Children's Writers: You Don't Hire the Artist

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JennaGlatzer

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If you write picture books, you've probably thought at some point, "Boy, it would really impress the editor if I hired someone to illustrate this book. Then it'll look like a real book." But really, that's not true. The publisher wants to hire the artist.

They want to choose an artist whose style they like-- possibly someone they've worked with before, possibly someone who's won awards or has a great track record. They'll want to enter into a contract with the artist for the rights to the work, and give specific direction for page counts, style, colors, size, etc.

If you're a professional artist yourself and want to illustrate your own books, sure, submit it as a complete package-- but otherwise, don't hire someone or enlist your cousin or son (who's undoubtedly talented, but likely not what the publisher is looking for).

It will more than likely count as a strike *against* you to submit art with the writing. It brands you an amateur. Some publishers are more than happy to hear your suggestions once they're considering buying your book if you've come across an artist whose style you think fits the book. But before then, don't waste anyone's time or your money.
 

xnova

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This thread was a total blessing because this is the very reason that I came onto this site tonight!

I was wondering if you could answer a couple more questions on this topic. I have recently written my first children's book (non-fiction). I was wondering about things such as layout, etc. In a query, do I need to suggest which parts of the text should go in little "fact boxes", or worry about the layout of the book at all?

Does this mean that for a children's non-fiction book all I have to worry about submitting (in addition to the proposal) is the text?
 
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JennaGlatzer

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Hi xnova! In the query? I'm having a hard time imagining why you'd mention layout stuff in the query, but I might just not be thinking of the right example. Want to post an excerpt of your query, or an example of what you mean?

When I submit the actual manuscript to the publisher, I have noted the parts I intend to be set off from the regular text. Each house has slightly different preferences for how to note this, but for example, Avery (Penguin) wants me to write:

[ BEGIN BOXED INSET ]

Factoid goes here.

[ END BOXED INSET ]

And then continue with my regular text. The layout artist/typesetter can then put in the boxes. (Same goes for charts, graphs, etc. You don't have to actually make them look right-- you just have to put in the information and the layout person will put it in finished form.)

In some cases, you might be asked to provide sketches for an illustrator to use if needed (for example, if you're writing a book about making paper airplanes, and need an illustrator to show what they're going to look like, you'll have to give the illustrator the right idea).

But yes, normally all you'll need to worry about is the text. (And signed permissions, if you're quoting from other people's work.)
 

Christine N.

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The only exception to this rule is if you yourself are an accomplished artist OR are in a writing/illustrating team with a pro artist and trying to sell yourselves as a package deal. Sometimes that does work, and instead of submitting a manuscript you submit a dummy book,

But that's NOT for everyone, and most of the time publishers are only expecting to see manuscripts from writers and art submissions from artists, and they match them up.
 

AnneMarble

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JennaGlatzer said:
It will more than likely count as a strike *against* you to submit art with the writing. It brands you an amateur. Some publishers are more than happy to hear your suggestions once they're considering buying your book if you've come across an artist whose style you think fits the book. But before then, don't waste anyone's time or your money.
Thank you for posting this!
:Hug2:

I'm glad you posted this because so many people ask about this. Do you think this topic should be pinned?
 

spike

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I attended a conference session with a children's author. She said that editors of picture books consider themselves to be the experts at matching words and pictures.
 

xnova

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JennaGlatzer said:
Hi xnova! In the query? I'm having a hard time imagining why you'd mention layout stuff in the query, but I might just not be thinking of the right example. Want to post an excerpt of your query, or an example of what you mean?

I'll post the whole thing in another forum so that I don't hijack a good thread. I need a LOT of pointers.
 

Soccer Mom

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One more question- I know that my story needs tightening up. Verbage can supplanted by a good picture that moves the story. Is there a way to convey that when submitting a manuscript. (ie. another character appears. Instead of saying "Dino came back," it would be obvious simply by looking)

Thanks so much.
 

moondance

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Yes, Soccer Mom - you can indicate in [] or in italics what you want the picture to show. Be very brief though - I once edited a ms that was practically all instructions to the illustrator and very little text, and it was hard going to keep the plot arc in my head. You could put [Illustration: Dino can be seen peeking through the trees] or something like that
 

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Thank you so much, moondance. I wondered if it was appropriate just to put in a few little things like that. I will bear in mind not to go overboard. That will help me a lot.
 

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I'm working on a children's series. I've already finished the first two books with my own illustrator, and we're a really great team. Do you have any pointers on how to sell yourself to agents/publishers as a package deal?
 

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Illustrations for Middle-grade novel

JennaGlatzer said:
If you write picture books, you've probably thought at some point, "Boy, it would really impress the editor if I hired someone to illustrate this book. Then it'll look like a real book." But really, that's not true. The publisher wants to hire the artist..

Hi Jenna!

An artist friend of mine did illustrations for my manuscript back when I was considering self-publishing. He wouldn't let me pay him for them. He only asked that he be credited for the artwork should it ever be used. There are only 8 drawings...it's not a picture book, just a novel with a few drawings here and there.

Anyway, I've since decided not to go the self-publish route. I have not mentioned illustrations in my queries to agents because I had heard it might seem unprofessional, which you've substantiated for me here.

My question is this, should I just junk the drawings completely (or stick them on my website like they are now, just for fun)...or could I mention them to an agent after signing on? I'd hate for them to go to waste, but I would really not be insulted (neither would my friend) if they were rejected.

I had an agent until recently, but his name on the Writer's Beware list is what actually drew me to this website...I mentioned the drawings to him once, but he never responded. Big surprise! ;)
 

PattiTheWicked

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My kids' book is coming out in a few months, and when the ms was first accepted, the publisher basically said, "Hey, give me an idea of the style of illustrations you envision for this book, and we'll see what we can come up with." I went to the library, looked through books, and said, "I'd like to see illustrations along the lines of this person, that one, and this other dude." From there, we sought out an artist, and the one we ultimately selected has done an excellent job -- she's completely gotten into my head and managed to make the words seem so much MORE, simply because of the quality of depth in the illustrations.

Bear in mind this was all AFTER the ms was accepted, tho.
 

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Yeah, I've seen other posts already asking this question. And it seems to be something that's pretty darned important to know.
 

Soccer Mom

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It should probably be up there with the FAQ for children's writing. This and word count for different writing levels (PB, early reader, chapters, MG, YA) are probably the two most asked questions in this forum.
 

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My mother has been wanting to do a phonics book for young kids and wanted me to do the illustartions. After this thread I'm wondering, if she ever goes through with this project, if we'll end up have to do a POD for this reason. Given what everyone's saying, I get the bad feeling we will. *sigh*
 

blue13

JennaGlatzer said:
If you write picture books, you've probably thought at some point, "Boy, it would really impress the editor if I hired someone to illustrate this book. Then it'll look like a real book." But really, that's not true. The publisher wants to hire the artist.

Boy, with my first posting I must be crazy to challenge the lady who runs the joint!
icon7.gif

I believe you're statement is true but I have an opposing opinion. I believe soon are gone the days of this old rule. Honestly, what most publishers really wants is to make $. Read on.

They want to choose an artist whose style they like-- possibly someone they've worked with before, possibly someone who's won awards or has a great track record. They'll want to enter into a contract with the artist for the rights to the work, and give specific direction for page counts, style, colors, size, etc.

I agree and disagree. Publishers do want something they like. But not all publishers have the option of contracting someone whose won awards, etc. If your submitting to a rather large publishing house, I would say don't send artwork. But to a medium or smaller place, definately send artwork if you have it. Contracts can always be worked out, I've done it many times in other print media (i.e. photography, graphic design, and video). The only thing that really matters is if the "complete package" works. There are publishers who take a more "hands on" approch. There are others who just want it done (correctly) so they can market the product. If you arrive with a sellable product, no matter how much pride they have, they will have a tough time turning it down. Read on...

If you're a professional artist yourself and want to illustrate your own books, sure, submit it as a complete package-- but otherwise, don't hire someone or enlist your cousin or son (who's undoubtedly talented, but likely not what the publisher is looking for).

Well, more agreement and disagreement. The key phrase here is "complete package". A little tip, many illustrators/designers prefer to be hired before it goes to the publisher. Why? Read on...

It will more than likely count as a strike *against* you to submit art with the writing. It brands you an amateur. Some publishers are more than happy to hear your suggestions once they're considering buying your book if you've come across an artist whose style you think fits the book. But before then, don't waste anyone's time or your money.

I have alot of disagreement with this section. What truly brands someone as an amateur in any media is sub-par talent and no public recognition. Again think of any other media form. If you were a singer/musician it wouldn't matter if you had all the vocal talent in the world. If someone has more recognition than you they will always be picked over you. They are an easier sell because they have a proven fan base. They may choose to change your image, but atleast you have one. Same with acting, same with sports, same with businesses, I could go on and on. Very rarely will someone choose talent over popularity.

It could go down one of 4 ways:
They like the writing but not the illustrations. (good for writer)
The like the illustrations but not the writing. (good for illustrator)
They don't like the writing or the drawings. (bad for everyone)
They like both the writing and the drawings. (good for everyone)
Where am I going with this?

OK first let me say I am not a writer, I am an artist, so there may be the basis for my argument. However, think of it this way. Are publishers gonna pair a world renown illustrator with a completley unknown writer? Most often not, unless you fall into the "You've Got Outrageous Talent" pool. Even then it may be a tough sell. In any and every media you get caught in the catch 22. The best chance of being published, is to have been published. What are they lokking for? A fan base to sell to. Particularly a NEW fan base to sell to!

So how do you break in? Musicians cut their own tracks and shoot them around. The people who record them (and their equipment) may not be the highest quality but it's something to hear. Actors or filmakers produce independant films, or join theatre. Begining writers should write and if necessary have their books illustrated and publish on their own! Do this not to make $ (that's being an amateur), but to help you build your own publicity and fan base. Filmakers create independant films not to sell, (most create to use their talent and have fun) but so that they can grow a fan base, attract a studio, and get a studio contract! What will often sell your manuscript isn't it's quality alone. But someone with quality and popularuty can rarely be turned down in anything.

And one final disagreement, if they don't want to see artwork done prior to reviewing your manuscript, why would they listen to you opinion later? Doesn't make sense? Sound like a publisher with a lot of options or a lot of pride.

Thanks for reading!
icon7.gif
 

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Well, I'm really going to throw the cat amongst the pigeons here, but anyway ...

If you go onto agentquery and search out agents for PB's, there are one or two, that will only accept subs from writers/illustrators.

Saying that, what we are talking here are are people who can write and have a proven track record of illustrating. It is NOT a case of accepting a writer who has hired an illustrator (or got their friend, aunt, dog, to do the pictures)

I would certainly still go with the guidelines that a writer does not hire an illustrator, but if you are a proven illustrator, then there are places to submit to.

I know, I know, there are some good amateurs out there, but most of them are not good, or are a lot less than average. This I know because I sold second hand paintings for years and was always being asked to give my opinion on someones work. Most of the time, they were awful.
 

moondance

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Blue13, you've given me a lot to think about but I'm still going to disagree with you.

Honestly, what most publishers really wants is to make $.

Well, of course they do. They're a business. They've always wanted to make money - that shouldn't surprise anyone. But what MOST publishers really want is to publish great books. Yes, they want to make money too, but that won't stop them publishing a book that's not a definite sell if they feel strongly that it's a great book.

If you arrive with a sellable product, no matter how much pride they have, they will have a tough time turning it down.

The operative word is 'sellable' here. If you are a first time author who has asked a friend/relative/even professional to draw the pictures, it is unlikely that you have a saleable product. If you are a first-time author, it is likely that the text will need work, and thus the illustrations are redundant until the text is up to scratch. Equally, if you have asked someone who is not a professional artist, their drawings are unlikely to be of good enough quality. There are so many other things to take into consideration too. Many publishing houses have a certain 'style' with their illustrated books - some prefer big, simplistic pictures with bold colours, others like watercolour paintings with lots of detail. The publisher has an established track record in this field and you don't want them to reject your book on the basis that the illustrations don't fit their usual style.

A little tip, many illustrators/designers prefer to be hired before it goes to the publisher

You may be right about this, I don't know. But if I were an illustrator, I'd prefer to be contacted by the publisher because then I know that if I do a good job with the samples, I will definitely be hired and paid. Some illustrators can take up to six months to illustrate a full-length picture book. Why would anyone want to do that on a book that wasn't even under contract? There would be no guarantee of acceptance and thus no guarantee of payment. I am assuming that illustrators need to eat and heat their houses, just like the rest of us. That seems like a crazy way to do things (from the illustrator's point of view)

Very rarely will someone choose talent over popularity

Oh, rubbish. The pop world is nothing like the book world. If you followed this maxim, then no one new would ever break into either market. Books are accepted because they are GOOD. Whether they SELL or not is another matter - of course someone is more likely to buy a new book by their favourite author than by someone they've never heard of, but that's what a publicity department is for.

It could go down one of 4 ways:
They like the writing but not the illustrations. (good for writer)
The like the illustrations but not the writing. (good for illustrator)
They don't like the writing or the drawings. (bad for everyone)
They like both the writing and the drawings. (good for everyone)

You forgot no.5: they like one or the other (words or pictures) but can't separate the two in their visual minds (ie seeing the text without the pictures as you submitted it) and they don't have time to type out a new ms to see whether the text stands up on its own, so they simply reject the lot. They have hundreds more submissions to look at, most of whom have followed the guidelines they set out.

Are publishers gonna pair a world renown illustrator with a completley unknown writer?

No, of course not. My first picture book was illustrated by someone who had two or three years in the business and who had illustrated a couple of easy readers. She had a track record but was certainly not world renowned. Your two extremes are a ridiculous comparison; there is a grey area, you know.

The best chance of being published, is to have been published.

No. The best chance of being published is to have written an outstanding book. Then of course, you need the luck of it landing on the right person's desk at the right time. Of course being published before is going to make them take you more seriously. But if you haven't written a great book, they still won't take it (unless you are a household name and they know people will buy your book just on the basis of that - in which case you are probably submitting to a publisher you have already worked with)

Begining writers should write and if necessary have their books illustrated and publish on their own! Do this not to make $ (that's being an amateur), but to help you build your own publicity and fan base.

No, no and no. Miss Snark's blog says quite clearly that self-publishing DOES NOT COUNT. Why? Because anyone can do it and it is no indication of quality. You are also neglecting the issue of the type of person who is writing. Many writers are not performers and are not happy about 'selling themselves'. Actors, singers and film makers all HAVE to be good at this as part of their job. Writers just have to be good at writing.

The one occasion in which your point of view would be correct is if you have written a very specific non-fiction book and you know that there is a certain market out there that will buy it, and you know also how to contact those people. But where fiction is concerned, the fact that you have self-published and have sold two hundred copies does not matter a jot to your new publisher. Two hundred is peanuts - they want to sell thousands. And, no matter what you might think, practically no one sells thousands of their self-published book.

The publisher has a publicity department. They are the ones who will sell the book. They are the ones who will have ideas about who to market it to and how to sell it.

But none of this matters a jot if you haven't written a great book. Regardless of your track record, if you have written an outstanding book, then someone will want to publish it. It might take years to find the right publisher, but it will happen. End of.
 

PattiTheWicked

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Well, I was going to type out a fairly lengthy post, but I don't have to now.
Moon pretty much hit the nail on the head.

The only thing I might add is that Blue13, you seem to be under the impression that publishing works the same way as other industries. It does not -- it's a weird and bizarre business that makes its own rules. Things that apply in art, music and other media are generally not the rule within publishing.

And I'm sorry, but when nearly every publisher states in their submission guidelines "Please do not sent illustrations with your work", you simply brand yourself as an amateur who can't follow directions when you do what they've told you not to.
 

Jamesaritchie

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Illustrators

blue13, the trouble with your post is that it's all opinion, and shows very, very little knowledge about how publishing works. You don't get to decide what publishers want, how they should want it, or what makes sense and what doesn't make sense, and neitehr do I.

The only thing that matters in the real world is what tyhe publishers say they want, and the way they say they want it.

It's easy to say you believe this or that is going to happen, that this or that will soon be gone, but right now, at this moment, things are the way they are, and publishers do not want illutrations from writers. It's just this simple.

I don;t know what the talk of "would renowed illustrators" is all about. Every publisher out there has a stable of illustrators. Soem are very famous, some are not, but they all work for the publisher, and they all illustrate whatever book the publisher needs illustrated. Finding and paying an illustrator, even for a book by a first time writer, is not a problem for any publisher. They already have an illustrator in place. It isn;t like teh publisher has to say, "Gee, we have a great book where, but where or where can we find someone to illustrate it?"

When a writer also submits illustrations, there's another way it can go other than the ways you mentioned, and a way it most often does go. The publisher rejects everything without even looking at it. When a publisher say not to submit illustrations, they don't mean not to submit them unless you want to. They mean do not do it. Period.

I don't mean to be unkind to illustrators. Most of tehm do a great job. But it is one heck of a lot harder for a publisher to find a good illustrator than it is for a publisher to find a good writer. Publishers have far more illustrators than they need, and the cost just isn't very high to use the best of them.

Now, there are many, many good writers who think they're also good illutrators, but who can't draw stick figures. There are also many very good illustrators who couldn;t write a grocery list without help. Publishers learned a long, long time ago that it makes no sense, and costs everyone time and money, to allow writers to also submit illustrations for just this reason.

This is not to say that a writer can never illustrate his own book. Of course it's possible. It always has been. But there's a procedure for doing so, and this procedure is not to have the writer, or anyone else, go against what the publisher wants, and how the publisher wants it. The only thing going against guidelines will get you is an instant rejection, probably long before anyone in authority even sees your work.

Publishers have sound and solid reasons for the policies they have in place, and this one not only makes sense, it saves any publisher a tremendous amount of time and money.

If you want to illustrate your own books, fine, go for it. But you better do so in the manner publishers ask you to go about it. Believe me, I've been an editor, and still am one at times, and I know how editors and publishers feel about writers who ignore guidelines and policies.

The simple, blunt truth is this. When a person has enough talent in both areas, publishers may be happy to have them write and illustrate the book. If they approach teh publisher in the correct manner, but by and large, the last thing any publisher needs or wants is one more writer who thinks he's an illustrator, or one more illustrator who thinks he's a writer.

Publishers need good writers, and they're hard to find. On the other hand, most publishers already have more illustrators at hand than they need.

But it always, always, always comes down to following guidelines. If you don't, if you just assume those guidelines apply to everyone but you, the editor is probably going to ignore and reject anything you submit, as well he should.
 

Toomanywords

Thanks a million for this thread! I was actually here to find out info for the book I wrote, but it just so happens that my older two children also each wrote their own book about a tragic experience we encountered last year that permanently changed us. They are very excited about their work, but both books have simply stayed on my computer for the past few months, because I was hoping I could get a relative to do the artwork, and knew I really couldn't afford to hire an illustrator; I am THRILLED to read this! I will go home tonight and tell them that we don't need illustrations; I will begin the querry proces for them immediately! This site is incredible in so many ways!
 

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