Friday, April 29, 2011

Illustration Friday - Lesson

I created this a while ago but thought it was appropriate for this week's word.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Illustration Friday: Bottled

Baby decided to grab a fistful of cookies from the cookie jar, only this one is really a large bottle. He started crying because he couldn't figure out why his hand was stuck.
Aren't we all a little like that? lol

Monday, April 4, 2011

Will You Illustrate My Book?

As an illustrator it's not uncommon to get requests from writers wanting me to illustrate their book. So, I thought I'd post an article that addresses this question.
Usually the question might go something like this: "I've written a children's book and would like it illustrated. Can you do this?"

I find myself wanting to say "Yes, of course I can! I'd love to!" Nothing's more flattering than having someone ask you to illustrate their book. However, the reality is that most self publishers are unaware of the work and time involved and usually have a budget that wouldn't even provide minimum wage. And often, due to lack of understanding of the process, will even ask for the rights or automatically assume agreement includes the original artwork as well. More often than not, after much explanation, both parties end up disappointed. So, here's a brief overview of the typical process.

Typical Book Development

The proper process of developing a children's book involves several stages. Depending on many factors, each stage can take several months. The publisher typically will edit and make adjustments throughout the course of the project and prior to finished artwork (hopefully). The artist has to remain flexible and have a good understanding of what the vision of the author (or publisher) is. (I will use author and publisher interchangeably as it depends on the contractual agreement or whether the author is also the publisher.)

Initially, the artist is given a manuscript of the story to look at. Children's books are simple enough to read through but more involved and lengthy stories may or may not require the artist to read the entire story. In that case only an outline is needed.
Upon discussion with the author or publisher, notes are taken and the artist will create a storyboard. Sometimes the publisher will require a storyboard along with the manuscript upon submission. The storyboard is a crucial stage as it determines how the text will flow as well.

Once the storyboard is approved the next stage is Character development which involves drawing each character in various positions and angles. Remember the artist has to tap into the author's vision, which is not always an easy task.

Next comes the comps or finished artwork, depending on how the other stages went. The medium and style is generally chosen from the start based on the artist's portfolio. Since digital artwork requires computer and a technical level of skill it often commands a higher price tag especially with vector art.

In standard publishing once the book is designed, printed and bound it goes into circulation, distribution and marketing. It has to compete with thousands of other wonderful books! This can be a daunting task for even the most determined self publisher!

Most professional artists will not work with self publishers due to the reasons given above. It is not feasible to accept or consider a "speculative" offer for any professional. A speculative offer is one that says "'IF' it sells, or 'IF' I like it, or 'IF' it gets published, you'll get..." Frequently I'll hear " pay but you'll get credit". I'm surprised at the number of requests that illustrators get like this. What beginning writers don't realize is that a promise based on "IF" is of no benefit to the artist. Eager students may jump at the opportunity only to abandon the project as the realization of the time involved kicks in and the writer realizes the work is below substandard to their liking.

Experienced artists will never accept such an offer and will require a contract with the terms of the agreement spelled out in writing. Also, an artist is chosen by his or her style. It's never a good idea to try and get an artist to draw like someone else. That will just lead to frustration on both sides.


Be aware of so-called "publishers" that charge you a fee of any kind. Those that do are really printers offering some graphic services and maybe an online presence, but they do not market your book. Legitimate publishing of a book is more precise than that and they don't accept just anybody. They invest in your book, handle all the marketing and work with distributing. If you plan to publish yourself be prepared to spend thousands of dollars.

In conclusion, I'd encourage any beginning writer who wants to self publish a children's book to really study, and learn the ropes and understand the costs and time involved. There are many good books out there about self-publishing and submitting to publishers like "The Writer's Market" and the "The Children's Writer's Market" are just a couple. Those books will provide valuable information and increase his/her chances for success. There's a ton of resources available at the local library as well.

If a writer chooses to go with a publisher and doesn't get accepted the first few times he should not get discouraged, but rather take time to re-evaluate the story, and the market, revise and try again. Some of the best stories came from writers that were turned down time and time again only to be published years later, like "The Wizard of Oz" by L. Frank Baum ,"Gone With the Wind" by Margaret Mitchell, and "A Wrinkle in Time" by Madeleine L'Engle.

Also, realize that it is the publisher that choses the artist not the writer. It's their job to know what sells, what style works with what story, etc. So, leave that up to them.
However, if they require you to have a storyboard I can definitely help you with that.
A good story, knowledge and determination is the key!
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