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Picture Book Critiques

Picture books are deceptively simple. They’re so short, it seems like you could jot one down in your sleep. But writing a well-crafted, marketable, picture book that captivates, enlightens, and entertains adults and young readers alike is tougher than it looks. Although picture book text is sparse, each book is a masterful blend of important story elements that make them fun, meaningful and memorable.

Are you planning to submit a manuscript? Maybe you've been puzzling over a story that's just not working out. Whether you're an aspiring author, or a seasoned pro, I can help. A kind, but critical look from a fresh pair of professional eyes can be the difference between a good manuscript and a great one. Rejection and publication. 

I offer professional online picture book critiques for fiction and nonfiction, rhyming and nonrhyming manuscripts up to 1000 words. 

What I Offer

A detailed letter that not only celebrates your story's strengths, but pinpoints and discusses important story elements that could be improved such as:


  • story setups

  • character

  • plot/conflict

  • pacing

  • voice

  • story arc

  • underlying themes

  • satisfying endings


A thorough written critique of your manuscript where I'll make specific edits, comments and suggestions about what to reconsider and revise to take your manuscript to the next level and make it shine. I'm happy to answer any follow-up questions. My fee for a picture book critique is $175

Why Me?

I’ve published over 100 books and 500 stories and articles for children that include picture books with major children's book publishers, such as HarperCollins, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Henry Holt, Peachtree, Random House, and Bloomsbury.

My books have received numerous awards and honors, including one of Amazon's Best Picture Book of 2013, NSTA/CBC Outstanding Science Trade Book for K-12, IWLA Book of the Year Award Recipient, a Bill Martin Jr Picture Book Award Nomination, a Charlotte Award Nomination, Cybils Awards Fiction Picture Book Finalist, Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People/NCSS/CBC, Smithsonian Notable Book for Children, One of Bank Street College's Best Books, Rhyme Revolution's Best Rhyming Picture Book of 2016, and a Scholastic Book Club Selection.

I’ve taught picture book workshops, participated on author panels, and critiqued manuscripts for The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) at regional conferences, and judged picture book writing contests for the Institute of Children's Literature.

Some Picture Book Guidelines

Picture books fall within certain word count limits. They're picture books, after all, for children ages 4-8. Fiction picture books may go up to 1000 words, although most are 500 words or less. Nonfiction can go a little higher, up to 1200 words, not including the backmatter. So if your picture book word count has skyrocketed, maybe what you've written isn't picture book. If you're aiming for the picture book market, however, then you'll need to tighten your picture book belt and make some drastic cuts. Slashing the words that you've sweated over can be gut-wrenching, but when you're forced to make cuts, it helps you zero in on the heart of the story—what needs to be there, and what doesn't. For more information about word count guidelines click HERE.

What writers say


"I must say Lori Mortensen 's critique was genius! I love learning from writers. The ideas and revisions are flowing. Thank you!"—Joanna Rowland


​Spot on

"Thank you so much, Lori. You were spot on for your critique and you provided so much more info than my two critique groups were able to give."—Diana Lynn 


Dreams do come true

“Your patience, insight, and incredible critiques helped me SO MUCH and I will forever be grateful to you for that.  As you are well aware, becoming an author was my life-long dream.  I am finally starting to realize that dreams DO come true, and it's just surreal.  Once again, THANK YOU for ALL your help and guidance in helping me become a better writer.” –Liz Pickart


An amazing writing class

“There is no amount of words (not even 1,000) to convey our gratitude for all the help you've provided. Each critique was an amazing writing class in of itself. I wish you could have seen our faces and heard our "omg!" as we read your suggestions. You have challenged us and we have loved it! It's like sitting at the feet of a Master.  Now it's time to let all of this cook in our heads as we go forward.”—Jan Ahders  

Insightful and inspiring feedback

“You made so many strong points … I will spend today studying your exciting critique. Thank you for getting inside my writing so well. Never before have I had such insightful and inspiring feedback!”—Micki Ginsburg


“Your critique is so excellent and everything you said makes sense to me … I had no idea of the necessary structure necessary to ‘reach’ the children with a story. Your quick return is also very much appreciated.”—Gunther Hauk


Recommendations constructive and helpful

“I wanted to thank you once again for your excellent critiques. I am finding your recommendations constructive and helpful.”—Dana Meinders



“Wow! Such a quick response. Thank you so much for your critique. It’s wonderful to get feedback from such a skilled and talented author.”—Kathy Shanahan



"Thanks for your priceless critiques."—Kristy

Wonderful critique

“Thank you so much for this wonderful critique. I really appreciate your kind words, thoroughness and clear and direct feedback. It’s very helpful.”—Jimmy Vee


No better feeling

"There is absolutely no better feeling in the world than getting that first email saying, 'We have accepted your story.' . . . [Thanks for being] such an incredibly dynamic, positive instructor."—Elizabeth

Made me look at my book in a totally different way

“Thank you very much for your insight and critique.  It's made me look at my book in a totally different way.” —Barry Jones-Donaldson

Manuscript Submission Guidelines

Manuscript should be a Word doc or docx document.

Put contact and word count information at the top, single spaced.

Use standard 1-inch margins

Include a title in all CAPS five inches down from the top.

Double space your text.

Use a common 12 pt. font


The Next Step

First, check my availability by sending me an email at lori "at" lorimortensen dot com.


After hearing from me, click the PayPal link, then send your manuscript to me as an attachment. Once I receive it, I can usually get it back to you within a few days.


Picture Book Critique, $175 

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Let's Go!

I love writing picture books. I've been writing for children for over 20 years. If you're serious about writing picture books and joining the world of children's literature, critiques are an important first step in getting valuable feedback, honing your craft, and getting closer to achieving your publishing goals. Why wait? Let's go!

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