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Onomatopoeia: How To Use (And Not Abuse) Them In Writing

Are you looking to spice up your writing? Do you have a scene that falls a little flat, or do you find yourself looking to add dimension to your description, settings, or characters?

Maybe you have all the technical details in place, but you’re just looking for that little something to make it pop. 

Well, allow me to introduce you to onomatopoeia!

You may have heard of these guys before, but I bet you haven’t heard of all the different ways you can incorporate them into your prose. In this article, we’ll talk about what they are, give you some examples, and discuss different ways to use them to make your writing shine whether you’re writing a short story, a nonfiction book, or even if you’re writing a novel

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What is an onomatopoeia?

An onomatopoeia, plainly put, is a word that sounds like the thing it’s describing. 

If you’re like me, you might have learned that onomatopoeia is reserved for writing comic books and writing children’s literature. They’re fun, but they’re always accompanied by an exclamation point, and they’re not really useful for anything above middle grade fiction. The examples I learned growing up are things like Zap! Bang! Pop! 

But as it turns out, onomatopoeia includes a much wider umbrella of words than you may think. Some of them are single word phrases accompanied by an exclamation point. These are your comic book phrases: Bam!, *slurp*, and Pow! are all examples of this. 

There might also be more subtle uses of onomatopoeia in writing.

The word ‘pop,’ for example, sounds like something popping. These words evoke the thing they’re describing, so they’re super useful in making your descriptions and scenes come to life.

Not only do they describe the object to your reader, but they’ll also add a textural element that’s super satisfying when done right. 

Examples of Onomatopoeia

Let’s take a look at some examples of onomatopoeia that might be helpful in your writing adventures! 

Example: “The onions sizzled on the stove.” 

In the word ‘sizzled,’ the ‘s’ and ‘z’ sounds sort of mimic the way food cooking in a skillet sounds. Sizzled sounds like sizzling, which is how we know this is an onomatopoeia. This is a lot more lively than saying something like “onions cooked on the stove,” because with the onomatopoeia, we have that textural element from the ‘s’ and ‘z’ sounds. 

Example: “Popcorn crunched under their feet in the dark theater.” 

We actually have two here—’pop’ and ‘crunched.’ The ‘p’ sounds, as well as the short percussive structure of the word ‘pop,’ mimic a popping sound. This is why popcorn is fun to say, and it’s why it’s so evocative! We also have the hard ‘c’ and the ‘ch’ in ‘crunch,’ which sound a bit like something crunching. This combo of sounds mimics the sound of popcorn crunching underfoot, which is a great sensory experience to put the reader right in the scene! 

Example: “I snap my fingers. ‘Get back here!’” 

 Here, the onomatopoeia is ‘snap.’ Like with ‘pop,’ we have a short word, which automatically gives the word a clipped, quick feel. We also have that ‘p’ sound again. This makes the word ‘snap’ evoke the sound of a snap. 

Example: “‘You’re safe now,’ she murmured.” 

In the word ‘murmured,’ we have the ‘m’ sound and the ‘ur’ sounds doing some heavy sensory work for us. This combination, when spoken aloud, sounds soft and a little blended together, much in the way murmuring does. You might notice that it’s kind of hard to shout the word ‘murmur.’ It’s possible, but it feels wrong, because the sounds are so soft. 

Example: “When I thought my head couldn’t hurt worse, the city bells started clanging.” 

Onomatopoeia is often at its most potent when it comes to impact sounds. ‘Clanging’ is the perfect storm of syllables. We have the hard ‘c’ and the tangy sound from ‘ang,’ which, combined, sound kind of like reverberating metal. Have you ever hit a sheet of metal and heard the sound it makes? It sounds like ‘clang,’ doesn’t it? 

Example: “I still couldn’t hear the movie over the teenagers’ chatter, so I shushed them again.” 

Similarly to “murmur,” the ‘u’ sound in ‘shushed’ helps give this a soft feel. But the real impact here comes from the double ‘sh’ sound on either side of ‘shush.’ This makes ‘shush’ sound like you’re actually saying ‘shhh’ to someone. 

Side note: You might notice that when someone gets mad and really wants someone to be quiet, they’ll go for a more percussive variant: “Shut up!” Why is that? 

Soft and Hard Sounds Using Onomatopoeia

Take a look at the examples listed above. Do you notice some common traits or differences? 

Onomatopoeia relies on the sounds in a word, and to evoke certain sounds, you need to distinguish between hard and soft sounds. 

A soft sound will come from soft vowel sounds, like the ‘uh’ sound in words like ‘chuckle,’ ‘murmur,’ or ‘mutter.’ Soft sounds also come from soft consonant sounds, like those ‘sh’ sounds in ‘sh,’ the ‘m’ sound in ‘murmur,’ and the ‘s’ sound in ‘sigh.’ 

A hard sound, on the other hard, will come from harsher vowel and consonant sounds. These words will usually also be shorter, especially if they’re describing an impact. Remember the ‘p’ on either side of ‘pop?’ Shorter, more percussive sounds will give a punchier feel. ‘Punch,’ too, is an example. Yes, we have the soft ‘u’ sound, but the hard ‘p’ offers it some oomph, while the ‘ch’ does here what it did back in ‘crunch.’ 

This is why our curse words tend to be short and full of those satisfying consonant sounds. They’re fun to say, and they sound exactly as harsh as what we’re searching for when we, say, stub our toe. It’s also why someone yelling ‘hush’ doesn’t sound nearly as harsh as someone yelling ‘shut up!’ 

When is the best time to use onomatopoeia in writing?

Hopefully now you can see that onomatopoeia is absolutely everywhere, and that they cover a ton of words you may not have even realized it covered. Now that you have this descriptive power, you may be ready to take it to your novel and pop, bang, and sizzle! 

But there is a time and place for onomatopoeia, and like any literary device, you want to make sure you’re using it intentionally. So, when’s the best time to use onomatopoeia? 

1. You’re writing a creative piece 

First things first, onomatopoeia belongs in creative writing. If you’re writing something technical, like an essay for school or copywriting for a manual, you’ll almost never want to use onomatopoeia. 

Let’s take an essay, for example. If you’re describing something that happened in a book, you could say that on page six, the main character ‘murmurs’ to her lover. However, this is going to read a little informally, because academic writing generally doesn’t include a lot of descriptive or image-heavy language. Instead, you would say that the main character ‘said’ something. 

This doesn’t mean your technical or academic writing needs to be as bland and robotic as possible. It just means that you’re not trying to evoke imagery here—you’re trying to argue a point or analyze something, which means you need to be simple, clear, and concise. 

There are exceptions, of course. In a manual, for example, maybe you need to say that if a customer hears a ‘pop’ when the product is turned on, they should unplug it immediately. If there’s a word that best describes what you need to describe, and it happens to be an onomatopoeia, that’s fine. Just don’t go out of your way to get super artsy when you’re doing technical writing. 

2. Your description needs a little pizzazz 

Onomatopoeia should be one of the first things you reach for when you want to give your description a little extra something. It adds texture, and therefore, dimension. 

Let’s look at this sentence: “Traffic deafened him on his drive home.” 

Let’s add in some onomatopoeia: “Car horns blared the whole drive home.” 

This first sentence isn’t terrible. ‘Deafened’ is a pretty strong verb, and we have an active sentence, which puts the reader right alongside the action. But we aren’t really getting what that traffic sound feels like. We could use onomatopoeia to get closer. 

The words ‘horn’ and ‘blare’ both add some extra description here. This ‘a’ sound, like the one in ‘clang,’ gives that loud, aggressive feeling we’re going for. Try to whisper the word ‘blared.’ Not impossible, but it always sounds just a little bit loud, right? 

3. You’re not ditching ‘said’ 

Contemporary literature demands that dialogue tags be as invisible as possible. Occasionally, you may need a ‘whispered’ or ‘sighed,’ but you should overwhelmingly stick to ‘said.’ If the line of dialogue beforehand falls flat without ‘yelled’ or ‘roared,’ you probably need to rewrite that line and work on the surrounding action. 

Just like you shouldn’t overuse basic verbs, like “jump” or “walk” in every sentence when describing your characters actions (you’ll want to swap out these for strong verbs to help keep your audience’s attention and better convey your story points), swapping “said” for some new onomatopoeia words can be fun!

Let’s look at this infamous snippet from a literary classic called “My Immortal,” published on Fanfiction.net between 2006-2007. 

“My name’s Harry Potter, although most people call me Vampire these days.” he grumbled.

“Why?” I exclaimed.

“Because I love the taste of human blood.” he giggled.

“Well, I am a vampire.” I confessed.

“Really?” he whimpered.

“Yeah.” I roared.

This section is packed with onomatopoeia. We have ‘giggled,’ ‘whimpered,’ ‘roared,’ and ‘grumbled.’ But, as you can probably tell, the writing isn’t better for it. Instead, it feels like way too much.

Leave onomatopoeia out of your dialogue tags, and use it sparingly for maximum effect (plus, learn how to write dialogue well in the first place, and you’ll naturally avoid this). 

Using Onomatopoeias in Children’s Books and Fiction Books

If you’re looking for a way to give your writing more flair, onomatopoeia is the perfect tool.

Onomatopoeia are words that imitate sounds and they can add some extra flavor to any creative piece of writing—whether it be fiction or nonfiction. 

In fact, nonfiction books can be turned into children’s books for greater reach of your message.

You may have noticed this word used in children’s books while reading with them before bedtime; it adds an element of fun while simultaneously teaching kids about different animals and their noises! 

Ever wanted to use ‘hissed’ instead of saying ‘he whispered?” Now you can! 

There are many variations so don’t feel limited by these examples–find what works best for your project and get started!

Learn more about how to write the perfect children’s book that both kids and parents will love to read by choosing a time to sit in on one of our video training sessions below!

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Outline a Children’s Book – 5 Story Mapping Success Tips

Ready to outline a children’s book?

It might not as simple as you think. Whether you just want to write and publish a children’s book without much care for how it does or if you’re looking to make money with children’s books, you still have to understand this process.

Some folks have made the mistake of making a children’s book author mad, by stating that they would love to write a children’s book someday, since it’s not nearly as hard as writing a real book. 

There’s this idea that since children’s books are, in some ways, simpler than adult fiction, they must be easy to write, and the people who write them must not be particularly talented writers. 

This isn’t true and we’re show why below…

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Learning to write children’s books is a process unto itself, and it’s a skill that needs to be developed just like any other kind of writing. And just like any other kind of writing, it comes with a unique set of challenges. 

For example: outlining. 

Whatever book genre or age group you work with, you’re going to need to at least try to outline your novel

But how can children’s book authors outline theirs? 

The process is similar, but believe it or not, there’s different things children’s book authors need to keep in mind. 

This article will cover some tips and tricks for getting your next children’s book outlined and ready to draft. 

How is a children’s book outline different from a novel? 

This is sort of a trick question. 

The thing is, children’s books are still books—in other words, they’re still stories. 

This means that writers sitting down to outline their children’s books should ultimately be outlining a story in the same way that someone writing adult fiction would. 

Here’s where things differ: in children’s books, the story is much shorter, much more streamlined, and generally contains some kind of message or allegory. The allegory isn’t a requirement for children’s literature, but it’s pretty common. 

What does this mean?

Instead of mapping out countless subplots and fleshing out endless backstory, you’re going to want to keep things short, tight, and super focused on the core components of a story. If you’re writing a children’s book series, it’s even more important to dial in this process so you can outline all of them at once, before starting to write.

What is the basic structure of a children’s book?

Before we get into teaching you how to outline your children’s book, we should cover basic structure.

Like a book has a front and back cover that structure the book (telling you where the book begins and the book ends), it’s important to cover what should be included, before diving into the steps to outline your children’s book.

The basic structure of a children’s book shouldn’t differentiate too much from an adult fiction book. Stories are stories, and all of our stories have a core structure. 

However, you’ll want to really zero in on these core components when writing a children’s book. 

You don’t have a lot of space, so everything needs to be clear, concise, and intentional—there’s not as much room for meandering between acts as there might be in adult fiction, where readers are willing to sit down for three hundred pages and hear you out. 

Let’s go over the basic structure of a children’s book. These pieces will be the bones of your outline. 

Side note: if you’re writing middle grade fiction, you’ve got a little more room to work with things like romantic subplots and side characters. Your outline might not need to look quite as bare-bones as this, and may look a little more like a young adult outline.

When thinking about how to outline your children’s book, remember, your children’s book will have four basic components:

  • Beginning
  • Middle
  • Climax
  • Ending

Let’s get started.

1. Beginning of story

The beginning of your story should introduce the characters, themes, setting of the story, and conflict. We should have a clear sense of the world the characters live in, the rules for the universe, and who our main cast of characters are. 

When starting the outline for your book, remember to start the action sooner rather than later. Many children’s books begin the action as soon as your open the story – typically on page one or page two.

There may be some characters our main cast encounters on their journey, and it’s fine to introduce those in the middle, where the bulk of the story takes place. But all of our main characters should be introduced in the beginning. 

This introduction should be clear in a children’s book. It should be obvious where the story is taking place and what that setting looks like, and it should be stated very clearly who we’ll be following throughout the narrative.

It should also be very clear what sorts of conflict the characters will need to grapple with—is it an internal conflict, like the need to acquire more cookies, or is it an external conflict, like the need to take down a bad guy threatening the village? 

2. Middle of story

This is, for all intents and purposes, your second act. Most of the story will be in the middle. The characters should grapple with the conflict introduced in the first part of the story, and they should work to overcome different challenges in order to meet their goal. 

If you’re writing allegory, ask yourself what sorts of challenges represent their real-world equivalents. 

For example: in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, an enormous toxic self-help ox represents the sort of selfish and aggressive self-help advice that can ruin people’s friendships.

A character following that advice has to grapple with having become too aggressive. 

The obstacles in the middle of the story should tie to your theme, and they should work toward solving the central conflict. 

Don’t be afraid to introduce fun new characters for your main cast to interact with or new settings for your characters to travel through! Just keep it all as simple and easy to follow as possible, so it’s not confusing. 

It should always be crystal-clear why characters are doing what they’re doing. 

3. Story climax

Just like in adult fiction, this is your big hurrah. This is where your characters overcome that central conflict you’ve been building up to the entire time—the monster is defeated, the mouse finds his way home at long last, et cetera. 

Pay special attention to the climax section of your story as you begin to outline a children’s book.

The climax should be a very clear resolution of the conflict introduced in the first part of the story. If you set up an evil groundskeeper, for example, the conflict should involve our characters handling him, and the way they handle him should speak to the message and themes of the book.

Do your characters throw him into a pit? Do they realize he’s just misunderstood and befriend him? 

The way your characters handle the climax should be a culmination of their character arc

For example, a shy character might finally work up the nerve to stand up to her bully, or an aggressive character might learn to be soft and kind to her friends. Not to sound like a broken record, but again, this should be a very clear culmination from the character we met back in the beginning. 

4. Ending and Wrap Up

The ending of your children’s book is going to be the most important part in terms of theme. The ending should immediately follow the climax—the princess marries the prince, and they live happily ever after! 

The way the book ends tells us the overall message and ties up the theme. If the characters defeated the groundskeeper with violence and they’re all celebrating, we’ve learned that violence was an acceptable and understandable way to handle this conflict.

If the characters gather around and vow to stay best friends forever despite the events of the story, we learn that friendship can endure even the toughest hardships. 

A note on morals: while adult fiction tends to question our morality and offer tons of grey space for our principles, children’s fiction tends to be simpler.

This isn’t to say that children’s literature can’t grapple with intense issues, like grief or social injustice issues like racism, and it isn’t to say that children’s literature can’t grapple with those issues with nuance and understanding. 

What I mean here is that children need a simple, clear message that ends the story on a satisfying note. This means that whatever your message is, it shouldn’t be difficult to pick apart. 

How to Outline a Children’s Book With Ease & Impact

Now we know what the basic structure for a children’s book looks like, which means we’re ready to get started! Here are a few tips and tricks to use to make sure your children’s book outline is as good as it can be: 

1. Identify Your Theme 

Before you get started on your plot, identify your theme, especially if you’re setting out to write an allegory. 

What problem are the characters going to solve? What does that problem represent—does it have an analogy to real-world conflict, and if it does, what is that real-world conflict? 

For example: a cruel and vicious groundskeeper might represent a mean parent or an unjust government leader.

These analogies should be kept in terms that children understand and relate to, so it’s best to stick with issues children face. Parental struggles, friendship problems, school problems, etc.

Children also deal with things like grief and trauma, so if you’re writing about something like that, just make sure you’re keeping the child’s perspective in mind as you outline a children’s book. 

2. Know Your Characters 

In a children’s book, it’s especially important to have recognizable, memorable characters. Make sure you have only as many characters as you need to tell the story, since a story with too many characters can get confusing. 

It’s also important to make sure these characters are distinct and motivated. If your book is illustrated, making them visually distinct will be a huge help.

Otherwise, make sure the character’s names don’t look the same (Sarah and Sandra might be a little confusing), and make sure each character has their own strong characterization and motivation. 

It can also be helpful to give characters a unique trait or quirk, like a hairstyle, special power, or catchphrase.

These can get gimmicky, so don’t rely on them for characterization, but if your genre calls for it, play around with it! The ponies in My Little Pony, for example, all have distinct colors, styles, and special powers. 

3. Find Your Conflict 

Once you’ve got your theme and your characters, you’re ready to identify your conflict. 

The conflict should arise naturally from the distinct characters you’ve created and the setting you’ve put them in—if the characters and setting all totally gel with each other and there’s no tension or potential for tension between them, you might want to rework it. 

If your story is going to involve some external conflict, like an alien invasion, you should still have some internal conflict for your character to work through. Maybe your character needs to learn to be brave, for example.

Identify these and keep it in mind for your climax. 

4. Map Out Your Plot Points 

Now that you’ve got all that, it’s time to hit up the basic structure we talked about earlier. 

Go through and map out your beginning, middle, climax, and end. If you’ve only got one of those pieces in mind right now, that’s fine! Write it down and fill in the rest as it comes to you. 

If you’re working with an illustrator, it might be helpful to use a storyboard format to outline. 

Even just sketching some stick figures or describing what you want to go on in the scene can be helpful. 

For tips on this, try looking at movie directors’ and comic book writers’ storyboards for inspiration. 

5. Plan for Variety 

Finally, you should plan a few different endings for your story. Children’s books are short, and you might need to play around with different versions of the story. Maybe in one version, the climax goes differently, or the ending has a more serious or less serious note. 

You don’t have to go crazy, necessarily, but having these alternate versions readily available will be helpful when it comes to getting feedback. 

This way, you can ask your readers which versions they prefer and why, and if you need to head back to the drawing board, you won’t be left with absolutely nothing.

Step-By-Step Process to Outline (and Write) Your Children’s Book

So, how do you outline a children’s book?

Well, the first step is to identify your theme. This will help set up what your story is about and give it direction.

Next, know your characters–this includes their goals and motivations as well as any major conflicts they might be facing.

Then, come up with plot points that illustrate how these different aspects of the story play out over time.

Finally, plan for variety by having subplots or side stories that tie into but don’t overshadow the primary storyline in order to keep readers engaged throughout the entire process!

If this sounds like something you’d enjoy trying yourself, register below for our free online class on writing children’s books where we’ll cover all of this and more!

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Picture Book

How To Create A Picture Book

You have a great idea for a picture book. You’re confident that your subject matter will be SO helpful for kids and parents alike. Maybe you’ve already written it. Maybe you even have the illustrations ready. Now what? How do you turn your dream (or your Microsoft Word document) into a physical book for children to enjoy?

We’ve got you covered! In this article, we’re going to talk about: 

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How to create a picture book step-by-step

Whether you’ve already outlined, written, and illustrated your book, or if you’re starting from scratch, here’s every step in the picture book creation process.

Establish a goal for your picture book

I don’t think anyone writes a children’s book just to write a children’s book. They have something they want to share, something they want to teach, some pain they want to help a child and their family overcome, or they have a story to tell. So what’s your reason?

Do you want to teach little kids how to make friends, how to deal with grief, how to clean their room? Or do you want to tell a story?

Decide exactly what you want your book to accomplish. This will not only help you keep a clear head while you’re writing, but it will make all the difference at every stage in your publishing process.

Along with deciding what you want your book to accomplish, figure out who you want to use your book. Establish your ideal reader–it can be a real child or a child you make up, but create a specific ideal reader for your book. How old is your ideal reader? What do they look like, and what’s their family like? How do they spend their free time? Is there a particular niche that this reader fits into? For example, if I wrote a children’s book, I’d write it for my nephew–a clever, easily frustrated five-year-old who loves Transformers, velociraptors, and Polly Pocket. 

Having a specific reader in mind will help you to speak to their level and understanding. It will also go a long way in helping you market your book, since you’ll know exactly who you’re trying to appeal to.

Outline your book

Whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, an outline can streamline any book-writing process. It doesn’t matter how you outline. An outline is just a guide for the writer to get through their drafts, so write it to your own preference and work style. You can do a traditional essay-format outline, a mind map, or any form of outline that suits the way you write.

For a picture book, you might outline it by page spread, like:

Page 1 and 2 — introduce character A, zoom out to show they stand in their messy room

Page 3 and 4 — introduce their mother telling them to clean it, show character A looking overwhelmed at the mess

Page 5 and 6 — full spread illustration of character A trying various solutions that aren’t cleaning their room: shoving things under their bed, spreading their area rug over the mess, trying to bribe their little sibling to do it for them, etc.

It might also be helpful for you to make a storyboard the way that directors do to map out their story before filming. This technique helps you visualize each scene in relation to each other, even if your end goal isn’t to make a movie.

Whichever outline format works best for you, take the time to plan out your book before you write it. This will not only keep you on-track during the writing process, but it will also minimize your chances of getting stuck and quitting before you’ve even finished a draft. Think of it like a map. You don’t have to follow it the whole time, but it’s nice to have it in case you get lost.

Write your book

Get to drafting! If you’ve outlined your book, the first draft should be a relatively quick process. With an outline and goals in mind, your main struggle will likely be taking those ideas and converting them into something a child can understand and engage with without underestimating the intelligence of the child. 

Picture books typically break down aspects of life into terms that are child-friendly and easy to understand. You can use very simple explanations, metaphors they can relate to, and likable characters to help kids understand both simple and complex topics. 

If you have access to a child, it can be very helpful to run concepts past them (mockup pages are a great way to do this) and gauge how they interact with the story. See if your friend’s kid can read the story, or maybe send it over to a nephew to get an idea of how they’re reacting to your content. 

Additionally, take the time to look at other books in your genre with your target audience. See how they’re conveying information to kids, decide what you do and don’t like about it, and use that while you’re drafting to make sure you’re being intentional and precise with your message and content. Children’s books use tropes and genre conventions the same way that adult fiction does, so being aware of these can help you out a lot. 

Illustrate your book

In a picture book, writing the story is only half the job. If you’re not producing your own illustrations, you’ll have to partner with an artist to create the visual elements of your picture book. Finding an illustrator requires research and a general understanding of the market and industry. If you don’t know the standard fees of the average illustrator, you could be getting ripped off, so your first step is to do some research and figure out how much an illustrator should cost for a project of your size and scope. 

The most important thing about an illustrator is that you make a good team. The story and illustrations work together to produce a narrative children will find engaging and fun. If there’s no cohesion between the story and illustrations, it likely won’t work. Your illustrator should be someone who understands and cares about the messages you’re trying to convey, and whose style actively helps to amplify your meaning. Remember, you should be working together to tell the story, so while you don’t want to get ripped off, you also don’t want to skimp and miss out on a good artist. 

You’re not just hiring a visual artist–you’re hiring the person who is going to tell the other half of your story. It’s wise to make sure everyone is on the same page with the same goals, and for you to ensure that your illustrator is someone you’re happy to work with before any contracts are signed. If you’d like more information, check out this guide on how to find a good illustrator.

Come up with a catchy title for your picture book

Your biggest marketing tools to sell your book are the cover and the title, so it’s vital that you spend a lot of time and research making those elements the absolute best that they can be. 

A title should be eye-catching, snappy, and compelling. The title should also convey clearly the content of the book. If a parent is looking for a book to explain COVID-19 to a child, the book Captain Corona and the 19 COVID Warriors is clearly addressing the topic they’re looking for. While the book titled I Love You is also about COVID-19, a parent skimming for that specific topic might not realize what it’s about, since the topic isn’t clear in the title. 

Go for a balance between clarity for parents and excitement for kids. You don’t need to make it purely medical or literal to get both groups on board–A COVID-19 Guide for Kids is a great nonfiction title, but not a very compelling fiction title. Captain Corona will catch the attention of any superhero lover, while including COVID and the number 19 in the title will make it clear to the parents that this is the book they are looking for. 

Give your title some thought, generate a list of different ideas, and run them past some other people to see what they think and what it makes them think of when they read it. 

Produce your book

Once your book is written and illustrated, it’s time to produce the physical book. If you want to go the way of traditional publishing, you’ll need to find an agent and sell your book. This can easily add years to the drafting and formatting process.

The much quicker and more accessible option is to publish yourself, which will require you to do some interior formatting, cover design, sales, and printing. That might sound like a lot, but there’s no need to worry! We’re here to help you through every step of the process.

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How to Write & Publish a Children’s Book Step-By-Step

Learn how to tell a story kids love, parents can’t wait to buy, and teachers want in class—and publish it successfully!

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Test Your Book

An essential part of publishing any good book is the beta reader process. Even if you go over your own book a hundred times, you’re still only putting one pair of eyes on the book. You need fresh eyeballs and perspectives to collect feedback for revisions. The difference between the typical book’s beta reader process and a picture book’s beta reader process is that you have two main demographics to worry about: children and parents.

For a picture book, reach out to parents, teachers, and childcare experts to get their feedback. Also run it past multiple groups of children in your target demographic. If your book doesn’t have the impact or interpretation you were aiming for, hop back to the drawing board and see what you can change. Maybe you find that kids think the art is too scary, or that parents are uncomfortable with some of the subject matter. Kids might love some stuff that parents aren’t crazy about–give it a few trial runs to determine what balance you need to strike to keep your message coming across clear. 

If your test readers don’t like it, your real readers likely won’t either. Make sure you nail it before you try to sell it to save yourself the pain and heartache of pulling a book from shelves to redo it after you’ve made it through the whole process.

Market your book

Whether you self-publish or publish traditionally, selling your book is mostly up to you. How you decide to market a book depends on your target audience. With a picture book, your marketing will be directed at parents and children. Most of your marketing efforts will be directed at parents, but a few aspects–like the cover–should be catered toward children as well. If a child is skimming books in the store, what would catch their eye?

Your cover imagery should be representative of the book, target the correct demographic, and entice a child or parent to open it to see the rest. Think of it like a logo–the title and cover are representing the book as a whole, and should offer a good idea of the art style that the reader should expect moving forward, as well as the general tone of the upcoming work. A spooky kid’s book should have a spooky cover, while an action book should have dynamic colors and punchy text. 


Picture books are an amazing way to connect–parent-to-child, writer-to-reader, and child-to-community. I might say they’re the most important kind of book. If you want to take the time to put a picture book together, why not take the time to do it right? Know what your goals are going into it, get your outline together, write and illustrate the story, then enlist enough beta readers to make sure you hit your mark before releasing it into the world to find its home with kids and families.