Who can illustrate my book?
September 28, 2011 10:34 AM   Subscribe

I have an idea for a children's book (well a series of books) but I can't draw to save my life. Where can I find someone to help with this?

I really don't know anyone in this field because this is my first attempt at a book. It is a children's book so I think the illustrations are just as important as the other content. My idea may even be crappy, who knows, but my wife seems to think is a good enough idea to continue on. I have a general idea on what I would like the illustrations to look like but in the end I would most likely leave that up to the "expert"

Does any one know of a service that puts you in touch with these kinds of professionals? Or is anyone here one such person that would like to get involved with something like this?

posted by birdlips to Media & Arts (14 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: well, after posting the question I already found this:

But please add if you have anything else to share.
posted by birdlips at 10:35 AM on September 28, 2011

This isn't a great answer, but do you know of any local artists' gatherings in your area? From my experience, artist communities seem to be pretty tight, so you may have some luck if you can find and ask the coordinators of local shows/events or just show up to a gallery and ask around.
posted by Kevtaro at 10:45 AM on September 28, 2011

Check the Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, scbwi.org. You will find a ton of information for on how to prepare a query and mock-up book to send off. It's an art in itself. As others have said in the link you cite, the publishers usually select their own illustrators. That means your writing really has to shine in the proposal. The scbwi will give you loads of information on getting your text together, going to writer's workshops, finding a critique group (there's a critique board on the scbwi if you feel comfortable sharing your manuscript with other children's book writers).
posted by Elsie at 10:49 AM on September 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

So I don't remember which of her articles I read it in, but somewhere under Elizabeth Dulemba's advice to would-be writers and illustrators (disclaimer, met her two decades ago, we cross each other's paths occasionally since) she mentions that publishers would actually often prefer you not have an illustrator lined up. I'd dig through her advice.
posted by straw at 11:21 AM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

As an illustrator, I would not want a percentage of 'possible' profits that may-or-may-not ever happen. I want money. Pay me no matter what the outcome. Just cuz the book doesn't get published (worst case scenario), that doesn't mean that erases all the time and effort I put into it.
posted by Windigo at 11:56 AM on September 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

(so my point is please don't approach illustrators without an actual plan to pay them. We're constantly asked to do work for free or 'spec.' You might find some artists that will go this route, but in my experience we're a pretty cynical lot after having been asked to work for free the 100th time. And not saying that is what you would have done - just putting this out there as another point to consider)
posted by Windigo at 12:02 PM on September 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

Judy Green spoke at our school, and covered this question from one of our parents. In essence, what she said was that in a great children's book, the words and story will stand on their own. The publisher will choose the illustrator they feel will best illustrate the story and only rarely does an unproven author have a say. You are right - the illustrations are important - but there are bigger machinations behind them, which was part of what her talk was about (on the subject of literacy) down to how many illustrations are really needed, what perspectives they should be from to enhance or convey parts of the story, and even due to the size or number of pages that a book has to be in order to be considered marketable/saleable/profitable. Write away, at first and then, when your story is the best it can be, worry about the rest of it.
posted by peagood at 12:03 PM on September 28, 2011

publishers would actually often prefer you not have an illustrator lined up.

I'd one-up this and say it's actually hugely frowned upon. Unless the author happens to be an accomplished illustrator themselves, publishers almost always want to choose the illustrators for the books they buy. Doing this comes off as amateur (often because the illustrations are amateur, but also because it shows you didn't do your research). As peagood just said, focus on the writing. Editorial Anonymous's take (it's a question she answered many times).
posted by changeling at 12:09 PM on September 28, 2011

Because you said this is all new to you, here are a few kidlit writing/publishing resources. It's a tricky business, but all the information you need is out there.

Editorial Anonymous (as linked about, the now-defunct blog of a children's book editor)
The Kidlit forum on Absolute Write (populated by everyone from newbies to award-winning authors)
Verla Kay's Blueboards (another fantastic kidlit forum)

SCBWI is fantastic, as Elsie linked above, though there are dues to really participate. I've never joined, but I've been to a couple of their mega-conferences (I write for teens). They're incredibly helpful, especially for aspiring authors, though much more helpful if you're somewhat familiar with the market and the industry.
posted by changeling at 12:17 PM on September 28, 2011

My mother has illustrated about five children's books from 3 authors now, one more on the go. They were already working with editors/publishers, and approached her because she's a local artist whose style they liked. I'm pretty sure in this case it was the author who chose the artist, and the editor/publisher gave approval. The editor/publisher person is involved in guiding how the illustrations should look to represent the story, so they all meet together for planning and review sessions.

My mom does a lot of commissioned artwork and charges by size, so she charged them per completed illustration like she would for any other commissioned piece... and has learned to incorporate extra compensation into the fixed price to account for the revisions the author & publisher inevitably want. Because these are fairly unknown authors and the sales are questionable, she won't accept conditional payment on any % sales commission. She gets paid copyright fees though, through the artists' association.
posted by lizbunny at 12:39 PM on September 28, 2011

Everyone has already answered the main question, but Harold Underdown's blog is another great resource for aspiring writers. He's got an article on this very topic and a section on the basics that will get you started.
posted by cider at 1:22 PM on September 28, 2011

Yeah, it's my impression that you're more likely to get published if you don't get your story illustrated, and let the publisher that picks up your story hire an illustrator
posted by Salvor Hardin at 2:53 PM on September 28, 2011

Publishers want great stories, and they'll match the text with the right illustrator. That's their job---yours is to write, and get published.

If your books do get published, you may find that you have absolutely no dealings with the illustrator at all. Once the words are done, it's up to the artist to do his or her job, and often they want nothing to do with the writer at all.
posted by wdenton at 8:17 PM on September 28, 2011

Response by poster: There is so much useful information here. Thank you very much for your help! I have the first draft of the first book done. Still a lot of work to go but this is a great start!
posted by birdlips at 8:44 AM on October 18, 2011

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