If you are new to the children’s book niche, it might help to know what the types of books are.

Picture books: Read to or by a new reader. Very much developed by the images.

Consist of 28 pages.

If you’ve read 32, that is because the first three and the last page belong to the publisher. They put information like title, ISBN, and other things on those pages. Technically, that means there are 32 pages, but as the author, you only get 28.

I thought when I read online that the illustrator makes 60% and the author 40% for a picture book that there must be a mistake. However, the basis of the sale is often the images.

Think about picture books you’ve purchased or looked at recently. If you didn’t already have a book in mind, how often was the art a major incentive for you to read it? I can tell you, that for me, with picture books, the art makes a big difference. It is not the FINAL reason I purchase a picture book, but the art has to be good for me to find out if the story is good, if I have not already heard of the book.

My view on this was also impacted when, in the last two weeks, one of my picture books turned out to have an entire character I had not thought of or consciously put in the book. She showed up at the end of the story and said she had been there all along. That meant I REALLY needed the illustrator to put her in the book.

(Okay, that’s not exactly how it happened. She did not talk to me. BUT she did show up at the end of the story and when she did, I realized she had been there all along.) 

Now she’s not even in the text because I took her out to make her own book. HOWEVER, to make the book what I think it ought to be, I would want her to be in almost all the pictures, even though she never speaks.

Most of us have had experiences with people who stay in the background. She is one of those. When she does step forward, she does it in a big way, which is one reason I decided she needed her own book.

If you are interested, she is Willow in the 6-Word Autobiographies post.

Easy readers: The Horn Book has the best discussion of this genre I’ve come across recently (as in, I remember). Basically it is VERY simple language with an engaging story that looks like a chapter book but will only have a single sentence or two per page, so that the illustrations will carry a large amount of the weight–as they do in picture books.

I think someone told me easy readers are 40 pages, not 28 like picture books, but I could be wrong.

No one at Austin’s SCBWI conference spoke about easy readers at all, except in one question, which no one answered.

Examples of easy readers of 2018:

  • A Billion Trillion Stars by Seth Fishman, illus. by Isabel Greenberg (Greenwillow)
  • Where’s Halmoni? by Julie Kim (Little Bigfoot/Sasquatch)
  • A Different Pond by Bao Phi, illus. by Thi Bui (Capstone) Won the 2018 Caldecott Honor

Chapter books: A chapter book tells the story primarily through words, not pictures. They are intended for intermediate readers, ages 7 to 10.

These were not a big topic of discussion at Austin’s SCBWI conference, but someone did say that they are now very focused, so that you would say a book is for a 7-8 year old or an 8-9 year old and not simply for the whole group of “intermediate readers.”

I also believe that someone else said that chapter books are usually for the educational market, because few people buy these books, when a child will read through them rapidly. However, I have not found where that note is, if I wrote it down, so, as a newbie myself, I cannot guarantee that is accurate.

Examples of chapter books of 2018:

  • Small Things by Mel Tregonning (Pajama Press)
  • The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty (Random House for Young Readers)
  • Ending: The Last by Karen Applegate (HarperCollins)

Middle grade books: Stories with preteen characters (8-12 years old) that touch on the interests of the general reader in that age range, without dealing with edgier topics, such as sexual assault or domestic abuse.

This may be because the length of the work is insufficient to deal with those topics well or that the editors don’t realize that for some (maybe more than most of us want to know) those edgier issues are their entire reality.

One thing that was mentioned at the conference was that middle grade books are becoming more popular. They are replacing YA as the best sellers, so that a lot of YA authors are attempting to move their works to a younger audience in order to follow market conditions.

Examples of MG books from 2018:

  • Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed (Penguin/Paulsen)
  • Dactyl Hill Squad by Daniel José Older (Scholastic/Levine)
  • It Wasn’t Me by Dana Alison Levy (Delacorte)
  • The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson (Scholastic/Levine) FYI: He won the Coretta Scott King Award at Austin’s SCBWI conference for this book.
  • Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster by Jonathan Auxier (Amulet)

Young adult books: Young adult books are written for teenagers, with teenage characters, and usually deal with very emotional topics (see “edgier” mentioned above). They can include graphic violence, though it should not be gratuitous, and profanity. The teens in the book should seem real to the teens reading them and they should think and act like those teens.

Writer’s Digest has a good discussion of MG and YA books, including lengths, by an author and agent.

Examples of MG books from 2018:

  • The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge by M.T. Anderson (Candlewick)
  • The Light Between Worlds by Laura E. Weymouth (HarperTeen)
  • The War Outside by Monica Hesse (Little, Brown)