My usual reaction to this kind of question is to run around in circles with my arms flailing wildly, screaming, “Don’t include illustrations! Editors and agents really, really, REALLY don’t want them!” And in most cases, they don’t need them. We writers sometimes forget that half of a picture book editor’s job is envisioning potential illustration styles for a story and then pairing the manuscript with an established illustrator. But in your case, the project is all-or-nothing, so here’s how to do it right: Include one or two color illustrations on a single sheet of paper in your submission package and then refer the agent/editor to your website for more illustration samples. Explain the scope of your project in the cover letter. After that, it’s up to them to decide if they like your text and illustrations with equal passion.
Isn’t 4,000 words way too long for a picture book? I was just at the SCBWI Spring Spirit Conference in Rocklin, CA., and all the editors were telling attendees they’re looking for picture books 500 words or less.
Indeed, 4,000 words is quite long for a 32-page picture book. For the less common 48-page format, too. The style these days is short and rythmical (regardless of whether it rhymes or not). Longer narrative picture books, when published, face a tougher battle in the marketplace. Nick would do well to examine length, format, and target audience to make sure all are in sync for this extensive project.
I think this is stellar advice across the board. I also agree with Natasha’s concern about word count. I wonder if the manuscript isn’t more suited to be an early chapter book? It does make sense to review your reading level and overall concept to see if it might perhaps be a better fit for older kids (there’s no age limit on appreciating a hybrid animal :-)).
The chapter book category/format is certainly worth looking into, depending on the story themes/message.
Thanks for making me smile this morning with the opening of your answer!
Pleased to hear that, Sue.