How to Write a Children's Picture Book

In this post, we briefly go over how to write a children's picture book.

What is an illustrated picture book?

A book with illustrations written with children in mind is called an illustrated book. This means that the pictures and the words will work together to convey the story you want to tell.

It's also not necessary to have artistic talent to create picture books. Instead, you need only concoct a narrative and provide the agent and editor with enough descriptive notes to enable them to picture the action on the page.

What distinguishes picture books from board books?

We'll first take a look at board books, then we'll take a look at the qualities of a picture book.

Board books

Example of a fun board book for children!

  • Age: 0-3
  • Word Count: None-100

We refer to these books as babies' first books, even though their proper name should be "baby's first chew toy" instead. For little teethers, it's a good thing that publishers make them durable.

You might be writing a board book if your story involves lullabies or simple ideas like shapes or colors. There is typically no plot at this level, and the main character is very young or even an animal. Baby Billy could comprehend body parts, for instance, and the words or images would be "Billy's belly," "Billy's fingers," etc. They may even be entertaining novelty books with pop-ups and fingerplays.

Great examples of board books:

  • Pat the Bunny by Dorothy Kunhardt
  • Jimmy Fallon's Dada
  • Peek a Boo Who by Nina Laden

If any, these books will all be written in VERY plain language. Make sure your manuscript has plenty of illustrator's notes if you aren't going to be illustrating your book so the editor can see your book while reading your manuscript.


How to Write a Children's Picture Book

Illustrated books

  • Age: 3-8
  • Word Count: 250-1,000 (Although the sweet spot these days is 500 words or less, some picture books may have fewer than 100 words or even none!)

Example of a recent picture book (And it's FANTASTIC!)

These treasures typically have a 32-page layout and rely on illustrations to aid in telling a narrative. The main character is generally described in the third person and is in preschool or kindergarten (although they can be animals). No matter how tempted we are to turn to Mom, Dad, Crazy Uncle Larry, or Mrs., the main character MUST solve a problem independently in this straightforward storyline. Avoid doing it. Publishers and agents won't like it.

You should have fun choosing your words, and feel free to use more powerful words since these books are meant to be read aloud. However, the word should only be used if it advances the plot and enhances the reader's enjoyment. The crazier it is, in my opinion, the better.

Great examples of picture books:

  • Jory John's Bad Seed
  • We Don't Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins
  • The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld

You DO NOT need an illustrator to be published if, like me, you are a non-illustrator. However, the illustrator will look for you if a publisher wants to purchase your book. Include the illustrator's notes to help the agent or editor understand the precise details of the tale you're trying to tell.

Here are resources I recommend to get more in-depth knowledge

Storytelling 101 teaches you how to write compelling stories worthy of commercial success. This is best for screenwriters, novelists, filmmakers, videogame writers and storytellers.

Children’s Books 101 teaches you how to write stories that children will love. This is best for aspiring children’s book authors and storytellers.

Owl AI is the revolutionary AI-powered content production platform that helps storytellers, writers, and bloggers of all subject matter easily create highly-polished content.

Success, Money & Mindset Subliminal is a self-hypnosis recording that we recommend to new writers to help with focus, concentration, creativity, and motivation.

Shadow Work Journal: 240 Daily Prompts contains inner work exercises related to relationships, anger, anxiety, self-love, healing trauma, abandonment issues, depression, forgiveness, etc.


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