Many of us harbour the dream of becoming a picture book author. Teachers, librarians, mums and dads, grandparents. Anyone who has ever loved books, anyone who has ever had children and clocked up hours of bedtime readings. Anyone who has ever dreamed or imagined that they were creative.
I’d wager just about everyone out there has thought at some stage or other that they could write a picture book, or thought, ‘I couldn’t do any worse than what’s already gone before, right? How hard could it be? It’s only a few hundred words.’
There surely is a picture book in us all.
But before you go sending your manuscript to a publisher I strongly suggest you bring your book to life by creating a dummy version.
After you’ve typed your story up and saved it on your computer, print the text out, cut it up into scenes then place those lines/scenes across a dummy book of thirty-two pages.
This is a great way to see how your story flows. Hopefully, the text will progress smoothly as you turn each page. You might even find that you’ve created appropriate breaks or cliff-hangers that flow across the pages. These are ideal.
If this isn’t happening, move the text around, rewrite your story, print out it again and try again. Read your dummy book out aloud over and over. Then over again
If your story isn’t hitting the mark, edit your work. Make it funnier or more dramatic. Print the new text out and start again and create another dummy book. Your sketches or illustrations (if you have them) can then be pasted in with the text.
You can test your story by reading it aloud to yourself, a writer’s group if you’re a member of one (I highly recommend this!) and to friends, family and young children. Anyone who will listen and who you think will give you constructive feedback.
Picture books aren’t designed to be read. They’re meant to be PERFORMED. And until you perform your manuscript out aloud (which should always be long before it goes to a publisher), you won’t know whether your story will indeed work in a picture book format.
The best advice I can give to picture book authors is to make sure your manuscript is well and truly road-tested before you submit it. You usually only get one shot at a publisher with any given story. So make that shot count.