Finding Your Picture Book’s Place

So you a have the most wonderful, adorable, unique idea for a picture book. Great! But what kind of picture book is it? Does it matter? Yes, it really does matter if you are planning on sending those words out into the world.

First, you’ll need to decide on the age range of your story. If you are unsure of this go to your local library and look for books similar to yours on the shelf and ask the reference desk what age category book it is.

  • Board Books- usually for babies 0-2 who will often chew the book as much as look at it. Usually with less than 100 words.
  • Picture Book- Tells a story often with additional elements. Ages 3-5 Usually around 500 words.
  • Easy Readers/Early Readers/Beginning Readers: Ages 4-8 Up to 1000 words but it’s pushing it as these kids are getting in leveled readers age.
  • 9 and Up you are entering Middle Grade territory which a totally different market.

Alright got your age? Good, because now it gets more intense.

Picture books don’t always fall into the general genre groups that the older age groups do. Yes, you can query a fantasy picture book but there are some extra options. For the sake of your time (and mine) I’ll only go into the extra ones used to describe picture books.

  • Bedtime Book- Is this a story about a child going to bed? Tada you got it (B is for Bedtime).
  • Life Experience– Used to make a real life experience like school, new babies an understandable experience (The Rabbit Listened).
  • Holiday Book– Any book written about or for a holiday, whether common or unusual.
  • Wordless Book– A book of visual exploration and meant to foster discussion with the child. Contains no words (The Snowman).
  • 3rd Wall- When your book interacts with the readers and makes them do something to continue the story (Don’t Press The Button)
  • Own Voices– Reserved for authors writing about experiences they have personal experience with.
  • Diversity- Reserved for authors writing about their culture, different from the prevailing white American experience.
  • STEM- This usually falls into the non-fiction section (which I’m not going into here) but if your story has strong elements of Science, Technology, Engineering or Math you can use this label especially good if your main character is female.
  • Rhyming- a hard sell because it’s hard to do right. Be an expert on meter and rhythm.
  • Concept Books– Teaching the alphabet, numbers, shapes, or colors through story (Planting A Rainbow).
  • Lyrical- meaning the words have a songlike quality, they sing but do not rhyme.
  • Nostalgic– If your story is based on your family, your pet, or a past experience your story may fall here.
  • Genre- You can use the regular tags as well: historical, fantasy, sci-fi, contemporary.
  • Life Lesson- Another hard sell. Be careful you are exploring the idea in the text and not preaching to the reader about behavior (Rainbow Fish)
  • Animal- If your main character is an animal (If You Give A Mouse A Cookie).
  • Folklore– Classic tales reimagined (The Three Little Pigs).

A word of caution. Do not query an agent with the “best lyrical, STEM, bedtime, picture book in the world.” Pick the strongest element of your book and describe it that way, two elements at the most. Otherwise you will risk an agent thinking you have no idea what you’re doing and are throwing things to see what sticks.

If you are still unsure go onto Goodreads and search these categories and see what pops up. So what kind of book are you writing?

Happy Questing!

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