How 216 People Helped Make My First Children’s Book

I’m turning 30 in 204 days.

Like many of the people who are about to enter a new decade of their life I have a bucket list.

There are some pretty fun things on the list, but the biggest was writing and illustrating my first children’s book.

I started the process in March of 2015. I have some background in illustration but had zero clue how to go about putting together a kids book. After reading everything I could find I finally decided it was time to pull the trigger and start.

There was one thing I knew I wanted to do different: I wanted to include my friends in the process.

So over the last 5 months I have been sending surveys on a semi-weekly basis to anyone that was interested. In these surveys people would vote on things like character names, plot points and even color designs.

When my first book  (Alfred the Time Traveling Dinosaur) came out I had

  • Sent 20 Surveys
  • Gotten 813 Responses
  • Interacted with 216 People

And every single one of thing got their name in the back of the digital version of my book!

 So what exactly did I ask in all these surveys?  Let’s split them into three major categories. 

1. Plot Points

When was the last time you went to a casino and played slots?

You walk in and take a seat on a little red char.Then you put your money in the slot and then pull the lever.

One by one little pictures drop in sequence in front of you and you are hoping their order will give you a great payout.

This was the same process I used in my very first survey. Let’s call it the slot machine of children’s storytelling ;)

I gave my audience a bunch of different options, and hoped what ever turned up would mean a great payout (story) in the end!

I Asked

  1. What should the main character be? (Dinosaur, Astronaut, Ferret or Rock)
  2. What powers does our main character have? (Time travel, Super speed, Mind Reading, Strength)
  3. What weaknesses does our main character have? (Water, Trust, Past trauma, Afraid of People)
  4. Every story has a basic plot, what should ours be? (Rags to Riches, The Quest, Overcoming an Enemy, The Voyage and Return, Rebirth)

And the results

My first children’s book would be about a dinosaur, who time travels, is afraid of people and is trying to overcome an enemy.

What was surprising was how limitations helped form a more creative story.

2. Character Names

Who hasn’t wished they could name the characters of their favorite stories. Every time I watch Disney’s Frozen (which is more than I would like to admit), I always dream of changing Elsa’s name.

To what?


When I hear Elsa I think of the name Olga and picture an angry Slovic women with a broom and warts on her face that is trying to keep me from eating the cookies she just cooked in her nasty kitchen.

There is a story in that run-on sentence somewhere, and I’m sure your the same way. Names mean ALOT to people, my audience gave some great suggestions.

In Alfred the Time Traveling Dinosaur everyone voted on the names of the characters, including the main character:


People also voted on the bad guys of the story (Vinny and Diesel) as well as Alfred’s new friend (Chloe).

3. Cover

People LOVE to tell you what they think. You already knew that. Ask someone’s opinion and they will have one. They probably will tell you even if you didn’t ask.

What surprised me about the process was how much people cared, especially how much they cared about the cover.

I got a lot of great  feedback from this post and even created a second round for voting.  My cover questions were the most popular by far with over 100+ votes on those two survey's alone!

So what’s next? My first book is out and I would love if you can checked out by going here.

I have already started the process of creating my second book and I would love if you came along from the drive!

At the end of the last book (spoiler alert) Alfred finds himself a long way from home.

In the next book you can help decide if he can get back.  Join the adventure below!