A New Year and new picture book beginnings for me.

Usually when the holidays and New Year come around, I am deeply involved in illustrating a picture book for someone else, because that’s what I do for my living. This year I finished one book in the late fall Fall, then the book I that was scheduled for the early winter into Spring was canceled. I was not totally disappointed, I always need a few days or so between books to clean up my studio and rest my mind so I can give a new project my full attention.

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This extra free time this year gives me an opportunity to work on some of my own story ideas. I have about four or five drafts of picture books and chapter books I have been working on in-between illustrating books for other authors. I now need to work hard on perfecting these drafts to get them to the point where they are ready for submission to agents and editors. My SCBWI critique group has seen most of these drafts. They have helped me to see where there are weaknesses in the story and character development. I strongly suggest everyone join a critique group of knowledgable writers.

Pen_sketchesBMost children’s book authors start their books very differently than I do.

Because I am an illustrator, I always start with a story idea, then do all the rough illustrations in dummy form. I only add the words when I am satisfied with the flow of the pictures. This is the exact opposite from the way most children’s book authors work. It’s not a perfect way to work so I don’t suggest it to everyone. I need the pictures to think the story through, but when I later add words there isn’t always a smooth flow.

Because I have carefully thought through the visuals in my mind, I know so much more back story than I can possibly show or write about in a 32-page picture book. I’m trying to work through this dilemma and get these stories in shape.

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Every year I participate in Picture Book Idea Month also called PiBoIdMo. I sign-up on Tara Lazar’s website to dream up 30 new ideas for picture books. I been participating for four years now, so I have lots of ideas. This year the challenge is called StoryStorm, Tara Lazar is the organizer. It’s starting right now. I think everyone should sign-up. Hurry the decline is soon.

 

It’s New Year’s resolution time again.

tree_growingEvery year I try to come up with some new goals to strive for. Something to enhance my life and others. In past years I have resolved to be more proactive with my career. To take more creative chances and try new things.

This year, I want to try to help others using my talents. I have gained a lot of knowledge and a lot of experienced through the many years I have been a graphic designer, teacher, children’s book illustrator and children’s book writer. All through my life others have mentored me and helped me to succeed. Now is my turn to pass on this knowledge. I want to share what I have learned with others to help them succeed.

Right now I am mentoring three young people. They all have an interest in illustrating and graphic design as well as writing. Their enthusiasm and creativity inspire me. I hope we can help each other become better artists and people.

I also love to talk to new self-publishing authors about their children’s books. I can help guide them to make the correct decisions to produce the best children’s book at the most reasonable price. Visit my website to read more about illustrating your children’s book and the services I can provide.

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 $15,000 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.

The Surprisingly Complex Principles of a Successful Picture Book

This is a re-blog of a wonderful post from Chronicle Books Blog. It explains some of the important things to remember when writing and illustrating children’s books.

If you are interested in Picture book writing and illustration, it will be worth your time to visit their site to read the whole blog post.  http://www.chroniclebooks.com/blog/2012/02/17/over-and-under-the-snow/

The illustration below was created by Silas Neal for “Over and Under the Snow” written by Kate Messner .

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Contact me to talk about your story idea. I’d love to illustrate your story and design your book. My illustrations can bring it to life on the page. Dayne Sislen, Children’s book and product illustrator and designer.

 

Is children’s book illustrating a real job?

When people I meet asked me what I do and I tell them I’m a children’s book illustrator, there is usually a brief pause. Then they ask, “Is that a real job or just a hobby?” Most people don’t know that artists actually illustrate children’s books as their full-time job.”

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Every week I get email requests to illustrate children’s picture books by authors or very small publishers who offer to pay me far below minimum wage to illustrate their books. Because my job is fun to do and I enjoy it, they think it’s not a real job and I don’t need to be paid a fair wage. They know they can’t draw well and it would take them forever. But, they think because I do draw well I should be able to quickly knock out a complete 32-page picture book of full-color illustration in a few hours. They think I should illustrate their book for pennies “for the great exposure” it will give me.

Believe me, exposure doesn’t pay the studio rent or utilities. It doesn’t pay for computers, computer software, art supplies, children’s book conferences to keep my skills up-to-date. It doesn’t pay for my website and blog or the cost of updating my portfolio.

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They don’t realize I actually have to read their story several times to fully understand the characters and the story. That I must decide what words will be on each page to build excitement and discovery with each page turn. That I then make a rough dummy book with the text breakdown on each spread and decide what illustration will help enhance the excitement on each page. It’s not enough to simply illustrate the words on the page, I must add another dimension of interest and a back story. The pictures in a picture book tell half the story.

Then I must give considerable thought and drawing practice to each character so I can visualize and draw them from all sides and angles before I start. The traits must be unique for each character. I research period or regional clothes and backgrounds so the book is accurate. I also research the particular genre of the book so the cover of their book will be appropriate but also stand out from others on the shelf. All of this is done before I even start illustrating the story.

At this stage, I then make rough sketches for each page for the author or art director to see to make sure they approve of the direction I am going.

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I then proceed to finished pencils with all details and do a few color trials. When everyone is happy with these pencils, I finally get to start the actual illustrations. Most 32-page picture books have approximately 14 spreads and two single pages of illustrations.

When all the illustrations are finished and approved, it is now time for me to set up the digital files for the printer if the book is being self-published. All the text must be in place and any custom lettering or lettering effects added. The final digital file is packaged and made ready for the printer using not only the correct specifications for exact size with bleed but correct specs for color space and resolution as well.

I also do a lot of mentoring with first-time self-publishers. I can walk them through the self-publishing process and help them make the right choices. I help them carefully check the proofs from the printer or print on demand company they are working with so everything turns out exactly as it should.

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Illustrating a children’s picture book takes between four to eight months from start to finish. But it can take well over a year if the author or art director is slow to respond and make decisions when I send roughs and pencils for approval at each stage of the process.

 

Illustrating a picture book is a labor of love, but Yes, it is a real job and illustrators should be fairly paid for their expertise and talent.

I love to work with authors and art directors. You can contact me and I will be happy to discuss your book and give you a fair price to illustrate and even mentor you through the self-publishing process.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank You, Jim Trelease! – The Power of Reading Aloud to Children

I believe that reading to your children is one of the most important things you can do to raise inquisitive, intelligent, creative and informed kids. Bravo to Jim Trelease.

Oxford Tutoring

Picture copy.jpg My son, Matt, reading to my four grandchildren.

Reading aloud to my four children is one of the fondest memories I have of their growing up years.  They are all adults now with their own families and busy lives, but I have wonderful memories of cuddling on the couch with them, reading stories together, watching their eyes light up as we traveled to other lands and other times through story.

As a teacher, reading to my children seemed a natural part of the parenting process.  Even when they were babies, they would sit on my lap as we enjoyed books like Pat the Bunny.  As they grew older, we graduated to story books.  Some were fairy tales, some were Bible stories, but all were chances to bond together over printed word. They had their favorites that they asked to be read to them over and over and over. We went…

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Children are the building blocks of the human race.

Children’s Books Are My Life. I read them, I study them, I illustrate them and I write them. You might ask how children’s books can capture this much of my time and energy? Children’s books are important to me and they should be to you also. 

There's a Mouse on My Head Children's Picture Book

There's a Mouse on My Head

Picture book I illustrated for Donna Warwick

Children are the building blocks of the human race.

Educating our children to guide them to become the future leaders, innovators, and educators of our world is one of the most important things we can do.  Children’s books help young humans form their early outlook on life, their opinions, and values. Children’s books expand a child’s world beyond the four walls of their home. They prepare a child for a life of learning and interaction with other children. They help children become open-minded, educated and responsible adults.

Quiet reading time or taking a child to the library or a favorite bookstore should be a treat. It’s important to foster an early positive love of books and the wonderful world held between their covers. Books should hold a precious place in every home. Our children are our future, we need to make sure they have the best education, wide experiences and open minds to become our next generation of adults.

My love of books has turned into my career. I have always been a creative thinker and a creator. I love the rhythm of words and the look and smell of them on the printed page. I love to take a complicated problem and make it easy to understand with a few simple illustrations and words. My background in graphic design and art direction in the world of advertising gives me an advantage in illustrating and designing children’s books.

 

Don't be a Pig in a Panic! by Leila Leidke

Don't Be a Pig in a Panic!

Picture book I illustrated for Leila Leidke

I love working with publishers and authors to develop characters and bring stories to life. I use my skills in art direction, graphic design, and problem-solving together with my children’s book illustrations to help authors develop their characters and design their book covers. I design and incorporate the text into the page illustrations for beautiful spreads. For self-publishing authors, I can create the whole package, working directly with your printer, publisher or POD company, so you get the best results possible.

Visit my website portfolio:www.behance.net/DayneSislenDesign or my website for more information:www.daynesislendesign.com or email me directly:

 Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to the playground to get inspired…

 

2016 SCBWI Crystal Kite Awards Announced

The SCBWI announced the winners of the 2016 Crystal Kite Member Choice Awards for fifteen regional divisions:

I always love to see which books are chosen from each region of SCBWI for this award. This year, the book chosen from my region (the Mid South) is:  “Secret Files World War II, by Stephanie Bearce.  I had the opportunity to meet Stephanie earlier this year at a SCBWI workshop. She talked to us about the joys of writing non-fiction for children.

See ALL the chosen books for 2016 on the SCBWI website. 

A few of the chosen books.

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About the Crystal Kite Awards

The Crystal Kite Awards are given by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators to recognize great books from the seventy SCBWI regions around the world.  Along with the SCBWI Golden Kite Awards, the Crystal Kite Awards are chosen by other children’s book writers and illustrators, making them the only peer-given awards in publishing for young readers.

World Read Aloud Day is Coming

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February 23, 2016 is World Read Aloud Day.

Every year World Read Aloud Day calls global attention to the importance of reading aloud and sharing stories.

Scholastic is the Sponsor of Wold Read Aloud Day 2016. Here is a link to the Scholastic website where you can find information on hosting your own read-aloud event.

Reading aloud to your children and grandchildren has been proven to make them better readers for life. It expands children’s knowledge and imagination and helps with their concentration and verbal skills.  All of these things can help your kids excel in school and life. Plus it’s just a fun thing to do.

Fairy Tales! Happy Birthday Charles Perrault! 

A re-blog from a super middle-grade author of the SkyCastle Series and online friend, Andy Mulberry.

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Quick Happy Birthday shout-out to Charles Perrault! If you ever think you’re too old to start writing, Charles Perrault was almost 70 years old when he wrote his first fairy tales in 1697! They were instant hits, and it is from Perrault Fairy Tales that we get the most famous versions of some classic stories. …

Source: Fairy Tales! Happy Birthday Charles Perrault! – something smells fishy here…something smells fishy here…

This the week I pause to give thanks

Every year about this time,  I stop and look back on past the year and all the things I am thankful for. I am fortunate in life to have a wonderful loving husband, two fantastic children, two incredible grandchildren, a mother who is healthy and still lives near by and many fun and supportive friends. When you really get down to what’s important, it’s friends and family. Oh yeah, and that other important thing– health. We have been healthy also.

Soaring_Sislen_300Let me make a short list:

  • Sunrises
  • Sunsets
  • Baby’s cute little toes and noses
  • Puppies and kittens
  • Mittens
  • Snowflakes
  • Good friends
  • Good food
  • Good health
  • Fireplaces
  • Long walks with someone you love
  • Picture books

I also feel very lucky to work at a job that I love so much, I don’t even consider it working. I have met a lot of new friends through the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) by attending conferences, workshops and meeting with my critique group every month. I also meet fellow children’s book writers and illustrators online using social media that share my love of children’s books. Since I work alone each day in my studio, I enjoy the companionship of a large group of dog walkers and their delightful dogs every morning at 7am in the park across the street from where I live. We walk 3 to 4 miles every morning in all but the most inclement weather (ice storms and thunder storms, we stay home).

This year I was fortunate to illustrate a children’s picture book called “There’s a Mouse on My Head!” with my good friend, Donna Warwick. I have worked with so many authors to illustrate their picture books and chapter books and we usually become friends by the end of the project. But this is the first time to start out as friends at the beginning. It’s been a fun experiment in self publishing. Other authors I have worked with have self-published, but I have never been so involved in the process of marketing the book. It’s a lot of work, but also a lot of fun.

School visits, presentations, readings, signings, and give-aways keep us busy. I feel like I need to take a breather to start work on another picture book. I keep writing manuscripts and sending them off into the world and I keep illustrating, it’s what makes me happy.

I hope everyone who reads this has a Happy Thanksgiving and a warm and wonderful  Holiday Season.

I am praying for the victims and families of victims senselessly murdered in terrorists acts in Nigeria, Yemen, Paris, Turkey, Tripoli, Israel, Philippines, Ukraine, Pakistan, Mali, Tunisia, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Kenya, India, Afghanistan and Cameroon. And home grown terrorism (shootings) in the U.S. I pray we can all learn to live together in peace.

 

30 days, 30 new Picture Book Ideas!

PiBoIdMoI love November. What fun it is to have permission to dream away for a little while each day. Dreaming of new picture book ideas that is. I have a slight head start with 9 ideas right now. I like to get ahead and store up ideas, because there are sometimes dry days with no ideas or busy days without time for ideas. I also find great ideas come in bunches.

My best time for great ideas is in the morning when I’m sort of awake, but still dreaming. It’s easy to remember these ideas. The great ones I get when I’m falling asleep either keep me up all night or disappear when the Sandman shows up.

My ideas come to me as visuals because I am an illustrator first. I see the character in my mind and later comes the story. I also have a list of spare characters hanging around looking for a story. It’s so much fun being able to invent characters and the world they live in.

I just love being an author and illustrator of children’s books.

Here is the link to my website: www.daynesislendesign.com, I just added some new work. If you need an illustrator for a picture book or chapter book, contact me through my website. I would love to talk to you about your story.

I also have a Behance.com portfolio page: www.behance.net/DayneSislenDesign

We love grandmothers as imaginative caregivers.

When Donna Warwick was writing “There’s a Mouse on My Head!, she made the caregiver of the little boy and his sister the Grandmother. Why not a mother or a father?

This is what we learned from our research: 

28-MOYH_page28RGB“Six out of 10 grandparents served as caregivers to their grandchildren over a 10-year period (1998-2008), and of that group, 70% offered care for two years or more, according to a 2012 study from the University of Chicago. The study echoed the 2010 U.S. Census, which found that 2.7 million grandparents are primary caregivers that meet most of a child’s needs, compared with 2.4 million in 2006. . .

“In many families with young and school-age children, both parents need to work to meet family needs and, as such, require child care arrangements,” she said. “Infant and child care is costly, budgets are stressed to the max and many families simply cannot afford to pay for child care.” ” Nurse.com

It seems more and more grandmothers are taking a major role in raising children.We make no judgement on these facts, We think it is wonderful grandmothers have the time to spend with their grandchildren. We felt this special role should be celebrated. So the book, “There’s a Mouse on My Head!” shows a Grandmother as a fun care giver. She has the time and patience to play a silly game of imagination before bed.

Donna and I have good memories of our grandmothers. We hope that kids today remember their grandmother as fun caregivers. #grandmarules, #grandma, #PictureBooks.

You can order Donna Warwick (author) and Dayne Sislen’s (illustrator) book, “There’s a Mouse on My Head!” from Amazon, B&N.com and it can be special ordered from your local independent book store.