The secret to finding and working with a children’s book illustrator.

Pig wrapped in snake. Illustration by Dayne Sislen

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 fail to 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 or they only want a small book. Don’t spend much time on it, they say, 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 even decide if I want to illustrate their book.

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 illustration jobs.

Some hints about how to find and work with an illustrator:


• Do your research, search Google, Yahoo or other search engine 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.


• Be wary of inexperienced children’s book illustrators
. While they cost much less, you may be very disappointed with the final results. It requires more than a good artist to illustrate a picture book. Inexperienced illustrators may find they are in over their head and don’t know how to turn their illustrations into a printable book.

• When contacting an 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? This is a separate skill and not all illustrators will be able to design and digitally assemble your book. You may also need to hire a book designer.price


• When you find the illustrator you want to work with be nice. Nice goes a long way. Then be sure to give them enough information for them to decide if they want to illustrate your book. Be prepared to send them your manuscript before they will give you more than a very ball park estimate of their fees. There is really no such thing as a typical price per page. Think about it, would a builder give you a flat price for building “a house”, or a price per room?

• When working with your chosen illustrator let them know about any limitations or special requests BEFORE they begin. Don’t wait until the characters are designed and all the line work is finished before you tell them the main character (who is shown on 22 pages should look like your niece.

Respond to your illustrator’s questions in a timely manner. Don’t wait a few days to answer their email, text or phone call. They probably need a quick answer to a question so they can proceed with their work. Holding them up really breaks up the creative flow and slows down the process.

Remember, in the marketplace (bookstore or online), 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.


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. The second spread was for The Cow Cocoon by Rachel Nolen and Maria Price.

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

Surround yourself with talented creative people in your field

I’m talking about the world of writing and illustrating books for children. I’m pretty sure the same applies to other fields also, but my experience is in the wonderful world of children’s literature. We all need insightful feedback from professionals in the field and trusted and a talented critique group to grow in our art.

This week I was lucky enough to receive a critique on my children’s picture book dummy from the talented Cheryl Klein, editorial director at Lee & Low Books. My critique was in conjunction with the KS/MO–SCBWI Fall Conference. It was the most insightful and thorough critique I have ever received, and I have received many through the years. She is a very generous person with her time, experience, and talents. I sincerely thank you, Cheryl Klein.

Miss Josefina’s Pockets was written and illustrated by Dayne Sislen.

Every writer and/or illustrator needs a critique group. A group of talented and helpful people who understand your goals and are willing to read or look at your work with fresh eyes and give you constructive feedback. You may not agree with their assessment, but you need to step back and view your work through their fresh eyes. We all get too close to our own work and fail to see the weaknesses. A professional in the field can help you even more, because they understand children’s literature and are aware of current trend.

It’s also important to have experienced professional on your side when you self publish. I have professional illustrated 15 books for other authors and publishers since 2011. Each books takes me between 6 months and a year to finish. I work very closely with each author to bring their vision to the printed page. I also write and illustrate my own books when I have time between illustrating for other authors.

Below are a few of the books I have been privileged to illustrate for other authors:

“Harry & Larry’s Epic Adventure,” by Tracey O’Brien; “The Cow Cocoon”, by Rachel Nolen and Maria Price; “The Girl Who Found Christmas,” by Barbara Escher; and “There’s a Mouse on my Head,” by Donna Warwick.

If you would like more information about having me illustrate your book, contact me. I can also help you successfully navigate through the confusing world of self-publishing.

All books shown above are illustrated by Dayne Sislen

Dayne Sislen is a children’s book writer and picture book illustrator. #Picturebooks, #KidLit, #KidlitArt, St. Louis Picture book Illustrator, Member of SCBWI,

Picture Book Critique Fest

#PBCritiqueFest

I always get excited when I hear of a new opportunity to have my work critiqued by professionals in the picture book field.  This new opportunity is called #PBCritiqueFest or Picture Book Critique Fest. It is open from October 3-25th, 2019. It’s a wonderful opportunity to have picture book manuscripts and dummies critiqued by professional picture book writers, picture book illustrators, author/illustrators and picture book agents. They have a facebook page: PBSpotLight. A Twitter handle: #PBCritiqueFest and a blog: http://www.PBspotlight.com

Below is a list of the fantastic participants:

AUTHORS:

Tammi Sauer

Josh Funk

Diana Murray

Alastair Heim

Corey Rosen Schwartz

Bridget Heos

Jessie Oliveros

Ann Ingalls

Laura Gehl

Susan Verde

Andrea Wang

Adam Wallace

Megan Lacera

Jody Jensen Shaffer

Rebecca J. Gomez

ILLUSTRATORS:

Brian Lies

Daniel Miyares

Cori Doerrfeld

Eric Fan

Rodolfo Montalvo

Jorge Lacera

Michael Rex

Yangsook Choi

Eliza Wheeler

Heidi McKinnon

Ebony Glenn

LITERARY AGENTS:

Jennifer March Soloway

James McGowan

Melissa Richeson

Adria Goetz

Lindsay Davis Auld

Mary Cummings

Tanusri Prasanna

Wendi Gu

Charlotte Wenger

Alyssa Henkin

Hope you can enter your original picture book manuscript. Good Luck.

 

 

The joy of working with a children’s book illustrator.

There's a Mouse on My Head

Book by Donna Warwick, illustrated by Dayne Sislen

by Dayne Sislen

Working with a professional children’s book illustrator is a fun process, you will see your ideas, your characters and your words come to life on paper for the first time. If you are planning on self-publishing your manuscript using Print On Demand (POD) like KDP Print or IngramSpark or an independent printer, you WILL need professional illustrations for your children’s book. A professional illustrator will help guide you through the process of self-publishing your book.

I usually start with character sketches for all major characters. Then I make preliminary pencil sketches to develop your story into spreads that move the action along. Your approval is needed for each step. Then I move into more finished drawings for final approval before committing to color. One-third of the total fee is due before each step of the process. The last 1/3 payment is due when I have completed everything to your approval and it is ready to send to your printer or publisher. I work in watercolor, pastel, gouache, oils and with digital brushes that replicate this media. We can discuss which media will work best for your needs. The illustrations for a whole book are usually worked on together, which actually saves time and money. Once I get rolling with the characters, the storyline and matching colors everything moves much faster and smoother. So doing one illustration at a time, isolated from the whole story will take more time and give a much inferior result.

Packaging everything: Putting all the finished illustrations and text together for printing or ebook setup is the last, big step. With my background in graphic design, I can help you here. I am able to deliver art in a publishable format, with the text and illustrations placed properly on the page, in a digital form ready for printing. I can create custom lettering and design the text to fit around the illustrations. I also work directly with your printer as a liaison to make sure the final book looks as good as it can with their equipment when it rolls off the presses.

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

Written by Vincent Immordino, illustrated by Dayne Sislen

Book covers are very important!
Never ever let the image that sells you book look amateurish or lackluster. In many cases the cover is all a customer sees before deciding to purchase your book.

Below is a list  of the main points for a cover:

  • Be eye-catching
  • Look professional
  • Communicate the message of the book correctly
  • Work well at a small size for Internet sales, catalogs and e-books
  • Fit-in, or standout in a positive way in the marketplace for the specific genre

The perfect book cover design should hit the mark on all these points. Do people really judge a book by its cover? You bet they do.

Before I can give you a price on illustrating your book, I must see your professionally edited and formatted manuscript. If I feel your story will fit my style of illustration and I can create suitable illustrations that will best develop your story for you, I will agree to talk to you about your plans for the book. Picture books are traditionally 32 pages because of economical printing practices. That means I will be illustrating at least 12-16 full spread illustrations or 28 to 30 single pieces of artwork. That’s a lot of work, it usually takes me 4-8 months. This is how I make my living, it is my full-time job. Please set aside a reasonable budget and time schedule so your book can be illustrated to show off your wonderful story to its best advantage.

Gigi and Grandma Remember

Written by Maggie Konopa, Illustrated by Dayne Sislen

Illustration by Dayne Sislen

Illustration by Dayne Sislen

An important word about Non-disclosure:
If you are worried about showing your manuscript to a stranger. I am very comfortable signing non-disclosure agreements (NDA) prior to seeing your manuscript. So there is no reason to worry about your story. This protects your ownership of your story and maintains confidentiality. I can even provide standard forms, that may be amended to include any additional concerns you may have.

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

Don't Be a Pig in a Panic!

Illustrated by Dayne Sislen

The final step: After I receive your final approval and the final one-third payment, I will place all the finished illustration files for your book in a DropBox* folder and email you a link where you can pick them up. If you have decided I should also be the one to package the files of your book with all text in place and provide digital files to your printer, I’ll email you an electronic proof of your finished book for your approval. Once approval has been received from you on the electronic proof then I handle sending your book to print using your choice of book publishing services. Your book will then be available for sale on Amazon.com, Barnes and Nobel and independent booksellers (should you choose).

Would you like to talk about hiring an illustrator your children’s book idea? Contact Dayne Sislen, below.

Two picture book reviews

I read a lot of picture books. You could say picture books are my “thing.” Every once in a while I run across a picture book I absolutely love. When this happens I tend to tell everyone I know, even people who (you won’t believe this)  never read picture books even to their children or grandchildren.

Last month I was lucky enough to run across two picture books that found that special place in my heart. I would like to share them with you.

With your Paw in Mine Cover

“With Your Paw in Mine” Is a beautiful and well-written book. It’s about baby otters and their moms.

Written and illustrated by Jane Chapman. The illustrations of the precious baby otters are incredible. I just couldn’t stop admiring them.

Miki is an otter pup. She loves to snuggle and nap on her mommy’s tummy while her mommy floats in the water. She learns to swim while holding her mommy’s paw. One day her mommy wraps her in seaweed and tells her to stay put. Miki paddles over to a new friend named Amak. Together they learn to hold each other’s paws to survive the sudden storm. This book is available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNobel.com.

With Your Paw in Mine   With your Paw in Mine


“No Frogs in School” This book is far from serious. It’s about a little boy named Bartholomew Botts who loves all kinds of pets.

No Frogs in SchoolWritten by A. LaFaye and illustrated by Eglantine Coulemans. The pictures are lively and colorful.

Bartholomew loves his pets so much he doesn’t want to go to school without at least one. First, he chooses his Frog, Ferdinand. Ferdinand causes much disruption and chaos in his classroom, his teacher says, “No frogs in School.” Bartholomew takes the teacher’s words quite literally and brings his salamander the next day. A salamander is not a frog. Then, his teacher said no amphibians. Next, he brings his hamster, Horace because he’s not an amphibian.  You get the idea. The end of the book is surprising and extremely satisfying. This book is available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNobel.com.

 

No Frogs in SchoolNo Frogs in School

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hope you enjoyed these book reviews. What are your favorite picture books? Have you ever thought about writing your own picture book? So far, I have illustrated 11 picture books for authors and publishers, I can make the process a lot easier for you.

The Benefits of Picture Books for Building Reading Skills

reading time

This blog is from an EBSCO Post. I thought it was valuable reading for those with young children or teaching young children.

For young readers, picture books are an important part of learning how to read. Usually, this type of format marks the first step in introducing a child to reading and is often the start of language development for many children. Libraries that include picture books to promote literacy to young readers are boosting beginner-level vocabulary skills, introducing sentence structure and developing story analysis. 

Here is the link to read more of this blog about The Benefits of Picture Books for Building Reading Skills.

If you have an idea for a picture book and want to know more about finding an illustrator and getting your book published, contact me. I have been illustrating picture books for ten years. I love to talk to authors about their picture books.

Self-publishing a children’s book?

Maybe you have Checked out all the newly published picture books in the bookstore and library and know you can do a better job. Maybe you have already written a book you think might appeal to children. Maybe you have children the right age and know exactly what they want. You want to write your own picture book and have it published.

What’s your next step? Should you try traditional publishing with one of the big 5 publishing houses? A smaller publishing house? A vanity press? Or should you consider Print on Demand (POD) and sell through Amazon and/or Barnes and Nobel online and independent bookstores? That’s a lot of decisions before you even get started.

Traditional Publishing

The Big Five

Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster are the publishers with the big names and big marketing budgets. You might think you want to start with them. Why not start at the top?  Most of them require you have a literary agent representing you. Finding a literary agent may be harder than finding a publisher. Many agents don’t want to sign up a children’s book author unless they have published one or two books or have a deal in the works.

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Traditional Smaller Publishers

I’m not going to list all the smaller publishers because there are so many of them. Many of them accept unsolicited manuscripts without agents. But, be warned, they get a LOT of submissions. They have “slush” piles of unread manuscripts and get around to reading them when they have time. There are many legitimate smaller publishing houses that publish wonderful children’s books. The best way to get a pre-screened list of these publishers is to join SCBWI (The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators). The SCBWI provides an online sourcebook of valuable hints and a verified list of publishers and agents to their members called “THE BOOK”.

Vanity Publishers

There are also many “vanity” publishing houses that prey on unsuspecting authors. They claim to be traditional publishers, they may have editors on staff to “help” get your book in shape. They will have marketing services and staff illustrators available for you to use. The difference is “vanity” publishers want you, the author to pay for all their services. That’s a red flag, traditional publishers pay you, not the other way around. “Vanity” publishers never call themselves “vanity” presses. They mascarade as traditional publishers and may change their names frequently when word gets around about how they are ripping off authors. Visit Writer Beware to find out about the bad players. Most of these are overpriced and the “packages may include services you don’t need or want. As long as you know exactly what you are getting into and what you are paying for they may be fine for you. Most of the services they offer can be found better and for less money elsewhere.

Self-Publishing

You can self-publish your book by forming your own publishing company (easy to do) hiring your own editor, illustrator and book designer to prepare your book, then use a printer who you pay to print your books. You will then take delivery of 1000 or so books and sell them yourself online or by visiting bookstores to see if they will carry your book.

POD (Print On Demand)

You can also self-publish your book by using an online publisher who doesn’t print 1000 or more books upfront. POD publishers only print books when they are ordered. So you don’t have to warehouse a stack of books in your garage or basement. CreateSpace owned by Amazon and IngramSpark owned by Ingram book distributors are the big players. There are other POD publishers such as Blurb, Diggypod, Lulu, and more.

CreateSpace is the biggest player. Since it is owned by Amazon, listing on Amazon is automatic. There is no fee upfront. You can check to see how much you will make per book on their site. You will make less per book than having 1000 books printed ahead with a regular printer, but you don’t have to store, pack, ship or take care of fulfillment. Amazon takes care of everything and you get paid per book. CreateSpace only prints soft cover books. It will be hard to find independent bookstores who are willing to stock your books because they HATE Amazon and don’t want to have anything to do with them. You will make slightly more selling on Amazon and less selling anywhere else.

IngramSpark Another big player in POD. Ingram is part of the extensive Ingram Group Book Distributors. When you print with them you can take advantage of their network that supplies books to independent books stores, Barnes & Nobel, and libraries. You can also automatically sell your books on Amazon because IngramSpark has an agreement with Amazon. Ingram’s quality is a bit better and a lot more consistent than CreateSpace and they print very nice full-color hardcover books in addition to soft cover. Ingram may charge a small set-up fee for each title. They sometimes run specials where you get this small fee credited when you buy a certain amount of books. You will make more selling to bookstores and libraries with IngramSpark, but a little less selling on Amazon. I have used both CreateSpace and IngramSpark, there are pluses and minuses for both.

Blurb, Lulu, “Diggypod, and more

You will need to visit each of these websites to learn all the details. They tend to cost a little more than CreateSpace and IngramSpark.

Other things to consider

I’ve given you a lot of options for printing/publishing. You will also need to have your manuscript edited by an experienced person familiar with children’s books. I’m not talking about proofreading, but an editor familiar with children’s books to help with development, flow, consistency and story arc as well as basic grammar. You should let people who you respect who are not relatives or friends read your manuscript. If this is a children’s book, you should read this book to children of the appropriate age out loud to see how they respond (not your own children).

You will also need an illustrator.

I can’t stress this enough, the cover of your book will make or break its success. It’s the only thing customers will have to judge the book. Online, it’s just the cover image with a little bit of sell copy. In bookstores, you must have a great cover to compete with all the traditionally published books. Your writing will be pre-judged by the cover you choose. Here is a link to an article about the importance of great book covers.

MY_BookCovers

A few of the covers I have illustrated and designed.

Of course, if you are publishing a children’s book you will also need interior illustrations. It pays to hire an experienced children’s book illustrator to give your book what it needs to fascinate children and encourage their parents to buy. A professional illustrator knows how to create unique characters and backgrounds that take your story to another level.  They will not just illustrate your words but create appropriate page breaks and exciting perspectives. Finding an illustrator who also designs books and prepares the digital files for your printer of choice is a big plus. It will save you an extra step. Having the same experienced person doing the illustrations and incorporating the text creates the most creative books. You can go to the SCBWI website to view the portfolios of professional children’s book illustrators. You can search by region, name, style or media.

Below is a screen capture of my page on the SCBWI website:

Screen Shot 2018-05-14 at 3.31.30 PM

I am a professional illustrator and book designer. I would love to talk to you about your plans for self-publishing.

Please fill in the form below and I will contact you ASAP.

 

 

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.

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I hosted a Q&A: “Ask an Illustrator” forum today

SislenBanner17

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.

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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.

Picture Books, The Whole Story in 32 Pages

Don't Be a Pig in a Panic!Picture books are usually 32 pages long. As a children’s book author AND a children’s book illustrator, I have two different feelings about this total number.

When I am writing I feel like 32 pages are never enough. I always have a problem cutting my words down to 400 to 800 to hit the sweet spot of children’s picture books. It seems like 32 pages minus the title and copyright pages are never enough to say all the funny and clever things I want to say.

When I am illustrating for another author, I feel exactly the opposite. Thirty-two pages are a lot of pages to design characters and scenes for. There are so many decisions to make and get the author’s total agreement on. Each page must enhance and add to the text but also work well as a total design to direct the eye, advance the story and to flow to the next spread. It’s no surprise it usually takes between 4 months and 8 months to finish illustrating a picture book.

Some authors think they can just describe each scene or page as they see it and send this to the illustrator to work from. This technique seldom works. The whole story must be considered. The growth of each character and their interaction with each other within the scene is important. The images must flow from page to page. I always read your story over and over until I fully understand the characters and their interaction before I start. Page breaks are important. They can make or break a suspenseful or humorous scene. An illustrator brings enrichment and flow to a picture book. It’s not just a matter of drawing pretty pictures to match the words.

Can picture books be over 32 pages long? Yes, but usually the page-count advances in multiples of eight. This has to do with the way books are printed and the economic use of paper. Self-published books by CreateSpace and Ingram will let you add pages in multiples of two. They “gang” up several different books to save paper and ink. Can picture books be below 32 pages? Yes, but you won’t really be saving money. A 24-page book will feel like a pamphlet or brochure. It’s really too thin to have a proper spine for hardcover books. Usually, if a book is that short, blank pages are added at the beginning and end to make up 32 pages.

When authors write picture books, it helps to make a dummy out of typing paper. Just count out eight sheets and fold it in the middle. The first page is the title, the second page is the copyright and dedication page, the third page is the half title page. The story usually starts on page four. If you want to start your self-published book on a single page (instead of a spread), you can use the half title page (page three) as the first page of the story.

Now you can clearly see how many different scenes you will need. Just having characters standing around and talking to each other doesn’t make for a lot of fun action for kids. So think about action and change of scenery. Modern picture books use a lot of spreads. This means when the book is open and you see two pages next to each other, they are treated as one large image continuing over the gutter. Text can be on both pages, but never near the gutter. The action extends across the gutter.

Some pages can be broken up into many small spot illustrations to show fast moving action or a lot of little changes. The way each page is composed or laid-out can show a quicker pace or a slow down in pace. These are decisions an illustrator will suggest to create a more polished finished book.

Picture book illustrations

I love to work with self-publishing authors. Contact me and tell me about your book. Be sure to read my other blog posts and pages on this site to get suggestions and details so you don’t need to ask questions that I have already covered fully. Also visit my website to see more images and more suggestions

St. Louis Magazine Online Feature Story.

Dayne Sislen children's book IllustratorI must be the luckiest person alive. Just last week Jen Roberts,  a writer for St. Louis Magazine emailed to ask if she could interview me. I don’t know how she got my name. Life is full of surprises. She interviewed me on Monday and today the article was live online.

You can read it here. I am very pleased. Thank you Jen Roberts and St. Louis Magazine. Sometimes I feel like I work each day illustrating quietly in my studio and no one notices. It’s nice know someone cares. I love to talk about and share stories about my fun career.

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.”

Soaring_Sislen_300

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.

Bounce_Dayne_Sislen

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.

Pen_sketchesB

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.

Theres a Mouse on My Head!_proof

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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