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.

 

Smart Picture Book Writers Make Dummies

by Dayne Sislen

Smart writers, make their own picture book dummies to improve their writing. By making a rough dummy showing the page breaks and illustrated action on each page you can clearly see where page-turn surprises should fall and when there just isn’t enough action to keep kids interested.

It’s important to know what lines of your text will fall on each spread. The best way to do this is to follow a typical 32-page picture book template. I have shown two different templates showing the use of 32-pages in a picture book to give different amounts of space to your story.

Picture book page counts can be confusing. There is a lot of conflicting information about the layout of a typical 32-page picture book. Go into the children’s section of any book store or library and start counting pages. Some picture books are 32, while some are 40, some are 24, some are 28, you get the idea. Why are we always told that 32-page picture books are the standard?

32pageselfendedPage count depends on a lot of different variables. Some picture books are “self-ended” which means the full 32-page count is partly used up by the pages pasted down to the cover and back cover. Some picture books use different colored paper for the pages that are glued down to the cover. This means all 32 pages can be used for your story. Some of these pages will also be used for copyright/publishing information, dedication and title pages.

32page-color-ended

Most picture books are based on 32-pages but some use on 40-pages or even 48-pages. These are usually traditional printed books from the larger publishing houses who have bigger budgets. The page count in books almost always increases by multiples of 8. These are called signatures. Print on Demand self-publishing is more lenient with page counts because they use a different kind of binding on their books.

A dummy will make it easy to pinpoint problem areas in your manuscript. Do you have page after page of two characters standing and talking to each other? This is boring for kids. If all the action happens in one part of the book and nothing exciting or worth illustrating falls on all the other pages you have a problem.

A dummy is easy to make. It doesn’t have to be pretty or fancy, it’s to help you with your manuscript. Take two sheets of typing paper and fold them into eight squares. Cut each sheet into 4 pieces to form pages and put them together. Number the pages. Don’t forget to use the first pages for a title, copyright, dedication, and other front material or if you want your book self-ended mark your paste-down sheets.

Then start writing your text on each page. Think in scenes, not just words. This is not easy at first, you may have to start several times to get every spread to come out even. You may even need to rewrite parts of your manuscript to fit the page breaks. In the end, it will help your manuscript with pacing and visualization. Remember all action on each spread moves to the right. Use stick figures to indicate your characters.

Have fun, hope this helps.

 

As an illustrator, I do page breakdown for each book I illustrate. If you need help with illustrating your picture book, contact me. I would love to hear about your story.

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.

 

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.

The birth of a chapter book.

I am very lucky to be working as the illustrator with children’s book author Nell Jones on a new chapter book Called Little Dreamer. It will be the first book in the Institute of Higher Fun and Learning Series. Many authors I work with prefer to keep their covers a secret until publication date. When that is the case,  I can’t share anything I am working on.

Nell has agreed with me that the sooner friends and potentials customers can become a part of the process the better. Nell’s book will not be published for several months, but we are going to share the process.

You will be able to see the step-by-step process involved in creating a children’s book. Below to the left is the finished cover. To the right is the rough pencil created for the cover

LILD small color cover

little pencil cover

Nell and I have worked together to develop the characters and the scenes. Nell even sent me photos of some people she knew that looked liked her characters. Nell lives in Ogalala, Nebraska and I live in St. Louis Missouri, so this means a lot of emails and phone calls back and forth.

We have been working together since early May. A lot of details about the breakdown of pages and how many illustrations were needed had to be settled before I even started on the rough pencils. Below is an early sample of the method we used to break down what pages would be text and what pages would be illustrations.

LILD sample breakdown

In future blogs, I will continue with our step-by-step creative process of illustrating a children’s book.