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.

Finding the right illustrator for your self-published children’s book.

There's a Mouse on My Head

Picture book I illustrated for Donna Warwick. POD by IngramSpark

 If you are planning on self-publishing a picture book using Print On Demand (POD) like CreateSpace or IngramSpark or an independent printer (that you pay to print your book) you WILL need professional children’s book illustrations. You will want to make sure your book will be able to compete with other books in the Kid Lit marketplace.

 

Finding an illustrator is easier than it used to be before the Internet opened up the whole world as a vast viewing and shopping site. But now there are so many choices it is hard to know where to turn. Many “Full Service” publishers who offer the total publishing package (including illustrations that you pay for) are actually predatory con-artists, just waiting to trick you out of your hard-earned money. Some illustrators ask for money upfront and never deliver the illustrations. I suggest using http://www.pred-ed.com to check publishers, printers and agents before you send money. Pred-Ed is an unattractive generic website, but it has a lot of good information on dishonest and predatory folks in the publishing business.

SCBWi Dayne Sislen Gallery Page

SCBWI’s illustrator Gallery

For children’s book illustrators, I suggest: The 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.

Children's Illustrators

Children’s Illustrators Website

Fiverr

Fiverr website

A budget sources: 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. Another source is http://upwork.com, they have illustrators and book designers available for slightly more money.

Before contacting an illustrator:

Have your manuscript professional edited and formatted. Most illustrator will want to read your story. They will be looking to see if you have put in the time and effort to have your manuscript in the correct format and edited to work as a picture book.  Illustrators want to work with authors who are dedicated to making their book a success.

When I receive a manuscript I read it several times. If I feel your story will fit my style of illustration and I can create suitable illustrations that will 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 14-16 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 so your book can be illustrated to show off your wonderful story to its best advantage.

An illustrator may ask about your plans for printing and marketing. This isn’t just to be nosy, it’s so we know if you know what you are getting into. Are you going to be willing to market your book? A beautifully written and illustrated book will never be found by customers if you aren’t willing to spend time marketing and promoting your book. Amazon does not do this for you. As illustrators we want lots of people to read the books we illustrate.

I usually start with preliminary pencil sketches to develop your idea and characters for your approval then 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.

Publishing package: 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, all 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 when it rolls off the presses.

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.

An important word about picture book length:
Current picture book manuscripts being printed are about 300-800 words. Sometimes even fewer words are preferred. Manuscripts with 800-1000 words don’t sell as well, so write tight to improve your odds of being published. Remember that illustrations will tell half your tale, so you don’t need to be overly descriptive in your text.

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.

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

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 put together your book, package it with all text in place and provide digital files to your printer (Publishing package), 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 your book goes to print using your choice of book publishing services. Your book will then be available for sale on Amazon.com, Barnes and Nobel and other booksellers (should you choose).

I Have the Best Job in the World

 

Sketches for a picture book

Sketches from an earlier picture book I illustrated.

A fresh start on a new picture book

My favorite thing about my job as a children’s book designer and illustrator is, starting to illustrate a new picture book. It’s the fresh beginning of a four to six month relationship with new characters that I get to bring to visual life with my pencil. It’s the excitement of finding the perfect details to enhance the story to take it further. It’s the joy of transforming an author’s manuscript into a colorful inviting picture book.

It’s also the time when I get to really get to know the talented author who created the story. I love working with creative people. Together the author and I form a team dedicated to “birth” their new picture book.

Today is my first day starting to illustrate a new picture book for an author I have not worked with before.  I will read the story several times to get a feel for the mood of the book and to get to know the characters. Once I form clear visual images of the characters in my mind, I can start to put my ideas on paper. I share these early sketches with the author to see if I have captured the personality of their characters.

I better get to work.

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: