Self-Ended vs. Separate-Ended Picture Books

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In our Storyteller Academy classes, we get a lot of questions about pagination of picture book manuscripts and dummies that usually stem from the difference between self-ended and separate-ended picture books, so I’m going to share the best explanation I’ve heard.

In the following Writing Picture Book Manuscripts highlight, Jim Averbeck shows examples of published picture books, so that you can tell whether or not you’re looking at a self-ended or separate-ended picture book. This will make it easier to study mentor texts and plan your own.

Favorite Quotes:

“The book block is the pages that the book’s printed on. And you can take that book block—which is a bunch of folded pieces of paper that are all sewn together—and you can either glue it directly to the board, to the hardcover, or you can glue it to a piece of paper, which you glue to the board.”

“Glued to a piece of piece of paper and glued to the board is separate ends. Glued directly to the board is self ends.”

Now for the important part: we care which type of ends a book has because it determines the number of pages that we have to tell our story.

“If it’s a 32-page book and it’s separate ends, you have all 32 pages to tell your story. If it’s self-ended, the first page (number one) and page thirty-two are glued down, and you can’t use them.”

With self-ended picture books, you lose four more pages to end pages, so that’s a total of six pages that you’re not using to tell your story.

Understanding picture book design gives you a lot more flexibility when it comes to planning your page turns.

Let me know if you have any questions in the comments!

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Myrna Foster
Myrna Foster

Myrna Foster writes and edits content for Storyteller Academy and the WriteRiders Newsletter for SCBWI Nevada. She has spent a lot of time teaching and coaching children, including five years as a preschool teacher. She's also worked as a journalist, and Highlights High Five has published six of her poems.

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14 thoughts on “Self-Ended vs. Separate-Ended Picture Books”

  1. Thanks for the slower read, Myrna! Really helpful and much easier to process. Curious though, how can you translate that to your own MS when making your dummy because I don’t believe you have much control over how it will be ultimately printed, but it’s important for pagination and word count… For example, I envision a recent dummy I made to be separate-ended –– MS is sitting at 41 spreads with text title at page 1 and story beginning page 3. I may indeed need to lose some words to bring that down to 40 but without knowing how it might be printed, it’s difficult to know if I need to really chop the text or a 40-page spread will work. Any thoughts?

    Mary Jo

    1. Hi Mary! I know it depends on the editor, but most of the editors I’ve heard speak at conferences would value your input in the book making process. It’s just a matter of reconciling everyone’s (writer, illustrator, editor, art director) vision and making the best book possible. If your gut is telling you that you need the words and story that you currently have, then keep them. If you think you could chop some of that, then you should try it. Cutting often–but not always–simplifies and improves picture book texts. I don’t know where you are in your revision process. Just make it the best story that it possibly can be and communicate with your editor. They do listen!

  2. Thank you for explaining it so clearly and simply. I’ve joined Jim Averbeck’s class this term–2020. Really love the way it is structured. Was reading a bit outside of the class too.

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