Publishing for Children 101 | What is a Storyboard?

A storyboard is a series of small images representing a spread (2 pages side by side) that show a visual overview of the whole story. | Storyboards are usually drawn on one piece of paper to allow the author or illustrator to see at a glance the complete visual narrative.

One of the main function of the story board is to help the author or illustrator evaluate their use of resources. An example of a resource is the number of pages. The printing process requires that the number of pages be multiples of 8. Common sizes are 24, 32, or 40 pages. By far 32 pages is the most common and is where you should begin.

What happens in the allotted space? How long is the beginning? How long is the middle? How does it end? Plan each scene and put them together in a logical narrative sequence. Plan transition from place to place or time to time. It soon becomes apparent if you have too much content or too little.

Draw them in the proportion of the book. Whether it is square, tall, or wide, the format of the book is part of the story telling and should be considered from the beginning of the process.

Download pdf storyboard templates | 32 page square | 32 page tall | 32 page wide

Why is this illustrator’s technique useful for writers?

A story in your head may seem clear and length appropriate. Putting the story into the format of a storyboard gives visual form to an idea in a simple and easy way. “But I can’t draw.” Get over it! There is no need for you to worry about the quality of the drawing because the storyboards are for you to tell your story and no one else needs to see them. The process helps to you to clarify the sequence and pacing of your story. In addition, seeing your story will help you develop it more.

How do you use it to plan out your picture book?

In my book Un-Brella I had originally planed to show the little girl using the “un-brella” to create the opposites of all kinds of weather; changing summer green leaves to colorful fall leaves, wind on a still day so that she could fly a kite, splashing in rain puddles on a sunny day. It seemed great until I started to storyboard. I soon discovered that these different weather event were “events” that didn’t help the story move forward. Telling the story became more important than showing all of the capabilities of the un-brella. It is surprising how short 32 pages is.

I was forced to edit and tighten the narrative and I think that it made the story much better.

Specifically, how does it allow you to plan out scenes? Illustration possibilities? Setting? Action?

Focal point (the first thing the reader looks at) | I like to move the focal point around from page to page. It can move up or down, left or right, and near or far.

The reader’s point of view | Changing the point of view adds interest. It helps to transport your reader from the chair, floor, or bed, into the world of your story. Move them up into the sky looking down, take them underground, or look through a keyhole.

Visual pace | Do you want the reader to quickly move through the spread or spend some time.

A word of caution | Radical changes in point of view can jar a reader out of the story. Make sure that it is enhancing the readers experience.

What are the benefits of story boarding vs dummying?

They are different processes. Storyboards are the big picture while the dummy simulates the reader’s experience. Turning pages adds to the experience. Looking at a book one spread at a time is different from looking at it all at once.

Do you use both story boards and dummies? If so, please describe how the two can be used together.

I use both processes and frequently go back and forth between the two. Storyboards are faster while a dummy gives a more accurate representation of the finished book.

When looking at a dummy here are some questions that I ask.

Does this spread add to and move the story forward?
Has this element of the story already been told?
Does the story need this spread?
Is there enough visual interest?
Is the amount of text, age and story appropriate?
Is it a good delivery?
Is there a beginning, middle, and end?

8 Responses to Publishing for Children 101 | What is a Storyboard?

  1. sylvia french says:

    I found this really interesting and helpful. Thankyou.

  2. Erin says:

    Your helpful instructions & storyboard templates are precisely what I need to map out my children’s picture book idea. Thanks for sharing ;-)

  3. Karen Inglis says:

    Many thanks, Scott, for these. I love how the internet enables us to share!

  4. Thanks for sharing your PDFs and useful information!

  5. Karen says:

    I’m really a beginner but have a 40 page dummy made with illustrations. What is my next step and what do you actually bring to a publisher? If you self publish then where do I go from here? Thanks for your help. This is a great sight. Thank You.

    • scott e says:

      I am assuming that the book is for children. A dummy is a big step. Congratulations! If you are interested in working with s national publisher I would attend a conference with your local SCBWI chapter (Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators). There is a wonderful world of with wonderful helpful people.

      Attending a conference or three will help you gain an understanding of basic publishing vocabulary and process. Because you have been through the process of planning a book you will have a good reference for all of the information.

      Try with a publisher before self publishing if your book has a wide audience. If it is a nitch book or a family story consider self publishing.

      If you are in Utah or Oregon I have some conference recommendations.

      It takes a lot of work but you have already done more than most.

      FYI. 32 pages is the most common number of pages in a picture book.

  6. In art school I was taught that the story does not actually start until page 5, as pages 1 -4 were all utilized for other print matter… title page with pub info included, dedication, library and other pub details, half title – though there are creative ways to integrate art into those pages to begin the story visually, and sometimes a page can be used for two of those as needed [dedication & library info, for example].

    Searching for templates, I see all sorts of versions with and without endpapers for the standard 32 page book. Looking at published books as a model, I see even more. Any information on why?

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