how to write a children’s chapter book

This article is all about how to write a children’s chapter book, including advice on chapter book age group, chapter book word count, chapter book page count, how to write a chapter book query letter, and how to find chapter book literary agents and publishers.

How to Write chapter books

Chapter books are a fun but challenging part of the children’s book market. Writing chapter books is a very special skill. The age group targeted by chapter books is pretty small, and a lot of houses aren’t looking to acquire these stories by debut writers, for reasons detailed below. However, if you’re wondering how to write a chapter book, make sure you’re doing it for a good reason. This is not a catch-all category for your picture book that’s too long or your novel that’s too short. It’s a specific area of children’s book publishing, all its own.

The stories are told in short chapters, targeted for independent readers who are gaining their confidence. These mini-novels are expected to have dynamic main characters, plots with several key story points, and even some fun secondary characters. Family life, school, friendship, and relatable everyday struggles of the grade school kid are all popular topics. Attention must be paid when writing chapter books to reading levels, since these books target newly independent readers. Writers are somewhat curtailed in terms of the vocabulary they can use, and the complexity of their sentences and stories, but this category isn’t nearly as restricted as early readers. Chapter books can be tough to write. The biggest issue is market size, which is discussed below, and in this blog post.

chapter book Age Group

Chapter books sit between early readers and middle grade novels on the children’s publishing ladder. Well-informed writers know that children’s book publishing is segmented by category, age, and reading level. Chapter books target readers ages 7 to 9, for the most part, though there are precocious younger readers who might be entering the category, or older reluctant readers still working at this level. This is a narrow chapter book age group, which should also indicate to aspiring writers that chapter books are a relatively small market.

chapter book Word Count

Word count for chapter books varies widely. Some chapter books clock in closer to 4,000 words, which is on the low end. Long examples are 10,000, even up to 15,000 words. These sometimes get lumped into “young middle grade” territory as well.

chapter book Page Count

The “chapter book vs novel” question gets asked a lot, and it’s a good one. Chapter books look like mini novels, since they are divided into chapters and since text is formatted in prose style, rather than in stanzas (like with early readers). The very youngest chapter books, however, are very short novels indeed, coming in at 48 to 64 pages. From there, though, chapter book page count starts to look more novel-esque, going up to 80 or more pages. Remember, though, that when you get into anything that looks like a novel, page counts start to fluctuate wildly because of font size and page formatting choices that are individual to each book. Word count is a much more accurate measure of manuscript length, that’s why it’s more commonly used in the industry until a book is published.

how to publish a children’s chapter book

The story for how to publish a chapter book is similar to that of early reader publishing. The truth is, a lot of chapter book publishers develop their content in-house or using writers-for-hire. For example, a chapter book publisher will have a license to a popular property, and they’ll turn that into a series of characters from, say, various Disney films. These manuscripts are not original content, and so nothing is purchased from outside creators. That being said, there is some opportunity to court chapter book publishers, especially if you are published by that house in another children’s book category. Chapter book debuts from unpublished writers tend to be rare. However, there are some chapter book literary agents who’ll consider a chapter book query letter out there. When done right, chapter books are a fun and endearing way of telling stories for newly independent readers. You can learn more about the book submission process here.

hiring a chapter book EDITOR

Now you know more about how to write a children’s chapter book. It always helps to have a professional set of eyes on your manuscript, ideally with extensive experience in the chapter book market. Check out further resources on how to find an editor, and get insight into editorial service rates.

Please don’t hesitate to check out my writing craft book or reach out for editorial services via the contact form, below.

Click here to purchase Writing Irresistible Kidlit, my book on fiction craft for MG and YA novels, out from Writer's Digest Books. This will show you my writing craft philosophy and give you lots of valuable advice, including tips for the novel revision process and self-editing. There are over 35 example novels cited and discussed throughout. It’s a valuable resource for any writer’s toolkit.

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