Aug 09

Written a Picture Book? Are Illustrations or Layout Next?

 

Picture books, illustrations, and layout

I read an interesting article from a self-publishing service (1106 Design). The article explains that the best way to produce a children’s picture book is to create the interior layout before getting the illustrations done.

This is something I hadn’t thought of. But it makes so much sense.

I write a lot of stories for clients, but that’s usually the end of my involvement.

Well, I do provide a list of illustrators and book designers to work with after they have a completed manuscript. But I usually don’t go beyond that.

I provide the list because I know most people new to the writing arena and those who have their stories ghostwritten aren’t aware of the next steps. They need help.

The DIY Beginning – Start with the Story

The first step to self-publishing a picture book is writing the story or having it ghostwritten.

Once that’s done, the author hires an illustrator who creates the interior illustrations, and usually the front and back covers.

Number of Illustrations, What Size, and the Layout

At this point, the author needs to discuss with the illustrator how the book is to be laid out.

Does the author want an illustration on each page? On every other page?

Keep in mind that having an illustration on every other page cuts the number of interior illustrations needed in half. This cuts the cost for interior illustrations in half. This is a huge factor and the decision is usually based on the budget of the author.

Once that’s decided, the illustrator and author decide if full-page or half-page illustrations should be used, or a quarter-page, or a combination.

From the article I mentioned early, it’s best to let the illustrator layout the pages for the text and illustrations. It creates a much more professional and engaging finished product.

If you look at books like The Berenstain Bears or “D.W The Picky Eater” by Marc Brown, or even Sophia Mouse, which is a simple chapter book, the text can be anywhere on the page. But it needs to work with the illustrations.

You want to be able to easily read the text. It shouldn’t blend into the illustration.

This is why it’s a good idea to have your illustrator create the layout before actually creating the illustrations. This way the illustrations fit the space allotted for them.

A great way for you to determine how you want your picture book to look is to do some research. Find books that you like and let your illustrator know what look you’d like to go for.

A number of illustrators who are on the list I provide my clients include the text in the illustrations.

Your Illustrations are Done

Once the illustrations are done, the illustrator will give you a PDF file that you will send off to the book designer and/or book formatter.

If your illustrator JUST provides the illustrations, you will need to hand over the manuscript and the illustrations separately. The book designer will put it together, asking you where you want the text (on which pages and where on the pages).

It’s much easier if you work with an illustrator who includes the text in the illustrations.

When done, the book formatter or designer will give you print-ready files for ebook upload and print upload to sites like Amazon (retailer) or IngramSpark (aggregator).

You will take the print-ready files and upload them to whatever retailer or book distributor you intend to use.

This is the Do-It-Yourself way.

An Alternative

If the above seems like too much work, you do have an option: hire a self-publishing company to do it all for you.

Author be aware!

There are A LOT of companies out there that just want your money. So, BUYER BEWARE.

Research, research, research self-publishing companies before handing over your money.

Once you find a reputable company, they will take your manuscript and illustrations and put the book together for you.

Some of these companies even offer interior illustrations, making your life even easier.

Just be sure the self-publishing company handles children’s picture books. This is very important.

One company that looks reputable is 1106Design.com. I’m hoping to get the chance to work with them one of these days so I’ll be able to let you know how it goes.

Also, keep in mind that the convenience comes at a price. You’ll need a hefty budget.

AGAIN, be careful.

To read the article I referred to, click the link: https://www.1106design.com/2017/01/25/want-to-publish-a-beautiful-childrens-book-heres-how

Children's ghostwriter

Whether you need help with ghostwriting or rewriting, let me take a look at your children’s story. Just send me an email at: kcioffiventrice@gmail.com. Please put “Children’s Writing” in the Subject box. Or, give me a call at 347—834—6700

Let’s get your idea off the launch pad or your outline into a publishable story today!

Or, if you’d rather give it a shot and do-it-yourself, check out my book, HOW TO WRITE A CHILDREN’S FICTION BOOK.

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Sep 23

Children’s Books and Back Matter

What goes in the back of your children's book?Are you thinking of writing a children’s book? Or, maybe you’ve written one already.

The majority of my clients hire me for picture books, although I’m getting more and more chapter and simple middle grade clients now. As authors having a book to be published, it’s important to know a bit about what should go in the back of a children’s book. It’s also good for others getting their feet wet in the children’s book arena to know about these things.

Keep in mind that this may vary, depending on the purpose of your book and the topic. And if you have a picture book, it depends if you want any information at the back or if you’d prefer having more pages for story and illustrations.

Note: If you’re traditionally publishing, the publishing house will make decisions or help you make decisions about your back matter.

Below are 7 pages you might consider for your book’s back matter, if space allows and the story warrants it.

1. About the Author

This is a page that most authors want in their book. It’s the page where the author can let the reader know a bit about him or her. And, it might be the page you use, if you’re a professional, to show your credentials for writing the book.

This is an important element if say you’re in the healthcare profession. You’ll want the reader to know that you are qualified to give the information in the book.

This page can go be used in any children’s genre you’re writing in, including a picture book.

2. Afterword / Author Notes

On this page, you’ll be able to explain why you wrote the book, how you came up with the idea, and/or what inspired you to write it.

If you have a picture book and have the room on the Author page, add the Afterword there. Every page counts in picture books.

This is another page that’s appropriate for any genre, if page count allows.

3. Additional Information

Depending on the topic of your book, you may want to offer additional information that is fact based.

For example, I’ve worked with a number of mental health professionals and they usually want to give the reader, parent, or other mental health professional helpful tips relating to the topic of the story.

Or, it could be you’ve written a wonderful fiction story about a dinosaur and want to give some facts about dinosaurs in the back of the book.

Another example is a three-book fiction picture book series I have, The Adventures of Planetman. The books are about protecting our environment. The back of these books each have fact-based information that shows children how they can be a superhero for our planet.

Whatever the reason or purpose for additional information, you need to be sure you have the room for it. Standard picture books usually don’t.

Additional information pages are an excellent idea for chapter books and middle grade books.

An example of this is my middle grade fantasy set in ancient China, “Walking Through Walls.” I provided the reader with information on the Ming Dynasty period and also interesting information on Chinese dragons as a dragon was mentioned in the story.

This type of information allows the reader to become more involved with the story. It also gives the parent and teacher more room for conversation with the young reader. And, if you need to add more pages to your book, it’s the perfect filler.

4. Reading Comprehension

Most standard children’s picture books don’t include a reading comprehension page(s). They just don’t have the space.

But if you’re writing a chapter or middle grade book and would like to boost its chances of being picked up for school classrooms and libraries, then definitely include this in your book’s back matter.

Reading comprehension pages help children understand what they just read. These pages ask questions that make the child think about the story and how it can relate to them.

5. Activities

To further engage the young reader and teacher, you can offer activities related to the story.

In “Walking Through Walls,” one of the activities was for the reader to draw a picture of a dragon.

Most picture books don’t include an activities page. Again, there’s not enough room.

6. Glossary

Depending on the topic of your chapter book or middle grade book, you may want to or even need to include a glossary in the back matter of your book.

The glossary lists words that the child may not be familiar with and gives the definition.

Glossaries are most often used in nonfiction children’s books rather than fiction ones. Although I can see its purpose if you’re writing a fantasy world and created words specific to that world. A glossary would come in handy.

7. Promotional Page

This page is a must for every book although the picture book may not have room for it. But if at all possible, include this page if you have other genre related books.

You can include excerpts of forthcoming titles and/or titles already available for sale. You can also include a call-to-action (CTA) to sign up for your newsletter or to visit your website.

As an author, you also need to be a book marketer. You need to take every advantage you can to promote your books. And, what better place to sell your other books than to a person reading one of your books.

There are also pages such as an Index, an Appendix, a Resource List, and a Bibliography, but again it depends on the type of book you’re writing and the topic. These pages would not pertain to a picture book.

A Word About Picture Books

The industry standard picture book is 32 pages. There are though also 24 pages, 40 pages, and 48 pages. There are even picture books that are 64 pages. I’ve seen these in children’s fiction and nonfiction self-help books.

The reason 32 pages is the standard is because it’s the best number for cost-effective printing. And, it creates a neatly bound book. It just works out all around to be the best fit physically.

Why I mention this is because while you think you have 32 pages, you really don’t.

The first page (Page 1) and the last page (Page 32) are used to glue the front and back book covers onto the book.

This brings you down to 30 usable pages.

Well, not quite.

Figure on at least another 4 pages for front matter and back matter. This brings you to 26 pages of text and illustrations – 13 spreads.

A spread is the left page and right page when you have the book open.

If you forego the back matter, and keep all your front matter on two pages, you may have 28 pages for story and illustrations.

But, another factor to consider if you’re self-publishing is that the publishing service may have their own formatting requirements.

I’m working with a series client who was told by the publishing service that she couldn’t use Pages 1, 2, 31, or 32. That left her with only 28 pages for front matter, the body of the book (the actual pages for story and illustrations), and the back matter.

This became a big problem as I wrote the story thinking we had 26-pages and the client has two pages of back matter.

Keep in mind that if you’re a professional, such as in healthcare, and want to include additional information on the story topic, you’ll need more pages. I would strongly recommend a 48-page picture book if this is the case. You wouldn’t want to short-change the story or illustrations for lack of space.

Children's ghostwriterWhether you need rewriting or ghostwriting, let me take a look at your story. Just send me an email at: kcioffiventrice@gmail.com. Please put “Children’s Writing” in the Subject box.

Or, give me a call at 347—834—6700

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Sep 03

Writing Picture Books for Young Children – A Different Writing Style

Writing Style and Picture BooksA writing style is the way a writer writes a story. It’s the words used, sentence structure, tone used, and even the method used.

The children’s picture book writing style is unique for two main reasons:

1. You’re dealing with young children.
2. You’re often dealing with parents and teachers who will read the story to young children.

Let’s break the reasons down.

1. Simple words, simple sentences, simple ideas.

When writing for children you must remember you’re writing for children.

It may sound silly, but it’s easy to forget this and end up writing for yourself. Always remember your audience will be young children.

Reason one is broken into two categories:

A. Your sentences are too long and complex for the young reader. Or, the words you’re using are too advanced for the young reader.

I’ve been guilty of this one. I’ll write the story using longer sentences than I should and using words that are too advanced for the target reader. This is a no-no.

Children, especially young children need things kept simple: simple words, simple sentence structure and length, and simple story line.

As a simple (and exaggerated) example:

BAD: Freddie couldn’t comprehend the complexity of the situation.

BETTER: Freddie didn’t understand.

The ‘better’ example above reduces the length of the sentence and simplifies it also. Children will quickly understand what’s being said. And, if parents/teachers are involved, they won’t be stumbling over a complex sentence.

Simple is better with young children.

There’s a great book to help with the use of age appropriate words when writing for children, “The Children’s Writer’s Word Book” by Alijandra and Tayopa Mogilner.

B. In addition to simple words and simple sentences, you need to think about the scenarios you’re creating. You don’t want to give young children bad or dangerous ideas, like sneaking out at night, or running away from parents when in an amusement park, or running into the street.

This doesn’t pertain to young adults and even some upper middle grade. In these genres, the reader is able to grasp just about as much as an adult.

But, for picture books you need to keep it on the simpler side.

2. Parents and teachers may be involved.

Parents and teachers often read picture books to children. You certainly don’t want them stumbling over long sentences. And, their audience is very young children who will usually have very short attention spans.

Think of a one or two-year-old who can’t get away fast enough or who’s squirming all over his mom trying to grab the teddy bear that’s sitting on the shelf.

Next, think of the kids in pre-school and kindergarten. Granted they have a better attention span than the toddler, but not by much.

Make the picture book kid-friendly. Simple words, simple sentences, and simple story line.

You also need to consider the parent who is reading their child a bedtime story. Make the story flow. Keep it simple. Make it engage the reader as well as their audience.

How to test your story.

To help get a handle on your story, to help determine if it’s simple enough, Mary Kole from Kidlit advises to read the story out loud. It’s so much different than just reading it. (1)

Reading aloud, you won’t just glaze over the words, you’ll have to read each one to say them. You’ll get a better sense of how it sounds and flows.

An even better test, if possible, have someone read it out loud for you. Maybe a family member or friend or critique partner. This is even better than reading it yourself because that person won’t be familiar with the story. You’ll be able to catch all the snags in the story that can cause pausing or stumbling.

(1) Picture Book Writing Style

Children's ghostwriter

Let me take a look at it. I’m a working children’s ghostwriter and rewriter. I can turn your story into a publishable book that you’ll be proud to be author of.

Shoot me an email at: kcioffiventrice@gmail.com (please put Children’s Writing Help in the Subject line). Or, you can give me a call at 834—347—6700

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May 21

Picture Books – Story or Illustrations, Which Comes First?

 

Story or Illustrations?

While most authors know the answer to the title question, whether the story or illustrations come first in picture books, some newbies don’t.

I have a client with a three-book series. This client happens to be an amazing artist and created her story around her illustrations.

For the purpose of this article, I’ll say she visited the pyramids in Egypt.

Using Fred as the protagonist and an example, he was looking for the largest pyramid. He trekked through Egypt and talked about the things he saw on his quest.

Being an artist, the client wants her readers to SEE everything she saw. She wants to incorporate as many tidbits of information about her journey into the story . . . and she wants to do it visually.

This can be great, but when you’re writing a fiction book, it’s ALL about the story. There needs to be full story and character arcs.

The illustrations complement the story. The illustrations enhance the story. It’s not the other way around.

While her primary focus was the illustrations, she did want an engaging and marketable fiction story to go with the illustrations, and after a couple of critiques realized what she created didn’t work.

That’s when she came to me.

I’ve worked from illustrations before. It was another rewrite project, but those illustrations were created for the story. I was able to rewrite the story around them.

With the pyramid client, the illustrations were the focal point. It’s not a good idea to force a story around illustrations.

It’s got to be valuable to the story to be in the story.

It’s not a good idea to write text within a story simply to include scenery, characters, or information you want the reader to be aware of. If they’re not valuable to the story, if they don’t move the story forward, they shouldn’t be in the story.

This is especially true with picture books, even if you’re self-publishing. You may feel you have leeway, but if you want a quality book that you’ll be proud to be the author of, you need to follow the rules of writing for children.

Your story should begin with a problem the protagonist needs to overcome.

You need to quickly get the reader interested enough to care about the protagonist. You need to grab the reader and get her involved. The reader needs to quickly understand what the problem is and be motivated to see how the protagonist works to overcome it or solve it.

So, going back to the title question, the story should be written first then the illustrations should be created to enhance each scene (page or spread).

Side note: If you’re writing a nonfiction book, the text could definitely explain the illustrations. But, not with fiction writing. Fiction writing is about bringing the reader on an engaging and page-turning journey.

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Need Help With Your Story

Let me take a look at it. I’m a working children’s ghostwriter and rewriter. I can turn your story into a book you’ll be proud of.

Shoot me an email at: kcioffiventrice@gmail.com (please put Children’s Writing Help in the Subject line). Or, you can give me a call at 834—347—6700

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May 08

The 3 Levels of Picture Books

Children’s picture books have 3 levels or purposes in regard to the reader and purchaser. Think of it as the structure of a house: there’s a basement, a first floor, and often an upper floor.

Level 1: The basement, or Surface Level, is geared toward the youngest reader (or listener if too young to read). This child is able to understand what’s going on. He is engaged by the story. Using a wonderful children’s picture book, Caps For Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina, the child will think it’s funny that monkeys take the peddler’s caps, put them on their heads and won’t take them off.

Level 2: The first floor, or the Underlying Meaning Level, is for the older children who can understand on a deeper level. At this age, they can realize danger, anger, and a cause and effect scenario. Again, using Caps for Sale, the children should be able to understand that the monkeys are mimicking everything the peddler does, but the peddler doesn’t realize what they’re doing. With this age child, he/she may yell out, “They’re doing what you do!” in an effort to help the peddler.

Level 3: The upper floor, or the Take Away Level, is the value the book holds for the purchaser, usually the parent, grandparent, or teacher. The adult reading the book to the child understands the meaning of the story, what value can be taken away by children. In the case of Caps for Sale, the young child is engaged and understands the monkeys took the peddler’s caps and wouldn’t give them back. The older child is engaged and understands that the peddler is causing the monkeys to act as they are. The value that might be taken away is that our actions create reactions.

I just want to point out that Caps for Sale was first copyrighted in 1940 and renewed in 1967, so there is a great deal of telling in the story. Back then, writing for children used a different structure. The stories were not geared toward today’s short attention span and need for action. But, some stories, such as this one, hold up even through change.

Keep in mind though, in today’s children’s market a writer must take into account that a child is bombarded with media and entertainment. Children’s publishers want showing rather than telling. They also want action right from the beginning of the story. In today’s market it’s the writer’s job to grab the reader quickly.

MORE ON WRITING FOR CHILDREN

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Need Help With Your Story

Let me take a look at it. I’m a working children’s ghostwriter, rewriter, and editor. I can turn your story into a publishable and saleable book.

Shoot me an email at: kcioffiventrice@gmail.com (please put Children’s Writing Help in the Subject line). Or, you can give me a call at 834—347—6700