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.

7 Steps to get your self-published children’s book illustrated.

 How to choose an illustrator and get your book finished.

 

Funny Cat by Dayne SislenStep one: Choosing the right illustrator.

For professional children’s book illustrators, I suggest: The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators organization’s website SCBWI.org. You can search for the style and media you prefer as well as illustrators living in a certain area. I would strongly suggest you join the SCBWI. It offers valuable resources to anyone in the children’s publishing fields. Another good resource: Childrensillustrators.com. Over 700 professional illustrators are listed.

“Remember the illustrations tell one-half of the story in a picture book. You want to present your book to the world in the best possible way. An inexperienced illustrator can make your excellently written picture book appear amateurish and awkward. Most people buy a book based on its cover.”

 

A budget source for illustrations: You always hear about Fiverr for cheap illustrations.  https://www.fiverr.com. Illustrations can be  purchased for as little as $5 each. Now, don’t get too excited, you won’t get much for $5, but you might find someone to work with you on a tight budget. Be very careful you and your illustrator understand exactly what you require. I would suggest using someone who speaks your preferred language. Automated translations can mess up precise communications. I would also suggest having the illustrator sign a non-disclosure when they read your manuscript. The NDA may not be binding in a third world country, but you will have some reassurance they will at least know you are watching carefully if they are thinking about stealing your book manuscript or passing it to someone else.

Step two: Before an illustrator can give you a price on illustrating your book, they must see your professionally edited and formatted manuscript. If they feel your story will fit their style of illustration and they can create suitable illustrations that will best develop your story for you. They will agree to talk to you about your plans for the book. Picture books are traditionally 32 or 40 pages because of economical printing practices. That means your illustrator will be illustrating at least 14-16 full spread illustrations or 28 to 30 single pieces of artwork. That’s a lot of work, it usually takes  4-8 months. This is how professional illustrators make their living, it is a full-time job. Please set aside a reasonable budget so your book can be professionally illustrated to show off your wonderful story to its best advantage.
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This is my process:
Step three: When I work with a children’s book author, one-third of the total illustration fee is expected before I start.My fee for illustrating picture books usually runs between $6,000 and $12,000 depending on complexity.
I read your manuscript over and over until I am very familiar with the characters and can see them clearly in my mind.  I also might want to add a pet or other background interest to add to the story. I design character sketches for your approval. We also discuss illustration style and colors. We work together on these until you are pleased.
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Step four: I then do rough “thumbnails” of all the pages in the book to see how the action flows from page to page.  This is very important if I skip this step, the illustrations, while nice, will not flow from page to page visually. The illustrations will still be rough at this stage but you will already know what the characters look like (step two). I will need your approval at this stage and the second 1/3 of the total fee.
Step five: Now, I do full-size roughs of all the pages and work on refining the backgrounds. The interior and exterior details in backgrounds will now come into place. At this stage, you should know exactly what the book will look like minus color. I will need your approval again at this stage.
Illus for There's a Mouse on my Head! Illus. by Dayne SislenStep six:  Now I start final linework and the color. I will send you updates as I go along to make sure I’m going in the right direction and you are pleased. At this stage changes become time-consuming and disruptive. Minor changes can be made, but major changes will require quite a bit of work and I will have to charge an extra hourly fee to make them.
I work on all the pages at pretty much the same time. Colors must match from page to page and the style must be consistent. I scan in my drawings and do the painting on my computer. I use Adobe Photoshop with custom brushes that replicate, watercolor, pastel, oil, gouache or acrylic paint. I sometimes use textures to add interest. When all illustrations are complete and you are satisfied, it’s time to put it all together.
 Step seven:  Digital packaging. If you choose me to do this stage, I can package and format the book so it is ready for your printer. I do this for you by designing a custom font that works with the illustration for the front cover and the back cover. I set the text for the inside of the book, doing custom fonts and type treatments where needed.
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I then format the digital file to the exact specifications your printer needs. I am always available to work with your printer to make sure everything prints correctly. When all my work is approved and ready to send to the printer or directly to you, I ask for the final 1/3 of my fee.
51af87b93bb5b9fe7517283ad27efd36How long it takes:
If we are able to communicate very quickly when I need feedback and we work smoothly together, The shortest time, start to finish is usually 5 to 6 months. If there are complications or time laspes between steps and approvals, it can take much longer. The shortest time a picture has ever taken me to illustrate, design and package was 5 months, the longest 3 years (the author would disappear for months). It  usually takes 6 to 8 months with 8 months being the safest to plan for publication date.

I hope this blog helps you to make the right choices for your picture book.
I would be happy to talk with you about illustrating your book. I can also help you make the right decisions about printing your book and the business side of publishing.

How to get your self-published picture book illustrated.

Self-publishing children’s book authors always ask how they can get their children’s book illustrated. They also ask how long will it take and how much will it cost.

If you are planning on self-publishing, print on demand (POD) like CreateSpace or Ingram Spark or a vanity printer like Lulu, Blurb, BookBaby, AuthorHouse, OutSkirts, Balboa Press or other publishers (that you pay to print your book) you WILL need professional illustrations for your children’s book. I would love to work with you.

 

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A lot depends on what results you want and your taste level. Some self-published authors are perfectly happy having their illustrations done by  a young relative or friend or illustrators from  Fiverr.comElance or UpWork featuring illustrators from 180 countries around the world. Sometimes these online services work out just fine. Sometimes there is a language barrier and delivery time problems. Other times the images you purchase are just reworked images from a previous illustrating job. It takes time to develop unique characters for a story, if an illustrator is only charging $5 or $10 per illustration, they don’t have time to read the whole book and design characters to fit YOUR story’s characters.

Or do you prefer to work one-on-one with a professional illustrator in the United States,  an illustrator who will actually read your story and create characters unique to your vision? I would then suggest you visit SCBWI’s (The Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) illustrator’s Gallery, you can find me listed under my name Dayne Sislen or do a search for illustrators in your city or state. Children’s Illustrators.com is also a great site to find professional illustrators.

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With today’s high-speed Internet and the ability to send high resolutions files back and forth, location doesn’t make a lot of difference, but the ability to communicate clearly and make deadlines is very important.

Here is a link to my website where you can see more of my work. I like to send rough sketches to my clients for approval before moving onto finished color illustrations. This gives you an opportunity for feedback and direction.

Illustration price depends on the type of book the illustrations will be used in, how many illustrations and what type of illustrations the book needs. I can give you a price after I read your manuscript and knowing more about the type of book. I will gladly sign a Non-disclosure contract if you are worried about privacy and piracy.

The time it takes me to illustrate a complete 32 page picture book  usually takes between 3 months and 6 months. This includes reading the book, creating characters, research for costumes and background, doing pencil roughs for each page for discussion with author, doing the finished illustrations, coloring the illustrations and also laying out the pages with custom type in place. I can also design and illustrate your cover with custom type. I can also work directly with your printer to make sure you get the best possible printed book.

DON’T FORGET: If you are thinking about submitting to one of the top 10 traditional publishers, 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.

Hope this helps you in your self-publishing journey.

Contact me directly through my website, I’d love to read your book. Or you can use the handy form below: