When writers refer to a children's book, they are usually referring to the standard 32-page picture book. But that is only one of the sub-genres in the genre of children's literature. Writers who want to write for young children need to become familiar with the many different sub-genres so they know where their book will fit in the market.
Boardbooks are for the youngest audience, 0-5. They are often done in house by an editor or an author who regularly writes for the publisher. Boardbooks are hardcover books with cardboard pages. The books are usually 12 pages with the layout being in two-page spreads. The words need to be chosen carefully as word limit is often less than 200. The writer needs to make every word count! Boardbooks are very popular and sell very well. But due to the high cost of printing and low price point in selling, the contracts for boardbooks are usually work-for-hire.
The next sub-genre is the Preschool Picture Book. Designed for the adult to read to the child, these books may be hardcover or paperback. They are brightly illustrated with few words per page. The text for these books are lively and rhythmic. Repetition, alliteration, onomatopoeia, and other word-play techniques are often found at this level. Children this age are still experimenting with sounds and rhythms. The plot for this type of book is very simple and usually told in present tense.
Page count is usually 24 pages but it can vary depending on the story. These books are often part of a series since a series will generate more sales. The books in this genre need to have strong appeal to both the child and the adult who reads the book. If it is dull or too much of a tongue-twister, it won't last long in the market. Humor is great for this genre, and the writer who can get into the world of a preschooler will be more successful.
The standard 32-page Picture Book (or 48-pages) is written with a full plot---beginning, middle, and ending. The illustrations will enhance the story, but they do not "tell" the story. The story is less than 1000 words and the writer needs to use complete sentences and paragraphs. Character development is critical and so is the dialogue. A writer who wants to write for this genre needs to study the market intensely. It is one of the most competitive markets and many publisher may only publish one picture book a year.
There are more sub-genres within the children's literature genre, and I will continue to discuss them in my next blog. As with all writing, the more writers do their homework, the more they will increase their chances of getting published. Read, study, and devour the kind of books you want to write.
What kind of children's book do YOU want to write?