Why have rhymes fallen out of favour with children's book publishers

Updated: Jul 15, 2021

When we first decided to start creating stories we wish we'd grown up and began to work through the story and manuscript for Willow, it felt utterly natural to us to write it in rhyme. In fact the premise of the whole story had come into Darren's mind decades ago in the form of a rhyme:

Willow the wonderer

Woke up one day

Wondering about happiness

And where it lay.

And so the story begins...

When we first began to write Willow the Wonderer we had no aspiration to start our own 'publishing' company nor were we set on becoming independent self-published authors either. The seeds of Wise As Stories was planted, when we realised how limited our options in the world of children's book publishing were (and how platforms such as Amazon were effectively scamming self-published authors out of the value they created).

First, most publishers don't take on 'unsolicited' manuscripts, they don't work with first-time writers (unless you are already rich and famous...), COVID was at its height so wait-times with those that did ranged between 12-18 months (during which time you could not submit your manuscript to another publisher...) and the clincher - no one accepted books written in rhyme. It was written there in no uncertain terms on websites that rhymes were not welcome.

I was gobsmacked! Have they not heard of Dr. Suess. Don't they know of Green Eggs and Ham?! Sam I am...

Don't they know their market?

Kids love rhyme! Written to a meter, rhymes creates a lovely melody when read out aloud. This is a great way to engage kids in reading and also acts as a great memory aid, making it easier for kids to learn new words.

Parents love rhyme! Puts the little ones off to sleep in no time which makes it perfect as bedtime stories.

Besides, I love rhyme! There was a week when in the thick of writing the book, I would speak to Darren only in rhyme ...

As I looked into it, I realised that publishers actually do have a great grasp of their market - or more correctly, market size.

Book publishing is a tough slog - you no longer get into it for the money. Over the last decade or two, 'you-know-who' has greedily captured most of the value for themselves, leaving publishers and authors grasping at the last 10-20% of the value of the product they create (and that's after you-know-who's evil algorithms have discounted the hell out of it). It's open knowledge most writers don't earn a living from their writing - they too do it for love.

But publishing is still a business and all for-profit businesses are trapped in the same vicious cycle of having to deliver a growing bottom-line, year-after-year, forever after - just like in fairytales.

So what do you do when your profit margins are squeezed? You focus on increasing your sales volume by expanding your 'addressable market' to as many countries and people as possible. And for a publisher to do that, their book needs to be translatable into many, many languages - beyond English.

With a straightforward prose, that is no problem. With a rhyme, that is impossible.

So there you have it. Writing in rhyme for children's books has indeed fallen out of fashion but it is not because kids, parents and writers don't like it; it's because it's bad for business. Hoorah capitalism!

What about you? Do you like rhymes? What was your favourite rhyming book growing up? And your kids?


#rhyme #childrensbooks #bedtimestories

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