Posted by: Kathy Temean | May 15, 2012

Crafting A Book Dummy

Making children’s book dummies can be a frustrating process-pages buckled, type cut off, spines not lining up—to a point where you don’t want to make dummies at all. But as an illustrator of children’s books, you know that making dummies is an essential part of the process. Here’s a step-by-step guide for making a 32-page picture-book dummy with, hopefully, less fuss:


2 small binder clips
Glue stick
Metal ruler
X-acto knife
Cutting mat*
* Paper trimmers work too, but the knife/mat method gives you more control.


Decide what size your book will be. Some illustrators choose to make dummies at one hundred percent, others create smaller dummies. Making dummies at a smaller size reduces photocopying costs. At fifty or sixty percent, you can usually fit a full spread on a sheet of 11” by 8.5” piece of paper.

Set your manuscript in a basic typeface such as Times or Helvetica and at a smaller size suited to the size of the dummy. The width of the text on any single line cannot exceed the width of a single dummy page, so make sure you give the text some room.

Illustrators usually include one or two finished color samples with the submission package. Some paste the color spreads directly into the dummy, and some include separate printouts. It’s your choice.


1. Photocopy your manuscript and each spread of your sketches. Don’t forget to include title page, copyright/dedication page and end papers. End papers are used to adhere the pages of a book to its cover. Not all illustrators use or show end papers, but they can be a way to tell more of your story visually.

2 & 2b. Cut each spread to dummy size.

3. Fold each spread in half.

TIP:  Make an extra copy of everthing in case of mistakes.

4. Mark the back of each spread with page numbers to keep track. Most picture books follow this sequence:

1 Title Page
2&3 Copyright/Dedication/half title
4&5 Opening spread for story
6&7 Second spread
And so on …
32 Last page of story

TIP: Odd-numbered pages appear on the right and even-numbered pages on the left of a book. If you use end papers, don’t include them in the page count, even though they’ll appear at the front and back of the dummy.

5. Cut the manuscript into blocks of text. Lay out the spreads and decide where each block of text will go. Try to evenly distribute the words unless the context of the story calls for something different.

6. Glue your text to the pages.

7. Fold each spread and compile them back-to-back from page one to thirty-two. Double check that the pages are in order and the right way up. If using end papers add them at the front and back of the story pages.

8. With the folded edges face down on the work surface, tap the pages together to straighten them. It’s important that the spine—which is made from the folded edges of the story pages—be as even and flat as possible.

TIP: Trim oversized pages with an X-acto knife before gluing.

9. Hold compiled pages secure with one hand and use your other to fasten binder clips to the spine. Now you’re ready to glue the pages together.

10. Starting at the back, hold the dummy open where the last two spreads meet. The pages should be blank.

TIP: Insert a scrap piece of paper underneath the lower blank page to prevent glue getting everywhere.

11. Run the glue stick along the outer edge of the blank page. Secure the page above it down with a brandishing tool or your hand. Smooth air bubbles by working out from the center. You have just glued two spreads together and should now be looking at the second-to-last illustration spread.

12. Slide scrap paper inside the illustrated pages, then drop the next page from above. You should now be looking at another blank page. Repeat step 11 and keep going through the spreads until you finish at the top of the stack. Only glue blank pages together.

13. While you’re waiting for the pages to dry, make your cover. Poster board works well. Avoid foam core. If the card stock is too thick, it is harder to make the spine, if it’s too thin, the dummy will be flimsy and less likely to withstand multiple handlings by editors or art directors. TIP: When cutting the cover, add an extra quarter of an inch all the way round plus another quarter inch to the width to allow for the spine.

14. Mark the spine at the top and bottom edges on the inside of the cover with a pencil. Turn card over.

15. With the back of the Exacto knife blade, score—don’t cut—two lines to create the spine.

16. Gently fold the card away from each score line.

17. Holding your story pages securely with one hand, remove the binder clips.

TIP: When cutting, always work away from your art.

18. Align the folded edges of the pages and tuck. 

TIP: Don’t glue text across the fold or an important part of the illustration. squarely into the centre of the spine of the cover.

19. Still holding secure, close the book flat.

TIP: Hold the book at the spine area to avoid pages falling out.

20. Lift the top cover to reveal the back of the first page, which is blank.

21. Cover the outside third of the blank page with glue. Close cover and smooth out from center with hand or brandishing tool.

22. Still holding at spine, carefully turn the book over and repeat step 21. Let glue dry.

23. Add a label with your contact info to the front of the dummy, or the back if you choose to show art on the cover. Et voilá, one finished picture book dummy!

The more dummies—and mistakes—you make, the better the next dummy will be. Feel free to adjust these guidelines to suit your own way of working.

Finally, not all dummies are returned in the same condition that you sent them out in, if they come back at all. Keep a master copy of your sketches and manuscript to whip up a new dummy if necessary.

Now you’re ready to send out your submission—once you’ve written a cover letter.

About Leeza Hernandez:

Leeza, an award-winning illustrator, loves to talk about the art of creating picture books to anyone who will listen. She has illustrated several books for indie and trade publishers and is currently working on her debut book Dog Gone! (2012, G.P Putnam’s Sons). Visit .

You can meet Leeza at the New Jersey SCBWI Conference in June. This is the link to review and register:

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Thanks for sharing, Kathy! I’m always learning something new here. 🙂


  2. Hi! do you draw a cover? or do you leave the cover blanc?


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