3 Reasons Not To Write a Picture Book


So you want to write a picture book!  As Tara Lazar points out in this post, so do a lot of people. As an editorial consultant, I don’t presume to tell people whether and what they should be writing. I only try to help them make their work better.  The decisions about if and what to write are best left to the author. But if you do find yourself wondering if you really want to be a picture book writer, and you need some reasons to rule it out, consider the following:

1. You like to write a lot. If complex narratives, lots of dialogue, and intense amounts of description are really your bag, then picture books will be frustrating for you.  They are a succinct medium for those who like to say a lot with very little. If you are fond of constructing long, complex sentences, I would say it’s time to explore essay writing instead.

2. You want full control over your story. Picture books are collaborative.  Not only is there an illustrator to contend with, but also an art director/designer and editor (and various other publishing house employees who like to weigh in on art and story matters). If you like to have complete control over your work–and especially if you are an author and not an author/illustrator–stick with a medium that fits more neatly within your realm. You won’t be able to control everything anyway, but if you can’t cede control of  at least half of the story, you probably won’t be happy as a picture book author. See Mac Barnett and Adam Rex’s struggle with collaboration in Chloe and the Lion.

3. You want to send a positive message. Messages are nice and there are some good picture books that contain messages. However, the message should never come first. The characters the story, the wordplay, the oddball structure you concocted–these are all great impeti for writing a picture book. Telling a group of kids to be nice is not new and it’s too vague. If you want your book to stand out among the hordes, and you want kids to pay attention, you’ll have to be a little more specific.

One Comment

  1. Posted June 12, 2013 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

    Such good points– and oh-so-true!

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