How to write a children’s book: an interview with Andrew Larsen

Ben Dinsdale
by Ben Dinsdale April 1, 2021 / No Comments

Many people dream of becoming a published author, but few take the risk and pursue it. Andrew Larsen is one of those few who took the dive and became a successful children’s author. Andrew has published 16 books, and on this episode of Real MoneyTalk, he sits down with Tyler in his backyard to discuss his journey.

The Andrew Larsen Story

Andrew was a perpetual university student until he fell in love and started a family. He was funding his studies by working as a waiter, which became his full-time gig after his marriage. His wife stayed at home with their daughter, but when the restaurant he worked at went under, she offered to switch positions, and Andrew became a stay-at-home Dad.

He soon discovered he loved this new role and had no desire to go back into the restaurant world. He was reading his daughter tons of books and started writing a few himself. This side project became a passion that Andrew wanted to turn into a career. 

“I have this time right now at home with my daughter. Maybe I can reinvent myself and recognize that creativity within me rather than the fact I’m good at waiting tables and making money as my main thing.”

His first successful book came to him after his daughter left a sweater that her grandmother knit for her at school and feared she lost it forever. “I started writing a story about the sweater and what might be happening to the sweater during the time it was out of our hands. There was a rabbit in the classroom, so I wrote a story about the rabbit and the sweater spending an evening together. Suddenly it doesn’t sound like anything that I’ve written, and suddenly I’m finding my voice.”

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How to write a children’s book

By raising his children and spending time in classrooms, Andrew found many sources of inspiration for his work. However, now that his kids are grown-up, it’s harder to find stories that will engage young children. Andrew looks everywhere for inspiration and finds it in the strangest places. He found inspiration for his newest book, “I Do Not Like Stories,” from a young boy at a school visit who told him literally, “I do not like stories.” 

 “Generally, I will get an idea. Something will strike me as, ‘Wow, that might be needing a story.’ And I’ll walk around thinking about it for weeks, months, and I’ll think of all the different ways where I might be able to shape that idea and use that idea in a story that’s got a beginning, a middle, and an end.” 

The money behind the magic

It took Andrew a while to feel stable in the writing industry. The average children’s writer has an income of $12,000, often supplementing this with a side job as a teacher or librarian. Andrew set a goal of earning $20,000 a year, and it took him three or four after publishing his first book to hit that mark. 

He’s supported his publishing income with a side-hustle, doing school visits as the author of the books he wrote. What initially started as a way to promote his work, visiting schools for free, Andrew was able to start charging for his visits. A welcome revenue stream to support his passion.

These school visits provide some stability to Andrew’s finances, but writing always comes with some financial inconsistency. Andrew and his wife have been able to ‘muddle’ through, always finding enough to make ends meet. Every time things have become a little too tight, and Andrew has thought he might have to go back and get what he calls a ‘real job,’ a great opportunity has come up. The last time he had one of those thoughts was in 2016, right before releasing what has become his most successful book, A Squiggly Story.

Advice for aspiring children’s authors

When speaking with people dreaming of writing, quitting their job, and becoming an author, Andrew’s advice is: “Do it. You’ve got nothing to lose. If you hate your job, ok, maybe this is a way out. I’m not sure if I’d quit my job and then try it. But you can’t get anywhere unless you try.” 

The few rejection letters stung, but he’s familiar with the sting, even getting excited when he sees one from a big publishing company. Getting the rejection is a sign he’s getting past the heap of other books.

Perhaps the wisest words Andrew can provide are about the best investments he made in his life: 

“My best investment has been investing my heart in my wife, investing time in my kids when they were younger… investing in good shoes that are comfortable to walk in and investing in a family vacation that we take every year.”

To hear the entire conversation with Andrew and Tyler, listen to your favourite personal finance podcast in Canada, Real Money Talk. To find out more about Andrew’s books and hear his story, check out his website, https://www.andrewlarsen.ca/


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