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Manuscript length

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Hi! I have read on various sites suggested lengths / word count for picture books.

Is there a more concrete answer? Thanks!
#1 - November 14, 2014, 07:45 AM

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As an SCBWI member you have access to SCBWI's  The Book which includes a section in the beginning on manuscript lengths.  Here's a link https://www.scbwi.org/online-resources/the-book/
In my experience, many editors today want picture books around 500 words.  This hasn't always been the case, but the current trend seems to be for shorter picture books.
#2 - November 14, 2014, 08:48 AM
Rebecca Langston-George
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Oh yikes. I heard 1,000 MAX. So 500 is the sweet spot? lol
#3 - November 14, 2014, 08:53 AM

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When I first started writing PBs it was 1000 max. And that was like 6 or 7 years ago, so always check for recent submission guidelines, because as slow as publishing moves, it also changes really fast!

But yes, under 500 is what most editors want. Try looking at recent books similar to what you are writing and see what their word count is.

(I responded to this yesterday, but my post has disappeared)
#4 - November 14, 2014, 09:10 AM
THIS LITTLE PIGGY (AN OWNER'S MANUAL), Aladdin PIX June 2017 :pigsnort
KUNG POW CHICKEN 1-4, Scholastic 2014 :chicken

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Here's a link to AR BookFinder. Just type in the title, click on the cover, and the word count, reading level and publisher info will pop up.
http://www.arbookfind.com/default.aspx
 :books3
#5 - November 14, 2014, 01:33 PM
Ten Clever Ninjas (picture book, Clear Fork Publishing, 2019)
Butterfly Girl (middle grade novel, Clear Fork Publishing, 2019)

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Oh! Nice! Thanks :)
#6 - November 14, 2014, 01:34 PM

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This keeps coming up, and people keep saying that "picture books are shorter." That's not true. Think of classic picture books like Where the Wild Things Are and The Snowy Day. Very spare text, maybe 200-300 words (I haven't counted).

That kind of picture book, where the text and the illustrations carry the story together, has been like that since, I'm guessing, at least the 1950's.

What has changed is that the longer picture books for older children, which are sometimes called "picture storybooks," in which the text carries the story and the illustrations are "just" illustrations, have fallen out of favor for various reasons I won't go into now. Unless you are Patricia Polacco OR writing nonfiction PBs, those longer stories are now often published in a different format--early/easy reader or even early chapter book.

A book like "A Family of Readers" can help make sense of the different types of books and age groups.
#7 - November 15, 2014, 08:52 AM
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I've been seeing primarily 500 for fiction 800 for nonfiction as the 'sweet spots' obviously there are successful books with no words or almost no words and some that push 1000-1200.  Just make sure it is the right amount of words needed to tell your story while leaving room for the illustrator.
#8 - November 15, 2014, 09:01 AM
Odd Animal ABC's (Blue Manatee, 4-2-19)
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I think it also depends on what kind of story it is.

For example, I wouldn't expect a "good night"/"bedtime" story to be over 700 words. Nor would I expect an adventure/action story to be less than 300 words.

So, in addition to what the typical 500 word today's standard is, your word length has to suit your genre and target audience.
#9 - November 15, 2014, 01:48 PM

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I'm submitting an action filled PB right now that is a bit over 300 words. It relies heavily on the illustrations.

I've found, when reading to a young child, if they really enjoy the story, which is often, they will ask for second and third readings in the same sitting. My children used to love the empowerment of being able to recite the text the next time around. And during the following readings, finding new things in the illustrations was just as fun. I didn't favor reading books with 1K words two times in a row. Plus, shorter stories give them the opportunity to have more than one book read to them during reading time.

When I prepare a book dummy for my text, I find myself eliminating words as some of the text, when combined with the illustrations seem redundant. I love sensory words. They give so much freedom to the illustrations.
#10 - November 15, 2014, 04:18 PM
« Last Edit: November 15, 2014, 04:22 PM by Cynthia Kremsner »
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Best advice I've ever heard on this subject is, "Use the fewest words you need to convey the story." There are some editors who'll still take an 800 word fiction picture book, but only if it needs to be 800 words.
#11 - November 17, 2014, 08:34 AM
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