What to know about the selection of picture-book illustrators
ONLINE COLUMN: Writing for Children
Published: January 7, 2009
|Q: Should I submit my own illustrations with my picture-book manuscript?|
A: A publisher does not expect you to submit the illustrations for your picture-book manuscript. Most publishers maintain files of art samples and portfolios from professional illustrators. When they acquire a picture-book manuscript they go through their files and carefully match the text with a particular illustrator's style. Then they sign the illustrator to join the project.
If you want to illustrate your own picture book, it's important to understand that there are countless lessons to learn about writing a picture book. For a picture-book illustrator, there are innumerable "do's" and "don'ts" to follow. Both sets of rules are completely different and very complex. If you are interested in both writing and illustrating, make a decision and choose which one you want to be first—a writer or an illustrator. Develop your skills in one area. Focus on learning all the skills you can in one arena until you start landing contracts and have several published picture books under your belt.
If you wrote a picture book but want a friend or family member to illustrate it, don't submit your manuscript and ask a standard publisher to use the person you know as the illustrator. It's simply not how the industry works. Instead, consider self-publishing with a print-on-demand publisher.
If you are open to having the publisher choose the illustrator for your picture book, submit your manuscript following the publisher's writers' guidelines. Publishing houses have different sets of rules and submission policies for writers and manuscripts than they have for illustrators and artwork. The majority simply won't want to work with a new, unpublished writer who wants to bring his own illustrator on board as well.
Publishers know how tough the picture-book market is. Picture books are the most expensive books to print because of the full-color pages and cost of ink. They are therefore the most expensive books in the bookstore for a consumer to purchase. Often, sales lag.
One common method publishers use to boost sales of a picture book by a new author is to team the story up with a well-known and popular illustrator. With this in mind, you don't want to hurt potential sales of your picture book by having both an unknown author AND an unknown illustrator on the project.
If you're still itching to illustrate your own picture book, wait until you acquire a following of readers who will guarantee sales of a future book. For now, let the publisher match your manuscript with just the right talent to boost your sales and popularity. After you have established a steady writing career with solid published credits, take time to join an illustrators group if you've got an artist's heart. Learn what it takes to develop your portfolio and become a successful picture-book illustrator.
Once your art portfolio is prepared professionally and circulating among various publishing houses, go ahead and let your editor know that you are interested in illustrating your own picture book. There are many beautiful and successful picture books on the market that are both illustrated and written by the same person. Be brave and take that step! Who knows? At this stage in your career, you just might be the perfect illustrator for your very own book.
--Posted Jan. 7, 2009
Nancy I. Sanders
Nancy I. Sanders is the author of over 75 books and has been published by such houses as Scholastic, Reader's Digest, Tyndale and Sleeping Bear Press. Web: www.nancyisanders.com.