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Picture book word count

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One of my picture book's has 1117 words. It is geared towards 6-9y/os. Should I shave it down before querying or are the rules a little flexible with word count that goes slightly over?
#1 - August 24, 2020, 05:57 AM

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Hi Danielle,

Is it fiction or nonfiction? For NF, the word count is a little more generous, though most agents and editors prefer to see less than 1000. And most say under 500 or a fiction PB. But the advice I like is to use the word count you need to tell the story, but ensure that every word is actually needed.

Have you had it gone through a critique group? Or posted it on for a critique in our critique section? Usually an outside reader can help you find ways to cut the word count.

Remember, in PBs, every word needs to justify its existence.  Most of the times, adverbs and adjectives aren't needed. "Ran quickly" can be "sprinted." A red truck is just a truck, as the illustration will show the color. My big overused words are "just" and "very". Most of the time I don't need them.

So yes, I do think there is leeway, especially if the PB is geared toward the older age range, but make sure you are certain you want a PB and that every word really needs to be there. Most editors and agents say the PB market is for 4 - 8 y/o, but there are definitely exceptions to the rule.
#2 - August 24, 2020, 07:38 AM
Freaky Funky Fish ( Running Press Kids, Spring 2021)
Tell Someone (Albert Whitman, Fall 2021)

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Wow, thank you so much for this feedback. It is fiction and I can definitely trim it a bit. I have had two editors look at it but haven't tried a critique group yet.  Thank you for the advice!
#3 - August 24, 2020, 08:44 AM

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A useful resource to check word counts of published picture books: arbookfinder.com

I use it on a regular basis.
#4 - August 24, 2020, 02:02 PM
Harold Underdown

The Purple Crayon, a children's book editor's site: http://www.underdown.org/
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This is great!  Thanks for the resource, I appreciate it!
#5 - August 24, 2020, 06:11 PM

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This is great!  Thanks for the resource, I appreciate it!

You're welcome, and just to add: are you sure that this wouldn't work better in a different format, considering your intended audience? Specifically, is this a story that would work as an easy reader or early chapter book?
#6 - August 29, 2020, 07:22 AM
Harold Underdown

The Purple Crayon, a children's book editor's site: http://www.underdown.org/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/HUnderdown

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I think your targeted age group of 6-9 years is too old for a fiction picture book.  These days, agents and publishers aim quite a bit younger for fiction picture books.  By 6-9 years old, kids are assumed to be reading chapter books or easy readers.  Your current manuscript is going to be a very hard sell unless you're writing nonfiction or subbing fiction to a magazine for older readers.

Here's my real life experience:  In 2016, I wrote my first children's story.  It was around the same length as yours (i.e. about 1200 words or so).  I naively thought it could be published as a picture book.  I sent it out seemingly everywhere (agents, publishers, etc.).  It was summarily rejected all around.  Some time later, I went to my first SCBWI conference.  One of the speakers was a children's book publisher from Scholastic.  She spoke about picture books.  I quickly realized that the books that she was referring to were all meant for 3-5 year olds and were roughly 300-500 words.  That was my big reality check.  I filed my story away shortly thereafter.  I don't want to end on a sour note, so I will add that this story does have a happy ending.  In late 2019, I edited the manuscript down to about 1,000 words and submitted it to an online publisher, Short Edition, whose children's stories target 8-12 year olds.  The story was accepted in May of 2020 and published shortly thereafter.  I chalk this up to a lesson learned the hard way.
#7 - August 29, 2020, 09:06 AM

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Thank you so much for sharing your journey. The reason why I was targeting an older group is because I was envisioning the message to reach them on a deeper level. I teach 4th grade and my students love picture books - that being said they mostly read chapter books. I am definitely going to scale it down to 1,000 or less, I am hearing it from every direction. I appreciate your feedback! And congratulations on publishing your book!
#8 - August 29, 2020, 11:46 AM

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Hopeful and Harold both make excellent points about questioning whether your story *is* a PB. Word count aside, for it to be a PB, you have to make sure that it's a story with minimum  12-15 spreads that are picturable.  I've critiqued lots of stories that the author says is a PB but it works better as a magazine story. And then, there are the EZs and CBs where vocabulary is controlled. I don't control it in PBs--they're meant to be read aloud and you can assume that a parent or teacher is there to explain a difficult word or concept. Also, there are PBs for the older child and I usually see these with NF--biographies are esp. popular.  Best wishes!
#9 - August 29, 2020, 01:45 PM
Midnight & Baby Max, Bound, Ten Easter Eggs & 100+ bks/mags
https://vijayabodach.blogspot.com https://bodachbooks.blogspot.com

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Thank you so much for this info! I appreciate it!
#10 - August 31, 2020, 03:16 AM

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