I hosted a Q&A: “Ask an Illustrator” forum today

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Today on my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Dayne.Sislen.Illustrator/ I hosted a 4-hour Q&A period “Ask A Children’s Book Illustrator.” I answered questions about illustrating children’s books; how to self-publish; advantages of each POD company; how to find an illustrator; when you don’t need an illustrator and more. I enjoy talking to children’s book authors. Below is a transcript of some of the questions and answers. If you don’t see an answer to your question, I am always happy to answer questions using the form below on this page.

#self-publishing, #picturebooks, #kidlit, #kidlitart, #illustration, #POD.

Kathy Marie Hi Dayne! I have been contemplating my book and whether to try again. I think my biggest question would be which format to pursue. We had talked about print versus digital. At this point, I would probably need the simplest jumping off point. What is your suggestion for me to get started again? Thanks!

Dayne Sislen Illustrator The easiest way would be to forget about personalizing each book (Kathy and I talked about this earlier). Personalization is very expensive and difficult to do. You can self-publish for almost no cost up-front (because you already have your illustrations) or submit your book to traditional publishers and if they chose to publish your book, they pay you.

Kathy Marie Yes, I’ve given up the idea about doing the personalization. But I was exploring the idea of making the book an app. So just self-publish printed would be the best route?

Dayne Sislen Illustrator If you decide to self-publish, I would suggest Print-on-demand. The books are printed as they are ordered you get the profit. Very little upfront costs for you.

Kathy Marie Okay, thanks! And is there a print-on-demand option that you feel is the best?

Dayne Sislen Illustrator An app or e-book would certainly be cool to do. With Amazon CreateSpace and KDP you can do both an e-book and soft cover. Apps are a different matter and designed completely differently. Usually, they are best if there is a lot of interaction.

Kathy Marie I will start doing my homework and research again…and you know I’ll be back with more questions later. Thanks for the help! If I actually get this off the ground, will I break the record for the longest wait you have had to see your work published? 😀

Dayne Sislen Illustrator I like to use IngramSpark for hardcover books. You can use all three, CreateSpace, IngramSpark and KDP if you like.

Dayne Sislen Illustrator Yes, You will break the record for the length of time taken for a book to be completed. (The illustrations for Kathy’s book were finished many years ago) I would love to see your book published. It’s such a great idea and it has such a wonderful built-in market.

Kathy Marie Alrighty…another goal then. I like breaking records! 😀

Kathy Marie Thought of another question…will I need to work through my LLC to self-publish?

Dayne Sislen Illustrator I would suggest you do this. It’s not hard to do online on your state’s website. Don’t pay a lawyer to do it. I took a course with the Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts in my city. They walked us through the process, it’s very easy and very cheap. It’s fun to think up your own publishing house name.

Kathy Marie Okay, thanks. I would look to resurrect my old LLC, which I assume is still technically mine. I closed the business bank account on it years ago, but I don’t really know how the rest of it works or if I still even really have the LLC. Another piece of homework I guess. Thanks again for your time and this was a fun and helpful idea!

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Barbara Schuermann Stock Stuckey Hi Dayne, first of all, thank you for your kindness, in giving your time, to share your knowledge with us. My question would be – who would you recommend to publish my book? I have been looking at Ingram Spark and Create Space. The book was designed on Shutterfly and I would like to use that exact format. Can that exact book be converted to IngramSpark? Also, where should I purchase my ISBN number? My preference for Ingram Spark has to do with their return policy and also the 55% discount. I am so confused, thank you!

Dayne Sislen Illustrator Thanks for asking this question. I have used both CreateSpace and IngramSpark. Each has their strong points.

Dayne Sislen Illustrator CreateSpace is easier to use and slightly cheaper. They do not have hardcover books. When you publish with CS your book will never be listed as out of print by Amazon. You also make a little bit more on each on each book sold on Amazon, but much less on books sold on B&N and independent bookstores.

Dayne Sislen Illustrator I like the hardcover books at IngramSparks. It only cost a small bit more to publish your book with IngramSpark and you can set your price and percent of discount. Independent books stores will be able to order your book and you will make more per book. You will make a tiny bit less on Amazon and your book may be listed as out of stock occasionally.

Barbara Schuermann Stock Stuckey This is my first book. I am leading toward Ingram Spark then also I have heard about Lightning Source, do you know anything about them? As a first time writer who would like to write sequels to my book, what would you suggest?

Dayne Sislen Illustrator IngramSpark and Lightning Source are the same company. Lightning Source prints for IngramSpark, as a small self-publisher you should use IngramSpark. Their website is very user-friendly, you can figure out how much your books will cost and how much you will make on each using their charts.

Dayne Sislen Illustrator I also suggest you publish your soft cover books with CreateSpace and your hardcover books with IngramSpark. That way you have the best of both. You will always be listed as in stock on Amazon with CreateSpace and if you want to sell through B&N or an independent bookstore, you will do better with IngramSpark.

Dayne Sislen Illustrator CreateSpace is very easy for a non-professional to set up using MS Word. IngramSpark works best if you use professional software like Adobe InDesign. If you hire a professional children’s book illustrator and designer they can set everything up for you. If you want to also have an e-book CreateSpace and IngramSpark can convert your files. I have no idea what the quality is like.

Dayne Sislen Illustrator Be sure to buy your own ISBN number. Get them directly from the source Bowkers, http://.myidentifiers.com. Do not buy them from CreateSpace, Amazon will be your publisher of record. You really don’t want that.

Barbara Schuermann Stock Stuckey My book is all photographs, would that be something you would work with?

Dayne Sislen Illustrator Printing your books is really the easy part. The hard part is marketing them. Be prepared for almost a full-time job. Amazon makes the books available, but you have to get customers to Amazon. If you become a top seller in your category, Amazon will give your book a boost by suggesting it to customers.

Barbara Schuermann Stock Stuckey Wow, glad to hear you say that! It seems to be the hardest part for me. I have been marketing my book for years. I have read for schools, daycare centers, Barnes and Noble in Wisconsin and Barnes and Noble in St. Louis, all with very favorable reviews. I just can’t seem to get it printed. 🙂

Dayne Sislen Illustrator You also asked about taking you book as is from Shutterfly and using the files on another service. I am not familiar with Shutterfly, but I think you put it together online using their online tools. If that is correct, you will not be able to switch it over directly. But, you now have a very good idea of exactly what you want. Each POD service has their own method to prepare files.

Bowker | Identifier Services

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Abby Lamb Mathews Hi, Dayne! I have a few questions. 1. I want to self-publish the middle grades book I’m working on. I would like to put up a landing page announcing my book, and I would like a simple illustration with three of the characters. Where is the best place to start looking for an illustrator? I’ve found a few on Etsy and Instagram that I like and would love to work with. Is there a protocol for approaching an illustrator? And 2. (And I probably know the answer to this one, but may be surprised…) Would you recommend looking elsewhere (besides Etsy, Instagram, etc…) for someone who has specific experience illustrating children’s books and can guide me, rather than just hiring an illustrator whose work I like? I’m actually looking more for an illustration or two for my web page and then eventually the cover art. So since I’m not concerned with needing as much illustration as a picture book, is it ok to shop by “style” rather than by book experience.
Dayne Sislen Illustrator Another great question. Since you do not need the complete package as you would with a picture book. You won’t need as much technical publishing direction. It is important to find an illustrator who understands the middle-grade genre to design the cover. It’s not just the cover illustration, it’s the complete design. The font and how it’s customized and how the cover competes with other middle-grade covers.
Abby Lamb Mathews Is there a place where middle grades illustrators gather? Or how do you go about finding someone who is middle grades specific??

Dayne Sislen Illustrator I would look on the SCBWI.org website. There is a listing of illustrators who are members. Find one who’s work you like or find one close to where you live.

Abby Lamb Mathews I saw that on your website just now! That would be an awesome group to join, period! Thank you for your guidance! Glad I found you on Twitter!!
Dayne Sislen Illustrator I don’t know of any middle-grade specific illustrators. Go to your bookstore, find out who illustrates the covers you admire. I think a picture book Illustrator can do a good job on a middle-grade book if they study the competition and keep the ages of the characters shown age appropriate.
Dayne Sislen Illustrator Yes, SCBWI is a fantastic organization. It’s world-wide in scope, but there are many local chapters in each state. You should attend a workshop or conference. There you might just meet and make friends with the perfect illustrator for your cover and website illustrations. Good Luck.
Abby Lamb Mathews I am officially a member! 😉
Dayne Sislen Illustrator Good for you. You won’t regret it. I hope you make as many supportive good friends as I have.

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Angela Coulson
Hi Dayne, thanks for chatting. If I am shopping my book to traditional publishers, should I already have illustrations completed?

Dayne Sislen Illustrator Good question. If you are submitting your manuscript to traditional publishers or agents DO NOT pay an illustrator to illustrate your books before submission. If your book is selected for publication, the publisher will choose the illustrator and pay for the illustrations. You only need to get your own illustrations if you are self-publishing.

Angela Coulson Thanks for clarifying. Good information to know.

Dayne Sislen Illustrator You are welcome.

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Dayne Sislen Illustrator If you have more questions and I didn’t get to answer them today, visit my blog: https://daynesislendesign.wordpress.com/ and my website: http://DayneSislenDesign.com. On the blog search for past posting in the archives. On my website look under “Questions.” I like to talk to authors about their stories and how to get them published.

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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In Praise of Picture Books by Randall de Seve

Some very insightful thoughts on Picture books. I love the comment by Patricia Gauch, “The Picture Book is an Act of Mischief.” I have always felt picture books had an important place in literature. This excellent blog post  justifies that belief very well.

Nerdy Book Club

I noticed something sad over years of teaching first grade.  As soon as children learned to read, they abandoned picture books in favor of what they imagined to be more impressive, or “grown-up,” chapter books.  I’m sorry to say that some of their teachers and parents did, too.

What many children (and the adults that guide them) don’t realize is that the best picture books can be equally, if not more, sophisticated than some of their longer kin.  Plus, you can have an entire picture book experience in a fraction of the time it takes to read a novel; said another way, you can have a wide variety of experiences in that same time.

So what, exactly, is this picture book experience?

“There is in a picture book, make no mistake, something for the eye, something for the heart, something for the mind, something for the funny bone, something for…

View original post 792 more words

Interview: Diane Gronas, Author and Illustrator

Today I welcome Diane Gronas, author and illustrator of “Starseeker: the Flower of Tameroon.”

Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 12.48.49 PMI am interviewing Diane today, so more readers can hear about her exciting book. I gave Diane a 5 star review on Amazon because I loved reading about the lives of Annie and her teenage friends living in a future world. There’s a lot of action and romance in this thriller! 

Synopsis: In a distant future, Annie lives alone with her aunt in a high-rise refugee tower as the world around her turns to ice. The Starfire that once warmed the regions of the twelve kingdoms is failing. There is little to do in her cramped quarters and she spends far more time with star charts and flight simulation than what is required for any shuttle pilot. Uncle Jordan has become her mentor and tutors her and the prince of Treya; soon to be crowned heir apparent at the royal ball. Annie dreams of dancing at the ball but her deepest desire is to join the desperate flights of Starseekers searching the universe for food and survival. Launching into space is her only hope of ever finding her parents, missing on the lost planet of Tamaroon. This is a triumphant Space Age Cinderella tale that blooms into romance and action.

Dayne: Why did you choose the genre of Science Fiction as your first book?

Diane: “I always wanted a flying car and Cinderella is my favorite theme, so the setting became a science fiction world in the future with castles.”

Dayne: I love that Annie is learning to pilot her own starship.


Dayne: Have any other writers inspired your writing style?

Diane: “Yes, I found Rick Riordan’s “Heroes of Olympus” style easily connects with young YA readers. I love his humor and easygoing characters. John Rocco’s cover illustration of the mechanical dragon is terrific. Rick’s books target the same age group as my books even though STARSEEKER has been re-read 3 times by adult readers working for NASA. The comment I hear most from readers is that it is a good story.”

Dayne: The mechanical dragon by John Rocco is one of my favorite illustrations. Your story is strong and stands on it’s own. All the great future space travel action just adds to the fun.


Dayne: As an illustrator, I am always interested in the work of other illustrators. I love your cover for Starseeker: The Flower of Tameroon. You did a beautiful job.

Diane: “Thank you Dayne, coming from you that means a lot. My major was Graphic design and I taught drawing in graduate school. My goal was to illustrate children’s books like you, but I got wrapped up in the Starseeker world of Treya and Tamaroon. Drew Struzan with his beautiful sketches showing through intense airbrushed hues in his Star War posters has always been at the top of my list of favorite illustrators along with Sheilah Beckett, Tomie de Paola, Mercer Mayer, Brothers Hildebrandt, and of course the Disney Company. http://www.drewstruzan.com, http://www.tomie.com, http://www.mercermayer.com, http://brothershildebrandt.com/ ,”

Dayne: You are multi-talented to be the author AND illustrator of your own book.


Dayne: What was the hardest lesson that you learned while writing your novel.

Diane: “Re-writes and formatting take forever and plot changes not only increase the complexity of the story but also are hard to keep track of.”


Dayne: I loved reading about Annie, Garret, Tipper and E-Chip and want to read about them again. Is there a book two in the works?

Diane: “I’m really excited about Book 2, STARTRAIL TO TAMAROON. E-Chip and Tipper join Annie, Garret, Melody, Brandon and the crew to explore another world. New surprises in discoveries and technology will be found as they meet interesting characters along the way.”

Dayne: Can’t wait to read it.


Dayne: What is your favorite scene in your book?

Diane: “Truthfully it’s the one I haven’t written yet. But, if I have to choose one from the first book, it would probably be where Annie meets the prince. Although the shuttle race, sword fight, discovery of the Lastradanyan luminos dociles, palace escape, and explosive ending were all fun as well.”

Dayne: I have many favorite scenes, these are some of mine also.


Dayne: How do you feel now about the self-publishing process?

Diane: “The whole idea of being able to upload your own edited manuscript along with a book cover you created in Photoshop and being able to order your own book was unheard of not many years ago. It still is amazing to me. But simply having it available on-line is not enough. The huge job of letting people know what it is and where it is available is daunting. If you are able to find a publisher who will promote your book, do it. Self promotion will only get you so far and you want your book available in libraries and stores. Not everyone shops on-line.”

Readers can read the beginning of this book at Amazon or learn more about Diane and her books on her website: http://dianegronas.com/