What’s My Story: Magazine vs Picture Book

What is it that makes a magazine piece different from a picture book? We ended up discussing this during a critique group meeting earlier this week.  There are two primary differences.

1 — Illustration possibilities. Due to the format, the typical picture book has 32 pages.  Some of these pages may become back matter.  There is going to be a title page.  But you usually need at least 14 spreads.  If you don’t have 14 distinct illustration possibilities than you probably aren’t writing a picture book manuscript.

Distinct illustration possibilities might mean a change in scenery, action or tone.  There may be a new character.  Or it might be the action that the characters are doing.

Magazine pieces are often heavily illustrated but picture books need a greater number of illustrations.

2 — Bang for the buck.  A hard bound picture book costs almost $20.00.  Is your story substantial enough to warrant this price tag? For the answer to be yes, you have to have written something that readers will want to experience again and again.  And that’s the adults as well as the children because picture books are generally read to, not by, young readers.

Many stories do a great job of depicting a typical childhood experience. This might include problems with a sibling, the first day of school, finding a missing item.  Many of these topics are ever green, meaning that they are suitable year after year because they are things that one group of young readers after another experiences.

Or you might have written a great piece for demonstrating all of the ways that two toy trucks can differ — color, size, model, and more. A good magazine piece is an amazing thing but a picture book has greater depth.  Readers want to keep experiencing the characters, the humor or that great Ahhhh feeling at the end. The point is that there has to be something to make the piece worth the $20.00 price tag.

A picture book isn’t necessarily better than a magazine piece, but they are two very different things.  Know what you’ve written and you’ll have a much better chance of finding an editor who want to take it on.