Over the years, there have been a few questions that arise during conversations with students and others. Although there are no dumb questions, there are dumb answers. No, I'm just kidding. The following are a few of those similar questions that I hope will either answer or at least point you in a general direction where you can continue on your creative path. I will be adding more questions and materials as time goes on, so check back to see if there is additional information.
Does an author have to have their book illustrated before they send it to a publisher?
No. It is actually frowned upon by most publisher when they receive a manuscript that is already illustrated by someone other than the author. If they don't like the art work, they will reject the manuscript out of hand. So, your best bet is to simply send in a well prepared, well formatted manuscript to the publisher in the hope that they will like your story and will ask to publish it. Let them worry about the illustrator. You then can get started on your next manuscipt. Now, I know that many of you may be thinking that authors have control over who and how an illustrator creates images for your story. Sorry to disappoint! The illustrator has their vision, too! Let them do their job of creating images that bring your story to life!
How does an author or illustrator contact a publisher?
The first thing I would suggest that you do is join the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI)! This is a great group of professional and beginning authors and illustrators who know the business. The group teaches professional approaches to good writing, illustrating and business practices. You'll learn the proper way to approach the publishers so that your story will have the best chance of being acquired. Check out the SCBWI link for information on joining.
(My sister, my cousin, my friend, or...) I have written a children's book. Would you take a look at it and see if you want to illustrate it for me?
I generally read manuscripts only from editors with established publishing houses. When I get the story, the publisher has already agreed to the project and will be able to pay an illustrator for their books, most professional illustrators will consider a project only after its been contracted by a publishing house. Once the publisher has bought your manuscript, your editor will know the perfect illustrator for your story. You can always recommend me or any other favorite illustrator in your cover letter, but sending your story without the illustrations is a much better idea.
I've written a story and I'm going to get my best friend to illustrate it for me before I send it to the publisher. She likes to draw, but she is not a professional illustrator. Is this a good idea? Will it help get my manuscript recognized?
Getting a friend to illustrate your story can hurt your chances of getting published. Unless your friend is a professional illustrator, getting them to work up some sketches to go along with your manuscript is a very poor choice. You will have a much better chance of getting the story read, if you send in your work professionally presented without illustrations. If the publisher is interested, they sometimes ask you who you think would be an illustrator for your story, but most of the time, the art director already has someone in mind.
I'm an illustrator. An author has asked me to illustrate a book that they have written. I've always wanted to illustrate a childrens book, so I am excited about the project. The author has never been published, but she thinks that this story will be a hit!
If you are an unpublished illustrator, working on a book which has not been contracted by a publisher is a risk. Most of them will never be published and working without pay only hurts you. If the author has offered you money for your work, then it's up to you whether to move forward. I have not heard ANY success stories of artists who have worked for free. Maybe it happens, but in many years, I've never run across even one.
If a book is going to be published in the trade, the editor will offer the illustrator and advance against royalties. You will usually get paid either 1/3 upon signing the contract, 1/3 upon finishing the sketches, and 1/3 upon finishes, or ½ on signing and ½ on finishes.
The best way to get your work published is to send samples of your art to the art directors. You can buy and ad in an art directory like Picture Book Artists which is used most often by art buyers to find artists. Throughout the year, they will see your art again and again, as they look through the book. Get your work online, so that when art directors want to see more of your work, they can get it quickly and easily.
I'm an unpublished author/illustrator. I have written a story, made a dummy book, and I have sent it many times to different publishers. One editor suggested that I let someone else draw the pictures. But I want to do it. I'm thinking of self publishing my book.
If you could only do one thing in your life, which would it be? Illustration or writing? Is it more important for you to get your book published as an author/illustrator, or could you be happy if another wonderful illustrator brought your story to life? If you are getting comments from editors suggesting theat the story is good, but they would rather see other illustrations, you should listen. Editors know the market. They know what sells. Maybe they see a larger story visually, than you can see.
If you self-publish your book with your own illustrations, you are also agreeing to market that book. Some "vanity publishers" claim they will help market your book, but usually this means they'll do this at extra cost not included in the printing fee.
This is the hardest part. After you've invested a LOT of money to get your book printed, you have to get people to buy it. This usually means peddling them from store to store or school to school, from the trunk of your car. You make more money per book, but you spend so much time selling, you might not have time to write more, or work on your illustration samples.
Do you want to be a salesperson? Do you enjoy this part of the business? Usually the most successful self-publishers are those who have a nich-market. They can get mailing lists from organizaatios which make direct mail marketing more successful.
Think about what the editors are telling you. They usually give very good advice. You might find their responses very helpful in guiding you to a better place in your career if you are open-minded to their suggestions.
How do I find the publisher's addresses? How do I know what publishing house would be interested in my work?
Look around at bookstores, libraries and your kids room to see what kind of books you like. The publisher's name is in the front of the book in what is called the front matter. That's where the copyright information is located along with possibly the website address. Visit the publisher's website to find the Submission Guidelines. There you'll find the type of books the publisher is looking for. The guidelines will give you a wealth of information about the publisher.
Should illustrators have a website?
Since artists are visual people, of course it makes sense for an illustrator to have a website. Back 20 years ago, I took a portfolio to New York. That's when they would actually meet with you in their offices. Now days, I don't think they do. So the next best thing is to have a website where you can show your work, keep everyone up to date on all your goings on, and show what a wonderful speaker you are for school visits. So… yes, YOU NEED A WEBSITE!
In the future, there will be other answered questions. Check back often if you have a question about children's publishing. While I am not an expert, I have had years of experience. And, yes, I also have an opinion or two of what works and doesn't work.
I highly recommend that you check out the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators for more information about writing and publishing in the children's book industry.