7 Picture Book Writing Mistakes to Avoid

Have you ever thought of writing a children's picture book?

If you want your writing to be loved and to touch people's lives, you couldn't choose a better genre.

But to give your book a chance of being published, it's important to avoid these common mistakes.

Mistake # 1 - Including your own illustrations.

Normally, publishers like to hire the illustrator themselves. Unless you are a talented professional illustrator, it's better not to submit illustrations with your text.

Mistake # 2 - Too long.

Today's picture books are normally very short -- between 300 and 1000 words of text. If you keep your text under 550 words, it will likely be easier to publish.

Mistake # 3 - Not understanding the form.

The standard picture book has a very specific format, comprising 32 pages, of which approximately 24-28 pages are for the story. It's important to understand the form in order to write a publishable manuscript.

Mistake # 4 - Preachy.

Many beginning authors think that a children's book should be focused on teaching a lesson or have an overt moral. But this is an old-fashioned approach to children's book writing, and something many editors say that they DON'T want.

Mistake # 5 - Based on the books you read as a child.

The picture book market has changed a lot over the years. If you're basing your ideas about picture books on examples that were published twenty or forty or sixty years ago, your manuscript's likely to feel out of date.

Mistake # 6 - Weak structure.

Even though your picture book is short, it should have a clear beginning, middle, and end.

Mistake # 7 - Generic characters.

Successful picture books have main characters who feel real and distinctive.

One way to develop a three-dimensional character is to create a character profile. You answer a series of questions about the character, such as his/her positive and negative characteristics, likes and dislikes, as a way of getting to know the character better.

You won't use all of this information in your story. But it will help bring the character to life in your imagination.

Here is a questionnaire that you can use to make character profiles. This questionnaire is especially designed for picture book writing.

Character Questionnaire for Writing Picture Books

(from our new course “How to Write Picture Books” – coming soon!!!)



A favorite possession:

Favorite food:



Who's in your character's family?

Does your character have pets?

How does your character get along with his/her family?

What does your character like doing?

What does your character dislike doing?

What games does your character play?

Who is a friend of your character's?

Who's someone your character DOESN'T like?

What does your character daydream about?

What's a bad habit your character has?

What is your character afraid of?

What are your character's ambitions?

What ideas does your character have about the world?