Picture Book Critique Fest

#PBCritiqueFest

I always get excited when I hear of a new opportunity to have my work critiqued by professionals in the picture book field.  This new opportunity is called #PBCritiqueFest or Picture Book Critique Fest. It is open from October 3-25th, 2019. It’s a wonderful opportunity to have picture book manuscripts and dummies critiqued by professional picture book writers, picture book illustrators, author/illustrators and picture book agents. They have a facebook page: PBSpotLight. A Twitter handle: #PBCritiqueFest and a blog: http://www.PBspotlight.com

Below is a list of the fantastic participants:

AUTHORS:

Tammi Sauer

Josh Funk

Diana Murray

Alastair Heim

Corey Rosen Schwartz

Bridget Heos

Jessie Oliveros

Ann Ingalls

Laura Gehl

Susan Verde

Andrea Wang

Adam Wallace

Megan Lacera

Jody Jensen Shaffer

Rebecca J. Gomez

ILLUSTRATORS:

Brian Lies

Daniel Miyares

Cori Doerrfeld

Eric Fan

Rodolfo Montalvo

Jorge Lacera

Michael Rex

Yangsook Choi

Eliza Wheeler

Heidi McKinnon

Ebony Glenn

LITERARY AGENTS:

Jennifer March Soloway

James McGowan

Melissa Richeson

Adria Goetz

Lindsay Davis Auld

Mary Cummings

Tanusri Prasanna

Wendi Gu

Charlotte Wenger

Alyssa Henkin

Hope you can enter your original picture book manuscript. Good Luck.

 

 

The joy of working with a children’s book illustrator.

There's a Mouse on My Head

Book by Donna Warwick, illustrated by Dayne Sislen

by Dayne Sislen

Working with a professional children’s book illustrator is a fun process, you will see your ideas, your characters and your words come to life on paper for the first time. If you are planning on self-publishing your manuscript using Print On Demand (POD) like KDP Print or IngramSpark or an independent printer, you WILL need professional illustrations for your children’s book. A professional illustrator will help guide you through the process of self-publishing your book.

I usually start with character sketches for all major characters. Then I make preliminary pencil sketches to develop your story into spreads that move the action along. Your approval is needed for each step. Then I 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.

Packaging everything: 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, in a digital form 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 with their equipment when it rolls off the presses.

Shark Dentists and Other Stories by Vincent Immordino Illustrated by Dayne Sislen

Written by Vincent Immordino, illustrated by Dayne Sislen

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.

Before I can give you a price on illustrating your book, I must see your professionally edited and formatted manuscript. If I feel your story will fit my style of illustration and I can create suitable illustrations that will best 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 12-16 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 and time schedule so your book can be illustrated to show off your wonderful story to its best advantage.

Gigi and Grandma Remember

Written by Maggie Konopa, Illustrated by Dayne Sislen

Illustration by Dayne Sislen

Illustration by Dayne Sislen

An important word about Non-disclosure:
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.

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

Don't Be a Pig in a Panic!

Illustrated by Dayne Sislen

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 package the files of your book with all text in place and provide digital files to your printer, 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 I handle sending your book to print using your choice of book publishing services. Your book will then be available for sale on Amazon.com, Barnes and Nobel and independent booksellers (should you choose).

Would you like to talk about hiring an illustrator your children’s book idea? Contact Dayne Sislen, below.

Yes, you really should hire a professional children’s book illustrator for your self-published book?

by Dayne Sislen

If you want your book to be able to compete with traditionally published books on the bookshelf and online you need a professional illustrator/designer to help. If you need help navigating the self-publishing process, you definitely need a professional illustrator/book designer.  If you want your book to reflect the high level of your writing it is very important that you find a professional children’s book illustrator/designer.

Great picture book covers

Some of the best current picture book covers on the market.

You’ve spent your time creating a fantastic manuscript for your picture book. You’ve hopefully, had your manuscript critiqued by critique groups, an editor and beta readers (who are not related to you), why do you need to spend money on a professional book designer and illustrator? Couldn’t that money better be spent on advertising or SEO for your author website? Why can’t I just have my teenaged neighbor illustrate my book?

It’s a known fact, book covers sell books.

If your book doesn’t look professional, if it doesn’t stand out on the shelf or the website of an online seller, forget it. All the advertising money in the world will not sell your book. After you make the “easy sells” to relatives and friends who want to help you out, your sales will come to a halt. If customers aren’t attracted to your book’s cover, they will not take a chance by buying it.

We all know the old phrase, “you can’t judge a book by its cover.” It’s true, the big publishers believe covers sell books. They spend mega marketing dollars testing out covers for their big-name authors.

Will a red background sell better than a yellow background? Should the main image be a close-up of the main character or show the character at a distance? As an indie author, you probably don’t have the funds or the ability to test market different covers. But ask any author who had a poorly selling book with a bargain-basement cover about the turn around in sales when they hire a professional cover designer/illustrator to design and illustrate a new an improved cover. The results are amazing.

The cover of your book is the first thing buyers see. From this first impression, they will judge the quality of your writing. Is this fair? No. But it’s a fact.

A few children’s books I have designed & illustrated.

Professional designers and illustrators can also help you to navigate the confusing and sometimes dangerous self-publishing process. They can save you thousands of dollars on printing and unneeded services that predatory and unscrupulous “publishers” try to convince you to purchase.

What do you have to lose? A lot if you don’t at least talk to a professional designer/illustrator about your picture book or chapter book cover. I suggest you contact a book designer/illustrator who is a member of The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI.org) a well-respected international organization dedicated to promoting quality in children’s literature. In the SCBWI illustrator gallery, you can search by name, region (not all states bring results if they are part of larger regions, medium, style, etc. I am an active member of SCBWI and I am proudly listed under the KS/MO region.

You can contact me by sending an email (below). I would be happy to talk about your picture book illustrations.

Can a professional children’s book illustrator help an indie author sell books?

By Dayne Sislen

The cover of your book is the first thing buyers see. From this first impression, they will judge the quality of your writing. This isn’t fair but it’s a fact.

We all know the old phrase, ‘you can’t judge a book by its cover.’ Is it true? The big publishers believe covers sell books. They spend mega marketing dollars testing out covers for their big-name authors. Will a red background sell better than a yellow background? Should the main image be a close-up of the main character or show the character at a distance with a background added?

As an indie/self-publishing author, you probably don’t have the funds or the ability to test market different covers. But ask any author who had a poorly selling book with a bargain basement cover about the turn around in sales when they finally hire a professional cover designer to design and illustrate a new an improved cover. The results are amazing.

Your picture book cover will either make or break your book sales.

You’ve spent many months if not years working on your book. Rewriting it over and over until every word is perfect. But customers will not buy your perfectly written book if they do not find the cover appealing. I can’t stress how important a book cover is to sales and promotion of a book.

Most books are purchased in bookstores and online. The only way a customer can choose a book is by looking at the cover and reading the limited text on the back cover. When you promote your book, what will customers see first? That’s right, it’s the cover. A book cover is not the place to save money. Using an unskilled illustrator or designer on the cover will doom your book no matter how skillfully it is written. I have not read the bad example books shown below. I’m sure the writing is much better than the cover is leading customers to believe.

Worst covers4-18

  1. Customers will not purchase a book online with a bad or unreadable book cover.
  2.  Reviewers will not consent to review a book with a bad book cover.
  3.  Bookstores will not take you seriously. Forget about being asked to do a book signing.
  4.  Libraries will not want your book on their shelves.
  5.  You will be at a disadvantage when attending author events.
  6.  Magazine editors will say no to featuring your book on their pages.
  7.  You will not even have success by hiring a publicist. Even they can’t overcome the problem of a bad book cover.

What is the difference?

  1. Professional book covers are easier to read at a reduced size because the title is designed by a graphic designer.
  2. They look professional because they are designed by someone who is trained to work with illustration and text.
  3. Magazines and newspapers love to review them and show them on their pages.
  4.  Customers in bookstores snatch them up.
  5.  Reviewers are can’t wait to review them.
  6.  Amazon shoppers are attracted to them and pop them into their shopping cart.
  7.  Marketing these professionally designed and illustrated books is easier because the cover sells the book.

Which type of cover do you want for your book?

When I illustrate a picture book for an author, I usually design and illustrate not only the cover but every page in the book. That way you know you will not lose your young picture book reader halfway through your book. Each page is designed around your text. Below are a few of the picture book covers I have designed for self-publishing authors.

There's a Mouse on My Head

A Picture book I illustrated for Donna Warwick

Don't Be a Pig in a Panic!

A Picture book I illustrated for Leila Leidke

SPECIAL NOTE:  The above information is for self-publishing or indie authors. If you are thinking about submitting to one of the top 10 traditional publishers and their imprints, you do NOT need to submit your manuscript with illustrations.  The traditional publisher will choose an illustrator for you. They will provide the illustrations and pay for them, but you probably will not have any control over the process. Showing a traditional publisher your manuscript with illustrations may hurt your chances of being traditionally published. I love to work directly with publishers and art directors of these large publishers, but they are the ones who control this process and hire the illustrators.

Best of luck with your publishing journey. Contact me for a bid on illustrating your manuscript if you are interested. I also help self-publishing authors navigate the treacherous waters when searching for a reputable printer and how to avoid predatory publishers.

 

Children’s book illustrator, interviewed by author

Andy Mulberry, the author of YA fiction and middle-grade books such as the Sky Castle Series for Adventurous Middle Graders, interviewed me several years ago. She asked some great questions so I decided to re-blog her interview here for you to read.

Introduction by Andy: As a writer without a lick of talent when it comes to illustrating, I’m especially fascinated by Dayne’s thoughtful approach to bringing children’s books to life. Please join me in welcoming her!

Dayne_w characters

Dayne is a children’s picture book illustrator, book designer, and cover designer. She works with authors and publishers to help them bring their wonderful stories to life on the printed page. She has worked as a graphic designer, illustrator, art director, and graphic design teacher for over 30 years. The last 6 years she has specialized in illustrating children’s picture books and designing children’s book covers. Dayne is a member of the International Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). 

“My mother, father, grandmother, and grandfather were all artists in their own way, so I was given plenty of encouragement and all the right materials to keep me  from drawing on the walls.”

Andy: Please recommend another author’s children’s book for me to read.
Dayne answered: My favorite children’s book is: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. I loved it as a child, I loved it when my children were young and I love it as an adult. It opens up a fascinating world to me. I love to escape into books. Of course, I also read gobs of picture books all the time. I’m always in the children’s section of our library.

Andy: What is your favorite dessert?
Dayne answered: Without a doubt, flour-less dark chocolate cake with raspberry sauce. I am an avowed chocoholic, extra dark, please.

Andy: What does your illustrating process look like?
Dayne answered: As a book picture book illustrator I do more than just make pretty illustrations. First I read the authors book carefully, so I understand the characters and the story. I then figure out where each page will break, which pages will be spreads, which will be single illustrations. It’s important that the pages break at a suspenseful moment and a logical place for a change in illustration. I usually make up a storyboard before I even get started.

I then work on developing each character so they fit with the author’s concept of the book. Next steps are the pencil roughs of each page. I make up a dummy at this stage so the author can see how everything fits together. Then we discuss colors for the items on the pages. Finally, I get to start on the actual illustrations. If needed I also design the text to work around the illustrations to emphasize phrases and words that are important.

Lastly, I put all the illustrations together with the text and prepare printer-ready files. I work directly with the author’s printer to make sure all the specifications are perfect and answer all those last minute questions. My background in illustration, as well as graphic design and art direction, makes it possible to put together the whole package.

I started out doing illustrations with pencil and watercolor or pastel. I loved the look of watercolor and pastel.  BUT… I soon found authors wanted to make changes to the illustrations at the last minute. This meant starting all over again or cutting parts out scanning them and moving them around using Photoshop.

I took a painting class in digital media and loved it. I can now replicate, watercolor, pastel, gouache, pen and ink, pencil, oil paint and more with my digital brush. I place the backgrounds on a separate layer, so the characters can be moved around and colors changed. I work on a Wacom Cintiq which is like a large drawing board monitor, I can draw directly on, with a special stylus (brush).

Andy: What authors have inspired you to write?
Dayne answered: I love picture books by author/illustrators. I think when the writer and illustrator is the same person, there is an economy of words and perfect rapport between image and written word. Eric Carle’s Very Hungry Caterpillar, Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, Dan Santat’s Beekle and Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat, are some perfect examples.

Andy: What are you working on right now?
Dayne answered: I am finishing up illustrating a picture book for a self-publishing author. I can’t talk about the book I am illustrating for someone else until it is published. But what I am most excited about are several stories I am writing and illustrating. I have four dummies finished of my stories. A dummy is a tool to sell a story to a publishing company or to procure an agent to represent me as an author/illustrator. A dummy is a rough of the finished book with all illustrations in pencil and all the words in place. Then I add two or three finished illustrations to give an idea of how the finished book will look.

When I write, I start with the pictures, then write the words to fit the action on the page. That’s the way I think and it works for me. I’ve been driving my SCBWI picture book critique group crazy with all my rough drawings with a few words. They keep asking to see my typed manuscript.

Andy: Love the idea of you both writing and illustrating picture books or an early chapter book! I so wish the illustration fairy had whacked me with her stick too 🙂 I’m looking forward to reading and seeing more about your projects on your blog.

6 Tips to Encourage Your Child to Read

This is an oldie. It’s important to stress the impact of reading to your little ones at this time of year.

Dayne Sislen Children's Book Illustration

These six steps will start your children on the road to a lifetime of learning and reading.

  1. Read to children as often as possible. If you expose them to reading early and often, it will become a pleasurable experience they will want to repeat when they read on their own.
  2. Picture books can help struggling readers to comprehend a story before they can read all the words. Let them enjoy the process, without getting bogged down with the exact words. Let children ‘pretend to read’ using the pictures for guidance.SCBWI_Postcard_sm_sq_WP
  3. Encourage young children to write and illustrate their own stories. Children have great ideas, make sure they are able to express these ideas freely.
  4. Set aside family reading or story time. This can be a read-aloud by the parent or by an older child. As children get older, this time can set aside just for independent reading, for adults (yes, you too)…

View original post 198 more words

Holiday gift idea for the talented writer on your list.

When I tell people I meet I illustrate children’s books, they almost always say they have always wanted to write a children’s book. Many parents and grandparents already have great children’s book ideas from the stories they have invented for their little ones. Most tell me they have a great idea for a picture book but have no idea where to start.

Don't Be a Pig in a Panic!

“Don’t Be a Pig in a Panic!” picture book I illustrated for Leila Leidke

I work with new authors all the time. I know what it takes to get your manuscript ready for publishing, find and hire a professional illustrator to bring your picture book to life with great illustrations, design an exciting cover, and put everything together ready to print. The printing of the book using Print on Demand services such as IngramSpark or Createspace ( now KDP Print) is practically free. The illustrations for the book do need to be paid for, but it’s money well spent. A good illustrator/book designer can help you navigate the entire process so you get the most professional end product.

What a great gift idea for yourself or someone you love! A chance to bring your story to life in a printed and published book to share with your family and sell on Amazon. You can even arrange to have your book available in your local library and in your favorite bookstores.

Contact me if you want to finally publish your story idea or make a gift of a book illustration package to a talented friend or relative so they can publish their own story idea.

There's a Mouse on My Head

“There’s a Mouse On My Head!” picture book I illustrated for Donna Warwick

Visit my website: http://www.DayneSislen.com

Contact me below.

 

That Thankful Time of Year

Each year I write about thankfulness. We all should be thankful every day of the year. I know that I am, but I don’t always express this feeling out loud. So once a year, I make a point to let everyone know how important they are to me and how thankful I am that they are apart of my life.

Mouse jumping on bread-trampoline

Thankful for my daily bread

First I want to thank my family and friends. In so many ways they make every single day better and fuller. My dear husband puts up with my erratic hours and patiently reads the drafts and dummies of my picture books over and over.  My kids and their spouses likewise make my life full and are very understanding of my flights of fancy. My grandkids are the joy of my life. I am also blessed to have a great group of loving and supportive friends.

As an artist, I am also thankful for the magic of living a creative life. I can’t imagine a life without my art and creative writing. It’s not always a smooth path, there are extreme ups and downs. But I wouldn’t want to live my life any other way.

Give yourself a few minutes this week to stop and think about all that you are thankful for. Your friends and family and special talents all add to your unique life.

If you want to talk to me about illustrating your picture book use the form below to contact me.

 

 

 

Two picture book reviews

I read a lot of picture books. You could say picture books are my “thing.” Every once in a while I run across a picture book I absolutely love. When this happens I tend to tell everyone I know, even people who (you won’t believe this)  never read picture books even to their children or grandchildren.

Last month I was lucky enough to run across two picture books that found that special place in my heart. I would like to share them with you.

With your Paw in Mine Cover

“With Your Paw in Mine” Is a beautiful and well-written book. It’s about baby otters and their moms.

Written and illustrated by Jane Chapman. The illustrations of the precious baby otters are incredible. I just couldn’t stop admiring them.

Miki is an otter pup. She loves to snuggle and nap on her mommy’s tummy while her mommy floats in the water. She learns to swim while holding her mommy’s paw. One day her mommy wraps her in seaweed and tells her to stay put. Miki paddles over to a new friend named Amak. Together they learn to hold each other’s paws to survive the sudden storm. This book is available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNobel.com.

With Your Paw in Mine   With your Paw in Mine


“No Frogs in School” This book is far from serious. It’s about a little boy named Bartholomew Botts who loves all kinds of pets.

No Frogs in SchoolWritten by A. LaFaye and illustrated by Eglantine Coulemans. The pictures are lively and colorful.

Bartholomew loves his pets so much he doesn’t want to go to school without at least one. First, he chooses his Frog, Ferdinand. Ferdinand causes much disruption and chaos in his classroom, his teacher says, “No frogs in School.” Bartholomew takes the teacher’s words quite literally and brings his salamander the next day. A salamander is not a frog. Then, his teacher said no amphibians. Next, he brings his hamster, Horace because he’s not an amphibian.  You get the idea. The end of the book is surprising and extremely satisfying. This book is available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNobel.com.

 

No Frogs in SchoolNo Frogs in School

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hope you enjoyed these book reviews. What are your favorite picture books? Have you ever thought about writing your own picture book? So far, I have illustrated 11 picture books for authors and publishers, I can make the process a lot easier for you.

Fact: Well designed book covers sell children’s books

by Dayne Sislen

We all know the old phrase, “you can’t judge a book by its cover.” Is it true? The big publishers believe covers sell books. They spend mega marketing dollars testing out covers for their big-name authors. Will a red background sell better than a yellow background? Should the main image be a close-up of the main character or show the character at a distance?

As an indie author, you probably don’t have the funds or the ability to test market different covers. But ask any author who had a poorly selling book with a bargain basement cover about the turn around in sales when they hire a professional cover designer to design and illustrate a new an improved cover. The results are amazing.

The cover of your book is the first thing buyers see. From this first impression, they will judge the quality of your writing. Is this fair? No. But it’s a fact.

Today I want to talk about what goes into designing a cover for the chapter book “Little Dreamer” by Nell Jones. The author and I discussed what she wanted to show on the cover. We considered many scenes some are shown below, but many more that are not shown here. We tried Little D dreaming about becoming an astronaut. And we tried Little D giving a picture to her teacher Miss Amelia. But most of all we agreed that Little D should be dreaming of her future while in her classroom.

Sketches for cover

So the final cover design shows Little D in her classroom daydreaming about her future instead of listening to her teacher Miss Amelia. The caterpillar represents her metamorphosis from a young girl to a young woman throughout the story. The window frame and wall of her classroom have dissolved to reveal the boundless world that is available to dreamers.

Cover art for "Little Dreamer" chapter book cover

Colors were given special consideration. Of course, red, bright orange and green colors jump off the shelf. But in this situation, we felt a softer color scheme would show the dreamy quality best. Just because a bright color jumps out at a potential customer is not the best reason to use it. The color scheme must fit the tone and subject of the story. This is a chapter book, so it has a little older audience. I have shown the artwork on the left and the book cover with all text on the right.

 

If you are interested in talking to me about illustrating your children’s book or designing a cover for you, contact me by using the form below.

 

 

Creating the main characters for children’s books

Bringing the main character for a chapter book to life.

When I illustrate books for other authors it is a collaborative process. I want the author to love the characters I create for them as much as I do. Many of my clients send me photos of people they know that they would like the characters to resemble. I say resemble because I don’t create portraits for each page. That would require many photos from many angles of each character and take much too much time to get them just right.

LILd 20

This is the picture I was given for the young Little D for the latest book I illustrated.Yes, the image was this blurry and very small. From this image I had to create the main character.

Sketches for book

It took many rounds of sketches until I finally found the right look for Little D that I was happy with and the client loved.

On the next blog post, I will show you how the cover is planned and put together to print.

I illustrate picture books and chapter books for publishers and self-publishing authors. If you would like to talk about illustrating your picture book or chapter book use the form below to contact me.

Becoming a chapter book

In my last post titled “The Birth of a Chapter Book”, I talked about the process of breaking down the pages to make sure your story will fit on the number of pages available and to make sure the illustrations are distributed throughout the book.

When I started with the author, Nell Jones, all the illustrations ended up in the first 10 pages. After that, the illustrations popped up every 8-9 full pages of text. Some early chapter books use a small black and white illustration at every chapter heading, but Nell wanted to have full-page illustrations in black and white every few pages.Little Dreamer storyboard

The text had to break at the right places so the illustrations would make sense. I had to figure out roughly how many words would fit on a page and where the page breaks would come. This meant that some of the author’s favorite scenes had to be eliminated and other illustrations had to be added later on in the story so everything would even out.

images of characters

The images the author sent to use for inspiration for the characters.

Before I started the pencils for each spread, the author sent me photos of what she wanted the main characters to look like. My characters didn’t have to be exactly the same, but at least a resemblance to the photos.  In some cases the photos were small and blurry, so I did my best.

My next blog post on this subject will show how the actual illustrations developed from rough pencils to finished.

 

 

 

 

Contact me using the form below if you want to talk about illustrating your book.