Picture Book Critique Service

I offer an in-depth picture book critique service for picture book manuscripts and dummies. Topics will include, among other things, voice, character development, structure, pacing, plot, and the takeaway. Via email.


I sincerely want to thank Vicky for all her hard work and effort with my recent picture book. Not only did Vicky offer clear and detailed feedback but I felt she truly cared about my work. Thanks to Vicky’s continued efforts and assistance, my book now shines! I would highly recommend her to any first time or established authors.

No prior writing experience is required. Writers of all levels of experience and walks of life are welcome.

If you’re working on a magazine piece for kids, or you’re not sure if it will be a picture book or a magazine piece, that’s fine.

Vicky Rubin worked with me on four of my PB manuscripts pinpointing problems and weak areas in each of them but also encouraging me with what was right in my stories and writing!  I am very grateful for her help and for the many thought out suggestions she gave to take my stories to the next level. She is very knowledgeable of picture book structure and current trends and since she is an author and illustrator her additional insights from an illustrator’s point of view were just another reason to highly recommend her!

Cost of three-round crit: $125 for 3 rounds

If the story is 400 words or less, it’s $100 for 3 rounds.

If you need additional rounds after the three, the cost is $40 per round, $30 if the story is 400 words or less. I do limit each ms to four rounds, unless you do an extensive, substantially different rewrite after the four rounds.

If you get a revision letter and would like help to do the requested revisions, the then that’s fine, even if we’ve already done four rounds. (Note: a revision letter is a letter from an editor or agent that says they may be interested in your story if you implement their suggested revisions.)

Option of one or two-round crit: Just want one or two rounds? Cost: $60 for one round; $100 for two rounds. If you wish, you can start with one, then decide if you want to a second round. For 400 words or less, it’s $45 for one round, $75 for two rounds.

One “round” means I read and comment once–so with three rounds I read and comment 3 times.

I will read your story and make detailed comments and suggestions, both in the text and in a written critique at the end of the text. I may send you some links to read comparable stories online.

Your story in whole and in part, including the concept, will remain confidential before, during, and after the crit, and so will your contact info.

What makes this picture book critique service a good value?

You will receive three thorough rounds of crit, not just one. This gives you a chance to implement my suggestions if you wish, to get your questions answered, and to develop your story with more confidence than you would with only one round. I do not simply write comments that are apart from the story: I write them into the story as well as after them.

From the “critter” side of things, I find it energizing to see a story develop.

My qualifications: As a traditionally published author-illustrator, I can help you visualize your story. For instance, I can suggest where text could be cut and illustrations used instead. I can also shorten texts to a desired word count.

I’m also a judge on the Rate Your Story site. Besides my books, my writing has been published in magazines, including rhyming poetry in Cricket and Spider.

My professional associations include Children’s Book Illustrators Group and SCBWI conferences and meetings. I’m also veteran of numerous courses and critique groups, as well as Storyteller Academy.

As for editing, I have worked as a magazine copyeditor and have done similar work on a freelance basis for various companies. I’m a highly rated proofreader as well.

I believe in facilitation rather than judgement. Some people are very new to the process of writing and feel intimidated; there’s no need to be. I’m firm but gentle.

The crit is not co-writing or rewriting; it’s making suggestions. Obviously, I can’t guarantee that your story will get published in this competitive field. I can give general advice on submitting but I don’t get involved in the process.

Here’s how it works:

Initial free consultation (optional): Send me the full manuscript via email and say that you’d like the free consultation. (If you’re not comfortable with sending it, you can send part of it, or ask whatever questions you have). I’d also like to hear about you, your writing background, and what you want out of the crit–as much as you want to say.

Time frame: I ask for up to one week to complete each round. And, I ask of you to complete the three rounds within three months, to keep up momentum–though this is not set in stone.

Please message me first to check on availability.

NOTE: All pricing is based on manuscripts of up to 1000 words.

The word count of your story is based on the first round you send (the word count for the free consultation doesn’t affect anything). If you have story that’s longer, we can discuss a rate. Usually the rate is just in proportion to the additional words. If it’s just a little over 1,000 the rate would not change but if it’s substantially longer it would. If it happens to get longer or shorter as we work on it, that won’t change the rate.

Picture book editing

I offer an array of editorial services: substantive editing, line editing, and proofreading/copyediting. The price depends on the length of the story and level of editing. I don’t rewrite, or co-write; I work with you on correcting errors, improving wording, flagging anything that may come across as unintentional bias, flagging references and terms that readers might not understand, and mentioning if I think there are too many (or too few) art notes.

Query letter critique

I can help you develop your query letter until it’s ready to send. Cost: $45 if I have critiqued the story, $65 if I have not, in which case you need to send the picture book manuscript so I can read it.

I’ll start by asking you questions until the query takes shape, then together we’ll work on developing the pitch, synopsis, bio, and other elements of a letter. For instance, we might look for “comps” (published books that are similar to yours). If you already have a draft, we can start with that. If not, I am going to ask you to write one. Because some submissions are done via online form, I will go over your letter and give you a second version designed to work in those forms, when you have to break it into different parts.

Query letter critiques include editing and proofreading. Most query letters are done by email.

Dummy and Art Critiques

Dummy critique cost: $100. This will not include a story critique, although of course I would read the text to examine the interplay between art and text. If you have purchased a text critique, the dummy critique will be $75.

The dummy crit is one round plus a shorter follow-up round where I will look at your changes and make additional comments.

I look at composition, color palette, pacing, rhythm, text placement, variation of point of view, movement, emotion, relationships, continuity, conclusion, and consistency of characters. Using digital stickies, I will add comments to your dummy. I will critique both the black and white drawings and color ones that are part of it.

When submitting a dummy to a publisher, it should be in black and white with 1-3 color finishes. If you plan to submit it, do not do it all in color. Publishers will want changes and to know you’re flexible.

Art critique: If you are not doing a dummy but instead submitting 1-3 pieces of finished art, I’m happy to critique the art, make suggestions, and and answer your questions. Cost: $25 for 1 to 3 pieces.

My qualifications: My experience as an illustrator and art teacher, my picture-book coursework and self-study, my masters degree in art education, and my observation of hundreds of crits of my own and others’ work given by editors and art directors. (Over my time as an officer in the Children’s Book Illustrators Group, we invite industry people to do crits, so I’ve seen a lot!) have helped me learn to make meaningful comments.

Self-publishing and need an illustrator?

Due to time constraints, I’m not currently offering illustration for self-publishing authors. If you’re seeking an illustrator, please see cbig-nyc.com and/or this handy illustrators matchup service offered by illustrator/teacher Mark Mitchell (I also recommend his illustration courses)!

If you’re at all serious about children’s books, I strongly recommend joining SCBWI, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. 

Hope you’ll consider using my picture book manuscript critique and other services. I think you will find it to be a positive and affordable experience. If you have any questions, or need something you don’t see covered here, feel free to contact me.

Middle grade and YA critiques

I don’t do these a lot as they aren’t really my area. However, as several people have asked me for these after I’ve critiqued their picture books, and I have been glad to them, but I can’t say I have experience writing them. I can also highly recommend and refer you to a published middle-grade author and writing teacher if you would prefer.