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Picture books vs. board books

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emily.ungar

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I apologize in advance if this is a commonly asked question! I am an MG writer but have recently been working on a concept for babies/toddlers. My question is: are all board books either written in-house at various publishers (or adapted from longer picture books)? I understand that picture books are intended for an audience of 2 and above. I am completely in the world of board books right now (I have toddlers), and many have more creative themes beyond the straightforward ABCs, 123s, and colors (i.e. WHO LOVES TO ROCK? by Wednesday Kierwan). Are short concepts such as these (for example, my project is only 70 words) completely undesired by agents and publishers? Because are they considered picture books (I'm assuming not)?


Thanks for filling in the info gaps for this MG and SCBWI newbie beginning to learn about the PB world!
#1 - January 26, 2014, 06:28 PM

Hi, Emily, I don't know a lot about board books, but here is a helpful thread:


https://www.scbwi.org/boards/index.php?topic=61443.msg714129#msg714129


#2 - January 26, 2014, 06:41 PM

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Well, our own Salina Yoon does both PBs and concept books, but I don't think she got her agent until she was writing PBs. I could be wrong. I hope she will chime in since she writes both. I think if you have a good concept, a publisher would be interested, but I don't know about the agent.
Good luck, Vijaya
#3 - January 26, 2014, 07:12 PM
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emily.ungar

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Thank you both! And Donna, that thread was super helpful! Bookmarked!
#4 - January 26, 2014, 07:23 PM

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Hi Emily E! Funny---because my editor, and publishing director of Walker Books is also an "Emily E." which caught my atten. My heart stopped a moment when I thought she posted here!

This is a great question! I have published well over a hundred novelty board books, but I am also an author/illustrator and designer. When I submit a novelty or board book, I create the entire book (art/text/format). It is less common for editors to acquire text-only for novelty or board books, though of course there are exceptions if the text is truly unique and a perfect fit for the publisher.

There are several different kinds of board books out there, and various ways a publisher acquires them:
1) originated as a picture book, and has a board book edition (these tend to be 20-30 pages. varies, depending on PB text) (publisher acquires this traditionally--as a pb first)
2) originated as a board book (tend to be 10-12 pages) (text can be written in-house, commissioned, or acquired, art is hired out traditionally or commissioned)
3) packaged board book (book packager creates a complete board book with art/text/design and sells to publisher. no acquisition takes place directly from an author or illustrator here.)
4) novelty board books (often 10-16 pages, includes pop-ups, interactive books, touch and feels, lift-flaps, tabs, etc) (these books may be acquired--like mine are,.. but many are bought directly from book packagers)

(these are the most common board books. there are others.)

Short manuscripts doesn't mean it's a good fit for a board book. It really depends on the content,... but there are picture books for toddlers, too. Picture books can be for 3-6, or for the older crowd, 4-8. Board books are generally for 0-3, though I've published ones that were for older (up to 6). If your text is for about 10-12 pages, then it's likely a board book manuscript. If it's more like 24-32 pages, it's more likely a PB.

I think most agents wouldn't be interested in writers who only write text-only for board books. The advances would be too small to make them worthwhile (unless you're Jane Yolen or some other very well known author). But if you wrote other things (like you do),... then I would query with those.  If your idea is perfectly suited for a board book, then I would submit directly to the editor at the houses you think they fit instead of seeking out an agent for this.

Business wise, I think it's better to submit as a picture book for many reasons. (in my case, I submitted most of my novelty/board books as novelty/boards because they were designed to be interactive, and needed the sturdier format of board). Higher advance and royalty, and the possibility of a board book edition down the road (if PB format does well, and is appropriate to toddler/baby audience) are two good reasons for submitting as a PB instead of a board book.

But ultimately, it will depend on the content on what is a better fit.

Board books have a smaller profit margin for a publisher than a picture book. (high cost to produce and ship, and retail price must be low for consumers) This is why the royalties are much lower than a traditional trade picture book. In order for a board book to be profitable, it must sell more than double of a traditional picture book.

I'm going to stop now... or this is going to be come a novel!
Good luck!
#5 - January 26, 2014, 07:31 PM

emily.ungar

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Salina (and all),


Thank you so very much for all of this incredible information! I really appreciate you taking the time to share all of this with me. You are all so wonderful!


Too funny about the Emily E.!! I do promise I am not secretly your editor! ;)


Seriously, thank you again for your super-helpful information. I hope you all have a great week!
#6 - January 27, 2014, 07:43 AM

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Wow, Salina, I feel like I just sat in on a master class!!  Seriously, your information could be an article in the next Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market guide!!!


Thank you!!


 :winter
#7 - January 27, 2014, 08:20 AM

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Wow, Salina, I feel like I just sat in on a master class!!  Seriously, your information could be an article in the next Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market guide!!!


Agreed! Thanks so much for the voice of experience.
#8 - January 27, 2014, 08:24 AM

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Thanks, you guys! It's hard to know how much info to share. When it comes to novelties, I don't have a filter, lol! Someone once asked me if I learned all this and the production end of novelties at school. Um. no. Absolutely not. I learned pretty much 100% from experience.

You go through enough acquisitions at enough places, and you see how things work and are done.  :twitch

#9 - January 27, 2014, 08:44 AM

Very helpful, Salina. I know that as a children's bookseller, we are always asking our book reps to let their publishers know we would like more board books. But given the production cost, I can see why there are not tons of board book titles and why a lot of board books were originally picture books. (Though I admit that I like the picture book/board book duo for binding choices, and so do my customers.)
#10 - January 27, 2014, 10:37 AM

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That's interesting, Holly! I didn't realize booksellers favored this format.

Often times, a board book edition is only made for books that are either classics, bestsellers, or well-selling picture books where they can count on large quantities of sales based on its history.(I am on the well-selling side,... and NOT a bestseller... but all of my Penguin and Bear books will come out in a board book edition one year after publication. That is the plan so far, anyway.)

Even if there is a picture book that would be perfect for a board book edition, it may not happen if sales on the PB was not strong enough to justify the new print run on a board edition.

#11 - January 27, 2014, 10:55 AM

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Wow, Salina, I feel like I just sat in on a master class!!  Seriously, your information could be an article in the next Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market guide!!!

I second that! You should send it in, Salina. Tons of writers will thank you for your insight.
#12 - January 27, 2014, 10:59 AM
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Hm.. I never considered submitting an article. I figured an editor from a publishing house would do a much better job on such things. But something to consider. Thank you for the idea, Carrots,... and those that agree!
#13 - January 27, 2014, 11:13 AM

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I truly think you should Salina. Who better to give advice than those that have lived what they tell :)
#14 - January 27, 2014, 11:46 AM
Vehicle Dreams Series-RPKids '16 -'18
(Fire Truck, Bulldozer, Race Car)
Rainy Day Picnic-Read Your Story '18
The Sparrow and The Trees- Arbordale '15

I don't know if EVERY bookstore favors board books, but we are a children's only bookstore (with a few select adult titles), and our customers pillage our board book section regularly. It's hard to keep it stocked with a variety of choices. Our PBs sell well, too, but for baby showers, etc., people come looking specifically for board books.
#15 - January 27, 2014, 02:22 PM

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