If you’re working on a picture book and are unsure about how to present it to prospective publishers, agents or editors, this post looks to provide a little guidance.
A picture book is 32 pages long, and around half of those pages will be illustrations, so try not to go over around 500 or 600 words for the most part. Don’t spell things out too much in the text; let the illustrations tell the story to some extent. Remember that the content of the illustrations should tell a child a lot more about the story than what can be gleaned from reading the text.
The book begins with endpapers, the title page and the dedication and imprint page (although these last two sometimes appear at the back of the book). Look at how other picture books are set out, and if you’re having trouble picturing how to place the text and spread it out evenly throughout the book, it can sometimes help to create a mock book.
When you are ready to submit your manuscript to a publisher or editor, send it as a Word document, using 12-point font, double-spaced. You can indicate with a text break where you think the page breaks should go, if you’d like.
If you are submitting to a publisher, do not include any illustrations; the publisher will choose an illustrator/artist. If you are self-publishing, the illustrator you choose should be happy to get some guidance from you as to what kind of look and feel you have in mind, but they will probably expect some freedom of expression when it comes to actually completing the artwork.
A publisher will require you to submit a synopsis of the book along with the manuscript. The aim of the synopsis is to give the publisher a snapshot of what the book is about, and why they should publish it. Make it as catchy and interesting as you can, but keep it brief, at around four to six sentences for a picture book.
There’s a common misconception that it’s easy to write a picture book; in fact, the opposite is true. The limited number of words and the fact that the text and illustrations need to work together to tell the story make it difficult enough, but the picture book’s audience, the child, is the toughest of critics. Any flat spot or flaw in the story and the child will lose interest. The answer? Redraft, redraft, and redraft again. And seek feedback from trusted sources, such as writing groups, as you go.