Many children’s book illustrators are resistant to work with self-publishing authors.
As a professional illustrator, I get emails from self-publishing authors all the time. They love my illustrations and want me to illustrate their book. They want me to quote a price by return email. But they don’t tell me anything about their book. Is it a picture book, chapter book or middle grade? How many illustrated pages they need or how many characters? Occasionally an author will say I don’t need a big fancy book, they only want a small book. Don’t spend much time on it, I don’t have much money. How much will that be? These questions put me in an awkward position. I don’t have enough information to give them a price or decide if I want to illustrate their book.
Some authors want me to just “sketch-up” something fast. “Don’t spend any time.” But they want the main character to look like their niece at four years old wearing the dress they gave her for her birthday. The little boy character to look like the boy on that program on TV (they can’t remember the name of) only change his hair to blond. The house in the background should look just like their Aunt Ethel’s house, they don’t have a picture, but it has shutters. AND of course, the dog should look like their deceased dog Rover (they do have many pictures). –Yes, people have asked me to do all of these things. None of this is fast or easy for me at all.
I can already tell some authors will take a lot of my time and will not value my experience or expertise. Do I give them a ballpark figure that covers all kinds of books and situations, or do I probe for more details? Probing takes my time away from other jobs.
Some hints about how to find and work with an illustrator:
• Do your research, search Google, Yahoo or Bing for “children’s book illustrators.” Read their websites and blogs. Go to organization websites for illustrators such as the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators www. SCBWI.org or ChildrensIllustrators.com
• Here is a link to another post of mine that shows where to find illustrators.
• When you find an illustrator you want to work with be nice when you contact them. Nice goes a long way.
• When contacting the illustrator to get pricing, give all the details they will need to decide how long your book will take to illustrate. What kind of book for children is it? What age child is the book for. Give them an idea of the length of the book, how many characters, how detailed do you want the backgrounds, do you want spreads or single pages, cover and back cover. Will the illustrator also be designing and digitally assembling the book for printing?
I usually respond by telling them:
• Most picture books are 32-pages with approx 14 spreads and one or two single pages illustrated. They also will need a cover, back cover and a title page. If the author also needs the cover and interior pages designed with the text in place that requires more time and costs more. I highly suggest adding and packaging the text be done by a professional graphic designer or an illustrator who specializes in design. Even if your book is well illustrated and well-written, poor design can undermine the entire look and quality of the book.
• If it’s a chapter book you will need a color cover, back cover and at least one illustration (color or black and white) per chapter.
• Middle-grade books have a color cover and several or no black and white inside illustrations.
• I also absolutely positively need to read your manuscript before I decide to illustrate your book and give you a firm price. I want to know if my style fits the story? Is there enough action in the book to illustrate? Has the author done their homework in preparing the manuscript? Are the illustrator notes too confining?
I fully immerse myself in the current book I am illustrating. My illustrations will make up one-half of the content of the book and I take this responsibility very seriously. A picture book takes me 4 to 8 months to illustrate depending on how complicated the book is and how organized the author is.
This is a business for me, it is a full-time job. Be sure to set aside time and enough money in your budget to do your book justice. Don’t ask a professional illustrator to spend 4 to 8 months illustrating your book for fun or exposure. Failure to respect an illustrator’s time, and expecting illustration work for nearly free is the reason most professional illustrators will not work with self-publishing authors.
Remember, in the marketplace (bookstore or Amazon), your book will first be judged by its cover. Do you want your book judged solely by amateurish illustrations and awkward cover design?
Why am I willing to work with self-publishing authors?
Occasionally I find an author who values my time, talent and expertise. When I read their manuscript I can tell it has been carefully edited for content and as well as grammar. They belong to an experienced SCBWI critique group or they have used a professional children’s book editor. They have taken the time to learn about writing for children and their manuscript clearly shows it. The language and word count are perfect for the age group and type of book which they are writing.
I think children’s book authors are some of the most talented and clever people on earth. I enjoy getting to know them during the months we work together on their book. Contact me below if you want to talk to me about your children’s book.
I illustrated the picture book spread shown above this blog for the book “Don’t Be a Pig in a Panic!” written by Leila Leidke.