12 STEPS TO GET YOUR PICTURE BOOK MANUSCRIPT READY FOR SUBMISSION
I gave this talk at last weekend's SCBWI Portland conference and thought I'd put up the little checklist that accompanies it in case it could be of help to some of you picture book authors out there.
1. Determine whether the picture book form is the best one for your story. 2. Ascertain your target age. 3. Establish the page and word counts according to age of readership and desired format. 4. On a piece of notepaper, write down a) your story’s themes and subthemes b) its target audience: age, interests, region they live in c) its plot in one sentence d) why you are the right person to tell this story and what you will do to help sell the book e) which market(s) the book would sell in: mass (big box stores), trade (bookstores), institutional (schools and libraries) and/or special markets (i.e., museums, gift stores, boutiques, aquariums, tourist shops, etc.).
5. Research competition: Is there a hole to fill? How can you make your book different/better? 6. Revise according to your new information. 7. Revise again, looking for descriptive passages where illustration can do the work. If necessary to the understanding of your story, include brief illustration notes in brackets.
8. Waiting period: Take at least two weeks away from your manuscript in order to achieve a different perspective.
9. Revise again, trying to cut at least another 100 words. 10. Read your manuscript aloud to someone. Also try recording yourself reading the story and having someone else read the story aloud. Listen for problematic rhythms, sounds, pacing.
11. Format the text for submission, making sure that you: o chose a classic font, like Times or Garamond. o insert one inch margins for editors’ comments. o include word count and genre on top right corner of page 1, contact information and date on top left. o double space. o number your pages and include title, name, and email in header of every page.
12. Have a title that: o makes you want to read the book. o captures the spirit, theme, and tone of the story. o has a pleasing sound; possible devices to consider: alliteration, internal rhyme, half- rhymes, parallel construction.