Children’s book writers: Switch it up to improve.

All of us tend to find comfort in doing the same things over and over. We are good at these things. Why change? I love to illustrate picture books. I love meeting new people and working with them to make their book the best it possibly can be. I think children’s book authors are the most creative and fun people on earth. But is that enough?

There's a Mouse on Your Head

This is a page from a picture book I illustrated for Donna Warwick.

I know many authors also fall into this practice of doing what comes easily. If they were successful writing in rhyme, they continue to write in rhyme, even though everyone tells them agents and publishers don’t want to see rhyme. Those who write in prose keep doing the same thing. Non-fiction writers tend to stick with what they know.

Why not mix it up a bit? First of all, I am an illustrator, but in my spare time between illustrating books for others, I write. I have lost count of all the stories roughs and drafts I have written. I have computer files full of them and notebooks bursting. I have pages filled with new story ideas. Not all these ideas and book drafts deserve to be turned into picture books, but I am glad the ideas keep on coming. I want to both write and illustrate children’s books eventually, so I work at it when I can find time. It helps keep me fresh to illustrate other author’s books for now.

My suggestion for you is to branch out, follow your dreams. If you write fiction, try non-fiction. If you usually write in rhyme, try prose. Try your hand at illustration, it just might help you visualize your story. I suggest authors make storyboards. It’s the way I start all my stories. I am a visual thinker so the pictures come first. Layout your story on a storyboard template of 32 pages for a picture book. Below is an excellent template from Debbie Ridpath Ohi’s Inkygirl.com website. She did such a great job, no need to re-invent the template.

Screen Shot 2017-04-16 at 10.41.09 AM

Debbie Ridpath has some excellent information on her website about making storyboards.

Inkygirl website.

I like to start picture books on a single page, so I often use the second copyright page, page three, for the first page. You don’t have to be a great artist to do this you are just going for the action and flow of the story. Use stick figures. You might even learn something about your story. Maybe your story doesn’t have enough action or all the action happens on one or two pages and the rest of the book is just two people talking. Boring. Now is the time to fix those problems.

Lastly, join SCBWI (Society of Children’ Book Authors and Illustrators). Attend as many workshops, conferences, and critique groups as you can. It helps to see what others are doing and to have more experienced eyes critique your work. Don’t work in a vacuum.

Email me, I like to talk to self-publishing children’s book authors and illustrators about their stories.

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

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Today on my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Dayne.Sislen.Illustrator/ I hosted a 4-hour Q&A period “Ask A Children’s Book Illustrator.” I answered questions about illustrating children’s books; how to self-publish; advantages of each POD company; how to find an illustrator; when you don’t need an illustrator and more. I enjoy talking to children’s book authors. Below is a transcript of some of the questions and answers. If you don’t see an answer to your question, I am always happy to answer questions using the form below on this page.

#self-publishing, #picturebooks, #kidlit, #kidlitart, #illustration, #POD.

Kathy Marie Hi Dayne! I have been contemplating my book and whether to try again. I think my biggest question would be which format to pursue. We had talked about print versus digital. At this point, I would probably need the simplest jumping off point. What is your suggestion for me to get started again? Thanks!

Dayne Sislen Illustrator The easiest way would be to forget about personalizing each book (Kathy and I talked about this earlier). Personalization is very expensive and difficult to do. You can self-publish for almost no cost up-front (because you already have your illustrations) or submit your book to traditional publishers and if they chose to publish your book, they pay you.

Kathy Marie Yes, I’ve given up the idea about doing the personalization. But I was exploring the idea of making the book an app. So just self-publish printed would be the best route?

Dayne Sislen Illustrator If you decide to self-publish, I would suggest Print-on-demand. The books are printed as they are ordered you get the profit. Very little upfront costs for you.

Kathy Marie Okay, thanks! And is there a print-on-demand option that you feel is the best?

Dayne Sislen Illustrator An app or e-book would certainly be cool to do. With Amazon CreateSpace and KDP you can do both an e-book and soft cover. Apps are a different matter and designed completely differently. Usually, they are best if there is a lot of interaction.

Kathy Marie I will start doing my homework and research again…and you know I’ll be back with more questions later. Thanks for the help! If I actually get this off the ground, will I break the record for the longest wait you have had to see your work published? 😀

Dayne Sislen Illustrator I like to use IngramSpark for hardcover books. You can use all three, CreateSpace, IngramSpark and KDP if you like.

Dayne Sislen Illustrator Yes, You will break the record for the length of time taken for a book to be completed. (The illustrations for Kathy’s book were finished many years ago) I would love to see your book published. It’s such a great idea and it has such a wonderful built-in market.

Kathy Marie Alrighty…another goal then. I like breaking records! 😀

Kathy Marie Thought of another question…will I need to work through my LLC to self-publish?

Dayne Sislen Illustrator I would suggest you do this. It’s not hard to do online on your state’s website. Don’t pay a lawyer to do it. I took a course with the Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts in my city. They walked us through the process, it’s very easy and very cheap. It’s fun to think up your own publishing house name.

Kathy Marie Okay, thanks. I would look to resurrect my old LLC, which I assume is still technically mine. I closed the business bank account on it years ago, but I don’t really know how the rest of it works or if I still even really have the LLC. Another piece of homework I guess. Thanks again for your time and this was a fun and helpful idea!

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Barbara Schuermann Stock Stuckey Hi Dayne, first of all, thank you for your kindness, in giving your time, to share your knowledge with us. My question would be – who would you recommend to publish my book? I have been looking at Ingram Spark and Create Space. The book was designed on Shutterfly and I would like to use that exact format. Can that exact book be converted to IngramSpark? Also, where should I purchase my ISBN number? My preference for Ingram Spark has to do with their return policy and also the 55% discount. I am so confused, thank you!

Dayne Sislen Illustrator Thanks for asking this question. I have used both CreateSpace and IngramSpark. Each has their strong points.

Dayne Sislen Illustrator CreateSpace is easier to use and slightly cheaper. They do not have hardcover books. When you publish with CS your book will never be listed as out of print by Amazon. You also make a little bit more on each on each book sold on Amazon, but much less on books sold on B&N and independent bookstores.

Dayne Sislen Illustrator I like the hardcover books at IngramSparks. It only cost a small bit more to publish your book with IngramSpark and you can set your price and percent of discount. Independent books stores will be able to order your book and you will make more per book. You will make a tiny bit less on Amazon and your book may be listed as out of stock occasionally.

Barbara Schuermann Stock Stuckey This is my first book. I am leading toward Ingram Spark then also I have heard about Lightning Source, do you know anything about them? As a first time writer who would like to write sequels to my book, what would you suggest?

Dayne Sislen Illustrator IngramSpark and Lightning Source are the same company. Lightning Source prints for IngramSpark, as a small self-publisher you should use IngramSpark. Their website is very user-friendly, you can figure out how much your books will cost and how much you will make on each using their charts.

Dayne Sislen Illustrator I also suggest you publish your soft cover books with CreateSpace and your hardcover books with IngramSpark. That way you have the best of both. You will always be listed as in stock on Amazon with CreateSpace and if you want to sell through B&N or an independent bookstore, you will do better with IngramSpark.

Dayne Sislen Illustrator CreateSpace is very easy for a non-professional to set up using MS Word. IngramSpark works best if you use professional software like Adobe InDesign. If you hire a professional children’s book illustrator and designer they can set everything up for you. If you want to also have an e-book CreateSpace and IngramSpark can convert your files. I have no idea what the quality is like.

Dayne Sislen Illustrator Be sure to buy your own ISBN number. Get them directly from the source Bowkers, http://.myidentifiers.com. Do not buy them from CreateSpace, Amazon will be your publisher of record. You really don’t want that.

Barbara Schuermann Stock Stuckey My book is all photographs, would that be something you would work with?

Dayne Sislen Illustrator Printing your books is really the easy part. The hard part is marketing them. Be prepared for almost a full-time job. Amazon makes the books available, but you have to get customers to Amazon. If you become a top seller in your category, Amazon will give your book a boost by suggesting it to customers.

Barbara Schuermann Stock Stuckey Wow, glad to hear you say that! It seems to be the hardest part for me. I have been marketing my book for years. I have read for schools, daycare centers, Barnes and Noble in Wisconsin and Barnes and Noble in St. Louis, all with very favorable reviews. I just can’t seem to get it printed. 🙂

Dayne Sislen Illustrator You also asked about taking you book as is from Shutterfly and using the files on another service. I am not familiar with Shutterfly, but I think you put it together online using their online tools. If that is correct, you will not be able to switch it over directly. But, you now have a very good idea of exactly what you want. Each POD service has their own method to prepare files.

Bowker | Identifier Services

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

MYIDENTIFIERS.COM

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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.

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.

 

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).

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.

 

My entry for the Missouri SCBWI 2015 conference poster Illustration

Soaring_Sislen_300This is my illustration for the SCBWI-MO conference Illustration competition. The theme is “Soaring to New Heights!” The conference is this weekend, September 15-16th at Lindenwood University in St. Charles Missouri, just outside of St. Louis.

If you have been following this blog, you might just recognize the mouse character from theMOYH 3d_BookCover last picture book I illustrated “There’s a Mouse on My Head!” by Donna Warwick. I enjoyed illustrating that book so much, I have just fallen in love with the little chubby mouse.

The first week of October, Donna Warwick and I will be doing a presentation at the Jewish Book Festival Book Club Tea. We have some fun surprises for the attendees.

The Winner of the 2014 Tomie dePaola Award

Every year the SCBWI and Tomie dePaola have a competition for illustrators. The theme for this year was the poem “Sneeze, A sneeze Is a breeze In Your Nose. Square format illustrations, for a young child’s book (2 months to 2 years). Before I entered this competition, I thought long and hard about the poem and how best to illustrate it for a young child. My idea was to use an elephant, who else has spectacular sneezes? In Tomie dePaola’s introduction, he mentions that there were far too many elephants. I guess I was not very original. He also mentioned that there was too much “stuff” flying out of nostrils. Whoops, my bad again! Visit the SCBWI website to see all the runners-up.

winner 2014 Tomie dePaola awardThis year the winner of the Tomie dePaola Award is Akiko White for a wonderful creation in “cake.” Congratulation Akiko! Your illustration is perfect, I love it!

It looks like icing  or Sculpy to me, but the SCBWI announcement says cake. The subject of the winning illustration is surprisingly–an elephant! I really like the composition and the colors. The surface texture and lighting  are wonderful. The mouse stopping the sneeze is priceless.

nina_goebel_smFirst runner-up is Nina Goebel. Her illustration is applique on a vintage handkerchief. Tomie didn’t like the lace edging on the handkerchief. Loved the bi-racial family and the simple imagery. You really should see all 5 of the runner-ups on the SCBWI website, there is a short critique for each one. Alice Ratteree was 2nd runner-up, Anne Dawson was 3rd runner-up, Jacob Grant was 4th runner-up and Lisa Cinelli was 5th runner-up.

It is so generous fo Tomie dePaola to take his time to have this award each year. It gives all illustrators a chance to work on an assignment and see our work with some of the best in the business.

SNEEZ_SMThere is another website set up showing ALL the entries for 2014 that the illustrators choose to share, winners and non-winners all together. What a great opportunity to see a lot of creative work. You can even leave comments on each entry. Thanks to Diandra Mae for all her work.

My entry, not a contender, also shows an elephant. He has “stuff” flying out of his nose which Tomie say this is a real no,no, considering flu season and all. I really needed to take more of a risk on subject matter and technique. It’s fun to see what other artists come up with. Next year I will go all out.

Thanks for the opportunity Tomie

How to get your children’s picture book illustrated?

OK, you’ve written a children’s book, rewritten it, agonized over it, participated in critique groups and made changes and rewritten it again until you feel you are finished. Now you are ready to look into publishing your baby. There is a lot of information online about traditional publishing and self-publishing; why you should, why you shouldn’t and everything in between. Read it all, the good bad and the ugly! Harold Underdown has a lot of useful information on this website.

If you are publishing with a traditional publisher, you do NOT need to hire an illustrator. The publisher will handle all of the illustrations and will pay for them, but you will have NO input. If you are  sure you are going to self-publish you WILL need an illustrator for your cover and/or your complete children’s picture book. I will attempt to give you an idea of what steps to take to get your book illustrated.

SCBWI_logo1. Try Google searches for children’s book Illustrators. Look on the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Illustrators (SCBWI) page. This site is very hard to search because you have to type in the illustrators name to see their work. There is no way to know about any of the illustrators until you find them by region or art style. I’m on the list but my last name starts with S, it will be very hard to find me and many other illustrators on your own. This is my SCBWI link. There are also a lot of children’s book illustrators on Behance.netI’m on Behance also, but there are so many illustrators of all kinds, you may not easily find my work or many other children’s book illustrators. My Behance link. There are many other freelance sites where you list your illustration job and set a maximum price. Freelance artists will bid on your job. Maybe this might work for you, but personally, I would be more concerned with the artist’s professionalism and talent, than I would a low price. The illustrations you chose will represent your book to the world. How hard will it be to communicate with an artist rushing through many illustrations in a day besides yours, just to make a living at the ridiculously low prices quoted

Check out the children’s area in a bookstore or library for illustration styles you like, even if you will not be able to afford these illustrators or can’t get these specific illustrators to work for you, you can get a good idea of the style you are looking for.

2. You’ve found an illustrator you like, what’s next? Contact them, tell them about your book to see if they are interested. I want to warn you, many professional illustrators do NOT like to work with self-published authors. They prefer to work directly with publishers. Many amateur and hobby illustrators do not understand what is involved to prepare illustrations for book publishing. If a professional illustrator really likes your story and thinks it’s well written, and can see you are professional and realistic about your marketing and distribution, they will be more willing to illustrate your book. Illustrators want to see their illustrations in well written books that sell.

Aimie_face_4203. If a professional illustrator is interested in illustrating your book, they will want to see your manuscript. You can ask the illustrator to sign a non-disclosure form if you are concerned. Illustrators are not interested in stealing your work, they must read your manuscript to get an idea of what they will be doing for you before they will be able to give you any kind of bid on illustrating your book. They will ask you a lot of questions before they can give you a price.

4. When you get a price for illustrating your book, you may be surprised. It might more than you estimated or dreamed it would be. There is a lot of work that goes into illustrating a children’s picture book. Illustrators have to make money too. Many authors feel like illustrators should illustrate books out of the goodness of their hearts. We do love what we do, but need to pay the rent and eat etc. Working on a royalty only basis, puts illustrators in a very bad position. We frankly have no way of knowing how many copies you have sold or if you even intend to market it aggressively. Most illustrators will want to be paid for their work upfront or in divided payments. An illustrator will prepare and ask you to sign a contract. This, hopefully easy-to-read contract, should clear up questions and protect both parties.

5. First step, after the signing of the contract. The illustrator carefully reads your picture book and decides where the pages will break to make the story fit into the standard 32 page picture book format. The illustrator will make these recommendations based on where surprises need to happen with page turns and what part of the story makes the best illustrations. A rough dummy is created.

6. Next step is character studies. I love this part. If this is a self published book you as the author and creator will actually get some say in how the character Dayne Sislen character studywill look. Listen to your illustrator, they will have ideas you haven’t even thought of.  You picked them because you like their illustrations and their style, so let them guide you.

7. Next step is the pencil roughs of each spread. At this stage the illustrator works out the perspectives composition and how best to describe the action using the character developed earlier. These roughs will need your approval. These pencils are then tightened up so they can be used as the basis for the illustration.

8. Rough color block-ins are made to make sure the colors work and are balanced and exciting on the pages.

9.  It’s step 9 and we are just now starting on the actual illustrations. I bet you thought this was going to be the first step.

Dayne Sislen children's Book illustration10. More refining of the illustration. It can take as much as 40 hours for one complicated illustration. That’s a whole week’s work for just one spread. Some illustrations will take a lot less time, depending on the details and how many character are included.

11. Once all the illustrations are finished the book must be designed. You can hire a separate designer/art director to do this work. I also have a background in graphic design and art direction and always like to have the opportunity to also control the design and layout of the cover and pages of the book. I can design custom text to make the pages and cover exciting. This step brings all the illustrations together along with the text to form a pleasing whole that is ready for your printer or self-publisher.

I hope this blog helped you a to understand the process of illustrating and designing a children’s picture book. If you have any questions about self-publishing, illustration and book design, contact me at dayne.design@gmail.com and visit me on FaceBook. I also love comments, click on the thought bubble at the top right of this post.FB

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Attended SCBWI conference in St. Louis

I am so excited and empowered, I attended my first Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conference today. Will Terry was the speaker for the illustrators. Will  is incredibly talented and a very good speaker. Visit his site to see some of his work: http://willterry.com/ He also sells some wonderful tutorials for illustrators.

He talked about the emerging technology for e-books and story apps. It’s another tool for writers and illustrators to help get our work out to our readers in an exciting way.

I appreciate the SCBWI of Missouri for planning this wonderful conference. Thank you