Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Picture Book Topics

This week I’m participating in Donna’s July Challenge on her Word Wrangler Blog. I’m supposed to come up with 15 pitches for NEW books. I have 6 so far. It’s a great challenge, I think, to stimulate my imagination, my creativity--get the ole juices flowing.

I think it’s working.

But I need some seeds to germinate into ideas. So, Saturday I spent time browsing my local Barnes & Noble’s. Then, last evening I spent an hour looking through picture books at Barnes & Noble’s online. Yesterday I spent more than an hour looking through picture books at my local Books A Million.

I felt a wee bit of inspiration, but mostly a mixture of surprise, dismay and new determination.

My research revealed these things to me:

  • The “picture book” section of local bookstores shrinks every time I visit.
  • The nonfiction books section is growing like kudzu. Everything from baby board books to picture books, books for 7-12 year-olds to books for young adults are multiplying to the nth power of 10! Topics cover every discipline of the sciences in every age bracket. And history books are taking up more and more shelf space. Isn’t that great news? For children’s writers that means that those of us who have the courage and stamina to do the rigorous research and documentation, and to prepare resumes to send to educational publishers are good to go!
  • The books I saw that I consider to be traditional picture books and board books for younger children share a few characteristics. I saw LOTS of books on the shelves that have these things in common:
  • Books with a bear, or a little bear, as the main character abound.
  • Cute elephants run second to bears as animal main characters, I think. Then come frogs, then ducks according to my informal research. Monkeys and kittens are scattered in there somewhere.
  • Many books have a story line that takes the main character through a variety of animals. The reader learns about the sounds the animals make, the places they live, their babies, their diets, their habits, etc.
  • Alphabet books giving the reader practice with the letters A – Z by naming animals, places, community helpers, famous people, foods, toys, ETC. are everywhere!
  • "I love you" books fill the shelves. Most use parent and baby animals as characters.
  • Princess books – oh, my! So many pink, sparkly books with princesses doing everything imaginable. [No wonder no one wants to publish my Princess Olivia Paige manuscript!)
  • Trucks – from board books with primary colors, simple art and no more than a dozen words, up to elaborate picture books with detailed descriptions of heavy duty construction trucks and peek-a-boo pages. Real trucks, cute trucks, anthropomorphous trucks are everywhere. 
  • Books with fold-out pages, flip-over pages, textured pages, sculptured pages, three-dimensional pages, pages you scratch and sniff ETC. abound, and abound, and abound.
  • Rhyming books populate every category mentioned above. Who is the "they" who continue to say that editors and agents don't want rhyming picture books? SOMEBODY sure wants them.

I went in search of new ideas that I can use for new manuscripts. Instead, I found ideas (see list above) that I do NOT want to include in my manuscripts.

Hmmm… that means several of my beloved stories are headed for the dreaded bottom drawer of my desk.

It also means that perhaps I should think a little longer about some of those “ridiculous” pitches I wrote last night. 

Maybe writing a picture book about blood-sucking, underwear-wearing alien robots could actually develop into something after all. At least it would be different--

VERY different, indeed.


Linda A. said...

Good to hear that you are having so much fun with Donna's challenge. Browsing at a book store for ideas--good way to brainstorm.

Linda Andersen

Joyce Moyer Hostetter said...

Really fascinating research! I loved reading about what you found out there. It's so time consuming to do this sort of "inventory" and yet it is truly revealing.

Thanks for putting forth that effort and for sharing.

Totally baffling to me about the princess thing. My granddaughter had a non-fiction picture book for older readers about real life princesses. Lots of history and info in there!

Carol Baldwin said...

I think your Princess Olivia story tops them all! But now I know what you were put to when you were scouring the B&N shelves on Saturday.
Go for the alien-robot idea. It'll take you and your imagination to new heights!!

Clara Gillow Clark said...

Thanks for sharing your market research. Really great information to have for my writing students. And moi! ;o)

Jean said...

Thanks for the comment, Linda. It's amazing how MANY children's books are nonfiction now. Every topic you can imagine. And on every "reading" level.


Jean said...


Little girls will ALWAYS love princesses and their stories, I guess. But all that pink made my thoughts wander toward Pepto-Bismal!


Jean said...

Carol -

So, you like my alien-robots, huh? So does my 7 year old grandson. He told me Tuesday to finish the story. "You can do it, Meme.I KNOW you can!"

My own little cheerleader!

Jean said...

Thanks, Clara for leaving a comment. I'm glad the info is helpful.

May I add your blog to my Writers' Resources page?


shaving supplies said...

Thanks for the post. I had been looking for something related and found your web site in the process.I will definitely be back for more.

Donna said...

heehee... I like your new idea! How are your pitches coming along?

Jean said...

Thanks, Donna.

I guess I'd better do a little more "in the field" research on robots and aliens with my resident expert (he's 7 years old.)


Jean said...

Thank you, SS. I'm glad you found me. Drop in anytime!