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.

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.

 

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.

Is your your self-published children’s book doomed for failure?

Some self-published children’s books look unprofessional because of the poor quality of the illustrations. It won’t matter that your book is well written, has great characters, and a terrific plot. Customers will only see the cover. All your hard work will be judged not worthy in a few seconds.

Self-published children’s books need professional illustrations. I encourage you to hire a professional illustrator/designer to present your book in the very best possible light. Hiring a professional will give your book an advantage over books illustrated by amateurs. So give your book a fighting chance and find a pro to do the job. It is important for self-publishing authors to choose their illustrator carefully. After all, with a picture book, the illustrator is telling one-half of your story. The illustration on the cover and the cover design will either encourage or discourage customers to pick up and buy your book. The inside illustrations will keep a child’s attention on the story and please the reader of the book.

A beautifully illustrated cover will add credibility to your picture book. Reviewers will be more likely to give it their time. Parents and grandparents will pick your book up off the shelf (or the Amazon page) and want to buy it.

Screen Shot 2018-08-05 at 1.36.30 PMIf you are self-publishing a picture book you might wonder why children’s books need illustrations. Most authors really don’t want to spend the extra money to hire a professional illustrator. There is one very popular children’s book on the market now called “The Book With No Pictures” by B.J. Novak. It doesn’t use pictures but it does rely on cleverly designed typography to keep kids interested.  The words on the page graphically whisper and scream silly words. A professional book designer was used for the book.

Other than that one book, I can’t think of any other children’s book without pictures. Chapter books have only a few illustrations. The cover, of course, and maybe at each chapter heading. The illustrations are there to just add a touch of interest and break up large areas of text. Lately, there is a movement to add more illustrations to newer chapter books. Some old favorites are being republished with more illustrations. Kids love them.

Screen Shot 2018-08-05 at 1.40.32 PM

Examples of chapter books

Picture books are entirely different. The illustrations in picture books play a major role. The illustrations provide visual clues that are important to understanding the story. On each page, the illustrations act together with only a few carefully chosen words to create a complete story that is understood by children and enjoyed by parents.

Don’t doom your picture book to failure. Contact a professional children’s book illustrator to present your book in the most desirable way.

Screen Shot 2018-08-05 at 1.49.39 PM

Examples of picture books

There are many places to find professional illustrators. Try these websites: The Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrator’s website (SCBWI), The Children’s Book ArtistsChildrens illustrators, and Upwork.

I am listed on the SCBWI’s website (Dayne Sislen). I also have a website portfolio: http://DayneSislen.com

Contact me using the form below. I am happy to talk to you about your book. I am a professional children’s book illustrator and book designer with experience with picture books and chapter books. I promise not to share or abuse your contact information.

MY_BookCovers

A few of the covers I have illustrated and designed.

How to find the perfect illustrator for your self-published children’s book.

Don't Be a Pig in a Panic!

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.

Mouse artists working together

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.

 

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

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.

9c0fcba8efc391c30c348f1937607f98

Enter a caption

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.

 

Visit my website to see if I’m the right illustrator to bring your picture book or chapter book to life.

How important is a book cover?

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 perfect 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.

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, I usually illustrate and design the complete book. Below are a few of the picture book covers I have designed for self-publishing authors.

 

If you want to talk about your picture book contact me below:

 

 

 

Message to self-publishing picture book authors

Are you having a hard time finding a good professional children’s book illustrator who’s willing to work with you on your book?

Why would illustrators turn you down, when you’re giving them an opportunity to illustrate your fantastic book, that’s probably going to be a best seller? Why are they not clamoring to work for you? Why are they not returning your emails?

I am afraid, some illustrators have very good reasons to turn down self-publishing authors as opposed to a publishing house. 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 if it’s a picture book, chapter book or middle grade or how many illustrated pages they need. Occasionally an author will say I don’t need a big fancy book, I only want a small book. How much will that be? These questions put me in an awkward position. I don’t have enough information to give them a price.

Mouse artists working together

They want me to just “sketch-up” something fast. They say, “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 Blackie (they do have 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 pretty quickly tell when an author will take up 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.

Here are 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 SCBWI.org or ChildrensIllustrators.com

• 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 (word count),  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 or is someone else doing that job?

I usually respond by telling them:

Most picture books are 32-pages with approx 12-14 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 using a 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. The 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 enough 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. This is why most illustrators will not work with self-publishing authors. Professional illustrators do not illustrate self-published books for royalties, they have no way of knowing how many books are selling or even if you will try to sell the books. Illustrators are paid, usually in one-third increments. One third to start, the second third when roughs are approved and the balance right before the approved files are turned over to the printer or publisher.

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 an awkward cover design?

Why am I willing to work with self-publishing authors when other illustrators aren’t?

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 for 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.

Visit my website to see if I’m the perfect illustrator to bring your picture book or chapter book to life.

 

Happy New Year, Picture Book Lovers!

 

Snow-nose

Ghillis says, “Is “Snow-Nose” catching??”

Every year I make New Year’s resolutions. I always plan to keep them but, reality steps in and they fall by the wayside. This year I am repeating a few resolutions I have listed before.

    1. I will keep up with my blog posts. I will try to provide more information for new children’s book illustrators and authors who want to know more about working with a professional illustrator.
    2.  I will continue working on writing and illustrating my own picture books. I tend to put my own work aside when I get a new commission to illustrate a book for an author.
    3. I will continue to send out my picture book dummies to agents. I know there is a perfect match for me out there.
    4. I will stay active in the SCBWI (Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) and my local SCBWI critique group. There are many workshops, critiques, conferences I can attend to keep up with the publishing business.
    5. I will continue to stay active. I love walking my dog four brisk miles every morning with a group of friends and dogs, even when it’s 12 degrees. It was 8 degrees this morning and we passed.
    6. I will leave plenty of time to enjoy my husband, my family, and my life. Life is more than work alone.

    If you want to discuss your picture book illustration needs with me, fill out the form below. I’m always happy to talk picture books.

  1.  

 

Illustrating a Nonfiction Picture Book

Fiction picture books

These books I have illustrated are all fictional picture books.

Nonfiction picture books are different. Up to now in my illustration career, I have only illustrated fictional picture books and chapter books. A fictional story is not strictly true or real.  It’s a made-up story. In fiction, the protagonist has a problem and secondary characters or one or more antagonists stand in the way of them solving the problem until they finally figure it out on their own. For me as an illustrator, designing the characters is the fun part.

Nonfiction picture books are different. There’s subject matter that needs explaining or a question that needs answering. Usually, there’s not a main character in nonfiction, though a guide or guides may walk the reader through the learning process. The book could also have chapters or sections.

I am having a lot of fun with this new nonfictional book. I can’t give away any details because I sign a non-disclosure contract at the beginning of each illustration job. Understandably the author wants to keep everything under wraps until the book is published.

I am working to bring my picture book style of colorful illustrations to non-fiction in a fun way. I can’t wait to share this book with you.

If you have a fictional or non-fiction picture book or early chapter book that needs illustrating, contact me. I would love to talk to you about your self publishing or joint-venture publishing book.

How to find a Children’s Book Illustrator for your self-published book

Why are many children’s book illustrators unwilling to work with self-publishing authors?

I am afraid, a few illustrators have very good reasons for this attitude. As a professional illustrator, I get emails from self-publishing authors all the time, who 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 if it’s a picture book, chapter book or middle grade or how many illustrated pages they need. Occasionally an author will say I don’t need a big fancy book, I only want a small book, maybe 12 pages. How much will that be? These questions put me in an awkward position. I don’t have enough information to give them a price.

Mouse artists working together

They 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 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 hair. 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 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 this author 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

• 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 doing this using a 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 they 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 enough 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. This is why most 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 an 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 for 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.

Visit my website to see if I’m the perfect illustrator to bring your picture book or chapter book to life.

 

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

My Identifiers is the only official website of the U.S. ISBN Agency. We provide you with the products and services to make your books more discoverable. Get your ISBNs today!

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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.