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Pagination in Picture Books: Should You Or Shouldn’t You?

In prepping for a picture book writing workshop I did recently (via Journey For Kidlit), I posted a poll on Twitter to find out how picture book writers, agents and editors felt about pagination in submissions. Results were fascinating. And people are still posting answers, so feel free to bookmark the thread below as well as posting your own answer if you haven’t already.

Here’s what I posted:

A brief explanation, for those who aren’t quite sure what I’m talking about: picture book mss pagination refers to marking page breaks. Ever since taking a picture book writing workshop from Diane Muldrow (Golden Books) in 2010, I’ve always added page breaks after writing my picture book text.

Carol Hinz, editorial director at Millbook Press and Carolrhoda Books at Lerner Publishing Group, has an excellent post about how she feels about pagination in picture book manuscripts. (Spoiler: she loves a paginated picture book mss.) Not all editors want to see pagination, however (keep reading).

When I write picture books, I don’t worry about pagination in early drafts. Here’s an excerpt from my early draft of SAM & EVA, without pagination:

And here’s what it looks like, paginated:

There are different ways of indicating pagination. The above is the style I tend to use. I began on page 6-7 because I knew ahead of time that it was going to be a 40-page picture book. As for why I started on page 6-7 instead of 1….that’s a whole other blog post; feel free to comment below if you’d like me to post about that. 🙂

Paginating my mss into double page spreads helps me figure out pacing and page turns, whether or not there is enough going on to show in illustration, whether I have too much text on any particular spread, and so on. My editor at Simon & Schuster Children’s, Justin Chanda, encourages me to paginate. Feel free to use my templates for book creators to help you think about picture books in double page spreads.

Here is what others in the kidlit industry said about pagination in picture book mss submissions. Thanks to all who responded!


OVERALL SUMMARY OF POLL RESULTS PLUS A FEW QUOTES:

BOOK CREATORS:

Most paginate while they are working on their mss, but some take out the pagination before submitting. Some leave the pagination in, and let their agent decide. Some provide both a paginated and unpaginated version. Some always submit paginated mss. Some paginate when showing a work-in-progress to their editor (this is what I do as well). Those who are illustrators as well as writers show pagination via picture book dummies.

Some writers don’t explicitly include pagination but include blank lines/spaces instead. From Liz Garton Scanlon: “I’d never submit paginated but I do use rather suggestive double spaces 😂” Sometimes the decision whether to paginate will be made by both the author and agent.

Patricia Toht says she submits to UK publishers with pagination, but not US publishers. She tweeted:


AGENTS:

Rachel Orr of Prospect Agency:

Sean McCarthy of Sean McCarthy Literary Agency:

Lori Kilkelly of LK Literary Agency:

Jordan Hamessley of New Leaf Literary:

Kaitlyn Leann Sanchez of Context Literary:

Samantha Wekstein of Thompson Literary Agency:


EDITORS:

Carol Hinz, Associate Publisher of Millbrook Press and Carolrhoda Books, imprints of Lerner Books:

Karen Boss, Senior Editor at Charlesbridge:

Melissa Manlove, Executive Editor at Chronicle Books:

Taryn Albright, Children’s Editor at KiwiCo Press:

Kate DePalma, Senior Editor at Barefoot Books:

Naomi Krueger, Acquisitions Editor at Beaming Books:


ART DIRECTORS:

Whitney Leader-Picone, Art Director at Clarion Books:


PUBLISHERS:


TAKEAWAYS:

It’s worth paginating your manuscript as an author to check for pacing and flow, to see if there’s enough going on in each spread for an illustrator to work with, and to see how text distribution (if you have too much text on one spread and not enough on another etc.).

If you are submitting to an editor, be aware that different editors have different preferences. Research online to find out as much as you can before submitting. Also, be aware that even if you submit your mss paginated, your agent may strip out pagination before submitting to an editor (depending on the editor’s prefers), and that the editor or art director may submit the mss without pagination to the illustrator, to give the illustrator freedom to decide on pagination.

Whether or not you paginate your picture manuscript when submitting, I do think it worth paginating your mss a worthy exercise just for yourself.

Good luck with your writing, paginated or not!


See my Surveys and Polls page for other industry poll results.


One thought on “Pagination in Picture Books: Should You Or Shouldn’t You?”

  1. Cheryl Stewart says:

    Thanks for posting this. It was very helpful!

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