Creative Mind Podcast Episode 24: Taylor Norman on Picture Books Publishing

In this episode of Creative Mind, editor at Chronicle Books, Taylor Norman, shares a behind the scenes look of publishing a picture book from start to finish.

“A good picture book should be able to be read by anybody,” says Taylor Norman, editor at Chronicle Books in San Francisco and our guest on the podcast this week.

As an editor, it is Taylor’s job to find the right manuscript and shepherd it through the process from acquisition to print. No small feat as creating picture books is a multimillion-dollar industry creating memories that last a lifetime. 

Picture Books as an Art Form 

As an art form, picture books utilize the best of storytelling and art. “The crazy thing is picture books are considered a genre, but what’s true about them is that they actually comprise as many genres as any other art form. There’s not a picture book type of story. Every type of story is a picture book story. It just needs to be applied correctly to the form,” Taylor adds. 

Many alumni and faculty have made their names in picture books including past podcast guests like Eda Kaban, Shari Warren, and Julie Downing.  The process of writing and illustrating a picture book is more like storyboarding a movie, each frame or page needs to tell a full story and guide the viewer, or reader, along with or without words. And as most picture books have 50 words or less, this ups the level of creativity and output by all involved.

What It Takes to Publish a Picture Book

Getting your book in front of a publisher like Taylor requires you as the author/illustrator to become immersed in the field. This is not a quick output, or one-off idea to try. The work you create can fill libraries and enter the world of “literature”. Talking to parents is the first step if you think you have a good idea. 

“I think as a parent, you want the right book for the right moment at all of your moments. And there’s tons of melodrama in one day in a kid’s life. And ideally, the picture books that get published address those types of moments in a kid’s life,” Taylor says. As far as the books she is looking for, she’s “interested in books that have a purpose because they’re authentic and they tell a true story that a kid will respond to.”

Becoming A Successful Picture Book Artist

At Academy of Art University, several classes center on children’s book or picture books and paths such as illustration, visual development, animation, and even game design all pull from the idea of short form storytelling with exciting and meaningful visuals. 

To know if you have something, if what you created will sell, Taylor offers this advice, “The ultimate test is whether you can hand it to somebody else who has never seen it before, and they don’t stumble over any lines. They get laughs where the laughs are supposed to come in. The kids are riveted. They aren’t requesting you to turn the page before you want them to. It is more like a script that you’re giving them.”

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