Researching the Picture Book Market

Friday, April 27, 2012
I'll admit, when I first starting to write picture books I didn't approach it from the same angle as I did when writing my nonfiction books. That is to say, I didn't see my stories as a product that had to fit in a competitive market. However, when I finally experienced that light bulb moment I quickly placed my first picture book, A Book For Bramble.

What changed?

I started to research the market. I visited the local library and spent hours looking at picture books. As I read, I took notes. I noted the names used, how sentences were constructed, what themes were covered, how humor was included, word count, etc. I then visited the local bookstore and repeated the exercise (slightly more discreetly) to discover if there were differences between what was being published and what had been published (the books in the library). Armed with these notes, I returned home and tried to discover if I could see patterns in subject matter, in the way subjects were covered, and in the way sentences were constructed.

I discovered:
  •  Humor appears to play an important part in many books.
  •  Tools such as repetition are used to help move the story along.
  •  The magic number three appears in many books (for example in The Gruffalo, you'll discover "'three" hidden all over the place).

I started to use the patterns I'd found in my own stories. Within months of changing the way I looked at my stories, I fulfilled one of my lifetime ambitions of becoming a published picture book author.

Today I still continue to research the market and read picture books as often as I can. The receptionists at my dentist, doctor, optician and vets are used to seeing me rummage in the stock of picture books they provide to keep kids entertained. The assistants in the library and bookstore now take no notice as I read their picture books. Family and friends watch in amusement as I encourage their children to show me the latest addition to their bookshelf. Without this research I'd not be able to keep up to date with a changing market. By keeping abreast of what the reading public wants, I'm able to write stories I can place with a publisher.

So if a new writer (of any genre) wants to become published, my advice is research, research, research.

Lynne Garner has been a freelance writer and author since 1998. Since that time she has written for a large number of magazines both in the UK and the US, having over 300 features printed. She has 21 books published; these include 10 craft-related how-to books, working with both publishers and packagers. Lynne designed, produced copy, and photographed many of the craft projects featured on The Craft Ark.


Join Lynne's latest WOW! Women on Writing class:

a five week course starting on Saturday, May 5, 2012.

This class is limited to 15 students and early registration is recommended!



LuAnn Schindler said...

Great advice! My mom has a picture book about a rescue cat she and my dad adopted. I'm sharing this post with her. :)

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