Picture Book Manuscript Format

Picture book manuscript format flummoxes a lot of aspiring children’s book writers because there is so much potential variety. In my career, I have seen hundreds of examples of picture book format. To help you stand out in the slush as polished and professional, I’ve developed a picture book manuscript format handout that I’ve used over the years to really streamline and clarify the process for writers. (Need advice on actually creating a picture book?)

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Click here to download my picture book format handout as a PDF. Feel free to share!

Picture Book Manuscript Format

Picture book manuscript format tends to vary WIDELY. Some writers have it down. Others think they’re paginating correctly if they allocate a separate manuscript page to each line, resulting in a 32-page Word document that contains 300 words. (More info on picture book word count.) What if a picture book manuscript template existed? It would certainly streamline things. As is, some writers include illustration notes, others stay far away. How do you paginate a children’s book? How do you format illustration notes correctly? This resource answers those questions (and here are more thoughts on illustration notes in your children’s book manuscript).

I’ve put together a handout that answers all these questions and more. No conference or webinar attendance required! Click this link to download the PDF.

How to Publish a Picture Book

Remember that picture book format is just one small component of a successful children’s book submission. You also have your picture book query letter, and, well, the most important thing: an awesome manuscript! Don’t focus so much on picture book manuscript format that you lose sight of character, plot, and writing style. Those are going to take you a lot further than a nice-looking, polished file … but the latter certainly doesn’t hurt.

That’s why I’m offering this picture book manuscript template tool to help you cross this concern off your list.

As a picture book editor, I work with writers on all aspects of the picture book craft, from creating a compelling children’s book manuscript (in proper picture book format, of course!) to nailing the query letter. Contact me for personal, actionable advice on your project.

16 Replies to “Picture Book Manuscript Format”

  1. This is very helpful. Many thanks. Finally someone who emphasizes the need for a good manuscript. No social media presence, no awesome query letter, no critique group (imagine that), just a compelling story. Easier said than done, but just write it friends.

    1. Mary Kole says:

      I couldn’t possibly agree more! But writers want to believe that it’s easier to control and focus on a one-page letter instead of trying to turn out a really amazing 300 pages. (Or 300 amazing words, in the form of a picture book manuscript.) I get it. Human nature at its best. But the manuscript really is the end all, be all, at the end of the day.

      1. Just saw your reply. Thank you. Do you give feedback on query letters? Would love to send you one.

        1. Maren R Safran says:

          What advice do you have in terms of formatting if you drew your own illustrations?

  2. This is wonderful, Mary 🙂 It’s funny (and frustrating) how guidelines on these things can sometimes differ e.g., with page turns vs. without, etc. And I thought always double-spaced?

  3. Finally some info on this! I couldnt find anything on how to format it into a manuscript, some things don’t apply to children’s writing, like no space between paragraphs and I’ve always read the 2 space rule but my book is a rhyming one.

    One thing I did notice in your rhyming example was that there wasnt any “he said” “she asked” like in the first example (no rhyming)
    I have that a lot in mine and I dont know whether it should or shouldn’t be there now
    The gruffalo for example has “said the fox” “said the mouse”
    Will the children know it’s Owl or duck talking in your story? Without “said owl”

  4. Melissa Lasher says:


    Thanks for this gift I didn’t know I needed.

    If a PB MS is all dialogue, would you use quotes? I’m revising one now, no quotes.


    1. Mary Kole says:

      No, I would still isolate the couplets in the same way as you’re doing it with a single-spaced project. So that means an extra space between couplets in addition to double-spacing. The point here is to show how you intend to separate your couplets.

  5. Sandra Givens Scott says:

    I have the pictures to put in the book and the cover for the book. We would like to have it published into a real book.

  6. My book has two main characters, so is it acceptable to format the book using their names before the sentence? Otherwise, it seems confusing with out the pictures. Or is there a better way to format that? I just figured it would be easier the illustrate that way. For example :

    Quinn- Look at that lake!
    Brynn- It is so blue.
    Quinn- Let’s go swimming!

  7. Jessie Blink says:

    What if you are doing your own illistrations?

  8. I’m a little confused at where the query letter should go with the submission of the manuscript.

  9. Thank you for this resource. What’s the best way to format the manuscript of a children’s book with very few words? Is it best to separate each sentence by page numbers, or would you keep them all in one paragraph?

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