A lot of people assume that editing short books takes less time than editing long books. They think YA edits must be easier than adult edits, and that K–2 edits are less taxing than YAs. I can certainly see why someone might think this. After all, fewer words per page = fewer words to edit, right?
Well, yes … but I find that word count has surprisingly little to do with how tough an edit is. In fact, some of the trickiest edits I’ve worked on have been 32-page books for elementary students.
What makes 32-pagers so hard? It’s a whole host of factors, but here’s a brief rundown of the special challenges they pose.
• In short books, every word counts.
When you’re dealing with a 112-page book, you have quite a bit of space to talk through concepts. Not so with primary-grades titles. Short books force you to make your point with far fewer (not to mention far simpler) sentences and words.
• Short books make you pick and choose.
Let’s say you’re editing a book on the sense of sight. Do you talk about nearsightedness? Farsightedness? What about depth perception and how our eyes work together to help us judge distance? Which bits of information are helpful to young readers, and which are simply overwhelming? I struggled with all these questions when editing the Lightning Bolt BooksTM title What Is Sight? (cover pictured). Hopefully I made the right decisions!
• Short books require more explanation.
When you’re editing for the high school crowd, you can pretty much assume they know the meaning of words like predator and continent. K–2 readers, on the other hand, may not. You have to tell them—and you have to do so using very limited vocabulary.
• Short books are more visual.
Young readers require a close connection between text and images. If you’re talking about a particular river in China, it helps them to see a photo of said river. This means that as you edit, you’re constantly asking yourself: Can we find a photo of this?
Authors/editors of children’s books: Do you find short books to be especially challenging? Or do longer books usually take more time for you? Feel free to chime in with your thoughts. I’d love to hear them!