Sunday, August 7, 2016

From Concept to Completion: How Many Hands Touch a Picture Book on the Publishing Journey?

When publishing traditionally, just what goes on getting your picture book out there?



Not quite.

During a talk with an editor recently, I asked just how many hands are on a picture book from concept and writing to completion and in the hands of the reader.  Here’s what I found out.

·         Author – This is the easy part. The creator of the manuscript. Sometimes this person is also the illustrator, but for this series we are looking at text only manuscripts.

**Hand count: 1**


·         Critique Partners/Beta Readers – Seriously-this should be a step. Find a critique group online or through groups like SCBWI. They can help you find what is working and what is not. They will push you to be a better writer. They will help you know when it is finally time to submit.

**Hand count: approx. 5-10 **


·         Agent – Not always necessary but I feel this is important to open doors and help you get your work extra polished before presenting it too publishers. Plus many publishers are closed to unsolicited submissions so you almost always need an agent to get into these houses.

**Hand count: 6-11**


·         Editor – Your agent, or yourself, will submit to an editor. If they love your story and see promise they will present it to their boss (or acquisitions team).

o   Inside the publishing house now: the Editor’s boss (or acquisitions team) will need to give the thumbs up to acquire the piece.

**Hand count: 7-12**


·         You and Editor – There will be back and forth during the editorial process. This may be a few simple changes and corrections or there may be a number of big changes. Each book is different.


·         Copy Editing –focuses on accuracy, formatting, and proofreading. Line edits people.

**Hand count: 8-13**


·         Design/Art Director – The art director does exactly that. They find and guide the artist in the direction to achieve the right ‘feeling’ for a book. They work with the editor and discuss what illustrators they think are right for the project. They are not just a stop on this chain of hands on you book, but more of a cog that is moving along with many other. They work with the editor, illustrator. Sometimes this is a team and not just an individual.

**Hand count: 9-16**


·         Illustrator – The partner that you may never even meet or talk to. This person will create concept drawings, work with the Design Dept/Art Director. After weeks, months, or occasionally years they will create the art that brings the text to life.

**Hand count: 10-17**


·         Production Editor- Production editors manage the publication. They deal with writers, editors, and vendors to ensure your picture book meet the house’s standards and that everyone meets deadlines. Sometimes these editors also proofread and edit the manuscript and offer feedback to writers and the other editors. (Notice ALL the editing to make sure your picture book is as perfect as can be?)

**Hand count: 11-18**


·         Sales – These are the people actively selling your finished book to vendors. Again not just an individual, but a team.

**Hand count: 12-21**


·         Publicity – These are the folks who create awareness for your book, gaining attention and interest.

**Hand count: 13-24**


·         Marketing – These folks, like with Publicity, create awareness and help sell the book. In some houses the Publicity and Marketing are one in the same.

**Hand count: 14-27**


·         Sub-rights- These are "sub-license" your picture book for various formats and adaptations in addition to the primary format. Additional sales could be film or television rights or translation to another language.

**Hand count: 15-28**


·         Book Sellers and Libraries – Such as Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and Indy Bookstores. The places we know and love.

**Hand count: 20-way too high of a number for me to even guess.**


·         Reader – Finally. This quick and simple process can take around 2 years on average and, depending on the size of the publishing house you are working with, you can easily have up to 20-30 people who have their hands on your precious manuscript to get it out into the world.

Traditional publishing takes a real team to get a book from concept to completion.  Over the next weeks I’m tracking down people in these fields to get interviews so we can see what goes on behind the scenes when making a picture book.


People in the publishing field, let me know if I skipped any jobs.

Please note all of my counts are approximations. These numbers can vary greatly depending on the size of the publishing houses.



  1. Jane, I knew there were a lot, but OK----wow!

  2. I know, right? So many more than I imagined when I first asked this question.