How to Map Out Your Picture Book in 32 Pages
There are so many things you have to consider when writing a picture book.
As a picture book author, you naturally focus on your story (and maybe the word count too) as you develop and revise your manuscript. But there is another factor that you need to consider, whether you are self-publishing or querying agents.
Yes, the official layout of your book comes much later in the process, as words and illustrations are paired together on the page. But your picture book will benefit from you paying attention to layout now.
You only have thirty-two pages.
A standard picture book is thirty-two pages long. That includes the text of your story as well as elements such as the title page and copyright page. Depending on the front and back matter of your book—maybe you want a dedication page or an author’s note at the end—you’re looking at about twenty-eight pages to tell your entire story.
Now yes, there are some picture books that are longer and some that are shorter. Typically, picture books are printed in multiples of eight pages, so some books are twenty-four pages and some are forty pages.
Here’s a video that shows how a picture book is printed. (I have no affiliation with the book or the publisher—it’s just the only picture book printing video I could find.)
You need to think like an illustrator (just a little bit!).
A chapter book or a middle grade novel is not reliant on illustrations like your picture book is. So while you may be hiring an illustrator or relying on your publisher to find one for you, you still need to think about your book like an illustrator would. (In a way that does not require you to actually illustrate anything, I promise.)
As you’re reviewing your manuscript, you need to decide where the page turns are. Which line do you need to end on to make the reader want to turn the page and keep reading? Is that at the end of a sentence, or do you want to leave the reader hanging so they have to turn the page to finish it?
You also need to think about your page spreads. (This is where that illustrator thinking cap comes into play.) Other than the first and last page of your story, your book is going to consist of a series of two-page spreads. The illustration and layout is going to span from the top left corner to the bottom right corner. And within that, you need to decide which section of your text goes there too.
So how do you do this?
You need to create a dummy of your picture book, even if it’s just for your eyes. This will help you clarify where you want your page breaks to be.
One way you can do this is by folding plain sheets of paper and stapling them together to make a thirty-two-page book. Then you can figure out how you want your text to appear.
Another option is to map out your picture book on just one page. Click below to download Map Out Your Picture Book, my free guide to help you see your picture book in a brand-new way. You’ll get a printable copy and a PDF version that you can download and complete on your computer.