1. BOARD BOOKS
These books are for newborns to toddlers. They have thick pages, brightly colored pictures meant to stimulate growth both mentally and emotionally. This type features cardboard construction and a multitude of textures. Although easily used by the child alone, these books tend to engage the participation of the adult too.
Many board books teach counting, identifying objects and use a touch and learn perspective for tiny readers. Unfortunately, this market is quite overwhelmed with board book writers, so much so, that most publishers are not interested in acquiring new works unless incredibly original.
2. PICTURE BOOKS
For children ages one to six. During this age range, children’s attention span has increased to five to ten minutes. Because of this, pictures books are kept short, no more than 32 pages, and are usually read to children by adults during one book reading session. They are engaged enough to want to hear the story cover to cover.
In these books, humor, surprises and even silliness is favored. Children of this age group want happy endings, endings that leave them feeling fulfilled and satisfied.
Authors for these books create their stories using humans, animals and even machines.
THE IMPORTANT FACTOR TO REMEMBER HERE, IS THAT THE MAIN CHARACTER MUST ALWAYS REPRESENT A SMALL CHILD’S POINT OF VIEW.
3. EASY READERS AND EARLY CHAPTER BOOKS
Written for ages six through to eight, these books are designed to encourage reading without the aid of a parent. Children at this level like to tell others they’re on Chapter… Humor, puns and word play is highly favored with these ages.
Also, readers in this group prefer action and adventure, with enough suspense to keep them wanting more as each short chapter ends. They appreciate humor and twists in plot lines. However, the language in these books MUST be age appropriate. Do not fear challenging this group with a hard word now and then as this will help to expand the reader’s language skills.
4. MIDDLE GRADE NOVELS
Age range for this group is changing slightly as children are being challenged more and more at younger ages. Typically, middle grade children are between seven and nine, however, some advanced six year olds may drift into this reading classification. On the other end of the spectrum, some struggling ten year olds may prefer this reading classification.
The main thing to focus on when writing for this category, is conflict. These books are longer, multiple chapters that drive the protagonist into risky situations and complicated relationships. They enjoy suspenseful moments that eventually work their way out.
Readers of these ages can manage the protagonist’s internal conflictions, and self-analysis. Of course this group loves action packed books that mimic what is seen on television. However, never settle for action simply for the sake of having action. This particular style must be woven skillfully into the plot where the main character will be challenged, but in the end is changed for the better because of the journey.
5. WRITING FOR TEENS
In this day and age, you’ve heard this genre called or referred to as Young Adult. The age range for this genre is also growing murky because the low-end of ages can be ten to twelve years of age. The high-end of this genre is between fifteen to sixteen, but usually ends around fifteen.
Not surprising, romance is the most popular theme among teens, especially female teens. So most of this category focuses on relationship problems and how the characters resolve them. Teens relate to the struggles of an intimate relationship, reading of different scenarios, some of which they can compare to their own.
Authors must never come across as being moralistic, but rather offer their teen readers help in defining their own value systems, and to understand what motivates other to behave in the way that they do. Authors need to show teens that it’s okay to respect others who have different viewpoints from their own. Avoid tropes, and check your market as to what’s popular.
Other genres that this age group enjoys include suspense, science fiction and fantasy. Remember, to keep them age appropriate with avoiding coming across juvenile.
I have to make a note about Non-Fiction in this age category too. There’s been a rise in teen interest regarding non-fiction as seen in the peaking interest in Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul (compiled by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, and Kimberly Kirkberger). It’s best-seller status gained from its inspiring stories about humanity and courage has placed it alongside the ranks of biographies also written for this age group.
A much needed genre in this day and age for those who struggle with reading disorders or reading in general. A category of youth publishing that aim at readers in middle grades through to high school who aren’t able to read at an age-appropriate level. Special needs children in today’s society are greatly benefiting from this category, making the demand for more books at its highest. Vocabulary and structural standards for hi-los may vary from publisher to publisher.
In my opinion, because of the vast range of special needs’ situations existing in our populations, there could be an even greater need for disorder specific books that aim ideally on the group of readers’ needs. For example: as a mother of a child who has Down syndrome, I have searched for books that specifically deal with issues pertaining to her disorder. My daughter has searched for books that help explain life skills, social avenues and situations, and information about her disorder in terms that she can understand. She has also searched for books that help her integrate into society so she will be accepted easily by her peers. This category of books has helped immensely. I can’t stress the need for more books on these subjects by parents just like me. I feel it’s a market fairly untapped, and one I’ve only recently begun to write into.
To hold readers’ interest, authors must provide a great deal of action and dialogue, with sometimes the use of visual aids (non-fiction). Use a minimum of descriptive writing as you can. To the point, exact and honest writing is a must; and above all, remain positive, encouraging and have solutions clearly outlined.
I haven’t come close to discussing all the non-book markets available to writers of children’s books. There are youth magazines that may cover areas of interest such as health, relationships, sports and academics. There’s also screenplay writing for dramatic readings or theatre (drama classes even). Finally, we have the huge areas now available on the Internet aimed around youth organizations whose sites cater to middle/intermediate and high-school boys and girls.