Tapping Into a $1.5 BILLION Industry

Quick. Answer this question: What is the first best-selling work of fiction that pops into your head?

If you’re like over 80% of the people who responded to our informal survey, you answered "Harry Potter." With good reason. J.K. Rowling’s popular series has earned more attention in the media than any other fiction book in history.

And it has pumped new life into a writing niche that could easily become your personal highway to success. We’re talking about the children’s market.

Want to know how profitable this market can be? According to The Bowker Annual Library and Book Trade Almanac, sales of all types of children’s books in the U.S. in 1999 reached $1.47 billion. And sales have been climbing steadily at around 11% every year according to the American Booksellers Association.

One of the reasons for this steady and sustained growth is that this market niche is constantly renewing itself. Children grow up and stop reading children’s books. But they are replaced by "new" children and new parents, grandparents, etc. looking to buy books for them.

This constant rebuilding of the market base creates an ongoing opportunity for you.

And we’re not just talking about fiction. Do you enjoy science? Or cooking? Or history? If you love the idea of writing gripping, informative, non-fiction, why not do it for children? Kieran Dorherty, a longtime AWAI associate, is just one example of the many non-fiction authors who have made their mark in the world of children’s books.

To give you an introduction to this profitable niche, we interviewed top children’s writer Kelly Milner. Here are a few nuggets from that interview:

AWAI: What do you like most about this niche?

KM: I love the exploratory nature of writing for children, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction. Children’s writing celebrates self-discovery. I am constantly being surprised by the pure joy of it. There’s always a door open for a fresh idea or a voice that tells the truth in a novel way.

AWAI: Do you see any new trends in this market?

KM: I see small, almost boutique, houses springing up to fill the void left by corporate mergers. That’s an encouraging trend. I also think there is a trend to try to capture the interest of the reluctant young reader – a very good thing.

AWAI: What about writing for young adults (10 to 18 years old)? Is there anything special you need to know?

KM: If you want to write young adult literature, you can’t lie to them. Tell the truth as you know it, based on your life experiences. If you try to write something you don’t really believe or understand, they’ll know it in a heartbeat and close the book.

Give them something real. Respect them. Love them. Understand them.

AWAI: Instead of writing fiction for younger readers, would it be easier to break into the non-fiction or young adult fiction sectors of this market?

KM: Non-fiction is much easier to break into if you have an original twist to your material. Young adult fiction can be easy to break into, but only if you have a distinctive voice and a thread of truth running through your story.

Kelly Milner makes this niche seem exciting … and very accessible (and profitable). And you don’t need to limit yourself to writing books. For example, she also writes newspaper and magazine articles aimed at both adults and children … increasing her exposure and increasing her income.

But a warning here. As with any other kind of writing, it takes work. Not even J.K. Rowling simply sat down and tapped out a best-selling children’s book on the keyboard. Plus, there are differences between writing for adults and writing for children that you need to know about if you want to break into this field.

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Published: October 10, 2005

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