“Rules” for Picture Book Word Counts?

Dear Sharon…

The discrepancy you’re encountering in word count may be due to the fact that picture books serve a wide-ranged audience, from toddlers to tweens. For the record, there are no specific “rules” regarding word counts, nor should there be. But perhaps this breakdown will help you navigate these cloudy waters:

Young picture book: For ages 2 to 5. Short, simple texts/concepts and young, bold illustrations. Example: Guess How Much I Love You You, approx. 400 words.

Standard picture book: For ages 3 to 7. Generally illustrated stories. Example: How I Became a Pirate, approx. 1000 words.

Older picture book: For ages 6 to 9. Somewhat more sophisticated subject matter and approach to illustrations. Example: Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez, approx. 2500 words.

Illustrated story collection, Illustrated historical fiction, or Nonfiction photo-essay: For ages 7 to 10, although the ages vary for this category; “All ages” may apply. Stronger emphasis on text than illustration, and the format is typically of a larger picture book size. Example: Lives of Extraordinary Women, approx. 16,500 words.

Happy writing!

The Editor


  1. This is very helpful information. Is there any publisher accepting queries or manuscripts for picture books these days???? I know I have a picture book inside of me but I have been discouraged from submitting it by so many people.

  2. I understand the discouragement that comes from submitting picture books. I’ve been trying for a few months, not long at all by industry standards, but I haven’t had any success. I have at least 6 stories, written out, edited by family and friends and waiting for an agent. This is helpful information though, and there is a lot more where it came from as guides for picture book writing. Thanks

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