How To: Set Up a Picture Book

For those of you looking to write a picture book, it helps to know how these books are set up for publication. From page count to layout, picture books are quite a bit different from your average story. Take a look at the guidelines below to start on the right foot.


  • The average picture book is 32 pages. Some are 24, some are 48, and on occasion you can go as high as 64.
    • You’ll notice those numbers are all multiples of 8, and that’s because printers print in “signatures” of 8, 16, or 32 pages. Learn more about signatures here.
  • Having a 32-page book doesn’t mean you get the full 32 pages. At least two pages will likely be needed for the title page and the copyright, and you may also have to incorporate a half title page or a dedication.
  • Endsheets (the colored or printed pages at the beginning and end of a book) do not generally factor into your page count. They are added separately and are usually produced on slightly different paper than the rest of the book.
  • Most picture books are laid out in spreads, aka a left and right page. Spreads are used in order to create larger, more vivid artwork.
    • Fun fact: It also helps save time and money, since it is usually less expensive and time-consuming for an illustrator to do a spread than two separate pieces (one for the left page and one for the right).

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The Acquisition Decision: How I Pick a Manuscript

I’ll be the first to admit I HATE sending rejections. I usually save them all up to do every few weeks, blast the Frozen soundtrack, and force myself to type out those emails to agents and authors I admire. In life, I am a yes person. But as an editor, I have to also be a no person. It’s an incredibly hard thing to do, because even the worst book in the world has merit. All the mediocre books are steps toward creating art. And the great books have the ability to change lives.

So how do I choose those handful of titles that will be mine? Dozens of wonderful manuscripts come across my desk every year. And yet I only get to choose a select few to publish.

First and foremost, I have to fall in love. Not “oh, I could keep reading this because I have nothing else to do.” Not “hmm, that’s pretty good.” It has to be L-O-V-E loveContinue reading

Manuscript Dos and Don’ts: Lightning Round

Here are some down-and-dirty dos and don’ts for setting up a manuscript. (Keep in mind that you should always follow the specific guidelines set forth by the agent, publisher, or magazine.) I’ll start out with the general, big-ticket items and work my way down to crazy-editor pet peeves.

DO: use Microsoft Word

DON’T: use Pages, Google Docs, Word Perfect, or other programs for word processing

DO: conform to Chicago Manual of Style guidelines and Merriam-Webster spellings whenever applicable

DON’T: forget to run a spell check before submitting your manuscript  Continue reading

Revise Right: Five Steps to Revising Your Novel

As many authors know, writing a novel is only the beginning…the beginning of months and months of revisions! Whether you’re self-publishing, working with a publishing house, or preparing yourself to submit to a literary agent, you want your novel to be as clean as possible before it reaches its readers. Here are five tips for going from first draft to polished work.

  1. Take a breather and start fresh.

After you finish the last page of your novel, take a break. Your first instinct might be to scroll back up to page one, but allow yourself time to reflect on your characters and your story. Give yourself a few days, a few weeks, or even a year off before you start editing. You want to return to your work with fresh eyes and a bit of distance. (And when you do sit down again, save a new version of your document so you have your first draft tucked away for that inevitable moment when you accidentally delete a key plotline.)  Continue reading

How to Find a Literary Agent: The Manuscript, the Query, and More

Securing a literary agent is one of the hardest parts of being an author. It’s harder even than getting your book published—dozens of small presses will publish unrepresented work, and of course we are living in the heyday of self-publishing. But for those who dream of seeing a Random House or HarperCollins logo on the spine of their book, it’s nearly impossible to get attention for your book without a literary agent.

Why is that? Well, agents are the gatekeepers of publishing. Editors at big houses know that if a respected agent has put his or her stamp of approval on a manuscript, it is worth a look. So if you’re someone who wants a shot in the big leagues, start by looking for representation. I’ve put together the five basic steps for finding and querying an agent below. Good luck.  Continue reading