Thursday, December 1, 2011

On Being or Not Being a Pal

Since my last posting, I have been busy with producing print-on-demand books (PODs). I have had several proofs done and have learned a great deal—mostly about paper and binding and other technical aspects of the physical book itself. I’ll share all of that in my next post.

What I’d like to talk about this time is another aspect of POD books and their cousins, e-books. That aspect is acceptance. No, not acceptance by the public but by organizations.  Since POD books are really self-published books, they don’t have the cachet of some big publisher to give them rank and glory. They are often considered to be nothing more than vanity books—you know—the kind of book that an Aunt Naomi would want to pay for to be published about her girlhood or some crazy self-styled historian would want to get out on his theory of the true meaning of the Egyptian pyramids.

These—let’s call them—fringe books are still being published, perhaps more than ever with the ease of POD books and e-books. But serious books, quality books, are also being self-published which rival the books published by the big guys in New York and Boston. And, what is more, these self-published books are selling. 

This fact has changed the connotation of the phrase “self-published book.” They are not all written by crackpots. They are not all poorly illustrated or poorly designed. So, with this in mind, I decided to write to the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators ( and question them on their policy of differentiating between members who have PAL (Published And Listed) status and those who do not. Here is the e-mail I wrote the other day:

Steve Mooser, president
Lin Oliver, Executive Director


In 1450, Johannes Gutenberg brought about a profound revolution that affected the medieval publishing world. Within a few years, copyists and illuminators were thrown out of work. The publishing industry, as we know it: businessmen taking on the expense of printing an author’s work, began to take shape. To the mid-fifteenth-century person, such change must have been bewildering. The whole notion of guilds and who had access to knowledge was transformed the minute Gutenberg first turned the screw of his wooden press.

Today we are faced with a similar transformation. It is as profound as the one that Gutenberg began. It is as bewildering. Now Gutenberg belongs to the past. What lies ahead are electronic books and print-on-demand services that can make a published author out of anyone—or, as is happening more and more, allow published authors to publish work that was rejected by traditional houses.

Some say that we are witnessing the end of quality books, the end of the editor’s role in producing those books, the end of reading. I couldn’t disagree more. Who said that publishers in the past (now called legacy publishers) always turned out quality books? Who said that every editor did a good job or that authors didn’t need someone to edit their work? Who said that only excellent authors were published? More often than not, in the past 500 years, only what was salable was published. Publishing was and is a business.

E-books and print-on-demand books are changing all of this: if you have something to say, research to share, a picture book that is dear to your heart, you can publish it. Will it be good? Will it be read? Will it be purchased? Who knows? But with as little as ten dollars, a person can publish.

So, what does “published author” mean these days? Is an e-book author who sells a million copies a published author? Is a POD author, who sells through Ingrams to libraries and schools a published author?  According to the Pen Women of America, that person—or any person who publishes—is. Yet, according to SCBWI, that person is not, as far as I can tell. 

As a legacy-published-author friend of mine put it in a recent letter to me:

Pen Women, the world’s most staid and conservative group at the national level, had to consider changes to their membership criteria a few years ago, and self-published and POD works are now acceptable as “Letters” credentials in many cases.  Credentials in “Arts” and “Music” also were liberalized in keeping with new media opportunities.  Surprisingly, there have not been the number of outcries everyone expected against “liberalizing” or “weakening” the criteria.  NLAPW-Honolulu, I’m proud to say, played a part in that, especially one of our music members, Claire Rivero, who petitioned for the changes.  I personally think that the caliber of our members is even better than before, and we see more young and energetic members doing cutting-edge creations on our roster.  “We’re not your mother’s, or great-grandmother’s, Pen Women anymore!”
Believe me, if Pen Women can look to the future after 114 years or so of status-quo, any national organization can consider the basics.

From my friend’s letter, it is clear that times are changing. Has SCBWI begun to change? If so, I’d like to know what these changes are before I renew my membership. Why support an organization that is not in step with the changing times?


James Rumford,

legacy-published author and illustrator
and SCBWI member since 1997.

I received an answer right away and a follow-up letter, which I’ll quote in full:

Hi James—As I remarked earlier we are, of course, very aware of the changes taking place(or have already taken place) in publishing. Many books that are now self published or POD are very good and we have provisions set up to approve those individuals and publishers for PAL status, which I know you and your work enjoys.  We are introducing sessions in conferences and Bulletin articles that also guide self publishers, and warn them of the pitfalls as well. But as to giving Pal status to everyone who has a book we have moved cautiously, because there should be some distinction between a well produced and written book and one sloppily done—and we are expanding our criteria, but slowly and deliberately.

The SCBWI would benefit considerably by opening PAL membership to everyone—we have lost members over the last year due to the current policy, and no doubt could increase membership by changing our criteria, but that is something our Board would not approve, nor would we endorse.

So, we are adapting and will continue to do so, but only in a way that respects quality children’s books, no matter in what form they may take.

Thanks, again, for taking the time to let us know your thoughts. We are most appreciative of your opinion—all best wishes, Steve

I wasn’t surprised by Mr. Mooser’s response. It takes a while for an organization to make big changes. Even so, I immediately sat down and wrote:

Aloha, e Steve,

I was glad to see that SCBWI is changing, albeit slowly, but I would like to see more.

My argument runs like this:

1  SCBWI gives PAL status to e-authors and POD authors.

2  With this open-arms approach, membership grows, attracting not just new talent but even more editors and designers than it does now. Now SCBWI truly becomes a meeting place of like-minded people who can help each other improve.

3  SCBWI ramps up its workshops for self-published authors not just in areas of story and illustration but book design as well.

4  As more and more members turn to electronic and POD publishing, SCBWI puts pressure on the and Barnes & Noble to continue to make improvements especially in the area of electronic children’s picture books. This goes for the POD industry as well.

5 SCBWI puts pressure on legacy publishers to offer fair and reasonable royalties for the electronic editions they produce of a given author’s work. 

Although SCBWI offers many valuable services to its members, it exists, I believe to help people get published for the first time or, if published, stay published. SCBWI attracts new members by telling them that if they mention in their query letters that they are SCBWI members, their submission will carry more weight. Thus, the link that connects SCBWI to the publishing world is a strong one, and SCBWI has status among the guys that matter. It is no wonder that the board is reluctant to make changes to its policies. But what if people begin to bypass publishers? Then what? I know several well-established authors and illustrators who are doing just that.

It is nice to have standards. But who decides these standards? Right now it is the publishers. Do they always turn out good books? Not really. So why are they the arbiters of what makes a good children’s book—especially now that the publishers have largely been hijacked by corporate interests and bottom-liners who are more interested in signing up a movie star than they are some talented nobody? 

Fortunately, for the talented nobodys of this world, recent technology has made it possible for them to put their stuff out there. The question is, and obviously, your board has wrestled with finding an answer, is their stuff good enough? Without a publisher’s stamp of approval, it is hard to tell. Yet you write that SCBWI has set up provisions to pass judgment on the work of self-published authors. This sounds like a fine idea, but SCBWI should also apply these same provisions to legacy-published works; otherwise, SCBWI becomes an organization for publishers, more of a club than a meeting place of ideas. Let the Caldecott and Newberry awards of this world decide what’s good. Let SCBWI get on with what it does best: helping people turn out good books.

I spoke of guilds in my initial letter. They had Europe in a stranglehold. New ideas were stifled. The status quo was maintained until the guilds were swept away by a wave of change, one brought about by the invention of printing. Today the computer and the internet and all that goes with it are bringing about a similar change. Children’s books aren’t going to be just paper and ink but light and sound and movement. They are going to be unimaginable jewels of human ingenuity. Change is happening rapidly. The trend is irreversible. If SCBWI doesn’t embrace this change, they will become irrelevant. Someone will start a new organization, an SSCBWI: Society of Self-Published Book Writers and Illusrtators.



The ease of self-publishing, using the internet to self-promote, the attractiveness of retaining all of the profits—all of these things have really turned the publishing world and organizations like SCBWI upside down. They are faced with making uncomfortable changes to their business models, their policies, their notions of what is a book. The questions I have raised aren’t going away, and I am sure I’ll have more to say in a future post because, these days it isn’t just a matter of whether a non-paper-ink book is a book but whether self-published ones are equal to those put out by the big guys. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Author’s Lament

I have hesitated writing about editor-author relations because I don’t know if I can be honest and fair. Over the last sixteen or so years, I have had my ups and downs. Sometimes, I have enjoyed working with a particular editor, sometimes not. A good friend of mine, who has worked with many editors told me recently that, although he is a positive person, he never found an editor he liked!

I suppose that there is truth in my friend’s statement. Editors are like bosses. They aren’t there to be liked. They are there to get the job done. This, of course, destroys a bit the romantic notion of having a martini over lunch with one’s editor—you know—the stuff that happened in the old days of publishing, when publishers cared about their authors and considered it important to nurture the fragile egos they had taken under their wing.

Even so, a couple of months ago, I was in Boston and had a wonderful lunch with my editor Kate O’Sullivan at Houghton Mifflin and the book designer for Rain School, Carol Goldenberg. So, the author-editor culture does still exist. In fact, when I sold my first book to Houghton Mifflin, they were definitely in the nurturing mode. They took me under their wing and nursed me along, encouraging me to do better and better work. 

I’d like to think that this culture still exists, but I find, in talking with other authors, that it really doesn’t in spite of my lunch in Boston a few months back. At least, those I have talked to haven’t seen any evidence of it. I don’t know what the reason is. Has publishing become too much of a business? I don’t think so. It always was a business. Perhaps something else has changed. Maybe it is that publishers have gotten too big. They are part of huge corporations with thousands of employees and thousands of rules and a marketing division that rules the roost.

There is something else that has changed the dynamic. Published authors are turning more and more to self-publishing. The money is better. There are fewer hassles. And with hundreds of editors out of a job and looking for free-lance work, it is a simple matter to get a top-notch editor to look over one’s manuscript and make suggestions. 

Editors do have an important function, which I forgot to mention at the outset. If they are good, they know how to tighten the prose, enhance the plot, and ask really good “what if” questions—you know: what if Mortimer kissed Eloise just as they were going into the school cafeteria . . . right in front of everybody? 
Unpublished authors and many self-published authors don’t know the value of a good editor. Unpublished authors are often sure they have the perfect story. Published authors aren’t so cocksure. They have suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous reviewers. They have done booksignings where only one or two books are sold. They know that they really have to listen to what others say about their manuscripts before they go into print.

So, yes, editors are important, but are they always right? When should an author stick to his guns and refuse to change a word or remove a paragraph or have Mortimer kiss Eloise in front of everybody? I don’t have an answer. I do know that when I have solid reasons for not taking the editor’s suggestions, the editor usually bends and lets me have my way. There are rarely any fights. Most editors realize that you know the book better than they do, and, as I said, if your reasons are rock solid, they will usually acquiesce. 

So far, I have only been talking about authors. What about illustrators? Over the years I have gotten the feeling that editors do not treat authors and illustrators in the same way. There seems to be more give and take with words and plot outlines, but not so with pictures. 
“We don’t want yellow in this picture.” 
“We want that girl’s hair longer.” 
“We don’t want gloomy pictures.” 
Editors sometimes treat illustrators as hired help.

Editors are only part of the problem. In big publishing houses there are art directors, too. Their job it is to make sure that the illustrations and the overall design of the book are up to par. Many art directors are sympathetic to illustrators. There is compromise, but there is also the attitude of “my way or the highway.”

I am not solely an illustrator; so I rarely have seen that attitude. I am treated as an author who can draw; I am not just an illustrator who was hired to do a job. This makes a big difference, and over the years, I have enjoyed very good relations with both editors and art directors. Okay, once I took a book away from a publisher because they told me after the book was finished that they didn’t like the art at all. I had no choice in that instance, but, as I said, I have had in general few problems . . . until recently.
Neal Porter, at Roaring Brook Press, and I got in a tug of war over the cover for my next book. Months ago, we had agreed on a cover. I painted it and it was vetted by the marketing guys. All was set . . . until I saw the proof. I no longer liked the cover. I made some changes, drastic ones, and told Neal to stop the presses. Neal took one look at my revised cover and basically said, “No way. We’re sticking with the cover we both agreed on months ago.”
“But it is a terrible cover. I don’t like it at all. It doesn’t fit the vision I have for the book.”
Neal, whom I admire immensely, wouldn’t budge. There was nothing I could do, short of sending back the advance and asking for my manuscript returned. I decided not “to go nuclear,” as my agent put it.

Did Neal overstep his bounds? Did he trample over me as an artist? Did he treat me as a hireling?  Or did I not play fair? Was I too arrogant, thinking that I knew better than he what would make a more appealing cover?

I don’t know the answer to these questions. What I do know is this: writing and illustrating a book is art by committee. Once the editor, the art director, the marketeer have all had their say, a book rarely emerges unchanged. The artist’s work is either improved or his vision is destroyed. This is the way of things, and, to be fair, I should have understood this. 

“Once you hand your book over to the editor,” said the same friend who told me he disliked editors, “you have to realize that it is no longer your book.  It is “our” book. By using the word “our,” you can avoid huge problems because you consider the editor and his or her staff part of the team.”

But I think that for my friend’s advice to be effective—indeed, for publishing even to survive—publishing has to go back to the old days when the houses were smaller, when editors took the time to nurture, when they moved out of the way to let the artist blossom.

This is the third time I have used the word “artist” in this posting. It is an important point to remember these days, as this huge sub species Homo sapiens artiste begins fleeing to the creative freedom that print-on-demand and e-books can offer.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Nuts and Bolts

I’ve been really busy lately. My goal was to put out a print-on-demand book by the end of summer, but now that August is almost over, I am going to have to be more realistic. Perhaps I’ll have a book out by the end of the year.

Here are two pages I have been working on. This is from my book called Flight about Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the man who wrote The Little Prince:

It isn’t that I don’t have any ideas for books. I have notebooks and folders and computer files full of ideas. I have scores of stories that are written, half-written or hope to be written with great first sentences.  I have sketches for some of my stories and full-blown pictures for others.  No, the problem is not ideas. The problem is realizing how much time it takes to turn any one of these ideas into a real book.

Assuming that you have the story written and edited and vetted and praised by uncles and aunts, moms and dads, kids and grandkids, teachers and librarians—and assuming that you have the illustrations done and scanned and properly sized, you still have a ton of stuff to do—stuff you never thought of, such as: 

The Publishing Company. You need to create a publishing company. Since this company is going to create revenue, you need to look into the tax laws where you live to determine what licenses you need to do business. You will also need to put up a website about your company.

The Library of Congress. There are several way of ‘legitimizing’ your book. First you may want to get a Library of Congress Control Number. This number means that your book is in their system. Should they ever catalog it, they will use this number to track your book as it goes through their system. [Here is the link for more information:] Big publishers always include the cataloguing information in the book. This makes it easy for librarians to put new books on their shelves. As a self-publisher, you may never get your book catalogued by the Library of Congress. Some self-publishers hire a librarian to catalogue their book.

ISBN. The ISBN number is not as difficult to get as it used to be. Many on-line and print-on-demand services will provide you with an ISBN. If you want your own ISBN numbers, you will need to contact Bowker at  

Copyright. If you want to protect your work with official documents, you will need to pay the fees to obtain a copyright. You can find out more at Otherwise, your work can be protected to a limited degree by simply writing: copyright © date by.

The © page.  This is the page in your book that contains all of the technical information: how do readers contact you, what are your policies, etc.  The © page is usually placed in a picture book on the back of the title page, opposite the dedication page. If this is inconvenient, because you need to start the story right away, you can put the © page on the last page of the book. Here is a sample © page. It looks simple enough, but you have to decide what it is that you want to say. For example, some publishers put stern and lengthy warnings about copyright infringement on this page. Others say almost nothing. Some publishers put production notes. Others do not. Most all publishers, if they can, include cataloguing information.

Here is the © page for my book Mango Rain, which will be published by BookPartners, a company started by my agent Jeff Dwyer:

Consider the following as a ‘style sheet’ of what to include.

Copyright © 20xx by ( full name )
[If you have partnered with an illustrator, this should read:
Text copyright © 20xx by ( full name ).
Illustrations copyright © 20xx by ( full name ).]

All rights reserved. For information about permission to reproduce selections from this book, write to Permissions, ( your company’s name and address ).

( your company’s web address )

The text of this book was set in ( name of typeface/font used ).
The illustrations in this book were done with ( name of medium used ). 

Book design by ( name of person who designed the book  ).

Library of Congress Control Number: ( number )

( Put the cataloging information here, if you have it. This information has to be typed exactly as given to you, since all spacing and punctuation are part of an elaborate code. For example a forward slash / indicates a line break on the title page. )

Printed in ( name of place )

The Back Cover.  In a POD book, there is usually no dust jacket. Because of this, the information that once appeared on the jacket has now found a home on the back cover. This information includes the ‘blurb,’ the bit of information that entices a person to buy the book. (I wrote about this in my blog posting of June 24, 2011). If you have reviews of your book or of past books, quote the best parts here. It is also a good idea to put the price of the book on the back of the book. Since this is a POD book, you can always change the price in the future.  Finally you need the all important bar code. Fortunately most POD service companies will provide this for you. 

Here is the back cover for Mango Rain:

I suppose that I have forgotten some detail—there are so many—but I think you get why I began this posting with ‘I’ve been busy lately.’

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Audience as Artist

Everyone talks about the creative process in terms of the artist. No one, it seems, talks about the creative process in terms of the viewer or the reader or the listener. After all, people think, it is the artist who is creative. 

I can’t argue with this, but what I can say is:  A successful artist lets the audience be part of the creative process. He makes his work interactive in a way that hyperlinking can never do.

Obvious examples of the kind of interaction I am talking about are Escher’s illustrations. The mind becomes totally engaged every time it looks at one of his images. An example from literature might be any of the works by Dickens. There is always something new to discover about one of his characters, who because they are so vividly portrayed, feel as though they are part of your world. You identify with and care about the people he brings to life in his books. And as for music, choose any of a number of composers who allow you to create without words or pictures a special place in your mind to explore.

In some ways, I am saying nothing terribly new. Writers are always admonished to let the reader feel the emotion. A good writer doesn’t say, “He got really angry.” Instead, a good writer is supposed to say “He threw the vase against the wall so hard that the sound of shattering glass drowned out the insults he hurled at his girlfriend.” A good painter suggests a hot day by his choice of color not by showing the sun in the sky. I could go on, but you get the point: you always leave room for people to come to their own conclusions about what is going on.  If they don’t get the feeling that the boyfriend was angry or that it was a hot day, then the artist has failed. 

This failure is easy to see in children. If they are not engaged, they simply close the book and look for another. They flip to another channel, or—heavens!—they go outside and hope to find a friend to play with.

I am reminded of a Psych 100 teacher I had who played a mental game with the two hundred or so freshmen crammed into the lecture hall. He was going to read a list of words and our task was to remember as many of them as we could. His plan, or so he told us, was to show us how collective memory works. He began: snow, salt, paper, clouds, waves, sugar, baking soda, teeth, toothpaste, etc. We all did well collectively reconstructing the list, but we all failed at the same time: we all insisted that the word ‘white’ was on his list. It was not. We had created ‘white’ out of association. I realized then and there the power of not saying what you want to say.

But this power is only part of what I have to say about inviting the viewer, the listener, the reader to be part of the creative process. 

A few months ago, I saw the movie “The King’s Speech.” What amazed me was how the writer had engaged the audience by anticipating their reaction and building upon that reaction. Here was Prince Albert George, etc., etc., the future king of England seeking help from a commoner, a speech therapist not of the ilk of those on Harley Street. Of course, the prince didn’t want to say who he really was; so it was a delight to listen to the audience’s reaction when the therapist insisted that the two of them be on a first name basis. Imagine! Calling a prince by his first name. Imagine! Calling Queen Elizabeth Liz. It’s this ‘imagine!’ part that I mean by engaging the audience. This was only the first in a series of ‘imagine!’ scenes in the movie. By the middle of the movie, the audience was audibly ensnared: they oohed and aahed and were deliciously tickled by what was happening.  In the end, when the prince had become king and had to deliver the greatest speech of his life, he succeeded and you knew that the audience was hanging on to his every word. The audience just didn’t identify with the characters. They didn’t just make all of the right emotional associations. They created that movie in their minds just as much as the actors, the director, the producers, and above all, the screen writer did.

It is hard to understand the power of anticipating the audience’s reaction and building upon that reaction. Not only is Dickens going to create unforgettable characters but he is going to let you think that you already know them. Not only is Escher going to surprise you with impossible pictures, but he is going to let you think that you can understand them. Not only is Mozart going to give you a series of beautiful notes but he is going to let you think that you had something to do with creating them by his preparing for their arrival, just as the screenwriter—David Seidler—prepared the audience for what was going to happen in the therapist’s office in “The King’s Speech.”

It is hard to image how all of this is going to work in a children’s picture book, but it does work. Look at the great books such as Blueberries for Sal. We are in that kitchen in Maine. We are out there picking berries with Sal, and—what is really important, the author and illustrator Robert McCloskey generously lets us create the next scene in our minds before we turn the page. 

I have only begun to put down in words what I have been thinking for many years. The important thing is: maybe with this start, you can make your own observations. Start with commercials on TV. Why do you like watching some commercials over and over? Why do other commercials annoy you? I have a feeling that for those you like, you’ll say that you felt part of the creative process.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Elephant in the Room

I can’t remember how this expression came about, but it does describe the role of the book designer in the creation of a children’s picture book. People talk about the author and the illustrator, but they rarely mention the person who decides what typeface (nowadays read: font) to use, how the text should be distributed through out the book and what the dimensions of the finished book should be.

Some self-published authors and illustrators I’ve meant think that they can make these relatively easy decisions themselves—and they can, but first they need to think about a children’s book as having—well—a personality. Sure the personality of a book comes across through the story and the pictures, but it also comes across in these four ways:

I :: typeface  

Typefaces, fonts—there are hundreds to choose from. There are whole groups of them that look alike, such as these two groups: serif and sans serif.
The serifs are the little cross bars at the top and bottom of a letter like the capital I:


Sans serif faces have no crossbars:


Within these two large groups are countless variations to fit every mood and style. I have a friend who is a type designer. He often sends me samples of a type face he is working on and asks my opinion about such things as: Is the o too round? Should the q and p go down lower? What do you think about the thickness of the capital M? Is the lower case n too wide?  These might seem trivial questions, but they are not. The answer to each determines the overall look and feel of the typeface.

If you are going to design your own book, experiment with typefaces. Set your text in first one typeface then another and gauge your reaction. Does typeface A make you feel too heavy? Does typeface B fit the mood of the story?

Another way to heighten your awareness about the effect of type on a book is to go to the library and look at books. Choose the children’s books you have always liked and see how the typeface enhances the story. 

Ask yourself these questions:

1  Is the typeface kid friendly? Would a kid have trouble reading it?

2  What size is the type? 

3  What color is the type? If it isn’t black, does the color help?

4  Does the typeface fit the story? In a book I saw the other day about flying, the author chose a typeface that was, in my opinion, too heavy looking, too every-day:  its strokes were thick and didn’t flow at all; it had the look of a newspaper.

5  Does the typeface fit the pictures? If the illustrations are woodcuts, the type needs to be sturdy enough to be noticed. In the years following Gutenberg, this problem was easily solved. The type was thick and so were the lines of the illustrations, which had to be cut out of wood. 

In Italy, the woodcarvers were able to make more delicate lines and this was a perfect match for the serif and italic faces they were developing.

6  Is the type on the title page and the cover different from the type used in the book? If so, how do these choices make you feel about the book?

How many different typefaces are used in the book. Too many is often a bad idea, but sometimes lots of different typefaces add a certain spontaneity and craziness to a book.

II :: dimensions

Square books, oblong books, tall books, tiny books—each has its own appeal and either helps the story and pictures or lessens their effectiveness. Think how brilliant Beatrice Potter was, for, I believe, it was she who decided that her books should be small for little hands. Her books make for intimate reading. In my book about the Cherokee Sequoyah, I decided that the format should be tall and narrow like the sequoia tree. Once I decided that, everything seemed to fall into place: the tall narrow illustrations, the placement of the text on the page, and the size of the text blocks.

While dimensions are important, right now in the self-publishing world of print-on-demand [POD] books and e-books, you have little choice. Although there are two kinds of formats: portrait books (books that are taller than they are wide) and their opposite: landscape books, there is really only one choice: portrait books. Why? I don’t know. Sizes, too, are limited. But that is today. In a few weeks or a few months, all of this may change.

Still my point is: size does matter. Orientation of the text and pictures does matter. If you are going to self-publish and if your book needs to be a landscape book, then either wait for things in the POD world to change or spend the money and have your book printed the traditional way with thousands of copies arriving at your doorstep from China. 

Another aspect of size is the number of pages. The industry standard is that a children’s picture book has 32 pages. Within these 32 pages, there are usually 3 non-story pages: the title, the copyright page, and the dedication page. This, too, is changing. Right now, with POD books, you can have a book anywhere from 16 to 48 pages. The cost is the same. This is not the case with books printed by the big guys like Random House or Houghton Mifflin. Before they decide to do a 48-page book, they have to carefully consider the extra cost and whether the projected sales will meet that cost.

III :: page-breaks

Forgive the pun, but this can make or break your book. Deciding where to break up a text into pages is one of the most important decisions. When I have finished writing a story, I take a deep breath and begin breaking it up into pages. If it distributes itself evenly from page to page, I know I have a pretty good story. Why? Because no one part is heavier than the other. I first noticed this in reading books by Chris van Allsburg. On each page was the same size text block. Visually this was appealing and, what is more, this uniformity helped the story.
I have always broken up my stories. Even in the days when it was the editor’s job to do so. This was because, early on, I realized that by doing this, I could judge the pace of the story. I could see what parts needed more emphasis and where I could add a bit of energy.

Energy? Yes. Maybe, in a story about a red balloon, all you want on one of the pages  is the word: 


Or in a fast-moving story about a race, you want to give each of these word groups its own page: 

and faster,  
tumbling and rolling,
squawking and squealing,
flapping and flabbing (a word?),
peacock and pig arrived at the bottom of the hill.
But who was first? No one knew, for all anyone could see was a ball of feathers and fat.

Again go to the library and look at books for their page-breaks. 

Type, dimensions, page-breaks—pretty elementary stuff, or so it seems. So is getting dressed in the morning. Yet, why is it that so-and-so looks elegant and has it together while another looks—well—like he or she’s just gotten up.

This posting seems to be aimed at the person who wants to self-publish. While this is largely true, I do think that every author or illustrator should understand the structure of a children’s book: the third dimension, the thing that people rarely talk about—book design.