UPDATE: See the 2009 List of Picture Book Topics to Avoid
Dial editor, Liz Waniewski (ONE–es-key) spoke at the Arkansas SCBWI 2007 conference. For a couple months before the conference, she kept track of her slush pile pb submissions by category. Here are the top 12 picturebook topics that she received–thus, the top 12 to avoid!
It’s not that these topics are taboo. Instead, they are so common that you must really rise above the competition to be accepted. Good examples of these topics are given, because we need to know our competition.
12 Picture Book Topics to Avoid
- First Day at School 19 Girls and Me by Darcy Pattison. (Obviously–my book!)
- Cleaning up your room Clean Your Room, Harvey Moon by Pat Cummings.
- Tooth fairy The Bear’s Toothache by David McPhail. A Little Brown editor once commented that this book has been in print continuously for 20 years and is still a steady seller for them. She said she’d love to see books that address kid-friendly topics in such a unique way. NOT strictly a tooth fairy book, because the fairy is just implied at the end. Still–it’s a book about losing teeth and it’s competition if you write this kind of story.
- Wanting a pet
- Dealing with a disability (thus, message-driven)
- “Hi! My name is. . . and I am (seven) years old!”
- Visiting Grandma and Grandpa
- New baby Favorites.
- Barnyard stories (! She wasn’t sure why she was getting barnyard stories, but there they were! Rural nostalgia?) Farmer McPeeper and his Missing Milk Cows by Katy Duffield
- Bedtime stories. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown.
- Personal hygiene. Everyone Poops (My Body Science Series) by Taro Gomi
NEW TOPICS ADDED IN 2009
- Monsters acting un-monster-like
- Going Green
- “I Love You” stories. You are My I Love You by Maryann Cusimano
- Baby Bird Learning to Fly
Look for books that would compete with the topic you want to write about. Compare your idea with what’s already out there: How does your book differ? What makes it unique? Why should someone choose your book over those on your competition list?
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