This year, my goal was to read 1000 picture books.
I’ve heard it said over and over that to improve your writing, you need to read and be familiar with the books currently hitting the market. I figured 1000 would be a good start!
After reading each book for sheer enjoyment, I would go back and look at the nitty-gritty. What made the book tick. The details. The numbers. The statistics. What did I like and what… not so much.
How did I choose the books I read? I will be the first to admit, this is not a scientific survey. Though it is a fairly random sampling, my personal taste surely had an influence on the books I picked. I wanted recent books, so they had to be published in 2010 or more recently, in most cases, more recently.
First, I looked at big lists (Best books of 2015, Most popular books of 2014, Most anticipated books of 2016 – you get the idea). Then I read a ton of blogs and wrote down every book I saw featured and reviewed (Lauri Fortino’s Picture Books at the Library posts were a great source). Next, I went to the libraries. Every week, I would go in and clear out the new acquisitions shelf (sorry kids). Luckily I live near two major library systems, Las Vegas and Henderson, so I had double the options.
One more note. The numbers don’t always add up to 1000. This is due to numerous factors, some of which I’ll mention as we go along. (One being I lived in rural Oklahoma for three months, and had to get creative with my book finding and recording practices.)
Okay, let’s get to it –
Books by the year:
2010 – 7
2011 – 13
2012 – 44
2013 – 85
2014 – 155
2015 – 315
2016 – 381
Publishers: Here are the publishers I came across most often.
70 – Candlewick
35 – Chronicle; 32 – Dial Books for Young Readers; 30 – Little Brown & Company, A Neal Porter Book
29 – Alfred A. Knopf, Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers; 25 – Schwartz and Wade; 23 – Disney-Hyperion, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 22 – Harper/Festival; 21 – Abrams Books for Young Readers, Henry Holt and Co., Balzer and Bray; 20 – Ripple Grove Press
19 – Viking; 18 – Beach Lane, Random House; 16 – Scholastic; 15 – Philomel Books, Roaring Brook Press; 14 – Atheneum Books for Young Readers; 13 – GP Putnam’s Sons, Bloomsbury; 12 – Sterling Children’s Books, Holiday House, Kids Can Press, Enchanted Lion, Farrar Straus Giroux; 11 – Owl Kids, Nancy Paulson Books, Little Bee, Groundwood Books, Greenwillow Books
5 to 10 – A Paula Wiseman book, Aladdin, Albert Whitman & Co., Arthur A. Levine Books, Boyds Mills Press, Charlesbridge, Clarion, Feiwel & Friends, Flying Eye, Gecko Press, Hyperion Books for Children, Kar-Ben Publishing, Katherine Tegen Books, Lee & Low, Megan Tingley Books, Millbrook Press, Nosy Crow, Peachtree, Sleeping Bear, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, Tate Publishing, Templar Books, Tundra Books, Two Lions
There were a total of 158 different publishers in the books I read, so don’t give up on your project, there could still be a place for it yet. Keep looking!
Most prolific with 8 books – Mac Barnett
2 authors (Mo Willems, and Amy Krouse Rosenthal) wrote 7 books
4 authors (Linda Ashman, Kelly DiPucchio, Tammi Sauer, and Philip C Stead) wrote 6 books
4 authors (Silvia Borando, Miranda Paul, Bob Shea, and Michelle Robinson) wrote 5 books
11 authors wrote 4 books
26 authors wrote 3 books
96 authors wrote 2 books
620 authors wrote 1 book
That’s 764 total authors! This is great news. There’s plenty of room for all of you!
most prolific with 7 books – Mo Willems, Christian Robinson, and Oliver Jeffers
3 artists (Benji Davies, Dan Santat, and Bob Shea) made 6 books
8 artists (Silvia Borando, G. Brian Karas, Jon Klassen, Melissa Sweet, Erin E. Stead, Peter H. Reynolds, Lori Nichols, and Tom Lichtenheld) made 5 books
20 artists made 4 books
36 artists made 3 books
106 artists made 2 books
521 artists made 1 book
That’s a total of 697 illustrators! No one dominates these things. Everyone can have a shot.
Of the 1000 books, 553 had separate authors and illustrator, and 477 were created by people who did both! That’s almost 50-50. If I’m correct in guessing that most people only do one or the other, it appears that people who do both are at a bit of an advantage.
Number of words:
Wordless – 25
Less than 100 – 67
100 to 500 – 547
less that 500 – 639
more than 500 – 328
500 to 800 – 166
less than 800 – 805
800 to 1000 – 60
more than 1000 – 102
I used to hear we should aim for 500 to 800 words. But more recently, people say picture books should be under 500. These numbers definitely reflect that the shorter books are being published more often. 100 to 500 words looks to be the current sweet spot.
(I’ll talk more numbers later when I look at non-fiction books.)
Most picture books are 32 pages, 32 pages with 8 end pages, or 40 pages. of the books I read, 745 met this standard.
199 books had more than 40 pages.
only 6 had less than 32 pages.
Any questions? I can get more specific with some of this information if you are interested. Just ask. Remember, I only took notes on a fraction of the thousands of wonderful books that are out there. Please don’t be offended if your favorites don’t seem to be represented. I only started this so I could get an idea of the current trends, and I feel that this survey does generally show those.
The next post is about characters – male/female? ethnicity? most popular animal? Part 2, check it out.
Or if you have a fear of Characters, you can skip on over to Genre in Part 3.