Which format for your Children’s Book and Why


We posted recently about two different formats commonly used in children’s book publications;  self and separate ended. See the post here. This post led some readers to ask the question, “Why would a publisher choose one format over the other?”  My honest answer was, “I don’t know.”

Luckily,  I have the internet and a number of books I felt confident I could consult for answers! So I dove into my library and my favorite search engine… no avail! I could find plenty of definitions in regards to what the formats were, but very little on exactly why a publisher would prefer one over the other. Ladies and gentlemen we have a challenge!!!

So I took a different route and decided to mine the resources and connections I’ve been building on Facebook.

I’m in a number of  Children’s Book and Publishing groups for Writers and Illustrators. I knew that Art Directors frequent these groups and my hope was that if I posted my question in enough some knowledgeable sort would come to my rescue!

My knights in shining armor arrived speedily and with swords and shields shining!

This is how we posed the question:

We did an article a while ago on separate and self ended books. Since then we’ve gotten questions about why a publisher would choose one format over the other. In our research we have found that cost is a factor but so is tradition. Do any of you have any ideas as to why one format would be chosen over the other aside from what I’ve already listed? Seems like there should be more reasons than those. Thanks!

Children’s Book editor and writer  Harold Underdown was the first to respond.


Mr. Underdown is the writer of one of our essential read books, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Children’s Publishing (Available for purchase in our Library). He also has a website that is a wellspring of articles and insight into the Children’s Market called the Purple Crayon.  Be sure to drop by and investigate it.

Our conversation went as follows.

It depends on what you want to do with the book. Picture books are designed as cohesive wholes. If the illustrator, or art director, wants to include the endpapers as part of the design, and can justify the extra expense, then maybe they’ll be printed.

Thanks Harold. What would be considered a justifiable reason for the additional expense that could be argued? From what I understand even if they do print on the paper on the inside cover, the content still has to be fairly unimportant because libraries will be putting card sleeves, barcodes and stamps in those areas. Is the cost difference between the two formats really that large?

That in turn depends on who you break out the pages… If the interior of the book only needs 24 pages, you actually SAVE money by printing the endpaper. They are an added expense on a 32-page book, especially if you have art rather than a solid color–more art has to be done, scanned, printed.

You can plan your endpapers so the outer parts of the spread are not important, so the library issue isn’t significant.

You might want printed endpapers in all kinds of cases–if you have a visual flow that starts on the front cover, the endpapers could continue it. Or there could be a map. Or some kind of attractive pattern (especially on a 24-page book). Ideally, each book is unique and has its own plan.

The next to ride up on their steed was Emma Dryden!


Emma Dryden is an accomplished Editor who has worked for; Random House,  Macmillan Children’s Books  and Atheneum Books for Young Readers and Margaret K. McElderry Books, imprints of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing. She has a career in publishing that stretches over 25 years.  She now offers her services through her firm Dryden Books.

Our conversation went as follows.

When we’re talking about a 32 page book, you’ll notice that a 32 s-e book affords fewer spreads for text&art and a 32 page book with separate ends afford more spreads for text & art — but they’re both 32 page books.

This is generally a design and production decision and as a former publisher, I can tell you there are a myriad of reasons a publisher would opt for self vs separate ends; that decision is usually first dictated by the book itself — and we consider whether the flow, cadence, art style, and subject matter of the book require a more leisurely opening, more time to open up and move towards the climax (therefore utilizing more spreads as allowed by separate ends), or whether the book might be better served with a quicker opening because it needs less time to get moving and fully realized (therefore fewer spreads as enabled by self-ends). We consider the overall design of the book and whether a half-title is needed, which can effectively slow down the pacing of the opening of the book and add a certain rhythm and expectation to how the book is going to move. (You’ll notice many bedtime books have 1/2-titles, which is done deliberately to set the pace from the first moment you open the book).

It’s also a definite question of cost, as endpapers (colored or printed) add quite a bit to the overall plant costs of a book and a publisher needs to consider the benefits or drawbacks of adding that kind of expense to the book when there might be other costs the publisher would rather invest in that same book, such as an embossed title or a certain weight of paper, etc. Printed endpapers can add a lot to a book in terms of actually adding content to a book before the story begins and after the story ends, but the expense and necessity of adding printed ends becomes part of the decision.

I hope this helps!

I think on separate ended you can probably only print tonal images. While on self ended you have full color options. I’m not positive on that though. I wonder if the paper texture limits what can potentially be printed on one versus the other since self ended would be the same paper type as the book body while separate would be a different paper type than the body?
In terms of printing on endpapers, it can technically be done on both, however it’s more expensive to print on separate ends and, as you rightly note, because the paper for separate ends is usually toothier than the paper used in the book itself, printing on separate ends can be tricky. Normally, separate ends are colored. And I’m seeing more and more publishers opting for self-ends for budgetary reasons.
I hope that answers the question you guys. If you wonder about anything else let us know!  As you can see the answers are out there. We just have to use all our resources to find them. Luckily we work with a community of individuals who are more than willing to share information or at the very least are willing to point us in the right direction. Thanks again to Emma Dryden and Harold Underdown for your insight and assistance!


Leave a Reply