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picture book length (a question with a twist)

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Agreed! I'm a big MIKE MULLIGAN AND HIS STEAM SHOVEL fan. It's 1688 words.

Wow! That seems like a lot of words.

 :frog: :frog: :frog:
#31 - July 18, 2012, 03:09 PM

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I love BETTY BUNNY and I bought the newest one last month--BETTY BUNNY WANTS EVERYTHING!
#32 - July 20, 2012, 02:52 PM
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My PB's tend to be between 1,000, and even 1,200 words (getting shorter as I go along) and my sense is that this is a lot of text compared to much of what's out there. I'm tremendously surprised -- but kind of reassured -- that an editor thought 500 words was too short for a PB.
#33 - August 27, 2012, 08:11 PM
Ann Redisch Stampler

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Oh, I LOVED Mike Mulligan growing up. It was one of my favorite books, and my kids now love it, too.

I'm not sure where this idea that people want only short picture books got started -- though there is merit to the bedtime limitation. The fact is, I think many parents ARE reading their kids longer picture books. They're reading them the classics.

While on the subject, does anyone else sometimes get annoyed by wordless/sparsely worded picture books? Some of them are so wonderful and I love the illustrations BUT as a parent I sometimes get annoyed by having to make up the words that go along with the pictures when I'm tired and in the middle of 5 other things. I was reading one a few months ago and I thought I should really just write down the words that I say on each page so that I don't have to make them up/remember them every time. Oh well -- at least it's a good writing exercise!
#34 - August 29, 2012, 06:12 PM
www.carriefinison.com
DOZENS OF DOUGHNUTS - Putnam (July, 2020)
DON'T HUG DOUG (Spring, 2021)

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Carrie F - as a mom of two I do get annoyed by wordless/sparsely worded picture books, especially if the illustrations are lacking. Hey, it's 8pm, I've been running around all day, and now I have to invent text for someone else's book? Sometimes fun, usually irksome.

Anyhoo, on the same topic, I'm thinking of submitting to Flashlight. Their submissions page requests MS in the 1000 word range. Most of my work is 450-600 words, and the story I plan to submit will probably be about 650/700 tops when I stop messing with it. Wonder if that's too short?
#35 - September 05, 2012, 12:52 PM
MIND YOUR MONSTERS (Sterling, 2015)
HYPNOSIS HARRY (Sky Pony, 2016)
LUCY LOVES SHERMAN (Sky Pony, 2017)

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Oh, good. I thought I was the only cranky one.  ;)

I don't know much about Flashlight, but I think they are really onto something with their longer PB length, and I've been impressed with the books I've seen from them. Good luck!
#36 - September 05, 2012, 05:10 PM
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Last year, Flashlight published WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN by the fab Jodi Moore. It's just shy of 400 words. So 700 is not too short...don't go adding words if you don't need them!
#37 - September 06, 2012, 08:45 PM
BACKHOE JOE, HarperCollins, 2014
FAMOUSLY PHOEBE, Sterling, 2017
ALL IN A DROP, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019

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I attended the SCBWI pb workshop in Orlando with Andrea Pinkney (scholastic) and Sylvie Frank (Holiday House) and they both said between 500-800 words. Less is more. I did a blog post on the workshop here: http://christinafarley.blogspot.com/2012/06/scbwi-florida-picture-book-intensive.html

I found the workshop so intresting since I maily write YA and I was surprised at all the specific rules in pb. Like avoid showing which directions characters are moving (let the illustrations show this). And also really relying heavily on the illustrations to show the story as well.
#38 - September 07, 2012, 03:23 AM
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Christy, that's a great link. Thanks!

LoriA, good advice - as usual :)
#39 - September 07, 2012, 07:53 AM
MIND YOUR MONSTERS (Sterling, 2015)
HYPNOSIS HARRY (Sky Pony, 2016)
LUCY LOVES SHERMAN (Sky Pony, 2017)

I attended the SCBWI pb workshop in Orlando with Andrea Pinkney (scholastic) and Sylvie Frank (Holiday House) and they both said between 500-800 words. Less is more.

Good to know. :yup In the "Red and Blackie" series (five PBs about a pair of squirrels who are brothers) I've been working on, I've edited down or brought up each story to 600-700 words; depending on illustrations, I may end up bringing them down closer to 500 each...
#40 - September 07, 2012, 03:11 PM
« Last Edit: September 07, 2012, 03:13 PM by G.R. »
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When I started writing PBs 5-6 years ago, they were 1500 words, 1300 words. Very wordy. Eventually they became shorter and shorter...900, 800, then down to 600 and 500. One we just subbed is 350. However, I just wrote a longer picture book that is not "wordy" like my earlier works. Those 992 words are crucial to telling the story. I know the "rules" and I have broken them, but with good reason--the story could not survive in a lesser format. Now we just have to wait and see if an editor agrees!
#41 - October 03, 2012, 11:37 AM
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OK, the 992-word story was approved by my agent and is getting subbed beginning tomorrow! It's a long one, but I believe it's a great story (ha ha, don't we all) and I hope it finds a home!

I truly believe story trumps all--tell the best story you can. Some stories need more words than other stories.
#42 - October 14, 2012, 02:07 PM
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What I am finding, now that I babysit my 3.5 year old granddaughter off and on, is if the reading last too much longer then the picture viewing, she turns the page before I have finished. She has a decent attention span for these days so it's not that, it's an age thing I think. She wants to get to the next Illustration, the text seems to need to keep up with the art:)


#43 - October 15, 2012, 02:06 AM
"Penelope and the Humongous Burp"
"Penelope and the Monsters"
"Penelope and the Preposterous Birthday Party"

Yay! Great news, Tara! Here's wishing you a speedy sale.  :clover

I agree that story trumps all.
#44 - October 15, 2012, 07:48 AM
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That is awesome, Tara! Good luck!
#45 - October 15, 2012, 03:01 PM
www.katieclarkwrites.com
Twitter @KatieClarkBooks
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Old but...
When I started writing PBs 5-6 years ago, they were 1500 words, 1300 words. Very wordy. Eventually they became shorter and shorter...900, 800, then down to 600 and 500. One we just subbed is 350. However, I just wrote a longer picture book that is not "wordy" like my earlier works. Those 992 words are crucial to telling the story. I know the "rules" and I have broken them, but with good reason--the story could not survive in a lesser format. Now we just have to wait and see if an editor agrees!
(my bolding emphasis)

This is my favourite way of approaching picture book length. Find the optimum amount for what the story is about and stick to that. You may also need to consider story length and target audience.

For example GOODNIGHT MOON couldn't really be 1000 words, nor could, say, OH THE PLACES YOU'LL GO be 100 words.

To further the 'suitability' argument, WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE wouldn't really work as a short story without pictures, nor would WAITING FOR GODOT (not a picture book or for kids, I know) work as a picture book.

In my favourite creative works - books, movies, music, sculptures, etc. - the content and medium both fit pretty much perfectly.
#46 - June 25, 2014, 01:54 AM

New!
Maybe one of my manuscripts isn't to long after all. :P (Around 1637 words, so I would need to cut 137 words.)

I'm still more suited for below 1,000 words though.:/
#47 - June 25, 2014, 09:41 PM
« Last Edit: June 25, 2014, 09:54 PM by SarahW »
You can find my stuff at: uggc://plorephyg.bet/~fnenu/oybt.ugzy

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