Monday, November 1, 2010

Three Ways to Research Your Picture Book Idea

Has my idea been done before? 

As I write down new ideas all the time, and especially this month during PiBoIdMo, I wonder if they've ever been done before. I've heard that there is no such thing as a new idea, but I'm not sure that's true. There are a million topics to write about and sometimes one topic has been written about a million times. But it only takes "a new idea," or rather a new twist on an old idea, to create a fresh new story plot. When I'm ready to begin writing on a new project, I like to see how it's been done before. There are three ways I do this:

How to Analyze a Picture Book with a Story Board


  1. Basic Google search for my own working title. I see if anything pops up and how similar they are. I also search by topics and include the key words "picture book."
  2. Advanced Amazon search by topic or title, also sortable by year. The ones that really matter have been published within the last 20-25 years. Any older, and they're really not competition. Technically, the more I learn, it's really within the last 5-10 years. If you find something fairly similar within three years, it's probably too soon to send that one out. If it's been 18 years, then your probably safe to send it out, even if it is similar.
  3. Renaissance Learning, a database of tests for elementary schools. This site shows so many more results in addition to Amazon. AND it tells the year of publication, the publisher, a short summary of the book, the reading level, and the word count. INVALUABLE!!! You can search by subject, key words, titles, and sort in lots of ways. You can even do market research by doing a search by publisher.
    UPDATE: This site has been WAAAY updated and no longer has the capability to do free searches. You might be able to access the data with a paid plan.

How do you know if your idea is any good?

  1. You can visualize it in a library.
  2. It's a book you would love to check out. Numerous times.
  3. You get warm and fuzzy inside just thinking about it.
  4. The idea won't leave you alone.
  5. You could recommend it to a teacher  because of its multiple layers.
  6. It's fresh and unique - hasn't been done before.
  7. Ask a child, a friend, a teacher, or a librarian what they think.
  8. Your fellow writers are jealous that they didn't think it up first.  ;)

How to Analyze a Picture Book with a Story Board


News-y things:
  • Congratulations to Cathy Wallace for winning the book Time Cat in my Spooktacular book giveaway!
  • READ FOR LUCK book recommendations coming on Wednesday.
  • Friday - new contest! You're gonna WANT this one! Two winners. 
  • First HIGH FIVE debut picture book author interview on Saturday, November 6. Tara Lazar!


  1. I write YA novels, but I also check before I start planning a story to make sure the idea hasn't been done the same way before. :)

    This is especially important if you're writing novels about vampires or werewolves or angels. They really need to be fresh ideas for agents and editors to get excited about them. Fortunately, I don't write about any of these things. :D

  2. You are definitely a wealth of information. I do so appreciate reading all your helpful articles on this subject. I am new to this arena and would not even have thought about "has my idea been done before".

    Thanks again!

  3. Wow - I had never heard of Renaissance Learning. Thanks for the tip!

  4. Glad I could help, ladies. Hope your flow of ideas is going well, so far. I have three...

  5. Hi.You won a prize in the LDS Publisher comment contest. Send me your mailing address.

  6. Deila, Thanks for joining. Hope you come back often.


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