Picture Book Facts and Hints
Saturday, February 23, 2008

Although you can find this same information in a wide variety of other places: writer’s market digests; author websites; at conferences or retreats—I get asked these questions as an author and children’s book editor often enough that it’s worth my time writing these tidbits here…Email me if you have any other questions or comments and I’ll try to add them to the list I’ve compiled below. Happy writing!

  • If you have an idea or have already written the text for a picture book, you don’t have to speed around your neighborhood to find your own illustrator. It’s the publisher’s job to find the right look for your book—in fact, since the publisher is taking on the financial risk of publishing your story, they get to call most of the shots when it comes to what look they want, how they will format the book, etc. If you’re not willing to collaborate with a publisher, then self-publishing is the right venue for you…

  • Always research a publisher by reading their mission statement and their guidelines before submitting to them. Why waste those cute flower or superhero stamps if you don’t have to? (I love stamps :) )

  • Most picture books are printed in the 32-page format, which typically translates to 15-20 pages of short text. Learn this format before submitting a story.

  • Submit a story only when you feel it’s absolutely fabulous! (I’m talking to myself here…)

  • Consider whether you’re a one-book author, or on the road to being a professional writer. There certainly is room in the marketplace for someone with that one special story up her sleeve. Once you know your path you can make your decisions accordingly, finding help to get that one story edited and polished before submission, or learning all the tumbles and tricks of the publishing industry for a lifetime of writing work.

  • Practice patience. Write more than you submit. Start on new stories while your old ones are helplessly (yet patiently) sitting in leaning piles of paper…

  • Be the kind of author that an editor wants to work with: professional, understanding, good-natured, and always meet your deadlines. Bullies are a bummer to work with… so are procrastinators…

  • Fear. Don’t let fear get in your way from either writing on a daily basis, or sending your stories out for consideration. For many writers, including myself, the fear of rejection, or of writing something truly horrendous can be paralyzing. I consistently struggle as an author with the fear of not being able to write something extremely profound. How I love reading authors who are original, thought-provoking and profound! Yet, what excessive pride I must have. I’ve been given the gift of time, a love and knowledge of language, a foot in this industry, a desire to write, so why not go for it?! That’s what I’ve finally learned to do—to just write, fighting all those fears, doing only my best, writing words, allowing them to plop onto the page, leaving the judgments, whether plain or profound, to the reader.

  • If you do sell a picture book, don’t think you’ll be able to pay off your mortgage with your royalties. You might be able to host a great book signing party, though!