Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Creating a Picture Book

In order to create a picture book and get it published there a few important steps to follow. First, write a story in short story form as a basis for your book. It doesn’t need to be very long, but it must have the elements of a plot and should teach some sort of lesson. Then remember the three ‘R’s, -- rhyme, rhythm, and repetition. Use them to create a poem or prose which a child can listen to in five minutes at the most, and which an adult would be willing to read. Pare away any nonessential elements until you have enough verses to fit in twenty to thirty pages. You need to break the poetry or prose into stanzas or paragraphs whose bite-sized chunks fit on each page in large, readable type. The text must be large, because grandparents will be reading your book, and the blocks of text bite-sized, because your illustrations will not fit otherwise. Dr Seuss’ book “The Cat in the Hat” is an excellent example of a fun and engaging book, with plenty of those three ‘R’s and text in their proper proportions.

Assuming you are also the illustrator, create plates which directly correspond to the story verse. They can refer to the short story, but must show elements of the prose on that particular page. Make certain the text will fit in one space on or near the plate. Most children’s books use full page plates and then place the text upon them. You may also consider illuminating the first character of each stanza as an added detail. If you want to see an example of beautiful plates, just look at Jan Brett’s “Hedgie’s Surprise”. Once you have drawn you plates there are several routes to getting the plates and text published. Many children’s writers go directly to editors and bypass the agent route entirely. Publishers are constantly looking for good children’s books, thus if your story is engaging and the artwork is good, your chances are much better than other genre in getting published. Scholastic Books is a good publisher who has excellent editors to polish your work and get it to the presses. The most difficult part of writing any book, is not writing but getting noticed.

You need to submit copies, not originals, of your plates. You can make copies at color copy shops, but I’ve had better result using local print shops that use offset printing presses. The cost might be higher, but it is better to send high quality copies to the publisher than smudged or off azimuth ones from a copy shop. In addition, local print shop personnel tend to know their jobs more than the other guys. If you want to send digital images instead, or if a publisher requires it for the submission process, then you can either use a high quality digital camera, or once again, pay the local print shop to do it for you under controlled conditions. Trust me, the quality is worth every penny, and once they are digitized, you can always print them on a good photo printer. I use the HP Photosmart 8450, but any decent one will do.

You may choose to do the layout yourself and bypass the standard publishing route. Learn photoshop or quark express then, because picture books are expensive to print and bind. One mistake can cost loads of money so you might want to stay on the straight and narrow. If you really must publish yourself, then lightning source is a good bet, but unless you pay for their extra services, they aren’t going to hold your hand. Lulu is good as well, with the same limitation. Create Space can print color books, but as far as I can tell do not do the durable heavy bindery a picture book would require.

Overall, your best bet is to follow the steps I spelled out above and try to get the attention of a publisher. Write a decent synopsis based upon the short story, include a sample of the text, and a copy of one or more plates. If they want the whole thing, don’t worry, they’ll ask for it. Don’t be bothered if they don’t respond they don’t hate you, they are just very busy. Keep submitting until you get a bite. It may take a month, or a year, or ten years, or even never, but part of the labor of love is sticking it out until you have fulfilled your dream.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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