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  1. #1
    Brandy
    Guest

    childrens books... how short is short

    Hi all..

    I have a question that I know someone on here will know the answer to...

    I have written a childrens story that is about 570 words long. I can make it longer if I need to. I have submitted to one agent who sent my SASE back to me with a little note saying thanks but its not what they were looking for.
    My question is... is 570 words too short.. and if so what is the average word count on a childrens story.
    My target age group is toddler to pre-school/kindergarden age.

    Thanks for any and all help I can get on this...

    Brandy



  2. #2
    Carmella
    Guest

    Re: childrens books... how short is short

    The trend these days is for shorter books. (Gran, feel free to step in if I'm wrong.) 570 words is fairly short but since your tarket audience is so young, your book may be a bit too long. I'd shoot for 500 words - or even better - less than 500 words.

    I hear many publishers are looking for "preschool" books right now so it's a good time to be marketing your story. Good luck!

  3. #3
    P B
    Guest

    Re: childrens books... how short is short

    Agree with Carmella. One of mine is 385 words. ..and I plan a 55 word one soon.

  4. #4
    P B
    Guest

    Re: childrens books... how short is short

    Although....it depends entirely on the style, the content and word usage ...yours may need every one of the 570 words.

    What's most important is that every word has a purpose, a reason for being there.

  5. #5
    Granny
    Guest

    Re: childrens books... how short is short

    The picture book that my agent is shopping around right now is 535 words long. One editor questioned whether we could make it a little shorter, but overall, it seems to be about the right length. It started at 800 words and the editor at Harper Collins specifically said she liked it but wanted it very short. (Of course, after I did the revision, my editor decided that we should look into publishing houses that are a bit more "author friendly" -- go figure. I do like the shorter version better.)

    So, your length is probably not your problem, unless you are crafting something that would be better suited to a board book than a picture book. I read a lot of picture books -- hundreds a year -- and I find the newer books rarely run over 600 words.

    Here are some other things to think about with your book. I posted it first in the editor forum but I am not sure many folks saw it there:


    Trends in picture books are fairly specific right now (and not necessarily reflected in what you are seeing in the store since those were bought two years ago):

    * very short.

    * lyrical language -- language is EVERYTHING in a picture book today. Every single word comes under incredibly close scrutiny. The language must *sing* to the editor. A charming story is not enough. Editors site single specific word choices in discussions with my agent. I cannot stress this enough -- every word is crucial to a sale.

    * humor. Editors are looking for stories that have some *smile power.*

    * action. A common rejection scrawl these days is "too quiet." Quiet books were a hot commodity a few years ago -- they are not today and only very few are selling. Your characters need to be moving and doing.

    * universal. The book must touch the experience of every young child. This is a hard one to explain but one Clarion editor told me recently that she is seeing a lot of GREAT stories that flatly don't work as picture books but would work (restructured) as emergent readers or chapter books. Generally the target age of picture books is moving down to preschool and the target reader is the harried working parent -- so the story must be short, and engaging.


    1. Does your story contain the possibility of 10 - 13 truly different exciting illustrations? Will the likley placement of illustrations that you can imagine divide the text fairly evenly? If all your illustrations are likely to take place in the same room with the same character in the same situation, you probably haven't got a publishable picture book.

    2. Does your story have "a strong forward momentum"? This means, does your story progress and move logically toward an end. Not all picture books have a "plot" exactly, but all must have that strong forward feeling as if you are progressing through the story. There should also be a possibility for the same strong forward progression through the illustations.

    3. Do you do much description? Editors prefer description be left to the illustrator so be certain you don't include things like "The blue ball bounced on the hard wood floor/It knocked a hole right through my door." -- the color of the ball would be something editors don't want to find in the text.

    4. Does your story focus on a child or a child-like character? Editors prefer not to see books about adults. Is the story from a child's perspective or does it take an adult "aren't kids sweet and cute" attitude? Editors do not want stories that patronize their readers.

    5. Does your story contain alliterative names? Editors HATE that. Sure Julie Andrews can get away with Dumpy the Dumptruck *shudder* but regular authors who are trying to sell to traditional publishers do not want to use alliterative names.

    Trends in picture books are fairly specific right now (and not necessarily reflected in what you are seeing in the store since those were bought two years ago):

    * very short.
    * lyrical language -- language is EVERYTHING in a picture book today. Every single word comes under incredibly close scrutiny. The language must *sing* to the editor. A charming story is not enough.
    * humor. Editors are looking for stories that have some *smile power.*
    * action. A common rejection scrawl these days is "too quiet." Quiet books were a hot commodity a few years ago -- they are not today. Your characters need to be moving and doing.
    * universal. The book must touch the experience of every young child. This is a hard one to explain but one Clarion editor told me recently that she is seeing a lot of GREAT stories that flatly don't work as picture books but would work (restructured) as emergent readers or chapter books. Generally the target age of picture books is moving down to preschool and the target reader is the harried working parent -- so the story must be short, and engaging.

  6. #6
    Granny
    Guest

    Oh dratz

    Sorry for doing the trends part twice...I shouldn't do this stuff when I am under pressure.

    Gran

  7. #7
    EN
    Guest

    Re: childrens books... how short is short

    Brandy--

    Understanding children's book genres:

    http://www.write4kids.com/colum44.html

    EN

  8. #8
    Granny
    Guest

    Re: childrens books... how short is short

    Understand that Laura's excellent article was not written recently. One thousand words is NO longer an average for picture books -- particularly picture books written by new writers (Celebrity picture books, picture books by frequently published writers -- Jane Yolan comes to mind -- and picture books by noted illustrators all skew the "average" word count up -- but should not really be included when discussing what is selling right now from "more or less" new authors). From direct experience with a number of children's picture book editors, I can assert that shorter really is the present trend in buying.

    Gran

  9. #9
    Brandy
    Guest

    Re: childrens books... how short is short

    Thanks for all the advise everyone.. It has helped me a lot. I think before I resubmit to an agent I will re work it around a little.
    The next question isnt really for this forum so may need to post in agents also...
    Does anyone know a good childrens book agent who is currently looking for a unpublished author with a good story?? "smile"

    Thanks again all..

    Brandy

  10. #10
    EN
    Guest

    I agree, Gran...

    less is best when writing cbs. The adage Make Every Word Count couldn't be truer in today's tight cb marketplace.

    I posted the link to Laura's article so that Brandy (and other cb/ya writers) could get an overview on the various cb genres. Always best to check the publishers guidelines for specifics.

    EN

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