are not very expensive and she really helped me get a handle on optimizing my metadata. I also find lots of value being part of her Facebook community and when launching a new book and also when I run into any roadblocks. Both Laurie and the community she has formed is extremely responsive, and I sincerely feel Laurie cares about the students she works with.
Laurie’s is one of the few authors I know of that both writes children’s picture books and helps budding authors publish and advertise.
Other essential tools I use to get the work done include PowerPoint, Adobe Creative Suite, and an iPad Pro.
When I Write/Illustrate
With a fresh cup of chai in hand, I like to work in the mornings when my kids are asleep (mostly).
- 6am to 10am is ideal when I have time off (holidays, on leave)
- 7am to 12pm Saturday mornings regularly (as regular as I can)
- Random 1-hour increments whenever I get a breather (kids napping)
I live a very busy (and extremely rewarding life). I’m an engineer at a tech company, have 2 young kids at home (a 2.5 year old and a baby), and I am also the COO of a hardware/software startup www.MuteMe.com. I understand juggling priorities and how difficult it can be to find time to write.
If you’re just starting off, see where you can find 30 minutes of focused time to ideate, write, or illustrate. Come ready to work in these 30 minutes (i.e. have a plan on what you are going to work on, have your essentials in place, etc.).
Where I Write/Illustrate
My home office is the perfect place for me to get deep work done. I have an extra-large whiteboard on my wall scribbled with ideas and a roadmap, a large wide-monitor to illustrate spreads, a bookshelf filled with inspirational books, and plenty of space for snacks and a fresh cup of coffee.
What My Process is Like
I tend to be a pretty systematic individual and am always looking for ways to increase my productivity. I have a lot on my plate (and love it) and believe working diligently everyday yields great results. This process also allows for new ideas to be incorporated into your work and to easily cross that finish line.
My process involves 6 steps which I have been following for the last 3 years.
Step 1: Deciding What to Write
Step 2: Writing & Illustrating
Step 3: Book Reviews & Revising
Step 4: Publishing
Step 5: Metadata Optimization
Step 6: Advertising
If interested, I can dive more into these steps in the future expansion of this page.
Thank you to family, friends, and other budding authors for your interest in learning about my writing journey. My hope on creating this page is to encourage you to write that story that’s been on your mind. The Why, What, How, When, Where, and Process I’ve described is my own and yours may differ. The resources I have provided are ones I use monthly (if not weekly) and may include affiliate links.
I wish you all the best and am excited to see your books on the bookshelf!