Picture Books 101


Hi Everyone,

THIS ONE IS BACK BY POPULAR DEMAND! I originally wrote this post on Picture Books on my personal blog. Since then, I’ve received more emails than I can answer, asking me everything that can be asked about Picture Books. So…I’m re-running this post.

If you’re a picture book writer, or if you just love to read picture books to your favorite listener, this article has something for you.

Come on along!


A Picture Book is a book with illustrations that are as important to telling the story as the words are. Primarily aimed at children from preschool to age 8, picture books display pictures or illustrations on every page, telling the story through images that are accompanied with a few lines of text. Most picture books are 24 or 32 pages.

FYI: The term “Picture Book” is sometimes abbreviated as PB in the writing world; however, be careful when referring to it simply as a PB, because someone could think you’re talking about a “Paper Back.” Since this very misunderstanding happened to me when I was conversing with an editor via email, I wanted to warn you ahead of time! The editor had given me the go ahead to query one of my books, and when I did, I referred to it as a “historical PB.”

The editor promptly wrote me back, stating that their publishing company does not handle Paper Backs of any kind. That threw me for a moment, and then I realized I should simply have called my work a Picture Book, and not a PB.

Needless to say, we got the misunderstanding straightened out…but I didn’t want you to go through this same misunderstanding.


Traditionally, picture books (also called “picture story books”) are 32-page books for ages 4-8 (this age may vary slightly by publisher). Manuscripts are up to 1500 words, with 1000 words being the average length. Plots are simple (no sub- plots or complicated twists) with one main character who embodies the child’s emotions, concerns and viewpoint. The illustrations (on every page or every other page) play as great a role as the text in telling the story. Occasionally a picture book will exceed 1500 words; this is usually geared toward the upper end of the age spectrum. Picture books cover a wide range of topics and styles. Nonfiction in the picture book format can go up to age 10, 48 pages in length, or up to about 2000 words of text.

Well, that’s all for now. This post was so long the first time I published it, I’ve decided to run it in three parts.

Be sure to watch for Picture Books 101, Part 2 – Different Types of PB’s, which will post on November 23.

Until then, best wishes and happy writing!

Rita Lorraine


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.