At the beginning of July, I attended a 6 hour workshop at Pinerolo, the Children’s Book Cottage in the Blue Mountains.
Run by former publisher Margaret Hamilton, with guest speaker, award winning Freya Blackwood, the day was an interesting, inspiring and informative mix.
I’ve written and illustrated three picture books to date, so had some of the practical experience under my belt. I’ve also been writing books for adults for many years, so crafting an effective story is not new to me.
Nevertheless, the workshop provided me with many of the nuts and bolts that aren’t explained through the research I did on the internet.
Here are my main take aways from the day.
- A typical book has 29 pages for the story and illustrations. A picture book, is 32 pages long, but that includes a half-page title page, imprint information, and a full title page. The strict multiples of 8 for book length is defined by the fact that each book is printed as a single sheet, then folded and cut to fit.
- Printing is done via CMYK and black offset printing. To keep costs down when printing translations, text should be black on white or pale colours. Reversed white text on black or coloured backgrounds can force all plates to be redone.
- Book awards are looking for unity in illustration and text, with balance and harmony, that will appeal to a child. Additionally artistic style, typography, clarity and athestic value are judged.
- The economics of book publishing is very tight, and it’s hard to make a full-time job of children’s book writing or illustrating. Income typically comes from PLR (Public Lending Rights), LLR (Library Lending Rights), royalties, awards and school visits.
- Unpublished writers are typically paired with established illustrators, and emerging illustrators are paired with established writers. It’s unlikely that a new writer will be given the option to illustrate their own work.
- Clarity of text, and unification of the story with the theme and concept is crucial to a good book.
- A children’s book is like a short film. It must be pithy, engaging, and entertaining. Every action and word is crucial. Remove any words that are superfluous to the illustrations.
- Write in a way that conjures up pictures in the reader’s head.
- Create page-turning tension so that the child is eager to find out what happens next.
- Avoid cliches and over-represented story types.
- Establish eye contact between characters and the reader
- Make your illustrations emotionally charged.
- Tone down character expressions, and avoid caricature.
- Set the scene by using distance and aerial views.
- Provide visual interest by considering variation between spreads and page layout.
- Develop visual rules for each project, to provide consistency, as well as repetition of motifs, colours, and layout.
If you’re interested in creating picture books for children, Pinerolo’s workshops are highly recommended.