Working With an Editor on Your Children’s Book
Oct 24, 2014
One of the first questions an editor will consider when working on a children’s book is the target audience. The editor should discuss this with you before beginning the editorial process since your text may not reflect the intended target audience. For example, I’m working on a series right now about young girls and their horses that is intended for any young reader interested in horses. However, because of the author’s years of experience and background with horses, her first draft of the text used vocabulary that was much more technical. While the language was appropriate for readers who already knew a lot about the world of horseback riding, we worked together to alter the text in such a way that it would reach beyond this smaller audience to children who may like horses but may not be as familiar with the terminology.
Age group is part of the specifics of determining target audience and another area where I often see the author’s intent doesn’t always align with the text. The standard age groups for children’s book are 0–2, 3–5, 6–8, and 9–11, which extends from board books for babies through picture books, beginner chapter books, and then to more advanced middle grade chapter books. While children’s reading levels will vary from child to child and aren’t set in stone, it is important to gradually introduce longer texts and larger vocabulary words, making sure there is ample context to help young readers figure out the word or concept on their own if necessary.
Next, consistency is important through every aspect of the manuscript, from the target audience and age group, to content and style—even the illustrations! For example, if your story rhymes, it is important to have that meter and rhyme scheme used consistently. Artwork is a common place where we see inconsistencies sneak in. If your book is intended for an older audience, small spot illustrations would be more appropriate with more text per page, whereas younger children will be looking for less text, larger fonts, and more full-color illustrations. Something else an editor should consider with the illustrations is whether they actually match the text. For example, an author may describe a certain scene very specifically, but the illustrator may take a bit of creative license with it. An editor can work with you to not only point out these inconsistences but also to make adjustments for a seamless, polished final book. In some instances, the editor/author/illustrator collaboration is very important.
Check back next week for answers to frequently asked questions about editing for children’s books!