Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Writing a Holiday Picture Book ~ by Patricia Toht

This time of year, bookstores are filled with holiday books, with picture books making particularly festive displays. 
A holiday display at Dragonwings Bookstore
in Waupaca, WI
Perhaps that sets you wondering about writing one of your very own. I've written two holiday books, PICK A PINE TREE and PICK A PUMPKIN, and I've learned a few things along the way. 

Let's begin by looking at the pros and cons of holiday books:


• Many holiday books have a ready consumer market every year, with shoppers willing to open their wallets to buy. In 2017, Money magazine asked the National Retail Federation to rank which US holidays have the most consumer spending

National Retail Federation, 2013
The Winter Holidays are #1 by a long shot. The next biggest are Mother's Day, Easter, Valentine's Day, Father's Day, and Halloween (in that order). Each of these holidays offers an opportunity for books.

*The second largest "holiday" spending is Back to School. Another topic to consider!

• The school and library markets also buy holiday books, and are often interested in a greater variety of topics. While bookstores might not carry a wide stock of books on minor holidays, such as President's Day or Groundhogs' Day, schools and libraries order these books to support student learning.

• Often readers build their own personal libraries of holiday favorites, adding to their collections every year. Repeat business!


• The window for selling holiday books is narrow. You only get one shot each year for sales - the rest of the year, sales are pretty non-existent.

• The holiday book market is crowded. It can be difficult to come up with a unique offering that will stand out.

• Holidays are hardly universal. Some are celebrated widely in the world, while others are unique to certain countries or regions. Publishers may not want to take on a book with too narrow an appeal. 

• Publishers interested in selling co-editions (versions of the book published in other countries) will also not be interested in holiday books with a limited audience.

So, still interested? How do you get started? 

1) Visit the library and the bookstore. What holidays are celebrated in books? Read, read, read!

2) Christmas and Halloween are widely covered in the US. If you choose either, can you come up with a unique character, setting, conflict, or other element?

3) Diversity offers opportunity. Is a holiday that you celebrate under-represented?

4) Look at book formats. Has a particular format not been done? Concept book? Wordless? Nonfiction? Historical fiction? Poetry?

5) Apply your craft. Elements that make a terrific traditional picture book are the same ones that make a great holiday book. My favorite craft book is Ann Whitford Paul's WRITING PICTURE BOOKS.

Below is just a small sampling of my favorite Christmas books. What are yours, readers?

Unique setting

Economy of words, and so funny!
Cute character and sweet ending
A classic, in rhymed text
My favorite historical fiction
Christmas book

Merry Christmas! 

Happy Holidays! 

Best wishes for the New Year!


  1. Thanks, Patty. You have laid out the pros and cons for us to figure out how and if we should write a holiday story or not. I've always been drawn to them and have entertained the idea of writing one. Merry Christmas!

  2. Thank you, Patricia for another great GROG post! Happy Holidays! Merry Christmas from me and my world.

  3. Patty, Wonderful blog post that will be very helpful to writers considering a holiday-related book. Love the helpful info about consumer spending and which holidays rank highest for spending. Merry Christmas and happy writing ...

    1. It was interesting to research that, Eileen. I had always thought that Halloween was #2, but that was actually disproven on Snopes!

  4. Great tips for holiday writing, Pat. Thank you so much!

    1. Thank you, Tina! Are there any Korean holidays that you might write about?

  5. Thank you, Patty :) I appreciate the advice and tips concerning holiday books. BEAR STAYS AWAKE FOR CHRISTMAS is one of my favorites. Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!

    1. That is a terrific book, Charlotte! Merry Christmas to you, too!

  6. Thanks so much for an informative post, Patricia. Kids and holidays seem to go together so well, and as a collector of Christmas picture books, I feel their appeal. Glad to read that the winter holidays are the top ones for marketability, as those are the ones I enjoy writing about, too.

    1. I'm a sucker for Christmas books, too, Patricia. Good luck with your holiday writing!

  7. Thanks. I appreciate the tips.

  8. Dear Patti,

    This is a special time of the year. I have a tall stack of Christmas and holiday books sitting on an old fashioned school desk.

    Thank you for sharing the statistics, pros and cons when writing a holiday picture book.

    While I note many favorites you've shared, I'm looking forward to reading THE QUEEN AND THE FIRST CHRISTMAS TREE by Nancy Churnin and illustrated by Luisa Uribe. I requested it from the library.

    Merry Christmas.

  9. Great post - thanks for the statistics. Who knew Mother's Day would outrank Halloween?

  10. A timely post. A good breakdown, as well, of the pros and cons. Your list gives me a few I haven't read.

  11. Thanks for your ideas. Barb

  12. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.