“So You Want to Write a Picture Book” by Joan Y. Edwards
Before beginning say the following affirmations: three times: I can write a great picture book. My picture book gets published. The illustrations in my book are outstanding. My publisher and I sell more than a hundred thousand copies of my picture book.
Picture books are stories usually have illustrations on every page of the book. If there are 32 pages in the whole book, the story usually begins after the title page, copyright page, and dedication page. The illustrations help to tell the story. Without some of the pictures, the reader might not understand the story. In other words, the text depends on the illustrations to explain part of the story. An author can both write the story and draw the illustrations, or one person can write the story while a different person illustrates it.
Karen Cioffi shared that Claire Saxby quoted a publisher’s definition of a picture book as “40% words, 40% illustration, and 20% X-factor.”
How to Write a Picture Book
Step 1 Read 100 picture books.
- Betsy Bird. “Top 100 Picture books,” http://www.slj.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/SLJ_Fuse8_Top100_Picture.pdf
Step 2 Study the Types of Picture Books
Joan Y. Edwards. “What Are Picture Books?” https://joanyedwards.wordpress.com/2012/01/11/what-are-picture-books/
Patrice Sherman. “A Few Picture Book Basics,” http://www.writingpicturebooksforchildren.com/a-few-picture-book-basics.html
Patrice Sherman. “Kinds of Picture Books,” http://www.writingpicturebooksforchildren.com/types-of-picture-books.html
Step 3 Read Guidelines for a picture book.
Guidelines for a Picture Book
- Write a complete story in (Pages with no story (Title page, back of title page (Copyright page), dedication, back of dedication page (picture) 1 single page, 24 double-spread pages, and 1 single last page)8 of the pages out of 24 pages with a beginning, middle, and end.
- Use between 500 and 800 words. Some publishers allow more words; others want less.
- Write a character-based story with a character faced with a problem, trying the solve the problem and failing, and then solving the problem by changing something inside them.
- Write another type of picture book: Concept or Slice of Life or Non-Fiction.
- Use colorful illustrations to help tell the story and add to its enjoyment.
- Some editors like good rhyming. Others don’t
- Some editors like slice of life stories. Others don’t.
- Join other writers in writing a picture book:
Step 3. Don’t have your picture book critiqued until it is finished and you, yourself, have edited and revised it three times.
Step 4. Have your story critiqued by your writing group. Revise and change only ideas you agree with 100 per cent. When you have a quality manuscript, go to Step 5.
Submit Your Quality Picture Book Manuscript to a Publisher, Editor, Agent, or Contest
Step 5. Follow the Pub Sub directions:
Week 1 Choose an editor, agent, or contest. Here are two posts on my blog to help you find a publisher or an agent.
- Jeff Herman. Jeff Herman’s Guide to Publishers, Editors, and Literary Agents-Who They Are, What They Want, How to Win Them Over: http://www.amazon.com/Hermans-Publishers-Editors-Literary-Agents/dp/1608683095/
- Joan Y. Edwards. “32 Publishers Who Accept Unsolicited Manuscripts“
- Joan Y. Edwards. “18 Literary Agents Who Are Looking for You”
Week 2 Follow their guidelines.
Week 3 Time to Submit to agent, editor, contest, critique group, or professional editor
Week 4 Celebrate, Live, Educate, Motivate, Write, Revise, Get Critiqued. Go to Week 1 with another story.
Resources about Picture Books:
- Charlotte Hucks. “Evaluation Guide for Picture Books,” http://highered.mheducation.com/sites/0073378569/student_view0/chapter5/evaluation_guides.html.
- Enoch Pratt Free Library. “What Are Picture Books?” http://www.prattlibrary.org/locations/children/index.aspx?id=4116
- Erika Griffin. “Inferring How and Why Characters Change,” http://www.readwritethink.org/resources/resource-print.html?id=858.
- Goodreads. “Slice of Life Books,” http://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/slice-of-life.
- Jil Casey. “The Art of Children’s Picture Books,” http://theartofchildrenspicturebooks.blogspot.com/
- Joan Green. “Unit of Study: Slice of Life Writing,” http://swpunitsofstudy.pbworks.com/w/page/10059712/Unit%20of%20Study%3A%20%20Slice%20of%20Life%20Writing.
- Julie Ballew. “A Closer Look at Characters,” http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/top-teaching/2012/10/closer-look-characters.
- Laura Backes. “The Three Commandments of Writing a Picture Book,” http://writeforkids.org/2014/08/the-three-commandments-of-writing-a-picture-book/.
- Marisa Montes. “Notes on Writing Picture Books,” http://www.marisamontes.com/writing_picture_books.htm.
- Martin Salisbury and Morag Styles. Children’s Picture Books: The Art of Visual Storytelling, Laurence King Publishers, 2012
- Olympia.org. Chapter 2, “The Art of Picture Books,” http://www.staff.olympia.org/external/OHSLibrary/art.pdf
- Penny Lockwood Ehrenkranz. “Eight Things Picture Book Editors Don’t Want,” http://www.writing-world.com/children/picture.shtml
- Robert Vaux. “How to Evaluate Children’s Literature,”
- https://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/2011/01/24/what-is-a-slice-of-life/. What is Slice of Life?”
- Tara Lazar. “How To Write Children’s Picture Books,” http://writetodone.com/six-best-tips-writing-childrens-picture-books.
- Uri Shulevitz. Writing with Pictures: How to Write and Illustrate Children’s Books.
Thanks for reading my blog. Good luck with getting all of your picture books written, revised, critiqued, and revised again to the point of a quality manuscript ready for submission.
Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards
Copyright © 2015