Thursday, April 30, 2020

#SCBWIdigital workshop: Kait Feldmann presents “Page By Page: Breaking Down Picture Book Pagination”

Kait Feldmann, photo credit: Tess Thomas © 2018

Kait Feldmann is an Editor at Orchard Books, an imprint of Scholastic, where she is building a list of picture books and graphic novels. Kait is also the VP/Director of Special Projects for People of Color in Publishing, the founder and chair of the Scholastic Diversity Committee, and a member of the Diverse BookFinder Advisory Council.

A screenshot of editor Kait Feldmann (above) and SCBWI Executive Director Lin Oliver.

Kait opens with a poll, getting a sense of how many of the SCBWI members attending are authors, illustrators, or both. (We are 70% writers, 4% illustrators, 26% both!)

She explains that she'll be starting discussing the mechanics and production elements of picture books, and how that impacts her decision process as an editor.

She covers hardcover picture book terminology - including
verso is a left page
recto is a right page

Kait's tip to remember which is which: Recto and Right both start with "R".

Why most picture books have a 32 page count, which goes up in sets (signatures) of 8

That's because of how they're printed. Kait gets crafty, showing us how one large sheet gets printed, folded, cut, and stitched.

Every 16 pages are all printed on one giant piece of paper

until it gets folded (and then cut and stitched.)

Then she shows us (with printed materials and even a chocolate bar wrapper) how endpapers work, and the case cover, and the difference between "separate ends" and "self ends". 'Self Ends' means that page 1 (and the final page 32) can no longer be seen- they are glued to the case cover!

Kait explains that she's sharing this because it informs how much space we have, as authors and illustrators, to tell our stories. For a 32 page picture book, it's the difference between 11 spreads to tell your story, versus 15 spreads plus two pages to tell your story!

She gives advice to illustrators (such as not putting anything vital under the jacket flap, as it gets fastened to the clear paper cover by libraries and can't be lifted up by those readers.)

Kait shares so much wisdom,

"In picture books, every spread has the power of a chapter in a novel."

And shows us examples of her process for figuring out the pagination. But she doesn't send that pagination to the illustrator - she tells them the page count, and lets them figure it out themselves.

Kait's advice: Read picture books we love, and study how many spreads have narrative content on them. Break down the pacing. "Don't stress too much about it," Kait tells us, saying that the more consciously we absorb it, the more it will subliminally influence our own writing.

She advises writers to paginate our own picture book stories, calling it "the best exercise I can recommend for pacing." (But remove the page numbers before you submit - tip: you can leave the line breaks!)

There's lots more covering pacing, examples of picture book first pages, and time for Q&A (with two bonus questions from Lin!)

It's an in-depth look into how an editor works on a picture book.

Thanks, Kait!

Stay safe, all.

p.s. - Did you miss it? The video is available for 30 days to SCBWI members here.

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