Designing and writing a children's book is different from writing a text-only book. There are many design options to consider, along with image choices, word placement, and even page count. Luckily, when you know what you're doing, you can easily create a children's book layout or template to work with. And by the time you're done with this article, you'll know how to draft your own children's book template!
- Different Children's Books
- Children's Book Design Elements
- Picture Book Layout Options
- Hardcover and Paperback
- Crafting Your Children's Book Template
Know Your Children's Book
There are many kinds of children's books, each appropriate for a certain age range. Before you start crafting your children's book layout, it's important to know what age range you're writing for.
Children's picture books will be the primary focus of this article. Picture books are generally for kids aged 2 to 5. They combine text and images to tell a story. It's this combination that can be challenging for new children's book authors.
For reference, there are also board books for kids aged 0 to 3. These generally don't have much text; the story is told mostly through images.
On the other side of the picture books, you have chapter books. These are appropriate for children aged 6 to 10. These are also called “early reader” books. A chapter book will still have illustrations, but not on every page.
For a broader look at formatting children’s books with lots of images/illustrations, you can check out my article on how to format a children's book.
Side Note: I recently reviewed another great course on publishing children's books, read my review here.
Picture Book Design Elements
When designing your children's book, it's a good idea to think about the design elements before you get into the nitty-gritty. These elements include:
- Word Count
- Page Count
I'll go over each of these elements, breaking down the established norms to give you a framework to follow. And while you don't have to stick to the norms exactly, following them closely will give your picture book the best chance of success.
Picture Book Word Count
Most picture books have between 200 and 400 words. You generally don't want to go over 500 words in this kind of children's book. The right balance of pictures and words — not just on every page but across the book — will help ensure that the child reading it will stay engaged. And since picture books are also read by the parents, it's important to provide a good experience for all parties.
The ideal per-page word count for a children's picture book is somewhere between 15 and 30 words. However, you'll probably have a couple of pages where the word count exceeds 30. This is okay, as long as you don't go over 50 on any page and you don't go over 30 very often. You can also go as low as 10 words on a page.
Children's Book Page Count
The vast majority of traditionally published picture books are 32 pages. In fact, many self-published kids book authors also stick to this page number. However, there are some picture books that come in at 24, 40, or 48 pages.
If you're self-publishing a book for young children, you'll need to plan for requirements levied by the two major self-publishing companies: Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) and IngramSpark.
Amazon KDP Print has a minimum page count requirement of 24 for a paperback book and 76 for a hardback. In addition, the page count you choose must be divisible by 4. IngramSpark has similar requirements. Your kids' book must be a minimum of 16 pages, with the total count divisible by 2.
If you're not sure which print on demand company you'll go with, just make sure that your book will meet the requirements for both companies to keep your options open. And making a 32-page children's book will do just that.
However, just choosing an appropriate page count isn't all you need to do. There are some other things to consider when it comes to your children's book layout and page count.
Pro Tip: For the best chance of success, you will want to create a print book. Most children's books are sold as print books, although you can also format for ebook to reach the widest possible market.
Children's Book Layout Options
If you're a new author, it's easy to forget about the front and back matter of your book. The front matter includes things like the title page, copyright page, and dedication. The back matter includes things like acknowledgments and marketing information (like other books by you).
These sections are especially important when designing a picture book because they're included in the total page count. In other words, you need to plan for your front and back matter and the story itself. You also need to determine whether your book will be paperback or hardcover, as this will affect the page count as well.
Let's start with paperback children's books, since they're the most popular type.
Paperback Picture Book Layout Options
In a 32-page children's book, the first and last pages (1 and 32) will be single pages. All the other pages will be doubles (meaning you can see both pages at once). With this in mind, it's important to consider whether you want your story to start on a single page or a double.
If you want to open your story with a double-page spread, then you'll have to ensure that your story starts on an even-numbered page. Otherwise, you can start your story on an odd-numbered page.
Here are a couple of possibilities to consider for the start of your book.
- Page 1: Title Page
- Page 2: Copyright (And Dedication, if you want)
- Page 3: Story Begins
With this option, your story would start on a single page on the right hand side, since it's on an odd-numbered page.
- Page 1: Half Title Page
- Page 2: Copyright
- Page 3: Title Page
- Page 4: Story Begins
With this option, your story would start on a left-hand page, giving you the option to do a double-page illustration, if you wish. Or you could do two different illustrations on pages 4 and 5.
With either option, you'll still want to consider the end of the book, as well. If your book is the first in a series, you may want to use a page in the back matter to let readers know about the next book.
If you're self-publishing, you'll want to account for the very last page (page 32) in the book, as this needs to be blank. Both IngramSpark and Amazon KDP Print require a blank page at the back for their barcode. And if you don't have one, they'll add however many pages they need to meet their page-count requirements. Not only will this increase your printing costs, but the book will seem unprofessional, with so many blank pages at the back.
Hardcover Children's Book Layout Options
If you're planning on selling your children's book as a hardcover, you'll need to consider that the first and last pages may be glued down to the inside of the book cover when printed. When the publisher prints a book this way, it's called a self-ended book. So if you're doing the standard 32-page book, you won't be able to print anything on pages 1 or 32, because they will both be glued down.
Another type of hardcover children's book printing requires endpapers or end sheets to affix the content of the book to the cover. This requires 4 blank pages in the front of the book and four in the back. So if you were to do a 32-page book, you would need to add eight pages, making it a 40-page book, since eight of those pages wouldn't be used for content.
These are considerations for designing a traditionally published hardcover children's book — or if you're planning to use an offset printer (which I don't recommend). If you're looking to self-publish your hardcover children's book on Amazon KDP, your book will need to be a minimum of 76 pages at the time of this writing. Unfortunately, this is overly long for a children's book.
IngramSpark might be the better option, as they allow for shorter hardback books. But if your book is less than 48 pages, there won't be enough room on the spine for text.
Luckily, most self-published children’s book authors do well with just the paperback and ebook options.
Creating a Children's Book Template
Now that I've covered some important aspects of children's book layout, I can delve into creating a design template. It's important to note that this isn't a done-for-you picture book template. If that's something you're looking for, check out this article.
If you're wanting to write more than one children's book, it's a good idea to familiarize yourself with some design basics. And while you may work with a designer (if you're not familiar with Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator), it's still beneficial to know the basics I'll cover in this section.
A children's book design template, also called a book map, is a way to ensure that your placement of text and image is varied and optimized for the best reading experience. Even young readers (perhaps especially so) can instinctively spot a repetitive or cookie-cutter book design. There should be enough variation in images and text — and a compelling story — to keep the pages turning. Here's how you can do just that.
Determine Your Story Start
As mentioned above, it's a good idea to know whether your story will start on a single page or a double-page spread. This will help determine your front matter placement, along with the design for the rest of the book. Let your story dictate its opening and go from there.
Brainstorm Your Story Beats
Each page (or double-page spread) should tell a miniature story by itself. Keeping this in mind can help you as you think about your story beats and the illustrations that will go along with them. Each right-hand page should compel the reader to turn the page to see what happens next.
It's helpful at this stage to create a book dummy or a storyboard to help you visualize the story progression. A book dummy is a simple design using paper and a rubber band or staples that you can then sketch inside with rough outlines of the text and pictures.
If you're so inclined, you can do this in a program like Microsoft Word or Adobe InDesign — or in whatever program you feel most comfortable. The idea here is to get a rough draft going of the story beats, helping you determine text placement and design basics.
Consider Common Page Layouts
As you're filling in your book dummy or storyboard, look for those scenes that are the most impactful. These are the scenes that deserve their own two-page spreads.
Conversely, a relatively minor scene could be a good place to incorporate a “page break,” separating the text from the illustration for variety. These are known as vignettes. After all, you don't want every scene to be a spread, just as you don't want every page to be a vignette. While the most common type of page layout is full-bleed (meaning the image goes all the way to the edges of the page), you can also have spot art pages.
By artfully combining full-bleed pages, full-bleed spreads, vignettes, and spot art pages, you can provide variety and use page layouts that are appropriate for your specific story beats!
Remember Word Count
As mentioned above, you'll want to keep the word count around 30 per page — definitely no more than 50. Keep this in mind as you go through and develop your book template. If one scene requires more than 50 words, you may need to create a spread for that scene, or else edit it down until it's closer to 30 words.
Jot Down Art Notes
Everyone has a different writing process. If you're working from a manuscript, you may already have notes of what you want each illustration to convey. If you don't, jot them down for your designer (if you're working with one).
Anything from character movement and angle to color palette and font can help your designer get on the same page with you (pun intended!). If you have graphic design experience and will be acting as your own designer, you may still want to jot down art notes so you don't forget moments of inspiration when it comes time to design the children's book!
Consider Size and Orientation
Crafting your storyboard or book template can help you determine the ideal size and orientation for your book. There are several different size options from Amazon and IngramSpark, and knowing the orientation (portrait or square) is essential when it comes time to illustrate the storybook.
Children's Book Template and Layout: Final Thoughts
There's no right or wrong way to craft your children's book. You can start with the text in MS Word, or you can start with images and add text later. Some authors do both at once.
When it comes time to start the design process, it helps to know common page counts, word counts, and age range. With all that in mind, you can start solidifying the text, illustrations, and flow of the story by making your own children's book template. Think of this as the first draft of the book. You'll probably change a few things as you go along, but having that first draft to chart your progress can be invaluable — even if you’ve written children's books before!