April 6, 2011

Writing children’s picture books

Picture books may be easy enough to write, but writing them for actual kids to read and enjoy requires work. Why?

Your competition increases in this genre.

The children’s picture book market has been down recently.

Colored artwork costs more to print than straight text.

Almost everyone thinks they can write a picture book!

To give your manuscript an edge, study the genre. Talk to young children. Read stacks of children’s picture books and note your preferences. Also:

Ask the librarian in the children’s section of your public library which books parents and teachers recommend and, more importantly, which ones kids return to again and again.

Make a list of interesting, kid-appropriate topics that need to be covered.

Keep an idea file.

Read your manuscript to children in your chosen age group.

Study and follow the guidelines of publishers whose work you like.

In general, a successful picture book manuscript has simple sentences, kid-friendly vocabulary, and only a few words on each page.

In general, each page must be visually-oriented to lend itself to illustration.

In general, the total page length – including front and back matter (title page, copyright page, dedication, bibliography, notes to parents or teachers, etc.) – will be divisible by four since a sheet of paper, folded in half, adds four pages.

Specifically, each publishing company has its own requirements, and each age group has its own needs and interests.

For more ideas and information, see these related articles on In a Writer’s Life and share them with your writer-friends:

Keeping Your #KidLit User-Friendly

Writing Winner Nonfiction for Kids

Writing Children’s Stories With No Pink Fairies Or Old Fads

If you would like a professional opinion of your children’s picture book or the book proposal you have prepared for your full-length fiction or nonfiction book, contact me through my website.

(c) 2011, Mary Harwell Sayler
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