The Moral of the Story

With all the children’s books already on the market, new authors have a high hurdle to getting noticed. Complex characters, colorful artwork, lyrical writing — the importance of these elements varies based on your target age and topic. But there is one thing many parents expect from a children’s book, and that is a moral. For a lot of authors, the moral of their story is tied to a personal cause, and that cause can make a big difference in the book’s level of success.

How does having a cause relate to the success of your book? Compared to someone without one, a cause gives you three distinct advantages:

  1. Passion to see the project to the end. Writing a book is a long and sometimes tedious project. Marketing that book is tiring and requires stamina and a thick skin. If you have something you believe in, you can call on that resolve to get you through the tough times.
  2. An easily recognizable marketing hook. When you have a cause, it can be easier to get media attention. There may be specific events, days, or months set aside to address your cause. These occasions give you an in with the various media because newspaper editors, t.v. producers, and radio hosts are all looking to fill space with material relevant to these topics.
  3. A built-in audience. Many causes have some organization, charity, or association dedicated to them, and with those organizations come all the other believers in your cause. These are the people who want to read your book. Although you probably would like to convert readers to your cause and enlighten them as to its importance, the choir, so to speak, will be the majority of your customers, especially in the beginning. You need these people to support you; they make it possible for you to reach those outside your circle.

It doesn’t matter what your cause or lesson is. It doesn’t even have to be altruistic. Philip Pullman, author of the His Dark Materials young adult series, had the stated purpose of killing religion in the hearts of children. He may not have achieved his goal, but it gave him the determination to write a trilogy, and that trilogy was very successful.

Even if you do not have a personal cause, I encourage you to include a lesson or moral in your children’s book. When I have assessed manuscripts that did not include a moral, I felt like I had wasted my time. Morals add a layer of complexity, and therefore interest, to a story, and what’s more, if you have the ear of a child, why not take advantage of the opportunity to pass on some wisdom? It makes for better writing and better sales.


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