As you can see from previous posts I have been stalking picture book authors and publishers trying to find out how to break into this tricky market. The most important thing I have learned is: the idea is king.
So what makes a good idea?
There is no simple answer to this.
A combination of things.
And I have lots of ideas. So which are the best ones? Which should I spend time developing?
So here are a list of questions – a sort of check list I’ve developed – to help evaluate picture book ideas.
Hope this helps. It’s helped me.
1) Are the characters original and appealing?
How could you build in: idiosyncrasies, a distinct voice, actions, and memorable appearance. Turn norms/cliches on their head e.g. a misunderstood (friendly) crocodile. Make them stand out from the crowd.
2) Is there a clear theme?
Often this is a childhood emotion or experience, something that universally resonates with children and their parents.
3) How will the characters/concept appeal to young children?
What are they going to take away from the story at the end? Why will they read it again?
4) THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT: Search on Amazon and see if someone else has come up with the idea already!
5a) What is the problem/hook? This should be in the first or second spread.
5b) What is the climax of the problem? (point of change)
5c) What is the resolution? The main character must resolve the problem themselves.
THIS IS THE STRUCTURE OF YOUR STORY
6) How will the reader/listener participate in the story?
E.g. page turns, flaps, pullouts, touch, suspense, anticipation, irony, rhyme, singing, repetition, actions, spot what’s missing, find something, counting, humour.
7) Series potential or stand-alone?
THINK ABOUT ALL THE PEOPLE THIS CONCEPT IS GOING TO HAVE TO APPEAL TO:
8) How will the story appeal to and inspire an illustrator
9) Why will it appeal to parents?
10) Will it appeal to teachers?
11) Will it appeal to digital publishers?
12) What are the unique selling points (USPs) for the:
Publisher’s Commissioning Team, Marketing Team, Sales Team
Now write a ten-word elevator pitch
13) Sit in the children’s department of a big book store and imagine your book concept on the shelf. Does it stand up to the competition?
14) Are there any publishers that are a good style/tonal fit for your story. Study their books!
NEXT POST: DEVELOPING A PICTURE BOOK IDEA