St. Louis Magazine Online Feature Story.

Dayne Sislen children's book IllustratorI must be the luckiest person alive. Just last week Jen Roberts,  a writer for St. Louis Magazine emailed to ask if she could interview me. I don’t know how she got my name. Life is full of surprises. She interviewed me on Monday and today the article was live online.

You can read it here. I am very pleased. Thank you Jen Roberts and St. Louis Magazine. Sometimes I feel like I work each day illustrating quietly in my studio and no one notices. It’s nice know someone cares. I love to talk about and share stories about my fun career.

New SCBWI postcard design entry

The Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) is having a postcard illustration contest. Each card must incorporate a kite in some way. (The SCBWI’s Logo is a kite) This is my  postcard entry. It shows the young dragon Whiff and his friends. I adapted an illustration from a book I am writing and illustrating. As you can see, I have also used this same character on the header on this blog. Whiff hasn’t quite figured out how to use his unique talents.

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Plant the seeds of literacy

By Norah Colvin

This is a repost of a blog by Norah Colvin. I’ve been following Norah’s blog for quite a while, she always has current spot-on information about early childhood education. Norah lives in Australia, where she is a teacher, a writer and founder of ReadiLearn, a collection of early childhood teaching resources. Books are Important for young children.

Picture Books

Read more of Norah’s post via Plant the seeds of literacy — Norah Colvin

Thankful Thoughts . . .

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Illustrated by Dayne Sislen @2014

Each year at this time of year, I take a little time to think about the things that make me thankful. Of course, my wonderful husband and family come first, then supportive friends and my dear patient dog. After that, I think of good health, my warm home and nourishing food. This year I can not help but worry about and pray for those whose lives are not as comfortable and happy as mine. I wish them a Happy Thanksgiving and holiday season filled with peace and love.

I am also grateful for the supportive community I have found in children’s literature,  and publishing. We support and help each other through setbacks and cheer on each success. It’s wonderful to surround myself with talented like-minded people. I am thankful to have a creative and fulfilling job I love, illustrating children’s books.

I think children’s books are important. Children are the building blocks of the human race and the future of the world. Reading is important to build knowledge, imagination and self-confidence.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Dayne

Gigi and Grandma Remember, by Maggie Konopa, illustrated by Dayne Sislen ©2016

Gigi and Grandma Remember, written by Maggie Konopa, illustrated by Dayne Sislen. ©2016

 

7 Steps to get your self-published children’s book illustrated.

 How to choose an illustrator and get your book finished.

 

Funny Cat by Dayne SislenStep one: Choosing the right illustrator.

For professional children’s book illustrators, I suggest: The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators organization’s website SCBWI.org. You can search for the style and media you prefer as well as illustrators living in a certain area. I would strongly suggest you join the SCBWI. It offers valuable resources to anyone in the children’s publishing fields. Another good resource: Childrensillustrators.com. Over 700 professional illustrators are listed.

“Remember the illustrations tell one-half of the story in a picture book. You want to present your book to the world in the best possible way. An inexperienced illustrator can make your excellently written picture book appear amateurish and awkward. Most people buy a book based on its cover.”

 

A budget source for illustrations: You always hear about Fiverr for cheap illustrations.  https://www.fiverr.com. Illustrations can be  purchased for as little as $5 each. Now, don’t get too excited, you won’t get much for $5, but you might find someone to work with you on a tight budget. Be very careful you and your illustrator understand exactly what you require. I would suggest using someone who speaks your preferred language. Automated translations can mess up precise communications. I would also suggest having the illustrator sign a non-disclosure when they read your manuscript. The NDA may not be binding in a third world country, but you will have some reassurance they will at least know you are watching carefully if they are thinking about stealing your book manuscript or passing it to someone else.

Step two: Before an illustrator can give you a price on illustrating your book, they must see your professionally edited and formatted manuscript. If they feel your story will fit their style of illustration and they can create suitable illustrations that will best develop your story for you. They will agree to talk to you about your plans for the book. Picture books are traditionally 32 or 40 pages because of economical printing practices. That means your illustrator will be illustrating at least 14-16 full spread illustrations or 28 to 30 single pieces of artwork. That’s a lot of work, it usually takes  4-8 months. This is how professional illustrators make their living, it is a full-time job. Please set aside a reasonable budget so your book can be professionally illustrated to show off your wonderful story to its best advantage.
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This is my process:
Step three: When I work with a children’s book author, one-third of the total illustration fee is expected before I start.My fee for illustrating picture books usually runs between $6,000 and $12,000 depending on complexity.
I read your manuscript over and over until I am very familiar with the characters and can see them clearly in my mind.  I also might want to add a pet or other background interest to add to the story. I design character sketches for your approval. We also discuss illustration style and colors. We work together on these until you are pleased.
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Step four: I then do rough “thumbnails” of all the pages in the book to see how the action flows from page to page.  This is very important if I skip this step, the illustrations, while nice, will not flow from page to page visually. The illustrations will still be rough at this stage but you will already know what the characters look like (step two). I will need your approval at this stage and the second 1/3 of the total fee.
Step five: Now, I do full-size roughs of all the pages and work on refining the backgrounds. The interior and exterior details in backgrounds will now come into place. At this stage, you should know exactly what the book will look like minus color. I will need your approval again at this stage.
Illus for There's a Mouse on my Head! Illus. by Dayne SislenStep six:  Now I start final linework and the color. I will send you updates as I go along to make sure I’m going in the right direction and you are pleased. At this stage changes become time-consuming and disruptive. Minor changes can be made, but major changes will require quite a bit of work and I will have to charge an extra hourly fee to make them.
I work on all the pages at pretty much the same time. Colors must match from page to page and the style must be consistent. I scan in my drawings and do the painting on my computer. I use Adobe Photoshop with custom brushes that replicate, watercolor, pastel, oil, gouache or acrylic paint. I sometimes use textures to add interest. When all illustrations are complete and you are satisfied, it’s time to put it all together.
Step seven:  Digital packaging. If you choose me to do this stage, I can package and format the book so it is ready for your printer. I do this for you by designing a custom font that works with the illustration for the front cover and the back cover. I set the text for the inside of the book, doing custom fonts and type treatments where needed.
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I then format the digital file to the exact specifications your printer needs. I am always available to work with your printer to make sure everything prints correctly. When all my work is approved and ready to send to the printer or directly to you, I ask for the final 1/3 of my fee.
51af87b93bb5b9fe7517283ad27efd36How long it takes:
If we are able to communicate very quickly when I need feedback and we work smoothly together, The shortest time, start to finish is usually 5 to 6 months. If there are complications or time laspes between steps and approvals, it can take much longer. The shortest time a picture has ever taken me to illustrate, design and package was 5 months, the longest 3 years (the author would disappear for months). It  usually takes 6 to 8 months with 8 months being the safest to plan for publication date.

I hope this blog helps you to make the right choices for your picture book.
I would be happy to talk with you about illustrating your book. I can also help you make the right decisions about printing your book and the business side of publishing.

The Surprisingly Complex Principles of a Successful Picture Book

This is a re-blog of a wonderful post from Chronicle Books Blog. It explains some of the important things to remember when writing and illustrating children’s books.

If you are interested in Picture book writing and illustration, it will be worth your time to visit their site to read the whole blog post.  http://www.chroniclebooks.com/blog/2012/02/17/over-and-under-the-snow/

The illustration below was created by Silas Neal for “Over and Under the Snow” written by Kate Messner .

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Contact me to talk about your story idea. I’d love to illustrate your story and design your book. My illustrations can bring it to life on the page. Dayne Sislen, Children’s book and product illustrator and designer.

 

Is children’s book illustrating a real job?

When people I meet asked me what I do and I tell them I’m a children’s book illustrator, there is usually a brief pause. Then they ask, “Is that a real job or just a hobby?” Most people don’t know that artists actually illustrate children’s books as their full-time job.”

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Every week I get email requests to illustrate children’s picture books by authors or very small publishers who offer to pay me far below minimum wage to illustrate their books. Because my job is fun to do and I enjoy it, they think it’s not a real job and I don’t need to be paid a fair wage. They know they can’t draw well and it would take them forever. But, they think because I do draw well I should be able to quickly knock out a complete 32-page picture book of full-color illustration in a few hours. They think I should illustrate their book for pennies “for the great exposure” it will give me.

Believe me, exposure doesn’t pay the studio rent or utilities. It doesn’t pay for computers, computer software, art supplies, children’s book conferences to keep my skills up-to-date. It doesn’t pay for my website and blog or the cost of updating my portfolio.

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They don’t realize I actually have to read their story several times to fully understand the characters and the story. That I must decide what words will be on each page to build excitement and discovery with each page turn. That I then make a rough dummy book with the text breakdown on each spread and decide what illustration will help enhance the excitement on each page. It’s not enough to simply illustrate the words on the page, I must add another dimension of interest and a back story. The pictures in a picture book tell half the story.

Then I must give considerable thought and drawing practice to each character so I can visualize and draw them from all sides and angles before I start. The traits must be unique for each character. I research period or regional clothes and backgrounds so the book is accurate. I also research the particular genre of the book so the cover of their book will be appropriate but also stand out from others on the shelf. All of this is done before I even start illustrating the story.

At this stage, I then make rough sketches for each page for the author or art director to see to make sure they approve of the direction I am going.

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I then proceed to finished pencils with all details and do a few color trials. When everyone is happy with these pencils, I finally get to start the actual illustrations. Most 32-page picture books have approximately 14 spreads and two single pages of illustrations.

When all the illustrations are finished and approved, it is now time for me to set up the digital files for the printer if the book is being self-published. All the text must be in place and any custom lettering or lettering effects added. The final digital file is packaged and made ready for the printer using not only the correct specifications for exact size with bleed but correct specs for color space and resolution as well.

I also do a lot of mentoring with first-time self-publishers. I can walk them through the self-publishing process and help them make the right choices. I help them carefully check the proofs from the printer or print on demand company they are working with so everything turns out exactly as it should.

Theres a Mouse on My Head!_proof

Illustrating a children’s picture book takes between four to eight months from start to finish. But it can take well over a year if the author or art director is slow to respond and make decisions when I send roughs and pencils for approval at each stage of the process.

 

Illustrating a picture book is a labor of love, but Yes, it is a real job and illustrators should be fairly paid for their expertise and talent.

I love to work with authors and art directors. You can contact me and I will be happy to discuss your book and give you a fair price to illustrate and even mentor you through the self-publishing process.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gigi and Grandma Remember. A story about memory loss.

cover_gigi-and-grandma-social-mediaSo excited! I just wanted everyone to know, the book I just finished illustrating Gigi and Grandma Remember, is now listed for pre-orders on Amazon.com

Gigi notices Grandma sometimes forgets, but she learns to help by giving Grandma clues to trigger her memory. Their bond is strong and they can still spend a silly and fun-filled day together, despite a few bumps in the road. Gigi and Grandma Remember illustrates how children can engage in normal family activities with their loved ones with memory loss and also gives parents a platform for discussion in an age appropriate manner.

Maggie Konopa is the talented author I worked with on this book. She has been a joy to work with on this project of love. Please read more below about her journey to write this book.


Guest post by Maggie Konopa 

To this day, I still find children’s books captivating and enchanting. I had a strong desire to write a children’s book, but I didn’t know where to start. How do I select which of my many ideas to develop? I decided to move forward with a project to dedicate to my mother who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease.  “Gigi and Grandma Remember” was born after researching how dementia affects children, integrating my own personal experiences and imagination.

After too many revisions to count, my manuscript was ready…or so I thought. Professional editors reminded me that an ideal word count for a picture book is around 500 words. My manuscript was close to 1,000 words. Back to the mother of all revisions. The next step was a professional critique. The critique gave me crucial advice. I must trust my illustrator to help me carry the story. This is where Dayne Sislen enters the last leg of my long journey. 

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I researched illustrators online after reading how to choose an illustrator. I found her on SCBWI, Behance and then, of course, her website. Dayne’s experience, customer reviews and portfolio won me over.

Dayne is a highly experienced and talented illustrator. She studied my manuscript and began the sketches for my review. It was uncanny how she captured my visual thoughts on the first iteration. Not only was she my illustrator, she also served as a valuable mentor.


Maggie Konopa uses a few of her personal experiences with her mother as an inspiration to write “Gigi and Grandma Remember.” She lives wherever the Army sends their family and enjoys seeking out a cozy corner to write short stories. Maggie Konopa is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators. Her facebook page is: https://www.facebook.com/MKonopaGigiandGrandma Preorders are now available on Amazon.com.

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Thank You, Jim Trelease! – The Power of Reading Aloud to Children

I believe that reading to your children is one of the most important things you can do to raise inquisitive, intelligent, creative and informed kids. Bravo to Jim Trelease.

Oxford Tutoring

Picture copy.jpg My son, Matt, reading to my four grandchildren.

Reading aloud to my four children is one of the fondest memories I have of their growing up years.  They are all adults now with their own families and busy lives, but I have wonderful memories of cuddling on the couch with them, reading stories together, watching their eyes light up as we traveled to other lands and other times through story.

As a teacher, reading to my children seemed a natural part of the parenting process.  Even when they were babies, they would sit on my lap as we enjoyed books like Pat the Bunny.  As they grew older, we graduated to story books.  Some were fairy tales, some were Bible stories, but all were chances to bond together over printed word. They had their favorites that they asked to be read to them over and over and over. We went…

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Finding the right illustrator for your self-published children’s book.

 If you are planning on self-publishing a picture book using Print On Demand (POD) like CreateSpace or Ingram Spark or an independent printer (that you pay to print your book) you WILL need professional children’s book illustrations. You want to make sure your book will be able to compete with other books in the Kid Lit marketplace.

 

Finding an illustrator is easier than it used to be before the Internet opened up the whole world as a vast viewing and shopping site. But now there are so many choices it is hard to know where to turn. Many “Full Service” publishers who offer the total publishing package (including illustrations that you pay for) are actually predatory con-artists, just waiting to trick you out of your hard-earned money. Some illustrators ask for money upfront and never deliver the illustrations. I suggest using http://www.pred-ed.com to check publishers, printers and agents before you send money. Pred-Ed is an unattractive generic website, but it has a lot of good information on dishonest and predatory folks in the publishing business.

SCBWi Dayne Sislen Gallery Page

SCBWI’s illustrator Gallery

For children’s book illustrators, I suggest: The Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators organization’s website SCBWI.org. You can search for the style and media you prefer as well as illustrators living in a certain area. I would strongly suggest you join the SCBWI. It offers valuable resources to anyone in the children’s publishing fields.

Another good resource: Childrensillustrators.com. Over 700 professional illustrators are listed.

Children's Illustrators

Children’s Illustrators Website

Fiverr

Fiverr website

A budget source: You always hear about Fiverr for cheap illustrations.  https://www.fiverr.com. Illustrations can be  purchased for as little as $5 each. Now, don’t get too excited, you won’t get much for $5, but you might find someone to work with you on a tight budget. Be very careful you and your illustrator understand exactly what you require. I would suggest using someone who speaks your preferred language. Automated translations can mess up precise communications. I would also suggest having the illustrator sign a non-disclosure when they read your manuscript. The NDA may not be binding in a third world country, but you will have some reassurance they will at least know you are watching carefully if they are thinking about stealing your book manuscript or passing it to someone else.

Before contacting an illustrator:

Have your manuscript professional edited and formatted. Most illustrator will want to read your story. They will be looking to see if you have put in the time and effort to have your manuscript in the correct format and edited to work as a picture book.  Illustrators want to work with authors who are dedicated to making their book a success.

When I receive a manuscript I read it several times. If I feel your story will fit my style of illustration and I can create suitable illustrations that will develop your story for you, I will agree to talk to you about your plans for the book. Picture books are traditionally 32 pages because of economical printing practices. That means I will be illustrating at least 14-16 full spread illustrations or 28 to 30 single pieces of artwork. That’s a lot of work, it usually takes me 4-8 months. This is how I make my living, it is my full-time job. Please set aside a reasonable budget so your book can be illustrated to show off your wonderful story to its best advantage.

An illustrator may ask about your plans for printing and marketing. This isn’t just to be nosy, it’s so we know if you know what you are getting into. Are you going to be willing to market your book? A beautifully written and illustrated book will never be found by customers if you aren’t willing to spend time marketing and promoting your book. Amazon does not do this for you. As illustrators we want lots of people to read the books we illustrate.

I usually start with preliminary pencil sketches to develop your idea and characters for your approval then move into more finished drawings for final approval before committing to color. One-third of the total fee is due before each step of the process. The last 1/3 payment is due when I have completed everything to your approval and it is ready to send to your printer or publisher. I work in watercolor, pastel, gouache, oils and with digital brushes that replicate this media. We can discuss which media will work best for your needs. The illustrations for a whole book are usually worked on together, which actually saves time and money. Once I get rolling with the characters, the storyline and matching colors everything moves much faster and smoother. So doing one illustration at a time, isolated from the whole story will take more time and give a much inferior result.

Publishing package: Putting all the finished illustrations and text together for printing or ebook setup is the last, big step. With my background in graphic design, I can help you here. I am able to deliver art in a publishable format, with the text and illustrations placed properly on the page, all ready for printing. I can create custom lettering and design the text to fit around the illustrations. I also work directly with your printer as a liaison to make sure the final book looks as good as it can when it rolls off the presses.

Book covers are very important!
Never ever let the image that sells you book look amateurish or lackluster. In many cases the cover is all a customer sees before deciding to purchase your book. Below is a list  of the main points for a cover:

  • Be eye-catching
  • Look professional
  • Communicate the message of the book correctly
  • Work well at a small size for Internet sales, catalogs and e-books
  • Fit-in, or standout in a positive way in the marketplace for the specific genre

The perfect book cover design should hit the mark on all these points. Do people really judge a book by its cover? You bet they do.

An important word about picture book length:
Current picture book manuscripts being printed are about 300-800 words. Sometimes even fewer words are preferred. Manuscripts with 800-1000 words don’t sell as well, so write tight to improve your odds of being published. Remember that illustrations will tell half your tale, so you don’t need to be overly descriptive in your text.

If you are worried about showing your manuscript to a stranger. I am very comfortable signing non-disclosure agreements (NDA) prior to seeing your manuscript. So there is no reason to worry about your story. This protects your ownership of your story and maintains confidentiality. I can even provide standard forms, that may be amended to include any additional concerns you may have.

Once we agree on my fee and delivery date, I will send you a plain language contract that spells out the schedule, payment timing, and assignment of publishing copyright for self-published works.

The final step: After I receive your final approval and the final one-third payment, I will place all the finished illustration files for your book in a DropBox* folder and email you a link where you can pick them up. If you have decided I should also be the one to put together your book, package it with all text in place and provide digital files to your printer (Publishing package), I’ll email you an electronic proof of your finished book for your approval. Once approval has been received from you on the electronic proof then your book goes to print using your choice of book publishing services. Your book will then be available for sale on Amazon.com, Barnes and Nobel and other booksellers (should you choose).

1,000 books before Kindergarten

Start your child on the best path
for life-long learning.

I think this movement to encourage parents to read to their children very early in their lives is a great idea. The 1000 Books Foundation is a non-profit charity which was founded in 2013 to promote reading to newborns, infants and toddlers. It seeks to create parent-child bonding through reading.

Studies have shown there is a connection between early exposure to reading and early stimulation for brain development. The American Academy of Pediatrics urges parents to read aloud to their children daily. Reading to your children helps children with literacy and language skills. Spending time with your children each day in a shared activity strengthens bonding and development.

My local library has just started a  1,000 books Before Kindergarten Program. I know many library systems all over the U.S. and Canada have similar programs. This is something you can do with your children to give them a solid start in life. There are so many fantastic picture books and story books being published every year that you can discover together. You can also share your childhood favorites with your little ones.

Visit the 1,000 books before Kindergarten website They have instructions, activities, charts, reading logs, book lists and t-shirts. Start your child on the best path for life-long learning.

 

Maybe you have a picture book idea you want to publish. Contact me, I illustrate children’s books. I can help you navigate the complicated world of the publishing business.

 

Children are the building blocks of the human race.

Children’s Books Are My Life. I read them, I study them, I illustrate them and I write them. You might ask how children’s books can capture this much of my time and energy? Children’s books are important to me and they should be to you also. 

There's a Mouse on My Head Children's Picture Book

There's a Mouse on My Head

Picture book I illustrated for Donna Warwick

Children are the building blocks of the human race.

Educating our children to guide them to become the future leaders, innovators and educators of our world is one of the most important things we can do.  Children’s books help young humans form their early outlook on life, their opinions and values. Children’s books expand a child’s world beyond the four walls of their home. They prepare a child for a life of learning and interaction with other children. They help children become open-minded, educated and responsible adults.

Quiet reading time or taking a child to the library or a favorite books store should be a treat. It’s important to foster an early positive love of books and the wonderful world held between their covers. Books should hold a precious place in every home. Our children are our future, we need to make sure they have the best education, wide experiences and open minds to become our next generation of adults.

My love of books has translated into my career. I have always been a creative thinker and a creator. I love the rhythm of words and the look and smell of them on the printed page. I love to take a complicated problem and make it easy to understand with a few simple illustrations and words. My background in graphic design and art direction in the world of advertising gives me an advantage in illustrating and designing children’s books.

 

Don't be a Pig in a Panic! by Leila Leidke

Don't Be a Pig in a Panic!

Picture book I illustrated for Leila Leidke

I love working with publishers and authors to develop characters and bring stories to life. I use my skills in art direction, graphic design and problem solving together with my children’s book illustrations to help authors develop their characters and design their book covers. I design and incorporate the text into the page illustrations for beautiful spreads. For self-publishing authors, I can create the whole package, working directly with your printer, publisher or POD company, so you get the best results possible.

Visit my web site portfolio:www.behance.net/DayneSislenDesign or my website for more information:www.daynesislendesign.com or email me directly:

 Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to the playground to get inspired…