A few years ago, when I began writing story picture books, conventional wisdom in How-To books was that such stories must not exceed 2,000 words. No problem. None of mine were that long.
A bit later I ran into a new site that said picture book writers should never exceed 1,200 words per story. A writers’ conference in New York brought the news that 1,000 words was the new upper limit, and one agent claimed she has not sold a story longer than 800 words.
Fast forward a couple of years, and the busy bees were buzzing. A new chant was in the air, perfuming it and permeating the printer paper everywhere a picture book writer was at work. Our quaky-shaky typing hands trembled at the admonition: 500 words. That’s it.
Recently an agent told a writer friend that her 500 word stories were, well, iffy. Good, but possibly too long for today’s market. The new sweet-spot was closer to 300 words.
Why do I get the feeling that writers are being written out of picture books?
I took the challenge, and my last few picture book manuscripts come in at 221, 310 and (gulp) 124 words each.