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

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ctripp

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If it weren't for the author, those kids wouldn't have anything to look at and the publishers wouldn't have anything to get rich off.

And if it weren't for the Illustrator the pic book wouldn't exist:)

And how is an illustrator ever gonna get recognized if never given a chance because god forbid, the author suggested him?

That is why Illustrators send their promo postcards to Art Directors (and often to Editors) at publishing houses. Art Directors look for Illustrators, they find them at SCBWI Conferences, on-line, thru Illustration Agents and from direct mail (the postcards we send them) That's how you get discovered, not thru an Author.
An Author is only one part of the team that goes into creating a pic book. Illustrators are often technically called "Author" because you add a whole other dimension to the story.
Authors are good at writing, it does not mean they can judge art, nor which art works best for their book, any better then anyone else:)
I know, I've seen art in pic books and have shaken my head too but then I realize not everyone has the same taste in art that I do:)
 

Ravioli

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You make it mutually exclusive - if you're a good author, you're no judge of art. What about those who are both? Why can't a dog owner know all about cats? Why wouldn't a chef know about accounting? Most people who've seen my work in writing and art would agree I'm decent at both. Why not others? There is absolutely NO reason not to at least look at and consider an author's suggestion. Refusing to discover an artist off the bat because of the way the artist was brought to a publisher's attention, is extremely small-minded and limiting. It might just be the one artist to kick all 5 others off the payroll. If the author's wit is thought to be so tiny the judgement needs to be left exclusively to the publisher, then I'm sure the publisher will have the competence to look at and judge the suggestion rather than reject it beforehand as if there's anything to be scared of.

Also, if the job of the writer makes the writer incompetent in judging art, how is a publisher competent in judging art when he's only competent in publishing? If one person's task precludes competence in another, why wouldn't the other's? I still don't see any justification for rejecting without seeing a suggestion. No downsides, only potential gems to be discovered. It's not like the couple illustrators a publisher has, can ever accommodate and befit ALL submissions. I don't trust the person who illustrated the little mole who had his head shat on, to illustrate a sci-fi book. I also don't trust me to illustrate a western adventure, but any animal stories are in good hands with me but I'm sitting here unemployed because it'd be unthinkable for an AUTHOR to bring me to a publisher's attention... Same art, same artist, but god forbid it's not the typical means of discovery... It's not like it's a risk of wasting time. If you can open a manuscript to read it, you can click through a couple of attached pics.

And errors aren't a matter of taste. Omitting half the toes on a fox's paw or giving Nala Simba's colors, is simply laziness and disrespect towards everyone involed in making and buying the book. It's people with no love for the job who somehow ended up getting it while every other artist on deviantART has more skill and more passion to offer. That's a prime example of a publisher arrogantly thinking himself the best judge of artwork, gone horribly wrong.
 

ctripp

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how is a publisher competent in judging art when he's only competent in publishing?
Publishers have in their employ Art Directors (who are usually Artists) that go through files and files of Illustrators and are pretty good judges of what works in book Illustration. Also, since the Publisher is paying the advances and the costs of printing, marketing, shipping etc, it's their call:)

It's not like the couple illustrators a publisher has, can ever accommodate and befit ALL submissions.

Publishers don't "have" Illustrators (they don't have a few Illustrators working with them) they search for and find the right Illustrator for each particular project out of all of us who submit samples to them, out of all the Agents that rep them, from Illustrator portfolio web sites, etc.

I've just not really seen any "mistakes" in commercially published book Illustration. The Art Director is usually very quick to catch things like too few toes etc, if the Illustrator happens to mess up and since the Art Director and the Illustrator work closely for months and months on one book, they get you fix things you didn't even notice you did wrong (like on page 5 the child's shirt is blue and on page 27 you've used a slightly different shade.

Since Authors know (or should know) not to submit art with their manuscripts, the publishers don't have to think about are they passing up a new Illustrator or not. If an Illustrator wants to work in pic books, they submit their art on their own, not thru an Author.
I hope this writer has been paying you well for all your work though, never do spec work, no one suffers but you:(
 

Toothpaste

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Ravioli, I'm curious, are you currently illustrating something for an author prior to the author having a deal with a publisher, and is that why you are so frustrated? Because the author was planning on subbing the two of you together and now you are worried that the publisher would just hire a different illustrator after you've done all this work? Are you also doing this work for free or for very little money with the hopes that later when the book gets published you'll get money on the back end and now realising that that might never happen and you've done all this work possibly for nothing, not even exposure? That is a reasonable fear to have, and it would absolutely suck royally to be in that position. But it doesn't change the facts, and it doesn't matter how indignant you get about this, the industry is what the industry is. I would suggest that instead of getting mad at how the industry is run you might want to do more research and see how best you can play the game within the industry.

For example, have you considered putting together a portfolio and submitting yourself as an artist to various publishers? I have a lot of artist friends who illustrate for publishers and it's a similar process to become an illustrator for a publisher as it is to become an author for one. You don't have to just sit there unemployed. Nor do you have to wait around for some benevolent author to find you. You can take charge and send your work to publishers without having an author attached.

Also author/illustrators are something a little different. As in, if the author is ALSO the illustrator it is possible to get a gig with a publisher as well. Of course you'll still need that illustrator portfolio. Again, I am friends with several such creators. Have you considered writing and illustrating your own work that way?

I get the anger. We chatted in another thread about doing work for free in the hopes of exposure and you got upset there too when we said one should generally pay artists and as artists ask for pay. I think you feel like things are out of your control and you are not in a position to ask for money and you feel you can't get into the industry and that you are desperately trying lots of different things but they aren't panning out. But I think you need to take a step back and do a lot more research. Because you CAN get into the industry, and you CAN get paid for your work. But you need to take effective steps that actually lead somewhere. You need to follow the rules and play the game. We all do. And guess what? We all get angry too! There are so many frustrating things about this industry. But if we want to work in it then we need to do whatever it takes, including biting our tongue and just doing what we are told to do.

Or you can self publish and not worry about all this. It is a perfectly viable option as well.
 
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Alessandra Kelley

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Publishers are not interested in looking at illustrators that may or may not tag along with authors, as I understand it. That's not the path into children's book illustration, which generally involves submitting portfolios in one form or another to art directors to be consulted in case of need (much like nearly every other professional visual art job).

Arguments about aesthetics, quality, convenience, ease, taste, or artistic judgement are simply irrelevant. The way to break into professional illustration is to get those portfolios out there, keep honing your skills, and hope.

Repeating what was said earlier in the thread, children's book authors should not trouble themselves trying to line up an illustrator. Publishers hire the illustrators and they have access to a pool of very good ones.
 

Latina Bunny

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From what I remember reading in professional articles by art communities long ago, (back when I wanted to be an artist or illustrator), if a person wants to illustrate at a publishing/whatever company, they would have to make a portfolio.

Same with any art career: if you want to be hired as an artist, then one requirement would be to create a portfolio that shows off your best artwork. It's as straightforward as that. :)

Yes, it can be frustrating and can be a pain, but that's the reality. (I guess there's a reason why the phrase "starving artists" exists, lol.) If you want to work in the industry, you have to play their game.
 
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ctripp

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As in, if the author is ALSO the illustrator it is possible to get a gig with a publisher as well

Not only possible, but preferable!:) Publishers love "Authorstrators" (Illustrator/Authors) I'd venture to say that close to half of all pic books being published are written and Illustrated by the same person but yes, this person must first BE an Illustrator. Literary Agents know this as well and while most lit agents won't rep Illustrators only, they do happily look at Illustrator who are also writers. But, that is very different then a writer who hires an Illustrator then wants to sub the package. That is just a no.
As I said earlier, Illustrators who are interested in working on pic book projects with Publishers should be submitting their promo postcards to Art Directors. Follow them on twitter, utilize Instagram. Have a good on-line portfolio to direct them to.
And, do attend SCBWI regional conferences where you can show your portfolio and learn more about the industry from the Art Directors and Editors that speak at such functions!
Giving away work, doing it on the cheap for a writer is NOT the path to being "discovered". Most all of these projects never make it and then who will ever see your work!!!
 

cwgranny

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Usually publishers prefer illustration suggestions be limited to places where the story might not make sense without a specific corresponding illustration. For instance, if a character says, "Kitty!" And all the other characters freak out because what they're seeing is a lion, not a "kitty." In an instance like that, you might write:

"Kitty!" baby gurgled. Mama screamed. Papa fainted. Great Aunt Pim ran shrieking from the room.
[Illustration Note: the kitty is actually a lion.]

But in places where you merely have a preference or a specific thing you envision, publishers prefer that authors let illustrators illustrate. A picture book is a kind of collaboration between author and illustrator with both doing a unique kind of storytelling. So authors do their storytelling with the words and the illustrator does his/her storytelling with the illustrations.
 

Ravioli

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Ravioli, I'm curious, are you currently illustrating something for an author prior to the author having a deal with a publisher, and is that why you are so frustrated? Because the author was planning on subbing the two of you together and now you are worried that the publisher would just hire a different illustrator after you've done all this work? Are you also doing this work for free or for very little money with the hopes that later when the book gets published you'll get money on the back end and now realising that that might never happen and you've done all this work possibly for nothing, not even exposure?
Neither. While it would be disappointing, I would have had my fun and my pay, made a friend, and could probably get his permission to use the images for private bragging/portfolio.

I am "frustrated" that the logic "Publisher/editor knows best, so an author's pick CAN'T be good and SHOULD NOT even be considered" is being defended while nothing short of ridiculous and small-minded, and actually I should not have used the word "logic" at all as there is none. After all, never did I say an author's pick must be accepted or is always better, but I refuse to see the reasoning behind not even considering it. An author, for not being an editor, isn't necessarily less competent in finding good art appropriate for the project. Hell, what if they happen to have the same illustrator in mind?
And it is the author's work the publisher is gonna make another load of money off, so one might just NOT DIE from giving the author the respect of having a look. Plus, many illustrators will misrepresent things. I would never tolerate that to be done to my story. Images are powerful. If the image is incorrect, the story is done. Get a friend with a dog to hold out the leas and climb over it, and take a picture in the middle of the motion. Put it online. The person is kicking the dog. Shamed, death-threatened, fired. No. Images must respect the story and STICK TO IT.

That is a reasonable fear to have, and it would absolutely suck royally to be in that position. But it doesn't change the facts, and it doesn't matter how indignant you get about this, the industry is what the industry is. I would suggest that instead of getting mad at how the industry is run you might want to do more research and see how best you can play the game within the industry.
The industry being what it is, doesn't make it logical or fathomable to reject without consideration, a potential gem. Sometimes your on-site illustrator may not be right for that particular book. That, too, is a fact. No illustrator can take ALL jobs and do them well. You won't find many cute fuzzy animal watercolours in a portfolio full of 3D renders of space- and warcraft. Why not HAVE A LOOK at alternatives just because god forbid the author suggested them? This question is being meticulously avoided. "It doesn't work that way" makes no sense, because sometimes the way it's usually done needs an update or a case-by-case deviation.

Global warming happened with that reasoning. It worked fine, so why change. Now we have 17° Celsius Christmas in the Netherlands. A fast and doable switch to alternatives, nah, that's not how it used to work so well, let's carry on over-producing cattle which farts holes into the ozon layer and needs tons of heat-generating electricity instead of breeding as much as is eaten. It would kill NO ONE to CONSIDER alternatives. EVER. And now we're headed for a 7 billion strong mass suicide. No, wait, 8 billion, because procreating responsibly among humans is also "not how it works".

For example, have you considered putting together a portfolio and submitting yourself as an artist to various publishers? I have a lot of artist friends who illustrate for publishers and it's a similar process to become an illustrator for a publisher as it is to become an author for one. You don't have to just sit there unemployed. Nor do you have to wait around for some benevolent author to find you. You can take charge and send your work to publishers without having an author attached.
Nope, I will make no such efforts :) I have no ambitions in the field as I love drawing and don't want to get sick of it by drawing what I'm told to rather than what I love. If I ever want to illustrate a book, I will do it based on my personal interest and for pay, or my own for the sake of the illustrations themselves - so there will be no trade publishing if my art is to be disrespected by scrapping my hard work to have it replaced without truly considering the need to do so. I mean seriously, how does this scenario look right:

  • Author submits story and illustrations by external artist
  • Editor reads story.
  • Sees included illustrations. Thinks they're great. They do the job. Save time and money of getting own illustrator to it.
  • Throws them in the trash.
...uh what this makes no sense whatsoever.

Also author/illustrators are something a little different. As in, if the author is ALSO the illustrator it is possible to get a gig with a publisher as well. Of course you'll still need that illustrator portfolio. Again, I am friends with several such creators. Have you considered writing and illustrating your own work that way?
I have and I'm done with one short chidlren's book. And it's either with my art, or no deal at all because my art was the point of it. I accept editing text for quality purposes, as is typically done in trade publishing. Likewise, if my art is part of my story, I will accept corrections be made to the existing image - not third party replacements misrepresenting everything. Or else, why not have the editor rewrite and reinvent my story just as my images have been replaced by another's? Why not? You don't change a good story, so why reject good illustrations? Where does one draw the line in maiming and misrepresenting a submission? If the illustrator can decide animals must be humans while animals in the story, let's make the hetero couple gay... the feline hero? A wolf!

I get the anger. We chatted in another thread about doing work for free in the hopes of exposure and you got upset there too when we said one should generally pay artists and as artists ask for pay.
When did I get upset about having to pay an artist? Of course you have to pay anyone working for you unless they volunteer. I said it is not exploitation if you consent. I actually recall saying something rather deprecating about aspiring artists who think "exposure" from an unpublished author would be a worthy payment. But presumably informed consent, no matter how desperate in a situation that is all about ego, is the opposite of (unethical) exploitation, so whoever wants to work for the lie of exposure, I won't stop'em.

I think you feel like things are out of your control and you are not in a position to ask for money and you feel you can't get into the industry and that you are desperately trying lots of different things but they aren't panning out. But I think you need to take a step back and do a lot more research.
The industry doesn't tempt me and I'd rather have no part in anything that involves deadlines but no 4 figure monthlies. I care for my hard - extremely hard - work to be respected. Which would be very easily done by considering, not forcibly accepting, it with any submission it is attached to. Saying off the bat "We don't want your illustrator, we always know best and your picks can't be it because you're not us" is inherently disrespectful and illogical.

I don't care about my success as an artist. I do care about respect. It takes no more than 30 seconds upon knowing the story to see whether or not the art is appropriate. Mind you, I am ALWAYS referring to provided, finished art, not the promise of great art. A minute tops is too much of a show of respect to ask? Browsing deviantART, I know from a glimpse at a thumbnail whether to laugh or look, so I'm sure the editor can squeeze in those extra 30 seconds to decide whether or not dig up a new diamond or stick with the old one. Respect. It costs nothing. Neither does broadening one's horizons when you get it served on a platter. Not "I'd like you to meet my illustrator who lives in a no-streetnames village in rural Timbuktu and has no internet access". "See images attached" is all. That is all it takes to show a hard worker a minimum of respect. No need to even get up.

Because you CAN get into the industry, and you CAN get paid for your work.
I wouldn't ever want that. I nearly rejected the guy I worked with now because I prefer not to commercialise a hobby as exhausting as creating images.
I am upset at the attitude of "OMG NO WE CANNOT EVER HAVE A LOOK AT YOUR PICK BECAUSE WE HAVE OURS!". Because it's illogical, kills potential gems, and disrespects the submitting author and their illustrator. I would never sign a contract disrespecting someone who worked for me. Unless they looked at my pick and have a convincing argument against it ("We know best" isn't one because exorcists tend to say the same).

they have access to a pool of very good ones.
Except sometimes they don't, what then? Let their poor pick maim a book? I have seen nightmares that cannot be excused by "But... but.. style!". I would take a selfie with an example, except when the art is poor for lack of skill or will to please the reader, the entire book flies in the trash and gets a 1 star review. People pay for books. Don't disrespect their money with disappearing limbs, incorrect colors, or the one I will never forget: the cover image of a book about a cat NAMED after his deformity. The cat in the title has a "monstrously" crooked jaw which hinders his eating and is so ugly his once-loving mother rejects him.

I have seen too many shamefully poorly illustrated books where animals had 2 instead of 4 toes, rabbits were yellow in an otherwise natural colour scheme, and limbs had different sizes. That is not style. That is sloppiness at best and lack of skill most likely. There are many illustrations in books and comics where facial expressions convey nothing. If you're not using images to express, why waste money and paper on them at all...

THERE IS NO RISK INVOLVED IN LOOKING.
 

Latina Bunny

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Um, I think you're better off self-pubbing, if you haven't already.

It seems you want a lot of control (or less compromise) over your creative vision, and I think self-pubbing, or going to a smaller/independent pub, may give you more satisfaction or freedom?

Just like anything in life (professions, artist endeavors, joining any industry, etc), sometimes you have to "play the game", or compromise, in order to get far in life (or to just to get somewhere you can do what you wanted to do).

Good luck with whatever you decide to do.
 

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Just to throw a spanner in this argument -- almost every agent I've seen lately who reps children's books wants combined author-illustrators. Thoughts?

1) What "argument"? (The whole authors don't hire illustrators thing vs authors should be able to hire their own illustrators discussion?)

2) I'm not sure I understand what exactly do you mean by "combined authors-illustrators"? Are you talking about author-illustrators? Author-illustrators have been mentioned in this thread, and an Awer mentioned that publishers love author-illustrators. So maybe agents do, too?

It's cool because people can have more than one talent or hobby. :)

If you're saying agents are now asking for authors who pair up with illustrators, then that's cool, too. :D That'd be awesome. :)
 
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Cyia

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When you have an author and an illustrator, they split the advance, if one is given. That would mean that any commission would be split as well. Most agents won't take on picture books for this reason.

When an agent is willing to sell picture books (often for existing clients), it's a better deal for them to have an author who is also an illustrator.

If you're selling your PB direct to the publisher, without an agent (as many authors do at first), then it's not as big a deal if you aren't also an illustrator.
 

ForeverYoursCaffiene

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I think queries are a fine spot to say something like "Illustrated concepts of what I personally vision are available upon request." It suggests you're thinking ahead in the marketing area (what writers are not known to do well in) and can show examples of what you're thinking. You're a business person—they like that. You're thinking about marketing—they like that. However, you don't want to say, "Illustrations of my book are already done and ready to print!"
 
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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.

What if my children’s book is mostly wordless - in that the images carry the story? I am a professional artist, tho not a professional children’s book illustrator.

If I submit my all-picture book to a publisher, will they think “amateur! gah!!” or will they get that since it’s a wordless book, I need to submit it with my images.. They can always say they want their own artist.

thanks!
 

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I’m very curious - this thread is 14 years old. Is this still true? Have social channels / self promo channels, availability of amazing illustrators, ease of self publishing or anything else changed the dynamics? Or is it the exact same?
 

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