Children’s Book Layouts-Self and Separate Ended


Whether you are creating a dummy, just got an assignment or are a writer testing out your page breaks, it’s a good idea to be familiar with how picture books are structured and layed out.

Now, most of you know that a standard book is 32 pages in length. But not all of the pages are for your artwork. Generally only 24-30 are images with the remaining pages being used for end papers, dedication pages, the half title page, title page or copyright page. The placement of the extra pages can vary from book to book depending on the art direction and how the illustrator may want to integrate them into their design.

In a 32-page picture book, you don’t actually have 32 pages for your story. You only have 24-30 pages since 8 are used for the book ends, copyright and title.  24 pages translates to 12 spreads (an illustration that spans the two opened pages in a book).

There are two different types of format layouts for a picture book;  separate ended (colored ends) or self-ended.

Over on  Editorial Anonymous they posted a great way to immediately know the difference between the two.  As well as a very informative explanation of how and why publishers have come to use these formats.  (Definitely worth checking out!)

Go to your bookshelf.  Grab a few picture books. Open one to the first page and grab the first two pages you can hold between your fingers.

Are the two pages made of two different kinds of paper? You’re holding a separate ended book.

 Are the two pages made of the same kind of paper? You’re holding a self ended book.

I did the experiment and came away with two books.

Pingo, written by Brandon Mull and Illustrated by Brandon Dorman is a separate ended book.

The Best Birthday Party Ever written by Jennifer Larue Huget and Illustrated by LeUyen Pham is a self ended book.

A separate ended book has what we call end papers.


End papers are the colored papers that are inserted between the front and back cover and the book block. Thus the other known name for the format of colored ends.


The book block is the portion of the book made up by the half title, title, dedication, copyright and illustrated spreads of the book.

In the separate ended format you have 32 pages and get 14 spreads and two single page illustrations.  Making for a total of 15 spreads for story. This format allows for an additional 2 1/2 pages for the book block.


A self ended book has no end papers.


The book block is attached directly to the cover rather than the end papers. This limits the usability of the first page or so of the book block since librarians use these pages to place information, scanning stickers and whatnot.


In the self ended format you still have 32 pages but only around24 are for story, which means a total of 12 spreads available to the artist. However you can see that artists like LeuYen use these pages to start the story early!



  1. Pat Kahn

    Thanks so much for this post. Very interesting and helpful.

  2. Chitra Soundar

    Great post Amanda. Didn’t know the technical terms until now.

  3. Catherine

    Thank you for this great post, I didn’t realise that there were several variations, thank you for explaining the differences.

    • WilsonWJr

      You’re welcome Catherine. Look for there to be even more variations going forward. With the addition of ebooks and whatnot, the lid is being blown on what is possible. Sky’s the limit.

  4. Jolle

    Yeah, great post Patricia! 😉

  5. Chris Donnelly

    Great post. I’m in the middle of working on my first children’s book for a friend who did the writing and though i have seen the process done by other artists, I hadn’t looked into the technical…so this really helped.

    Thanks again.

  6. Dayne Sislen

    Right on point with helpful information. Thanks again for a wonderful post.

  7. Keri Greenwood

    This was really very helpful, thank you so much!

  8. Sandie Sing

    Fabulous info. I have read picture books for many years to children. I have never analyzed the art format until the past two years. Thank you for sharing this great info.

  9. Rita Lorraine

    Hi there,
    Thanks so much for sharing this. I’ve completed the text on a couple of picture books, but I didn’t have a template layout for an example. Really appreciate your generosity!

  10. ArtguyChuck

    This was VERY helpful! Thank you for laying it out so completely! :-)
    All the best to you there!

  11. Matt Tesoriero

    What are the advantages of one format over another? Or put another way, why would one format be chosen over another? Is there an industry preference?

    • WilsonWJr

      Let m research that for you some Matt. I think that the truth of the matter is that endpapers and whatnot are more traditional than they are obligatory. I know that they would increase the cost somewhat, so it may be more and more common to have books without them rather than with. But I’ll ask a couple of other pro’s in this arena and see what they say before telling you anything definitively. Good question!

  12. Albert A. Olofinnika

    This is a great resource center, Wilson. I really enjoyed the article. Keep up the good work!

  13. Joanne Roberts

    I know this is an old post, but maybe you can answer this. WHY do editors choose one or the other format? I usually use the separate ended format for my dummies. In fact, I plan for that last page-turn and the single page to tell the tag for my story. Should I be doing something differently? Thanks.

  14. Leisa Butler

    Regarding the length of a picture book – Many resources state 32 pages as the standard length. However, I’ve seen books vary from this format. In fact, Madeline is 44 pages. This does not include the dedication, end pages, or publishing info. Can a story be longer than 32 pages if the story and illustrations support the length? If so, is there another standard length?

    I’m working on a project now and would like to keep the story to 36-38 pages if acceptable by the market.

    Thank you in advance for the response.

    • WilsonWJr

      Hey Leisa! 32 pages is the standard but you can most definitely have your book be longer or shorter depending on your story or audience. The most important thing to realize is the attention span of the age group your are writing for as well as to keep your number of pages in multiples of 4! Your book page number should always be divisible by 4 unless it’s going to be an e-book and not physically printed. But even then it’s safest to do this anyway in case you do end up printing a traditional book of your story in the future.(So yes to 36 pages and no to 38 pages.)

      Hope that helps!

  15. Shaun

    Thanks for this very informative post. I have a question: In the self-ended 32-page book, is page 30 ever used for story, as a half spread?

  16. Kathy

    We are self publishing an illustrated children’s book. Manuscript has been edited, now working on layout for press. This is where I need help. We have a graphics techy on our team, just need to know if there is a tutorial you can recommend for proper book layout. Thank you

  17. Eva

    Thanks for this information, so clear and exactly what I was looking for.

  18. Shangshang Cookie

    thank you so much for the article !! especially the template!!! and I didn’t know how to describe the “end pages”, I always used the work lining or facing haha which has caused some trouble, thank you so much!! leant heaps.. and all the best!


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