Cover Stories

by Margaret Welwood

“Don’t judge a book by its cover” is one adage that doesn’t work for young children. So how do we get these powerful little judges on our side?

Reading to children is an incredibly rich source of feedback on illustrations, plot, pacing, and wording. Cover artists also do well by offering young audiences a choice of covers for consideration.

Here I offer a few observations on other authors’ covers, gleaned during my story times:

I offered my after school care group a choice of five stories one day, but we only had time to read four before they became restless. The one that didn’t get picked was written by a renowned husband and wife author team. I talked about the stories each time I let a child choose—why did this one get left out?

I think I might have an answer. The authors’ names are at the top, over the title, and the names and book title are in a fairly large box, over a third of the cover—and most young children don’t read much. The cover picture is full of activity in an interesting setting, but it’s done in lovely pastels.

So, what did they pick? I believe Woof and the Haunted House by Danae Dobson was first. The house on the cover looks haunted too, especially against the garish orange sunset.

When I introduced this book I explained that I didn’t like spooky stories, but I liked this one because it had a happy ending. I remember the doubt on one little boy’s face. Could he trust me or not?

Turned out he could.

Self-Control by Henrietta Gambill and Caring by Jane Belk Moncure were also chosen. I was a little surprised at this, but I shouldn’t have been. They’re older books, but young children wouldn’t notice that. The cover pictures are simple, clear and bright.

The fourth book chosen, The Unplanned Voyage by Barbara Davoll, has large writing on the front cover, but the picture is brighter than that of the book that wasn’t chosen—and it’s very cute. The plot is relatively complex, but it was easy to tell the story using the lovely bright pictures of Christopher Churchmouse and his little family.

Christmas story readings at the museum yielded some real encouragement to indie authors. I lined up a group of religious and “gently secular” books, and had the young audiences choose what they would like to hear. The indie book covers were just as popular as those of traditionally published books. Johnny Boyd’s The Mouse in the Manger and my own books held their own or surpassed the traditionally published children’s books.

Our target market has much to tell us about defying the old adage—and judging a book by its cover!

Margaret Welwood loved teaching English as a Second Language, writing magazine articles, and editing a business magazine and adult non-fiction books (one an Amazon #1 best seller, the other a Writer’s Digest award winner). However, with the arrival of grandchildren and their welcome request—“Grandma, can you tell me a story?”—she began writing and editing picture books for children. This is now her favorite genre.

Please visit eBookChristian to learn about Margaret’s picture books for children (both print and digital), and her Authors Community (AC) vendor page for her editing services.

Margaret has been working with AC author Terri Martin on Happy’s Surprise, a charming tale of a little rabbit, his grandpa (think Grandparents Day), and an important life lesson learned the easy way! For those of us who have learned too many lessons the hard way, this is a refreshing and comforting story.

If you’re an aspiring children’s book writer, please check out the benefits of a free membership in the Authors Community, and the value in the Manuscript Bundle.

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5 thoughts on “Cover Stories”

  1. Very nice and helpful article, Margaret. Children’s books is a very interesting genre. Although the books are written for children it is the parents and grandparents who have to be sold. I’m wondering how they choose the books for their children and grandchildren? I love the idea of letting the children pick the books based on the covers. Too bad I didn’t read your article before my grandchildren moved away from this genre. My youngest of 14 is 9 now. I guess I will look forward to great grandchildren. It’s never too late.

  2. I think parents often know what their children will go for. Also, if you hold library and bookstore readings 🙂 they will see their children’s enthusiasm. I think one of the tricks is not to let ourselves get talked into what’s trending–children don’t know or care.

  3. Thank you so much for your insightful advice in this matter. Will definitely keep it in mind. I actually think my niece Mollie Bruce does a wonderful job for me. If you would like to check out for work look up our little books Grandma’s Hair and Grandma and Grandpa Shorts. Thanks again!

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