We’d like to thank Darcy Pattison and Leslie Helakoski for this blog post! Leslie and Darcy are co-faculty for PB&J: Picture Books and All That Jazz. Thank you, Darcy and Leslie!
So you have an idea for a children’s story. Great! Many times, our thoughts rush to PICTURE BOOK. Picture books are warm and dear to many of our hearts, harkening back to our own days as early book lovers. But is your idea enough for a complete book or might it be a magazine article or short story instead? Here are some questions to ask yourself:
If the answer to any of these questions is ‘no’, or even ‘I don’t know’, then you might have an article or short story rather than a book. For a publisher to invest in a story and try to sell it in today’s very competitive marketplace, the idea has to carry a lot of weight.
Let’s say you answered ‘yes’ to some of those questions. You have forged ahead and drafted your story idea. You have revised over and over and over again, right? Yes! So, have you tried making a rough dummy of your book to see how it fits in the standard picture book format? It doesn’t matter if you cannot draw well, this is only to see if your story fits into the format and it’s perfectly OK to use stick figures and scribbles. (Publishers generally choose the illustrator, so don’t worry about that point.)
Because picture books are almost always 32 pages,that means you’ll have 14 spreads or sections to work with. This varies, but note that most books leave room for the front matter and start the text on page 5. That leaves 28 pages for the story. (Though the illustrator and art director may divide it differently later.) This is just to help you revise and you should still format submissions in a typed-double page format without any indication of page turns.
Now that you have the text divided into 14 sections, it’s time to evaluate.
While a magazine story may not be the first thing that came to your mind when you wrote your story, remember that not every story we write is necessarily a book.You can get more publishing credits by including magazine work in your repertoire. Some of the pluses for magazine stories are: magazine sometimes allow a higher word count, they can revisit ideas more frequently than books—especially those with holiday themes. There is not as much illustration needed to tell the story, which can translate to longer text.
If you want to learn more about picture books and all the details of what creates a marketable story, consider attending one of our upcoming picture book workshops!
Posted on: March 8, 2018