Ask a Picture Book Editor

Our blog this month is all about . . .

(Well, the first five are here for you this month. Tune in next month for steps 6-10!)

Hooray! You’ve hooked your editor. You have found a loyal and friendly ally who will champion you and your text (or picture book dummy)! But, what will happen next?

Your editor will take it to . . .

Who’s at the editorial meeting? 
Members of the editorial team (including the Editorial Director and Publisher)

What will they say about my text?
- They’ll talk about what they like and also what they feel needs work.
- The publisher will assess how your text will sit on his or her list. Is it a good fit? Is it the sort of text they’re looking for? Is it commercial?
- They will also think about whether it’s a good fit for the current market, does it have popular appeal, who is the book for and will it sell to this audience?

Possible outcomes of the editorial meeting:
Your editor will be asked to take your text to the next stage: discussion at the acquisitions meeting.
The team saw potential in your text, but would like you to develop it further. Your editor will work with you to try and reach this goal. When your editor thinks it’s ready, he or she will take your text back to the editorial meeting. Hopefully it will make it to the next stage: discussion at the acquisitions meeting.
The team didn’t think that it was right for the list and your editor will be asked to write you a letter of rejection.
N.B - It’s really important to remember that all publishing houses are different. A rejection from one publisher doesn’t mean that it won’t be accepted by another publishing house. Keep persevering!

Who’s at the acquisitions meeting?
Members of the wider publishing team:
- UK Sales team
- Export Sales team
- Foreign Rights team
- Financial Director
- Managing Director
- Publisher and your editor

What will you discuss about my text?
- Your editor will have put together a presentation to pitch your text to the wider publishing team, with its all-important HOOK and USP (see last month's post), and a designer will present some illustrators who they think would be a good match for your story.
- The UK, export and foreign rights sales teams will talk about whether this book would be a good fit for any or all or their customers in their respective territories.
- The Managing and Financial Director will look at a profit and loss sheet that shows projected sales against the costs of producing the book (company overheads, reproduction, printing, warehousing, author/illustrator advances & royalties/fees, marketing spend).

Possible outcomes:
Your editor will be told the project can go ahead! The author and illustrator will be made a formal offer and sent a contract.
The wider publishing team didn’t think that it would work for them in some or all of their territories/customers. This can be due to a myriad of reasons including shifting tastes, economic climates and rapidly changing markets.
N.B - as before, all publishing houses vary, so just because you receive a ‘no‘ at this stage don’t give up! It’s likely that another house will operate, think and act differently.  

Now it’s time for the illustrator to start sketching, drawing and painting!
They will do . . .

The designer will set the text against the roughs and work with the illustrator to help them to refine and develop their style, making suggestions for composition or design where necessary. The editor will consult with the author throughout the process.

Slowly, the story will begin to look like the book that it will eventually become!

Copyright © Judi Abbot 2014. Excerpt from Train! published by Little Tiger Press

Copyright © Judi Abbot 2014. Excerpt from Train! published by Little Tiger Press

Copyright © Judi Abbot 2014. Excerpt from Train! published by Little Tiger Press

Getting the cover right is a really important stage of the process! This is the first thing that people will see and it should scream “PICK ME UP AND READ ME, PLEASE!

There are often many rounds of design and development to get the look just right. Here are a selection of some pretty amazing covers that simply scream READ ME!
There’s a Lion in my Cornflakes! by Michelle Robinson and Jim Field
The Great Snortle Hunt, by Claire Freedman and Kate Hindley
Shh! We Have a Plan, by Chris Haughton
The Biggest Kiss, by Joanna Walsh and Judi Abbot
Specs for Rex, by Yasmeen Ismail
Mr Tiger Goes Wild, by Peter Brown

So, the insides are ready, your cover is designed – it’s time to send files off to the repro house to get proofs (also referred to as blads or bound proofs). The illustrations and layouts look exactly as they will in the finished book – they look incredibly similar to the finished book but have card covers and are usually stapled together down the spine.

What are proofs for?

Next month: steps 6-10! We'll cover bookfairs, printing, publication and spotting your book on the shelf! See it here

Natascha Biebow is editor, mentor and coach at
Check out the Cook Up a Picture Book Online Courses:



  1. Wow! What a brilliant run down of the processes, it's good to be reminded how many people are behind the decision making in UK publishing. Most of us on the creative end only get to meet one or two members of staff. Great article!

  2. Fascinating process. Bit scary that 'my' book will have to satisfy all those multifarious demands.

  3. Brilliant insight Natascah and Ellie and I can't tell you how much I want to read 'Shh We Have a Plan!'

  4. Thanks! Look out for part two on 10 November!


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