We all fell in love with them as a child. We still love to read them over and over again. And perhaps we hope to emulate them.
However, as Picture Book Writers of today, we need to tread carefully.
This week we take a look at 3 contrasts between the Picture Books of our childhood and today's market.
First up, Word Count ~
Your favorite pb writer is William Steig? You want to create a character as unforgettable as Dr. DeSoto or Shrek? You want to write a story as memorable as Sylvester and the Magic Pebble?
But watch that word count.
The word count for Sylvester and the Magic Pebble is 1425! By today's standards that is even a tad too high for non-fiction.
Other childhood favorites weigh in high, as well: Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola (1245 words), Dr. Seuss's Bartholomew and the Oobleck (2898 words) and Curious George by H.A. Rey (918 words).
By today's standards, we are told by editors and agents, those numbers are sky-rocketly,way too high.
The industry says we should be writing stories that are 300-550 words.
I'm not making this up. Every conference, every panel, every class I have EVER attended says the same thing. So why are so many of us fighting it or shocked when someone says it?
Maybe we need proof...
The ever-popular Boy + Bot by Ame Dyckman is only 240 words. Oliver Jeffers' This Moose Belongs to Me is a little longer at 394 words. Jon Klassen's instant classic I Want my Hat Back is 253 words. And shockingly, Mo Willem's Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale is only 211 words!
So even though we have been told that it is ok to write up to 500 words, editors are starting to push even closer to 300-350.
A friend of mine, just recently, submitted a story to her editor which was about 500 words. He loved the idea. His request for revision? "Try to get it down to 300 words." Ouch!
Why the difference?
Some have said that parents are too busy to read longer books to kids at bedtime. Others have said that kids do not have the attention span in today's hectic, technology-driven world to sit through a longer book.
Whatever the reasoning, the bottomline is that agents and editors say they just can't sell the longer books...and you want to be published, right?
You can pout about it. You can continue to write longer books hoping to change the trend. But if you want to be a published Picture Book Writer in this day and age...you have to get with the program.
Stop by Wednesday when we continue this discussion with Conflict Resolution in the Classics vs. Today.