Monday, 9 November 2015

Ask a Picture Book Editor

How many pages in a picture book? 

In June one of our blog readers, Anna, asked us how many pages in a board book were best and how this gets decided. It was a really good question! So this month we’re going to cover the physical construction of a board book or picture book and and how this impacts on how long your book will be.





(By ‘straight’ we mean without any novelty extras):
Well, there’s no hard and fast rule about how long a board book should be but industry rule of thumb says they are between 5 and 10 spreads.

WHY? Board books are generally shorter than conventional picture books because:
- they are for younger children
- as they are made from board, they are more expensive to produce

WHAT does this mean for you as an author and how focused should you be on pagination and length?
TOP TIP - don’t worry!

Having explained the above, the biggest tip on writing a straight board book text is not to focus on length and pagination. As long as your text isn’t reams and reams of pages long, the most important thing for you to focus on is making sure your text:
- is young enough in tone and pitch
- the theme is appropriate and pertinent for very young children
- it has a good hook and follows an arc (for more tips on this check out our April 2014 blog post)

If it ticks all the boxes above and your editor loves the voice and the concept, then he or she will work with you to refine the text to the appropriate length.

Here are some lovely examples of board books with good hooks and concepts:

Usborne's 'Black and White' series has a great concept at its core – using Baby's first recognition
of black and white as a very early introduction to the world.
Dorling Kindersley's photographic range is perfect for encouraging clear object association
and recognition for very young children.
Little Tiger Kids' range of early concept books takes basic learning stages and
uses bold and bright colours to make them fun and engaging. 





(i.e. lift-the-flap / touch-and-feel elements):
Again, there’s no hard and fast rule here but, as with a straight board book, books of this nature on the market are between 5 and 10 spreads with very few words.
There are some wonderful early concept novelty board books on the market so making yours really stand out is important. If this is the sort of board book you are looking to create then:

- think of how the novelty will integrate really well with the text. Here are some examples:
Rod Campbell's Dear Zoo is one of the best and most famous examples of using a
lift-the-flap novelty to maximum effect. Young children love to play peek-a-boo
and guess what's under the flap!

Usborne's That's Not My range is the perfect mix of integrated touch-and-feel novelty elements
alongside a simple, funny text and bold illustrations that encourage
young children to explore new basic concepts.
Ladybird's Baby Touch range uses integrated novelty elements to encourage very young children
to explore and discover the world around them.


- think of how to use a novelty element in an innovative and unique way to create maximum impact:
Is This is My Nose? has a mirror at the back of the book, which encourages children
to explore the concept of facial recognition themselves in a really fun way.

Zip It is a brilliant introduction to buttons, poppers and zips.

REMEMBER - board books as a format are already very expensive to produce. If they have a novelty element involved then that makes the cost of the production even greater so for a publisher to justify the expense the novelty must be strong and integrate well with the concept.

THINGS TO CONSIDER - because board books are so often concept led they may well be written in-house or an author may be commissioned to write the text to fit the brief.





Standard UK picture books are either 24 or 32 pages in length.
(Sometimes American publishers go for a longer length, or ‘extent’. Their picture books can be 40 or 48 pages long.)

For a hardback picture book, p. 1 and p. 32 are stuck down to the boards. Page 2/3 and pp. 30/31 are generally endsheets. In some cases, publishers include 'half-endpapers', where a single-paged endpaper appears at the front and back of the book, book ending the story. Sometimes, publishers decide not to include endsheets and use the back matter in a different way - e.g. to include a recipe or an extra story spread.

In a paperback picture book, p. 1 and p. 32 are no longer stuck down and can therefore be used in a variety of different ways: adding a 'This book belongs to...' page, a half-title or an advert of other books by the same author.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR YOU?
Not including the copyright and title pages or endsheets, the rule of thumb is:
 
24 printed pages =
9 working story spreads if your publisher chooses to use half-endpapers
OR
11 working story spreads in a paperback original, or if your publisher doesn’t want to include endpapers

32 printed pages =
12 working story spreads if your publisher chooses to include endpapers
OR
14 working story spreads in a paperback original, or if your publisher chooses not to include endpapers

As discussed in previous blogs, once you know how many spreads you’re working with, you then know how to shape and contract your narrative (thinking of how to build pace, action, drama and emotional dynamics) over the course of the book. It can be useful to create a dummy book to experiment with different ways to pace out your story and get the full effect of the page turns.

TIP - whilst it’s always good to think about pagination and structure, remember this is also where your editor can help. As long as your text doesn’t span pages and pages (no more than 800 words!), focus on making the theme, characters and topic right first before becoming too concerned about paginating your text.

DID YOU KNOW? 
 
Why are "book blocks" 24, 32, 40 OR 48 pages long?
A "book block" is made up of a number pages that can be divisible by eight.
This means standard picture book book blocks are 24 / 32 / 40 / 48 printed pages in length.
WHY? - eight printed pages fit neatly onto to the reams of paper that a printer will pass through the print rollers.
If you had a book block that was not divisible by eight you'd end up with too much paper wastage.




Picture books with novelty elements (like flaps, gatefolds and die-cuts) tend to be 24 pages long.

WHY? 
As with novelty board books the more ‘extras’ you add, the higher the cost of production. This means there’s more paper used in the production of the book and it may include handwork to stick glue and fix flaps into place.

Because of the increased cost of production, if you want a novelty element in your book, you need to think about: 
- how the novelty will integrate really well with the book's concept/text adding value to the reading experience
- how to use a novelty element in an innovative and unique way 

Here are some great examples of successful novelty elements in picture books:
My Monster Dumper Truck by Steve Smallman and Joelle Dreidemy uses gatefolds to escalate drama and gives a wonderful sense of the ever-expanding monstrous vehicles.

Open Very Carefully by Nicola O'Byrne and Nick Bromley has a brilliant die-cut hole at the back of the book which ties in perfectly with the story of the book-chomping crocodile inside.

Knight Time by Jane Clarke and Jane Massey has a wonderful double gatefold with foiled stars and die-cut holes, which accentuates the spooky night-time atmosphere in the book and creates a dramatic climax.





Natascha Biebow is editor, mentor and coach at www.blueelephantstoryshaping.com
Check out the Cook Up a Picture Book Coaching Courses:
 



5 comments:

  1. Thanks, that was really helpful. But what is die-cut?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks so much for this, Natasha and Ellie! You've clarified the pages issue for me brilliantly.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Amazing post its tell us how to edit a picture book pages and how main-tan one by one with easy way thanks for share it personal statement editing service .

    ReplyDelete

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