Writing Tips - Picture Books

Firstly, if you're serious about getting published, either in book form or in magazines and newspapers you will need the most recent copy of The Writer's and Artist's Yearbook.  It contains a comprehensive list of publishers and agents together with names, addresses and details of what they're looking for.  It's not expensive, I use it, and so do most other authors. See my page of recommended writing books on this website. 

Next, only send your manuscript to a publisher who actually publishes your type of book. In other words don’t send picture book fiction to a purely crime fiction publisher! If in doubt, look at their website to see what type of publications they offer. This advice may seem blindingly obvious but unfortunately every non-fiction publisher receives mountains of picture books stories every week...and they all go in the bin. If you were them, you'd do the same.

When you send you manuscript out, present it professionally. I devote a large section in my book 'How to Write a Children's Picture Book and Get it Published'  to this - I even show you one of my own picture book texts exactly as I set it out when submitting it... but the absolute basics would be:

  • Use a font like Times New Roman 12, double spaced.
  • Check spelling and punctuation carefully. Mistakes look unprofessional.

  • Include your contact details on every sheet of your manuscript.  

  • Send a covering letter with your manuscript but never say things like, "My children love it.”  My book gives you an example cover letter template wording.

  • Put the correct postage on the letter and always enclose a SAE. Don't email work unless the publisher gives you the ok. 

  • For picture books send the whole text. Don't send three sentences. Don't say it's great, here's my telephone number! Send the whole thing.  For longer fiction send a synopsis and example chapters.

  • Remember picture books are mostly 32 pages (including the covers). My book provides a picture book layout template so you can see exactly where to begin and where to end your story. This is invaluable for planning plot contents and reducing text. And it makes you look like you know what you're doing!

  • Keep the word count short. Picture book editors normally prefer under 500 words. 

  • Avoid witches, religion, swear words, racism, gender bias, sexism, scary stuff and dangerous situations, for example stories with children trying to fly. Also stay away from fire, candles, fireworks and weapons. Remember - when they say they want 'edgy and different' they really mean please play it safe!

  • DO NOT PAY A VANITY PUBLISHER. A vanity publisher is a company who pretends to love your manuscript and promises to publish it...but you have to pay a ‘contribution’ towards their costs. That's not publishing, that’s being conned. On the other hand, if you’d like to self-publish there are lots of genuine companies providing ‘one-stop’ resources to help you create a book for example lulu.com


  • Keep writing. Successful authors produce a lot of work.
  • Rejections are normal. Don't give up.
  • Never send your only copy of a text.
  • Don't leave your manuscript in the filing cabinet - SEND IT OUT!

© Andrea Shavick 2017
P.S. this article is copyright so if you'd like to use it for your magazine or website (or would like Andrea to write you something longer/shorter etc) please go to Contact Andrea.
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