Anastasia Suen

Developmental Editor

Category: critique (Page 3 of 3)

Should I write a picture book or a chapter book?


Q. Should I write a picture book or a chapter book?
A. There are two factors to consider:

1. the main character’s age
2. the length of your story.

The main character’s age is the first item to check.

  • If the main character is a preschool child, then a picture book is the best choice for your story.
  • If the main character is age 6-8, you can write for either format. There are picture books for ages 6-8 and there are chapter books for ages 6-8.

Q. If I am writing for ages 6-8, how do I choose between a picture book and a chapter book?
A. The length of your story for ages 6-8 will determine whether you are writing a picture book or a chapter book.

The ideal word count for a picture book is less than 500 words. (Some picture books are as long as 800 words.) In a chapter book, 500-800 words only fill ONE chapter and most editors want to see TEN chapters.

Sometimes it’s hard to figure out where your story idea fits best. If you make it shorter, it could fit into a picture book. And if you make it longer it could fit into a chapter book. (Been there, done that!)

The real question is, how much detail do you want to add? Can you tell the story with just a few key details? That fits into a picture book.


A chapter book is often TEN times longer than a picture book. If you have multiple scenes in mind, the chapter book format will give you the room you need to add all of the details and all of the scenes you envision.


Still can’t decide? Read new picture books and new chapter books just like your book. One format isn’t better than the other — it’s just a matter of finding the right place for your story.

Copyright © 2016 Anastasia Suen All Rights Reserved.

How long is a children’s book manuscript?


The Zombie Project: A Boxcar Children Mystery
(ghostwritten by Anastasia Suen)

Q. How long is a children’s book manuscript?
A. The length of the book depends on the age of the child who will be reading it. The older the child is, the longer the book will be.

There are six different children’s book formats and each one is for a different age. What a toddler wants to read is not the same as what a teen wants to read. Children change as they grow. The psychological needs of each age group are very different. These varying psychological needs are one reason children’s books are divided into different ages.

Here is a general age and word count guideline:
1. Board books (birth to 2) 8-50 words
2. Picture books (2-7) less than 500 words
3. Beginning readers (4-8) 500-1,500 words
4. Chapter books (5-10) 5,000-20,000 words
5. Middle grade (8-12) 20,000-55,000 words
6. Young adult (12-17) 55,000-70,000 words

The most accurate way to figure out the word count that editors prefer is to read recently published children’s books like yours.

Count the number of words on a few pages, figure out the average, and multiply that number by the number of pages in the printed book.

Copyright © 2016 Anastasia Suen All Rights Reserved.

Page 3 of 3

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