The Case for Story Dummies

Listening to the Literaticast Podcast (#34) I finally have been able to get a better handle on the term board book. If you aren’t listening to the podcast I highly recommend it for great industry thoughts and information all around children’s books.

So board books are for the youngest readers, ages 0-5. They are usually made out of a thicker page so that they are harder destroy, even though nothing can stop a toddler on a mission.

A big discussion with Meredeth Mundy at Abrams Appleseed in the podcast were TYPES of board books:

  • Spin-offs/series- These are the books that exist because of a popular series or topic like Marvel.
  • Popular- These are titles of longer picture books that have reduced word counts and exist because of the popularity of the longer version.
  • Concept- These books teach a certain concept or idea and are put out on commission by publishers like DK.
  • Unique Titles- These are unique single titles from authors who usually are also the illustrator.

My interest lies in the unique titles option. The podcast went into depth about that it means to break into this section and it all boils down to a unique angle on an evergreen topic. What I was bummed to hear was that author/illustrators have a better shot because it costs less money for the publisher. It’s business.

So here I am googling the best ways to make a dummy. Tara Lazar has an amazing outline you can follow here. I went old fashioned personally and folded four sheets of paper in half and stapled them together to “make” a book. Why four pages? Looking at all the board books on my shelf I realized that board books are MUCH shorter. Usually only eight spreads. They also tend to have extras like touch pads, foil, and flip ups.

So now I’ve got my dummy in my hand I had the shocking realization that my 80 word board book was actually still too long. Most board books range from no words to under 100 with the sweet spot being around fifty. I also realized that WITH illustrations (even my rough ones) I didn’t NEED all the words I had. So with a few mini sticky notes I made changes. I let it simmer and re-read it. I got to the point where I removed many words and added a few that were missing.

All I’m getting at here is it’s IMPORTANT to visually see what you want to happen on the page in order to get a great edit.

Now, my kids who both fall into that board book range WANT me to read them this little story I made. They ask me to read it. That’s all my writers heart needs to hear is, “mama read me this…” and they are holding the one that I drew and we colored together. It’s so special to me.

Next, I will take my edits and put them into the computer and work on a digital mock up based on my physical version to send to my agent. I will let my kids keep that first version to read together again and again. After counting it out I went from 80 words to 61, a 25% reduction in words. All because I took the time to draw it out.

How many words did you cut when you tried this exercise? How many words switched to “illustration notes”?

Happy Questing!

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