[These are books and other resources mentioned in my video course for children’s writers, Picture Book Fixes – B.]
Module 1: Is it too long?
For word counts, I use the AR BookFinder tool. This searches for AR Quizzes, and it only includes books that have AR Quizzes for them. But I find it includes probably 85% of the picture books I search for. Type in the title and click Go. Then click on the proper title in the results, and then look for the word count in the info that is displayed (I circled it in red below). This info will also tell you the page count (usually 32) and other readability information, if you’re interested.
Module 2: Have I maintained a strong focus?
Module 3: Is my point of view effective?
Writer’s Digest has some helpful articles about point of view in general (not children’s writing, specifically). If you feel a little confused about what the different point of view options are, here’s a good place to start exploring pov.
Module 4: Have I delivered a fresh take?
Search on Amazon – Say I want to see how many “new baby” picture books have come out in the past 10 years. I search in Books and type “new baby.” Down the left sidebar, I click on Children’s Books, to narrow it down (17,291 results). In left sidebar, I click on New Baby (4,811 results). Then I click on Hardcover, to narrow it down to mainstream trade publishers (most picture books are published in hardcover) (3,424 results). Then, above the search results, I right click on Ages 3-5 and then click on Open in New Tab to narrow it down to picture book age (3,202 results). I go back to the results page and right click on Ages 6-8 and Open in New Tab (500 results). So far I’m at 3,702 picture books about new babies. See how much competition there is? Then, to the right above the search results, I Sort by Publication Date. I have scrolled through the first 72 results and am still in 2015. Between Mar 2015 and March 2016, 72 books were published that Amazon has tagged as picture books related to new babies. Now, some are mistagged. Some are for older kids. Some are about babies, but not new babies. But, still. 72 books in one year. It’s really, really helpful to spend a couple of hours acquainting yourself with the competition if you choose to write about a popular topic!
Publishers Weekly (I recommend just buying the two kidlit editions, which come out in winter and summer, announcing all the new kids’ books for spring and fall.)
Module 5: Will my text support/inspire illustrations?
“Picture Book Dummy,” by Tara Lazar. I’ve rarely seen a picture book with a self-ended layout, so the Colored Ends Picture Book Layout graphic is the one you want to look at.
“Wendy Martin Makes a Dummy,” by Wendy Martin.
“How to Make a Picture Book Dummy, for Dummies,” by David Huyck. This shows an illustrator’s approach, which is fascinating to see. You don’t need to be nearly as specific with your images–you’re just making sure the potential for great images is there, embedded in your words and the story you’ve created.
Check out some one-page storyboard forms here, and choose one to print.
Click on the video above to see how to make an 8-page mini-book from a single sheet of paper. Then refer to the Bonus Video on storyboarding in the class to see how I use this method to make a picture book dummy blank.