How Do You Make a Picture Book?

Picture book writing can often seem like a mystery. But the truth is picture book writers go through exactly the same trials and tribulations as any other writer. Ahead of the publication of her latest title, multiple picture book author Caroline Crowe talks about the importance of perseverance and how timing can be everything on the journey to publication.

When How do you Make a Rainbow? is published on February 18th it will be seven years since I first came up with the title. And the title will be one of very few things that hasn’t changed about the text over that time.

The first draft was one of the ideas I sent to my agent Clare Wallace when I was first looking for representation. When I was lucky enough to sign with the Darley Anderson Children’s Agency, it wasn’t one of the texts that made the cut for submission.

I went back to it a few times over the years, but it was never quite right. And then last year rainbows started popping up in windows across the country and suddenly the story clicked. The final text was entirely different to the one I first sent in 2013, but for some reason I never gave up on that title.

Image result for nhs rainbow thank you

Obviously it doesn’t always take quite that long to get a text right, but hopefully it shows how long it CAN take and that it pays to have faith in your ideas and persevere.

There are so many reasons that a text might not make the cut that it often feels like an impossible task getting a picture book through submissions. Maybe a publisher already has a similar text on their list or they think the market is saturated with unicorns at the moment, maybe they’re looking for serious rather than funny, prose rather than rhyme or maybe it just isn’t up that particular editor’s street.

I’ve had one editor reject a text for not being special enough only for it to be bought by another publisher who loved it.

As a writer it’s almost impossible to predict which texts will make it and which ones won’t. I certainly haven’t discovered the secret yet.

But I have learned never to completely give up on anything, because you never know when an idea might have its moment.

It also helps to have an incredible agent whose opinion you trust. Clare never told me to forget about rainbows, she just kept sending me back to the drawing board until it was right.

Caroline Crowe is the author of award-winning picture books including Pirates in Pyjamas, Tiny Tantrum, Is That An Elephant In My Fridge? and Santa’s New Beard. Caroline’s texts have been translated into a number of languages and are also published in the US. Her latest picture book, How Do You Make a Rainbow?, publishes on the 18th of February 2021.

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