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Children’s Book Specification Charting

By Shari Faden Donahue

Emulate the best! Evaluate the design and layout components of six of your favorite children's picture books:

How does the use of hardcover or softcover impact the retail price?
To what extent is color utilized?
Do the illustrations “bleed” off the edges of the pages or are they “blocked” within specified page margins?
Does the featured typeface complement the illustration style?
Are the interior pages coated (shiny) or matte-finished (dull)?
How does trim size—as well as book orientation (oblong or vertical)—influence illustration design and layout components?

Create a chart to designate the specifications of your six-book sampling, utilizing the following headings:

Retail price
Type of cover (hardcover with dust jacket versus softcover)
Trim size (horizontal x vertical page dimensions)
Trim orientation (oblong versus vertical presentation)
Page count (typically 32 pages)
Paper type (coated or matte-finish)
Color usage (full color process versus limited use of color)
Illustration characteristics (“bleed” versus “non-bleed”)
Special effects (embossing, foil, stamping, sensory-stimulating materials, stencil cuts, etc.)

Include all pertinent information. Be specific and concrete in your observations. Make sketches as necessary. Envision your completed self-published title in full detail.

Though your picture book concept is likely to evolve over time, it is wise to adhere to a basic framework at the onset of your self-publishing project. Based on production cost efficiencies and binding requirements, it is advantageous for your title to simulate the industry standard 32-page children’s picture book format. Include a row in your worksheet that reflects your proposed children’s picture book specifications.