how to write a childrens book

Best selling author Marcy Pusey shows us how to become an author and be successful in making money to never work a job again.

This is the step by step process to be write and self publish a book and become a full time author.

Today, I am excited to have Marcy Pusey on the podcast. Marcy is a missionary in Germany, a best-selling author, and she helps other people write.

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Marcy Makes Money by Writing Books and Publishing Them

In addition to writing, Marcy coaches people how to write and publish. She does some editing, specifically for children’s book writers.

Marcy is building a business on top of her books. Her books are oriented toward children and foster-adopt, so she does school visits and speaking engagements. Marcy does all sorts of things that contribute to her business and also to her income.

Before Going to Germany, Marcy and Her Husband Were Fostering Children

About eight years ago, Marcy’s husband was working a full-time job as a teacher in a low-income school district and Marcy was trying to be a dutiful, domestic wife. However, life is expensive, even with the fostering supplement.

Marcy wanted to put her younger kids into preschool, but she couldn’t afford it. She decided to take on a side job that was online as a social media manager to pay for preschool. This meant that when her kids were sleeping or off doing something, she was working.

Watch How to Write A Children’s Book Episode Here:

Until that point, Marcy’s education had been in therapy and social services. Marcy remembers that when her son was only a few months old, she still wanted to work. She had been working as a behavior analyst for a company, but she couldn’t do it with a baby.

Marcy switched from being a behavior analyst to cleaning the office where she worked. She would bring her son with her while she worked. She wanted to contribute financially to her family, but she didn’t know any other way than to have him with her.

How Marcy Wrote Her First Book

Marcy has always been a writer. She won tickets to the circus when she was younger, from a writing contest. Winning that contest always made her think that this could be a gift that not only helps her but helps other people. That was a seed that was planted very young.

When Marcy went through high school and college, she took career tests and they all came back saying she should be a counselor, teacher, or social worker. She followed that track, because no one ever told her she could be an author and make money from writing. She went to school for the thing those tests told her to go to school for and got the degree, the certification, and the licenses.

Marcy still had all of these stories that would come out of her. She thinks in book titles, characters, and themes. One day, she was talking to a friend who was publishing traditionally. When you publish this way, it is all about who you know.

Marcy decided to write a book and publish traditionally. After seven years of writing and trying to get her book published, her book was read aloud at a conference, anonymously, to a number of agents.

Her book got the furthest with those agents of any of the books at the conference that day. As they heard other books being read, they kept referring back to Marcy’s book as the model of how to write a good quality story.

At the end of the workshop and conference, they still chose not to publish Marcy’s book. She did all of the work and went to all of the writers conferences and clubs, and after seven years she still wasn’t able to publish traditionally. At this point, self-publishing was becoming a more viable option.

Marcy encountered a school that would not only teach her how to write and publish but aim for a best seller. The school was aimed toward adult nonfiction, but she decided to join. Marcy followed the process, wrote her book, and everything they taught her how to do, she did. Marcy was able to recoup all of her costs within a month of being published.

Publishing is a very legitimate option for making money and growing your impact. This is her heart. She is able to impact people and families she cares about. Now she has no agent or publicist taking their cut out of the middle.

How to Know You Have a Good Story, Before You Start the Process

When Marcy wrote the book that she didn’t plan on writing, it was called Reclaiming Hope, Overcoming the Challenges of Parenting Foster and Adopted Children, it was the outpouring of her soul.

The leader of the school encouraged her to write about something that was easy, fast, and would be exciting for her to write. He knew these three things would help the students learn the process the easiest.

This is what brought her to this topic. If this is what you are writing about, it can’t not be good. By learning how to write children’s book, you will be able to have a good story with good illustrations.

Some of Marcy’s Children’s Books:

world according to corban Bath time with corban weirdo and willy sweater

We all have a story within ourselves that has deepened us, challenged us, or changed us that is valuable to the world. Even if the end idea isn’t totally brand new, your version of it may be the version someone else can hear, where they couldn’t hear the other versions.

If your heart is to help people, whether that is sharing your own life journey or your expertise or knowledge, the first step is to get it down. Don’t think too much if it is good, as far as the quality of your writing.

Just get it down and get a draft of some kind. Think about your audience: who is the most desperate for the help and who is the most ready to chase it down? Spend some time with that person.

Write to a Million People and Write to One

Write to one person in the sense that you ask yourself how should I structure it, what should I say here, what should the flow look like, should I use long chapters or short chapters, always go back to the one person.

Who is the most desperate for the help you can offer and who is the most ready to chase it down?

Write for that person, knowing they represent a whole community of people and people outside of them will read it and benefit too. If you are writing to a million people, you are writing to no one. No one will recognize themselves in it if it is too general. Hone in on that one person and write.

If you are writing fiction, still think about who you want to most entertain or challenge with the messages or plot lines of your story. If you are writing a memoir, your first draft is 100 percent for you. You need to wrestle with the truth of your story, uncensored. Don’t think about what anyone else will think about it.

Draft two is when you think about the reader. There are some variances, depending on what you are writing, but when you get to publishing, you will have thought about that one person.

How to Make Sure You are Telling Your Story Well Enough that Readers Want More

Read a lot of really good books, because you will catch different writing styles, techniques, and strategies. Pause and evaluate what it is about a book that has your heart pounding or has you engaged. Why are you having any sort of emotional response? That is what makes a book good — it made you feel something.

Listen to How to Write A Children’s Book Podcast:


Good storytelling isn’t a point by point narrative of what happened in your life. You are thinking of it as: I want my reader to feel something and I need to engage in this by telling it well enough. Go to those books and figure out why.

Be a life-long learner. If there is an online course you can take or a workshop you can be part of, do it so you can grow. We are never done learning. Every book you write should be better than the last one.

How to Make Sure You Grab Those Emotions

Marcy’s memoir, While We Slept, Finding Hope and Healing After Homicide, is about her mother-in-law, who was killed by her father-in-law, while Marcy and her husband were sleeping down the hall, just a few days before their first anniversary.

It is a true story, but because she is relatively unknown, she had to write it using a fiction plot line. She needed the story to be engaging so people would stick with it to the end. She doesn’t have a name to sell it.

Even though it is non fiction, doing some study around what makes a fiction story engaging you will find some of that formula.

In this book, she started with the climax, where she wakes up to the crime scene. She tells all the way up to where she is sitting on the curb outside, the police have taken them out, and she receives the final affirmation that her mother-in-law has died.

Then, she stops and goes back to a year before and works her way up to the climax. If she had started at the year before, nobody would care.

The feedback she gets is that her book is very engaging and readers can’t put it down.

Even though it is nonfiction, she followed a fiction plot line, because she knew it would be the most engaging for someone who doesn’t care about her yet. To get someone to feel the fastest, you need to catch someone in the heat of the moment.

For self help, you want your story to be strategic in supporting whatever you want to teach. It comes down to who you are writing for and how they want to engage in your information. Your audience may want some form of connection from you, but mostly they want to know what to do. They need to know you are credible and have those life experiences.

How to Paint a Picture to Make the Reader Feel Like They are There

Within the writing community, there is a saying, “Show, Don’t Tell”. The first draft usually includes a lot of telling words. Showing is using a more descriptive language to give an emotional sense. Instead of saying, “I was so sad”, you would say, “It took everything I could to keep the tears in my eyes”. You want to invite people into the actual experience of it, which requires a different level of vulnerability.

We think writing our stories is for the income or the impact, but first it is always about our journey with our own story that we are trying to teach. It is safe to say, “I am sad”, and move on, because there is a distance between you and your story.

When you need to dig in and invite someone into that experience, you are being vulnerable and creating a space where you can feel it and the reader can feel it. As in other writing styles, how to write children’s book is about making the reader feel emotions that take them into the book.

How to Write a Good Children’s Book

Writing a children’s book that kids want to read, buyers want to buy, and parents want to read over and over is an art. This is the hardest type of literature to write, because you need to engage not only the child but the adult.

You need to get the adult to pull out their wallet and want to read it every night and you need to get the child excited about it.

The way Marcy approaches writing a children’s book that is good, is about the feeling. Giving the reader the opportunity to feel something is what makes a good book. Also, providing a space where a child can see another childlike figure (i.e., an animal, an old man who is personified as a child, or a child) overcome challenges on their own.

In real life kids are over corrected, taught, and instructed all day every day. There is not a lot of room in everyday life for kids to see they have it within themselves to overcome anything without a rescuer coming in to fix it.

One way to make a children’s book very good is to consider stories that do just that. They represent a child who overcomes obstacles, has a dream, has a goal, gets hits along the way, and they overcome it. You have about 28 pages and 700 words to do this. Every word you use has to matter.

Your rough draft may be 2,000 words, but get it out. Then, go back and break it up into the scenes that equal the 28 pages. Figure out your favorite scene, get it down to the fewest number of words, then do that for the rest of the book. Do this while remembering you are going to have an artist tell this story with you.

Not everything has to be said. It is going to be a dance between the two. Don’t over tell, leave room for the artist, and make sure every word you use is powerful and moving the story forward.

Marcy has eight children’s books, three of which are translations of current books. There are five unique stories.

Marcy Hires Artists to Illustrate Her Children’s Books

Marcy gets to develop people. Daniela illustrated Marcy’s book, According to Corban. Marcy found Daniela on Daniela was living in Romania at the time, and she hadn’t illustrated a book up to that point. Marcy paid her $500 to illustrate the whole book.

Marcy’s preference is to go to to find illustrators. There are a number of different sites out there, including and Marcy uses a job template the explains what she is looking for and, after about 80 people apply, she turns off the job and she goes through the applications.

She will look through their portfolios, ask follow up questions, and maybe request a couple of sketches. For four of the five people she has hired, she was their first published book. She has worked with illustrators from Brazil, Indonesia, Ukraine, Romania, and the U.S.

After Daniela illustrated the book, Marcy recommended her to others. She put her on her coaching lists, added her to her recommended outsourcers, and she talked about her on all of her author visits.

Daniela started to get more work. About three years after illustrating Marcy’s book, Daniela was able to charge $3,500 per book, because she was in such high demand.

This is a very fair wage for a seasoned illustrator and Daniela was able to move from Romania to London.

The illustration process is all about finding the highest quality for the book. Through this process, Marcy is also able to develop people and give them a chance and coach them.

Marcy was able to believe in them, like she needed someone to believe in her and she has been able to see them live off of their income. Marcy pays $500 for illustrators, but she also offers them different perks, including recommendations.

Artwork in a Children’s Book is How People Make a Decision Right Away

There have been a number of times when Marcy has picked up a book, because she liked the way it looked. Then she was engaging with it. The artwork is so important.

Even though children’s books are the most profitable, industry wide, they are also the most competitive. It is harder to make money fast with children’s books, rather than other genres.

If you stick with it, like a marathon, you can get to a livable wage. Marcy is not there with just her picture books, but with all of her hustling put together. You need to keep publishing books to get the fan base.

When it comes to the artwork, it’s Marcy’s name, and she cares a lot about the quality that is associated with her name. She is not going to compromise anywhere in any of her books, because she doesn’t want be at a book signing embarrassed by her book. She wants to be proud of it.

For Marcy to decide she was going to pay $500, she set that for herself. Although it is low in the industry, it is fair for people who have never had consistent work with it, like four of her five illustrators. It goes further in other countries and she will let them sell her book at a wholesale cost and they can make a profit.

The other piece about is they can bid on it, either more or less. There is some space for them to say what they are willing to do it for and they don’t have to take the job.

The day you publish, you just started a new business and everything becomes tax deductible. For the first few years, Marcy spent more than she made. This is an investment into a new business, she wants high quality work, she is developing people, and it will pay off.

Each author needs to decide for themselves on the boundaries of the expenditure and be willing to do the work of finding the high quality they want within that budget.

The Money is in a Series Especially How to Write Children’s Books

For almost any genre, if you do it well and you get the first readers, they will look forward to what you write next. Marcy has done a series for a couple of her books and it was fun.

Even writing books that are not in a series but they are connected in some way is like writing a series. Marcy has found that in her nonfiction writing in the foster-adopt community.

People are begging to pay her more money to say things. This is because she has written more than one thing to the same audience. She had built up that trust and has developed credibility in that sphere and now they want more.

Go Into Writing a Book with the Intent for it to be a Series

Marcy has a young adult fiction novel that is drafted and partially edited and it should be a trilogy.

This has stopped her from hitting publish, because it terrifies her. It is foreign to what she is comfortable writing, but you should go into it envisioning a series of some sort. Continue to give to your same audience.

If you are looking for the income piece, the more you can keep writing for the same audience, the better. There is a Facebook group called 20 Books to 50k. It is based on the premise that if you write 20 quality books, you should be able to make $50,000.

That is an average of authors who have done that, made it their hustle, and are able to make a livable income.

Marcy Wrote Two Adult Nonfiction Books in Four Weeks

These books were published within 90 days. To do this, she stopped all the things in her life and she wrote about things she knew. Marcy knows some people who will write a book in a weekend.

This is usually a shorter book and is probably self help. Fiction books are about triple the length of nonfiction books.

Not all books should be written quickly. If you feel like you are compromising on quality, take the time you need to write it. The longer you take to write it, the more reasons and excuses you will come up with to not finish it.

Eighty percent of people in the western world want to publish a book, but only one to two percent actually do it. Just get it done when learning how to write children’s book.

Getting the First Book Written and Published is the Hardest

Marcy’s first book happened, because she joined a course at a self-publishing school. The school gave her every step she needed. Now they give you a coach and a whole community of other people. Marcy needed that help and she followed the steps. The only thing they didn’t do is write the book for her.

After you write the book, there is guidance on what the first and second self edit looks like. They outline how to know when you are ready for an editor and the importance of an editor.

Do not publish a book that hasn’t seen an editor! You will discredit writers all around the world. The course also gave her guidance on finding a good quality to write a childrens book

Make the learning as easy as possible. Learn the bare minimum on your own and let someone else teach you what has already been discovered. It is still terrifying to put it out there. You’ve put it out there for the critics, but you’ve also put it out there for impact.

Haters are always going to hate. They aren’t your audience. It is so worthwhile, when Marcy receives feedback from her audience.

You Should and Shouldn’t Take Stock in Reviews

You should filter which comments you take in and which ones you shouldn’t. Marcy had very few low reviews and they are usually people she wasn’t necessarily writing to.

One woman left a comment that her book, Reclaiming Hope, might turn people away from fostering or adopting.

There are times when Marcy is sharing their journey, where she will talk about how her faith was the support. It isn’t what the whole book is about and it isn’t the whole strategy, but it is a piece of how they survived some hard times.

The commenter said she wished there was a book that had nothing spiritual in it that would make everyone walk away wanting to foster or adopt. The commenter wanted a book that said fostering and adopting is easy, and you don’t need Jesus in order to do it.

Other people can read her review and realize they are like her and spare themselves, which is great, because Marcy didn’t write this book for those people. Her book is not for everyone. Just like that, how to write children’s book reviews can be tough as well.

Book sales go up when a book has a spectrum of reviews. People tend to be a little distrustful of a book that only has four or five star reviews. We can learn from our reviews.

If someone has a legitimate complaint, you can always go back and edit the book you published and update it. You don’t have to wait until it is perfect to publish. If you’ve read a book and you liked it, review that book! It means so much to the author.

To Scale Fastest, Build Some Sort of Business Off of Your Books

If you are a children’s book writer, you should be doing school visits. You should sell books and charge a fee for your time to do a school visit. Many schools have a budget for this.

This could also mean developing a speaking gig. After you publish, people ask you to speak. Marcy has never looked for a speaking gig. She has been invited to every single one because people found her books and she already had credibility with them.

Another way to scale is to create a course of some kind to further support what you are teaching. Marcy could create a course on strategies and tips you can use with your kids who come from places of trauma.

Her book, Parenting Children of Trauma, is the lead, or funnel, that would bring them to her course. She would only need to create it once and update it here and there.

Your book can be your business card. If you are a realtor, you can give the book to a client to show credibility. Whichever feels like the most life giving, pursue that option. Scale up and give yourself a greater capacity to help more people in different ways, but not necessarily between nine and five.

Successfully Unemployed Rapid Fire Round

What Marcy is Doing to Make the World the Better Place

Marcy’s husband is the primary assigned person. He works at a school called Black Forrest Academy and teaches ceramics, and Marcy fills in the gaps. She has worked as a substitute teacher.

All of the teachers are self-supported, so there isn’t paid sick leave. They have had over a million Syrian refugees come to Germany within the last few years, so she has tried to have interaction with them on a regular basis.

Although she doesn’t do therapy as a practice, Marcy has made herself available to their mission, Teach Beyond, to support missionaries they have in isolated locations.

She usually has a few people she meets with weekly, where she is the only person they know from America and they get to connect.

Marcy has a lot of white space where she can make herself available to support people, but she also has full days where she does nothing and she can recharge.

The Advice Marcy Would Give to Someone Who Wanted to Get Started Writing and Publishing

Marcy had to work with her mentality around money. The early investment she made in the self publishing school was so hard for her, because she thought she was robbing her family. She made that leap, because there was hope that everything they promised would be true.

Invest in yourself. Marcy was raised on welfare and it was bred into her that life is full of scarcities. In the last three or four years, there were a number of times where she invested in herself and her business, and it has made all of the difference.

She’s done it wisely, with prayer, and with stewardship, but she has had to work to have a healthy mindset around what it means to release money from her family.

If this resonates with you, sit with it and ask why. What are the messages you hear in your head if you put money into something that matters to you? Do some work reframing it.

If you have something to offer and people are waiting to pay you to offer it, this money that you invest in yourself is already coming back to you.

Marcy had a writer she was coaching and Marcy told her that people were waiting to buy her book. The book has now been a best seller for two straight years.

It is called, The Gifted Highly Sensitive Introvert, by Benita Esposito. One of her first reviews was glowing and she got to hear firsthand that someone was waiting for her book.

The Advice Marcy Would Give to Her Younger Self

Marcy would tell herself that she is significant, worthy of what people want to pay her, she has value, and she believes in her. Marcie has spent so much of her life thinking she was small and wondering how she could accept money for helping people. Marcy settled for a long time.

One Tool Marcy Uses on a Day-to-Day Basis

Trello, for project management.

The Nonfiction Book Marcy Suggests

The Best Yes, by Lysa TerKeurst

Find Marcy Pusey Online:


Get her books on Amazon Here:

Instagra/Twitter/Facebook: @marcypusey

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