So you’ve taken on the daunting yet fun and exciting task of writing a children’s picture book. And now you are ready for the next phase of your self-publishing journey: illustrations. But before you begin to scour the web for amazing illustrators or hunt down eager design students at the nearby university, take another look (or two) at your story before putting a ton of money into it, and look for these 4 clues that show your children’s book is ready for illustrations.
Reviewers Have Thoroughly Ready Your Entire Story
And reviewers do not include mom or dad or grandma or grandpa or Aunt Mary. Reading it to your little ones is a good start, just to see how they react to your story. But it’s best to find a professional editor, children’s librarian, or elementary school teacher – people who don’t know you personally – to read your story objectively. Make sure they offer constructive feedback on your story’s tone, voice, context, and appropriateness. For children’s stories, these elements are crucial because writers are tasked with telling a story with few words in a short amount of time so the future illustrations can tell the rest of the story.
No Grammar or Spelling Errors are Present
After your story has been reviewed and critiqued with a fine tooth comb, tackle the smaller details to fine tune your story. Double check the spelling of every word, make sure the correct punctuation is being used, and ensure all sentences are clear and complete. Your readers are probably between the ages of three and seven, so keep in mind that they are still developing essential reading and comprehension skills, and incomplete sentences can throw them off. And be consistent! If you decide to change the name of your character halfway through the story, don’t forget to change it in every mention of it. You don’t want to confuse the reader. If you need additional grammar help, don’t be afraid to reach out to a professional copy editor.
No Additional Changes are Needed in the Story
Many writers believe that their stories can be written in one afternoon – and then believe it’s ready for publication soon after. And many non-writers think writing a children’s book shouldn’t take long, but it actually takes time. It could take weeks to months to years to fully perfect your story. But the way to find out if your story needs a little more or a little less is to simply walk away from it. Let it sit on your desk for a couple of hours without looking at it. Or couple of days. Or a couple of months. When you come back to your story from any length of hiatus, you will likely have a new idea or perspective for your story, which could ultimately change your story for the better. Then take another hiatus. And when you return, and if you don’t have anything else to add or change, then most likely your story will be ready to enter the illustration process.
Your story can be read aloud and understood WITHOUT illustrations
Yes, illustrations in a children’s picture book tell 50% of the story, but the reader needs to visualize the story as if there were no illustrations, too. When reviewers read your story at this stage, they are forced to visualize it with no illustrations. So they are relying on your every word alone to get a full grasp of your story. If you read your story aloud to children without the illustrations and they understand and “see” the action in the story, then you have succeeded and now it’s ready to find your illustrator.