ADVICE FOR FIRST TIME AUTHORS & ILLUSTRATORS
Every year I get inquiries from kind folks asking me to illustrate a story they have written. I am honored and touched by these inquiries. Illustrating is what I LOVE to do, and I am privileged to be in a field where I can create artwork for a living. But there's a lot more to getting a book published than meets the eye. Therefore I thought it would be helpful to set up an Advice & FAQ page to help first-time authors navigate the often confusing (and tedious) road to getting published. These are actual questions I have received from nice folks looking to publish. I strongly encourage you to read this page if you are an unpublished author looking for an illustrator. I also strongly encourage you to do further research on the internet. I have provided a couple of links at the bottom to get you started. I am by no means an expert on all there is to know about the publishing industry, but perhaps this will help you on your journey to becoming an author.
Q. I've written a story, can you illustrate it for me?
A. Im sorry to say, the short answer is no - but I have a very good reason for this. I always recommend to serious, first-time authors that they send their manuscripts directly to professional publishing houses for consideration without illustrations. If you send your manuscript to a publishing house, you will NOT need to hire your own illustrator, and here is why. First and foremost, publishing houses have their own stable of illustrators who have been meticulously hand-chosen by the publishing house. These illustrators are managed by an art director. The art director is a professional who oversees the artwork from cover to cover. They know the trends of the market, and have most likely has been in the business for a long time. They know what they are doing. Should a publisher decide to publish your manuscript THEY will supply the illustrator for your book. Do not waste your money paying an illustrator to create artwork for you that will most likely (99.9% of the time) be rejected by the publisher. Concentrate on polishing your manuscript, and your query letter, and leave the rest to the professionals.
Q. I am planning on self-publishing a children's book, can you illustrate it for me?
A. Again, the short answer is no. Here's the longer answer: I only work with established publishing houses, editors and art directors. Illustrating a book is time-consuming work that can take months to complete (6-12 months, depending on the book). The guidance of a professional art director (and/or editor) is ESSENTIAL to creating a beautiful, polished, marketable finished product. Art directors spend many years in the industry honing their skills, and learning what makes a picture book successful. They know when to trust the illustrator to make artistic design decisions, and when to step in. They play buffer between the author and illustrator. They manage what is often a complicated, tedious, and long process of getting a book to print from start to finish. I prefer to leave all of the 'managing' in the hands of professionals, this way I can confidently concentrate on my job as an illustrator.
Q. Can you send my manuscript to the publishers you have contact with?
A. Again, I'm sorry, but I cannot. While I do have a direct line of contact with some publishers, I do not have any special "ins" (including myself) to getting anyone published. In fact, 99.9% of my manuscripts are rejected by publishers, including the publishers I have already worked with. It's an extremely competitive business, and the reality is most people who submit work will get rejected - including established authors.
Q. I would like to become a picture book illustrator. How do I get started?
A. First and foremost, get yourself a website. It doesn't have to be anything fancy. A "Portfolio" page, an "About me" page, a page with links to your previous work credits/books (if applicable) your contact info, and links to social media accounts, are really all you need. Picture book publishers are interested in consistency. They want to see that you can carry characters, scenes, and layouts in a cohesive and consistent way throughout a book. Make sure your portfolio contains things like children, adults, and animals. Various scenes, such as cities, forests, farms, etc... are also helpful. Illustrations that contain one or more characters in a variety of poses (and facial expressions) is always a good idea. This way the publisher can see that you can maintain the look of the character throughout a book. If you work in more than one style, create two separate portfolio pages on your website for these styles. I would recommend keeping your style choice to just ONE - but its ok to have two at the max (for instance maybe you work in pen and ink, but also gouache.) When choosing artwork for your portfolio, use 8-12 of your strongest pieces that you feel best represent your style. Make sure they look polished and represent your style. It's also ok to add sketches, alongside the finished pieces, but not necessary at all. Once you have your illustration website set up, you can send your link (or upload images) to publishers. Each publisher should provide a HOW TO SUBMIT on their website. You will usually find the link to submit work under CONTACT on their website. There, you will also be able to read their Submission guidelines, and get an idea as to what they are looking for. Some publishers only accept work from agented illustrators. Make sure you check that out before sending your work. Also make sure the publisher you are sending work to actually publishes picture books. If you are wondering which publishers to send work to, go to Amazon and check their picture book list. The publishers are always listed in the book description. It's also a good idea to have an Instagram account. Instagram is a terrific place for artists and illustrators to connect and share work. Make sure you put your links on your website! Once you have your website
Here is a book I recommend to all first-time children's book writers and illustrators. There are many good books out there on getting published, but this one of my favorites. It contains tips and advice on the business, writing query letters, creating marketing material, websites, publishers names and addresses, interviews and more. I buy a copy every year simply because I like to keep tabs on the publishers to see who is or isn't accepting work, or if the editor and/or art directors names have changed, etc. It's really a great resource, please consider picking up a copy.
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