The Christian children’s book market offers a great opportunity for publishers: the target audience is always refreshing itself and the sector’s sales grow almost every year.
But there are challenges and responsibilities as well. More and more books are being poured into this space, so how do you give yours the best chance of success? How do you produce the content responsibly, since your books will train young minds and shape young hearts?
Here are some tips Carl Laferton, Editorial Director at The Good Book Company, recently shared on the essential elements of successful Christian children’s books:
The message matters most. As we write books for children, we are forming worldviews for life and shaping eternities.
Ally realism with hope. Be realistic and upfront about the brokenness in our world. Offer the hope of the gospel in a way that truly connects to children’s lived experience.
Write “truth on fire” to engage heads and inspire hearts. Write and pray that your books will root truth in the mind and stir the heart. Don’t dampen the wonder of faith – books about Jesus should be really interesting!
Make your words work as hard as possible. Aim for words that are faithful, clear and accessible. Sometimes you may even need to invent new words or phrases if these foster engagement and accessibility.
Know what your education system is teaching children and at what age. Write content that helps children with these issues at that age that is positive and kind, that truthfully and compassionately teaches God’s way.
The medium matters too. Use visuals that grip children and draw them in, and reflect the truths of your story in fun ways. These should be biblically accurate, lift the words and make the message come alive.
It’s a team game. The best books involve a team, such as an art director meeting with an author and illustrator. This allows for “iron sharpens iron,” with the writing and drawing shaping the other without one dominating.
Remember your audience. It’s not about what you like, but what your audience and their parents will like! Get feedback from your target audience. Ask children and their parents: What isn’t working? What is the main message being received? What parts are engaging?
Details matter. Show the real world of the Bible and the real world children live in. Ensure children from various walks of life and cultures are represented; children need to be able to see themselves and their lived experience in the books they read.
Consider spin-offs that enable your book to reach a wider audience. This might include things such as a board book, audio book, activity book, devotional…. Invest in things that keep your book’s message in buyers’ minds.
Offer free content. Free online content can enable people to access and enjoy your book, and often prompt a purchase of a physical copy (as parents often want books to replace screens). Read-along videos are a great way to do this. Free content also helps build trust.
Hold on to kingdom impact. As you write, remember you are opening yourself to the possibility that your book will capture children’s hearts toward a life of faith and salvation through Christ.
Carl says, “The wonderful thing about Christian publishing and writing is that the Lord will use it. Remember that when you are sad at your computer or wrestling with print schedules or issues, the Lord is doing thousands of things through your work, and for now you can see maybe only one or two of those things. And what a joy it will be to praise Him for what He did through your work in the new creation.”
Carl Laferton has worked as a journalist, a teacher, a pastor of a congregation and as an editor of the God’s Word for You series. He wrote the best-selling children’s books The Garden, the Curtain and the Cross and God’s Big Promises Bible Storybook – and is now Editorial Director at The Good Book Company (TGBC), an international Christian publisher of Bible studies, books, evangelistic courses and training materials used throughout the English-speaking world, and in translation to over 35 languages worldwide.