How Picture Books Are Made

Picture books begin with an idea. The idea is written into a simple story and typed into a manuscript.

                 The manuscript is sent to the editor, who discusses it with the writer and suggests changes to make the story better. When it is finished, the manuscript is sent to the illustrator, who breaks the sentences up and decides what will go onto each of the book's 32 pages.

                 Then the illustrator begins to sketch what he or she wants to draw on each page. Some illustrators do this all on one piece of paper in small "thumbnail" sketches to make sure the story has a good pace, enough tension, and variety on each page so it won't be boring. Then the artist draws bigger sketches that may be the actual size of the book. This is called a dummy. The dummy is sent to the editor, who often shares it at this point with the book's designer. Together or apart, they make comments and suggestions to the artist. 

         Sometimes the artist agrees with the suggestions--but not always. Lots of discussion is involved. Ultimately (at the Blue Sky Press), the artist (and the writer) make the final decision. There are times when the artist may ask the writer to change something to improve the book. Or the writer may want the illustrator to make a change.  When everyone is in agreement, the artist begins to paint the final pictures. This can take months or even years. When the artist is finished, he or she packs up the original art and mails it to the editor. 


The day the art arrives is a day of great excitement and celebration! As the editor and designer begin making layouts to see the text and art together, the artist may be sketching the cover art. This can be complicated because, more than anything else, the cover is usually what will make the reader decide to pick up the book--or not. So sometimes covers involve a lot of discussion, and sometimes covers are drawn many, many times before everyone is satisfied. 

      The writer and artist go over the editor's layouts and check for mistakes or places that need to be changed. Then all the materials are shipped to the printer, where they are made into proofs to be approved for color and accuracy. When the corrected proofs go back to the printer, the book is ready to "go on press." Then it is printed, bound, and shipped to a warehouse...where it will one day be mailed to a bookstore...and be purchased and read by you.

Executive Editor Dianne Hess is the editor of ​The Tree House that Jack Built

It was Dianne's idea to have Bonnie add a scene where Jack and all his animal friends gather--and Bonnie wrote it as a "read to me" scene.

​Art © copyright 2014 by Mark Teague from The Tree House that Jack Built, published June 1, 2014 by Orchard/Scholastic. Text © 2014 by Bonnie Verburg. This site is not sponsored by Scholastic Inc. Scholastic Inc. is not responsible for content, permissions, text, or use of videos and images. All rights reserved.