Since 2013, I have read hundreds of self-published children’s picture books. Most of those books were entered in a competition I ran for five years called The Gittle List. I’ve also published 20 books of my own.
I have left good reviews for about 10-15% of the books I’ve read. I have no desire to hurt my fellow indie authors and won’t leave a review under four stars. Where possible, I give the author an honest assessment of their book. Most of the time it’s not appreciated. But, once in awhile, an author publishes a new edition based on my feedback. (Like Chase-Man: How My Brother Became a Real Superhero.)
Here are 6 reasons why I won’t leave a review for your children’s picture book.
- Lack of Editing. There are grammatical and / or spelling errors. Since children’s stories are typically under 1200 words, you can get a good editor for about $50. (Post a job on Upwork.com)
- Poor Execution. It’s a good story concept that is poorly executed. A book may start out great, then it just falls apart.
- Bad Rhymes. Writing a rhyming book is difficult. Often, the verse sort of rhymes, but doesn’t flow well. Or, the rhymes sound forced. As my mother used to say of bad poetry, “Moon, June, spoon.” Four-time Gittle List Winner Bev Stone is a master of the rhyming story. (They Told Us Something Wonderful Is Coming is one of my fave books.)
- Tells Not Shows. A character says, “We should all respect our differences.” Rather than showing characters who are respecting each other’s differences.
- Preaching. A message book that preaches rather than tells a story. Books about bullying, self-esteem, and religion often fall in this category.
- Poor Illustrations. I try to be as open as possible about illustrations. If it’s a good story, I may take off one star for subpar art. I get that self-publishers are working with tight budgets. But, there’s a limit. I have had my books professionally illustrated for about $300 each. I believe that most people — even if it takes them a year or two — can save up for illustrations. (Post a job on Upwork.com.)
- BONUS Tip #1: Avoid clichés. “Like a kid in a candy shop.” Or, “You can’t judge a book by its cover.”
- BONUS Tip #2: Kids should talk like kids. Once the character starts preaching and dropping platitudes, he ain’t a kid anymore.
- BONUS Tip #3: Don’t just take your print PDF and turn it into an eBook. In nearly all cases, it makes it difficult to read. Have the eBook done by a professional. It costs around $50. (Post
I’ve learned several things since I started publishing my own children’s stories 6 years ago. Get a professional editor. If you’re not an artist, don’t illustrate your own book. Don’t be in a hurry to publish! Take the time to publish a great children’s book.
Aviva Gittle is a children’s book author. She is also a freelance writer on Upwork. If you would like her to read your children’s picture book (under 1500 words), send an electronic copy to AvivaGittle@gmail.com. She will only post the review if she can honestly give your book at least 4 stars.