picture books

What’s Up with the Super Short Picture Book Texts?


Dear Editor…

I was wondering if you would know why the word count for picture books is dwindling. Now I have heard it’s 500 words or less. Why the decrease in word count? Same number of pages. Is it to focus more on illustrations?


Dear Patti…

It’s a combination of market demand and product potential. Sales are strong for shorter, character-driven picture books, as opposed to stories with longer, more detailed narratives and plots. Concept always matters, but it’s the characters who drive this bus. Illustrations are key to their presentation. If the characters hit big, you’re looking at more books, even a franchise. Writers crafting this kind of text should strive for concise, rhythmic wording for a rich read-aloud quality. As for plot, think episodically, seeing the story in a series of scenes that use page turns and rhythmic breaks to transition from one moment to the next. That leaves room for the illustrator to swoop in with a strong visual storyline utilizing those same turns and breaks. Fewer words, but the same goal: a story that’s fun to read, delivers a great message, and offers characters with whom kids can connect.

Happy writing!
The Editor

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