Easy Peasy Picture Books

Writing a picture book is easy, isn’t it?

I mean, how hard can it be to churn out a few hundred words, ping your story off to a publisher and BINGO, they’ll fall in love with it and offer you a book contract?

In truth, the reality is much, MUCH tougher than anyone could imagine.

Firstly, unless you have an agent, the vast majority of publishers won’t entertain the idea of looking at your work.

Some independent publishers will, but the chances of being ‘discovered’ from ‘the slush pile’ or submissions tray as it is more politely known, is rare – very rare indeed.

When I embarked on my road to publication, I was as naïve as the next person. Having previously been a journalist and worked in the communications industry for more than 15 years, I knew I had the capacity to write and assumed this would be recognised instantly.

Like heck it was!

To make matters harder for myself, I was writing in rhyme. My children loved rhyming books so I naturally assumed the publishing industry would like it too.

Another misconception!

If a publisher is handed a fantastic story in prose or an equally fantastic story in rhyme, by and large they will opt for the one in prose because it will be easier to sell globally.

Rhyme, done well, may sell in English speaking countries but the financial success of hugely expensive, full-colour, picture books often depends on sales from non-English speaking territories too.

Having to translate rhyme into Hindi, Italian, Russian or Mandarin Chinese will, of course, prove much harder than straightforward prose.

It’s for these reasons that many publishers err on the side of caution.

Another reason why many publishers shy away from rhyme is that it is regularly done badly.

Too often the stresses on words are in the wrong place, the meter is incorrect and the story is forced to accommodate the rhyme.

Of course, stories in rhyme are published but only when they are done competently and usually after months, if not years, of toil by the author.

Even when the story is accepted, the likelihood of it remaining unchanged is virtually unheard of and rhyme and plot will be revisited on many occasions – often to accommodate the illustrations.

More than three years down the line from my initial thought ‘I’d like to be a children’s author,’ I am finally seeing my hard work pay off.

My rhyming story ‘The Dinosaur Who Lost Her Voice’ (Illustrator Francesca Gambatesta) is due out June 27 2019, with EGMONT, proving that rhyming stories are published.

Throughout these three years I have gained an agent and lost an agent (I terminated my contract because the fit wasn’t right) and continued to write in the face of rejection, with and without an agent.

It is this capacity to keep going in spite of the knocks that will single out those who are serious about their craft and those who not.

Lewis Carroll, author of ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ famously said: “Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement.”

JK Rowling said of failure: “You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.”

‘The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe’ author, C.S. Lewis, commented: “We are all failures – at least the best of us are.”

For anyone contemplating writing a children’s book and having that book published by a mainstream publisher, I wish you luck, the power of persistence and the hide of a rhino.

More importantly, I wish you enjoyment. For all my writing ups and downs, I have never given up because I LIKE creating.

If writing is something you can’t stop doing and stories crowd your head demanding attention, it’s probably fair to say you’re a writer.

Welcome to the easy peasy world of publishing.






Hello and Welcome

Chris Balcombe

Thanks for popping by. This is me, Julie, a Mum of two boys, herder of three cats, drinker of tea and dreamer of dreams.

One of those dreams was to become a children’s author and today I can announce dreams DO come true.

My debut picture book ‘The Dinosaur Who Lost Her Voice,’ in partnership with the hugely talented illustrator Francesca Gambatesa, is being published by EGMONT (June 27, 2019).

It centres around Milly Jo, an amazing singing dinosaur who loses her voice in a jungle storm.

Rather than giving up, it is her capacity of pick herself up and forge a brighter future, with the help of her friends, which provides an uplifting message about focussing not on what you can’t do in life, but on what you CAN!

The late theoretical physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking famously said: “Look up at the stars, not down at your feet…and however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can succeed at. It matters that you don’t give up.”

Milly dinosaur is metaphorically thrown lemons in this book but, rather than giving up, she makes lemonade in a positive, ‘can do’ story.

It was inspired by my youngest son’s former speech disorder and our focus, as a family, not only to help him talk but to concentrate on the many other things he could do well.

My son’s story has a happy ending. Equally, Milly’s story shows there is a silver lining to every cloud.

I won’t spoil the ending. That’s for you to discover but I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

If you would like to pre-order this book, please click this link.

For blog posts about my writing journey, please click this link.