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International Trends: The UK Picture Book Market

Published on 29/06/2023

Illustrations by Advocate Art illustrators Julia Seal, Lia Visirin, Mike Byrne, and Paul Nicholls

International Trends: The UK Picture Book Market
Teacher: Bhavisha Vadgama Art Director of Advocate Art

Over the past few years, picture books have moved into a more contemporary space. So what makes a picture book stand out from the crowd? The key things I look for are emotive characters, bold color palettes, rich textures, and awareness of relatable themes.

When it comes to the character of a story, I am looking for something that connects with the reader; it’s all about energy and interaction. Children and adults connect with the characters the most, and it’s imperative that the characters of a story really bring the narrative alive. The aim is that the reader can imagine themselves in the story and be transported into another world.

Illustration by Advocate Art illustrator Sawyer Cloud.

Diversity and Inclusion
Along with expressive, and proportional characters, diversity and inclusivity are key. Publishers want to see characters of different religions, ethnicities, and abilities in their stories. This is something that was lacking in the publishing industry, but in the last few years, it has been on a strong upward rise, with more own-voice titles coming into lists. I am seeing more titles drawing awareness to various cultures, capabilities, and neurodiversity in a mindful way, without looking stereotypical or cartoon-like. And that is international, not just UK.

The overall style and palettes of picture books have evolved significantly, with traditional styles taking a slight back seat. However, their original textures and softness are still very much in demand today, even through digital rendering. The years of flat color seem like a distant memory and dominate the board book market more, as opposed to Picture Books. With color, textures create depth, mood, and atmosphere, all of which can give you a real sense of the story’s setting, as well as the emotions it wants to evoke in its reader.

Illustration by Advocate Art illustrator Sally Garland.

Bold colours are the way to go! Don’t be afraid of color and contrast, because some of the current best-selling picture books are oozing with bold pops of color, making the key focal points of the narrative stand out. It’s also worth having a balance in the tones, as well as the content of the book. An even balance of full color scenes across double-page spreads, mixed with half-pages and vignette illustrations is a great way of drawing attention to particular areas of the narrative throughout the book.

And lastly, be up to date on the latest themes! Publishers are starting to incorporate more current affairs into their lists as well as high interest elements, so whilst unicorns and other on-trend characters remain ever-popular, it’s important to know what key themes are at the forefront of general society. In our current climate, publishers want to not only provide beautifully illustrated books but an education and understanding to young readers in a soft way.

We look forward to seeing what you illustrate and bring to the future of the picture book market, in the UK and abroad!

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