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Picture Book Biography question

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Hi everyone! I have several questions about picture book biographies.

If the person has relatives still living, am I allowed to write about that person without talking to their relatives (just doing extensive research instead?)

Are we allowed to write about people who are still living without consulting them?

How many words are picture book biographies typically? They seem to vary in length...but is a little over 1000 words too long?
#1 - July 16, 2020, 04:32 PM
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Yes, yes, and I don't think so. I'd suggest going to the library and pulling a couple dozen recent PB bios and counting the words of a few (and guestimating the rest based on that). I'm not a PB writer and I hope one weighs in, but I have the impression that bios can be longer than the fiction 400-500 word count. Getting ready to  :hiding though once the PB folk come along.
 :goodluck
#2 - July 16, 2020, 05:01 PM
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:welcome Hayley . I love PB biographies and you are free to write about whomever you want. There's no need to get permission but if the family is willing, they could assist you with providing photos. Of course, you can get around lack of photos with good illustrations. And yes, nonfiction PBs can have lots higher word count than your typical fiction PB. You can also have ancillary material in the back. So lots of flexibility in how you want to present your subject. I'd recommend what Dews suggests--read lots of PB bios to see which publisher would best suit you. Good luck!
#3 - July 16, 2020, 06:31 PM
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Adding to what's above: PB bios can be for what we traditionally think of as the picture book age group as well as for middle grade readers. So consider your target audience as you look at word count. And try to study more recent books.
#4 - July 16, 2020, 08:30 PM
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I've written pb bios. You do not need anyone's permission to write about someone, not even the person themselves; however . . . there are some famous people and families of famous people who tightly control the public image of that person. I wrote a bio about a famous person and my publisher ran it by the person's foundation. We were told to either pay $1000 per quote (all of which were in the public domain) or cut the quotes. It would have been totally un-enforceable in court since it was illegal, but my publisher didn't want to fight, so I was told to cut all the quotes in return for some good PR.  I've written about another famous person and had no issues whatsoever. For my upcoming pb bio that releases in the future, I contacted the two main subjects for interviews and never heard back. So long as what you are saying is factual and not defamatory and the person isn't so famous that a foundation has massive control over his/her image you should be fine. My critique partner just had a pb bio released about one of the first female Olympic athletes. She contacted the family and they were delighted to assist her, giving her pictures and all kinds of helpful information. So--it can go different ways.

For word counts, they are typically longer than fiction. 1200 words is probably at the very high edge. If you can keep it at or around 800-1000 you're usually okay, but it depends on the subject, theme and target audience (is it designed for the younger pb crowd, the traditional pb crowd or the older pb crowd for classroom use). 
#5 - July 16, 2020, 08:33 PM
« Last Edit: July 16, 2020, 08:37 PM by RebeccaL-G »
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Thanks everyone for the helpful responses!
#6 - July 16, 2020, 11:11 PM
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For word counts, they are typically longer than fiction. 1200 words is probably at the very high edge. If you can keep it at or around 800-1000 you're usually okay, but it depends on the subject, theme and target audience (is it designed for the younger pb crowd, the traditional pb crowd or the older pb crowd for classroom use). 

I was going to say the same thing. Though bios due tend to run a bit longer, most publishers still seem to like them under 1000 words. If that's not possible, I would definitely try to keep it under 1200.

Best of luck!
#7 - July 17, 2020, 07:36 AM
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