How to Find an Illustrator for Your Picture Book

Readingbook

This article is for those of you who have a great picture book idea, and are now looking for the perfect artist to help complete your vision.

I receive illustration inquiries from writers every month or so. Many times, they have questions about the book submission process and illustrators in general, so I thought I would address many of the common issues here, for both the writers and also the artists who receive similar requests.




So… how do you find an illustrator for your picture book?

You don’t.

And you don’t want to.

Here’s why…

Finding an illustrator is DIFFICULT.

Picture book illustration is a HIGHLY competitive field. Lots and lots of artists try to break into it, and that means lots and lots of those artists are, frankly, not very good.

Now, if you include art in a picture book submission, the publisher will judge it according to the standards of the industry. That means, if you want ANY chance of being published, the art has to be of professional quality, good enough to hold its own on a bookshelf next to tons of other big books being published.

So, do you know how to find picture book artists? Do you know how to sort out the good from the bad, and the great from the good? And do you know which of those would be a right fit for your manuscript?

It is very rare that a writer will have the resources or know-how to find an illustrator on his own. In fact publishers would be CRAZY if they expected them to. You, as a writer, do not need to worry about the art at all. Publishers have very experienced and knowledgeable people called art directors whose job it is to find the right artists and pair them with the right manuscript AFTER the story has been acquired.

Finding an illustrator is EXPENSIVE.

An artist with the kind of talent, knowledge, and experience you need will want to be paid, and rightfully so. Chances are, you will not be able to afford these kinds of fees. Even if you could, it is a very steep investment for a product with slim chances of being published in the first place.

You might think you can work around this by offering other benefits for their services like:

  • a percentage of your book’s profits, if and when it gets published
  • credit for the work and publicity
  • experience and/or practice
  • providing work for the artist’s portfolio

BUT… no self-respecting, professional artist is going to accept these things as a form of payment. If he does, I would seriously question his experience, skill, and knowledge of the industry. It is best to sell your manuscript first, and then let the publisher handle the compensation of your illustrator.

Finding an illustrator is UNNECESSARY.

I know, it seems logical to include pictures in a picture book submission, and it goes against all your inner impulses, impressions, and assumptions about the book-making process. However, let me assure you that illustrations in a book submission are neither NEEDED nor WANTED.

Even if you have the know-how and the financial means to hire an artist, you are doing all that work for NOTHING. Here’s why:

Art will not make your manuscript look better.

Picture book manuscripts are often short, and look weak and incomplete without the illustrations. At first, one tends to think that this will make for a weak and incomplete submission. Editors do not see it this way.

Editors live and breathe picture books every day. I guarantee you they will have the ability to see your story visually and will not care whether you include illustrations or not. They have plenty of experience to judge whether a story has potential as a picture book.

Manuscripts are judged by the writing quality alone. Editors will be very stringent and professional when evaluating your story, and art will not soften his/her heart a bit. If anything, it will only distract them, while also highlighting your ignorance of the book industry.

Don’t be tempted to seek out an illustrator simply to decorate your submission. It doesn’t help, and will reflect badly if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Including illustrations will not improve your chances of being published.

Including illustrations will only make your chances of publication slimmer, because the publisher has to 1) like the story, 2) like the art, and 3) like the story and the art put together. You will have a much better chance of publication if you submit the story alone.

I have also come across a few writers who are under the impression that hiring a reputable illustrator will give them an “in” into the industry. Most illustrators, in fact, don’t have much clout with industry insiders; artists, even the published ones, struggle to find work just as writers do. Either way, it doesn’t matter because again, art and writing are judged separately and often by different people.

It is not how the industry works.

Writers rarely, if at all, have any say in the process of finding an illustrator. If that worries you, and you are one of those people who likes having control over everything, you need to take a step back and be more realistic about the industry.

There is a good reason for this. Writers tend to be very protective of their stories. Illustrators work best when they are separated from this kind of pressure. In order to create the best picture book possible, the illustrator has to be free to add his own voice to the project, and that can’t be accomplished with someone looking over their shoulder.

So if you’re a writer you shouldn’t be worried about it too much. In most cases, keeping the writer and illustrator separate will help create a better picture book all around.

Exceptions?

You have the financial means to hire and pay for a professional illustrator.

You might be able to find an artist who is willing to work with you if you can pay them, but it still does not guarantee a publishing deal, because being wealthy doesn’t guarantee that you have the ability or knowledge to choose an illustrator who will work well for your story. Even if you do sell your story, your publisher may want to use a different artist altogether. In short, you will likely be spending your money for nothing.

You are self-publishing.

You still have to come up with the money to pay the artist. Provided you have that, you will have many other obstacles to face with self-publishing. You face the challenges of printing, marketing, and distributing the book all on your own; plus, self-published books are not considered legitimate in a lot of venues. Libraries, for example, will not purchase self-published books.

So, in general, self-publishing is not considered as the best way to break into the book industry. On the same token, you will be hard-pressed to find an experienced artist who will want to work with you, as it provides no marketable credit and takes time away from more valuable work.

You know an illustrator.

Say you have a friend, neighbor, or relative who is an artist, and you hope to collaborate with them.

First, let me say if your friend is a student, hobbyist, or only an occasional dabbler with paint, don’t even bother. You will most definitely not get published. Only seek to work with a professional artist who is experienced in the children’s industry.

Be aware that when you seek publication, you and your friend will still face the same challenges I’ve listed here. The publisher has to like both the art and the writing put together. By your collaboration, you will be significantly reducing your chances of publication.

I recommend writer/artist collaborations only if you really wish to work together. If, however, your number one goal is to get PUBLISHED, you are probably better off submitting your respective works separately.

Beginner’s Guide to the Children’s Book Industry

If you have read this article, and a lot of the info has been surprising to you, then you do NOT know enough about the industry yet to start sending out submissions. Here is a list of some recommended resources. Review them all as thoroughly as possible and read as much as you can before you take the next step toward publication.

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Publishing Children’s Books by Harold Underdown

This book is by far the best crash course for beginning children’s book author/illustrator wannabe’s that I have come across so far. Buy it, read it, and bookmark it for reference.

The Purple Crayon at Underdown.org

This site was created by the Idiot’s Guide author Harold Underdown. It features many articles and links, and is a good supplement to the book.

Editorial Anonymous

This is a blog written by a children’s book editor. Which editor? No one knows… However, because of the author’s anonymity, she is able to give some very honest and open insights into the picture book submission process by answering reader questions, recounting anecdotes from her personal experiences, and revealing the true and ugly nature of the Slush Monster. You will RARELY find such a goldmine of information.

SCBWI

The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators is an organization based in Los Angeles especially for writers and illustrators of picture books, middle grade, and young adult novels. Its site offers some useful info and links, but you’ll get the greatest benefits by joining the group (requires an annual fee). Upon joining, you receive access to informative articles, discussion boards, monthly publications, and discounts to their conferences.

Final Advice

If you want to be a writer, be a writer. There is no need to worry about the illustration side of things at all. You will break into the industry faster if you concentrate on honing your craft and learning more about the industry.

Update!

Based on comments and feedback I’ve gotten on this post, plus the growing interest in self-publishing during recent years, I wrote a sequel to this article:

How to Find an Illustrator For Your Picture Book, Part 2: The Self-Publishing Edition

69 thoughts on “How to Find an Illustrator for Your Picture Book

  1. Gina

    Thank you Thank you Thank you!!!!

    I can’t imagine a more thorough answer. I’m bookmarking this post, and will forward it to those writes that I hear from asking this seemingly harmless (but tiresome) question!

  2. Laura Zarrin

    Thank you so much for writing this. I get so many emails, calls, and recommendations from friends about illustrating a manuscript for someone who has no clue about the industry. I will now pass all these people on to this blog post. You said it all perfectly!!!

  3. Phyllis Harris

    This is fantastic! I have bookmarked it and I will be sending all those folks who send me emails almost on a weekly basis to your wonderfully informative explanation. Thank you for making it so clear!!

  4. Dani Post author

    Editorial Anonymous – You’re very welcome. I love your site.

    Gina, chickengirl, Laura, and Phyllis – I must admit that I wrote this post partly because I wanted a link to forward as well. I’m glad other artists are getting the same use out of it.

    Rob B – Not impossible, but a lot of work. But anything worth doing is not going to be easy, right?

  5. Alicia Padron

    This is wonderful Dani! You have explained it very clearly and right to the point. All in a very honest approach. Thanks a bunch for this. I will use the link as well! And congratulations on the success of El Mariachi book!!! :o)

  6. Janice Skivington

    This article is one of the best I have ever seen on this subject. For the benefit of myself and many other illustrators who have been approached so many times, at church, by family members, friends of friends, (once I was even approached by my Fed Ex delivery lady, she came to my house for pickups so often that we started chatting and soon she had a children’s book idea for me to draw too) I thank you and I am sure your article will be referred to by all of us many times .

  7. Alessandra Fusi

    “Illustrators work best when they are separated from this kind of pressure. In order to create the best picture book possible, the illustrator has to be free to add his own voice to the project, and that can’t be accomplished with someone looking over their shoulder.

    So if you’re a writer you shouldn’t be worried about it too much. In most cases, keeping the writer and illustrator separate will help create a better picture book all around.”

    Words of gold. Very well said :)

    Ale*

  8. Michael

    Fantastic. Your wonderful advice has saved me a lot of time and expense, as well as renewed hope. Thank you.

  9. Judy Stead

    Thanks! This really is All You Ever Need to Know about the subject and a graceful way to answer the next one who says, “I’ve written a children’s book…”.

  10. Katie Rowland

    putting my first toe in the water at writing and this will make me feel less of an idiot! Thank you so much.

  11. Steven

    Although you’ve got a lot of helpful, inside advice – I take issue with this statement: “Writers rarely, if at all, have any say in the process of finding an illustrator.” Dani, I’m sure you are sincerely relaying your personal experience in the industry, but given that you’re still fairly new to the industry, I would encourage you to be open to having a much more rounded view about how it works. If you look at some of the most memorable children’s books – the writers and illustrators have collaborated together. There may be a newer trend of churning children’s book publishing into an assembly line process, but it certainly doesn’t have to be that way. IMHO, both writers and illustrators should be artists first and business people second. Call me idealistic, but I have faith that good art will always open doors. Peace.

    1. Dani Post author

      Steven – Thanks for the insightful comment. I feel I should address a few things to clarify:

      Yes, a lot of famous picture books are collaborations between author and illustrator friends. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen. It is just relatively rare, especially for beginners in the industry. My advice is for people who are trying to break into the business – because it is indeed rare that both the writer and illustrator who want to collaborate have high enough caliber work, and have them both work well enough TOGETHER to get the publisher to accept the book. It may not be the rule all the time, but it is the reality of the industry.

      That being said, this business is in no way set in stone. Great books are being found and published in many different ways. I myself am experimenting with collaborations and new media to find a way into publishing. I simply want to address the people who think that finding an artist is NECESSARY, or would provide some kind of advantage. It is not and does not.

      This is not meant to be an end-all be-all guide, but it IS the general advice I hear around with industry professionals. But yes, I agree with you – if the work is GREAT, it will most likely find a way to get published somehow. Thanks for adding your thoughts to the discussion!

  12. Steven

    Thanks, Dani! :) As we are seeing the gradual change towards digital media, it is opening new avenues for artists in general to publish their work without necessarily going through a traditional publisher. Although, books won’t become extinct anytime soon and current digital readers like the Kindle, are at least a few years away from the ability to display full color, illustrators can expect to see a very different business landscape when it comes to book publishing than what it is today. Even when it comes to collaborating with an author, I am hopeful that online resources will better facilitate the chance for an author to find an illustrator that they specifically want to work with. As both an artist and a writer, I find the idea of illustrators and authors being too disconnected from one another discomforting. IMO, it would be like having a composer score a movie without the filmmaker choosing which composer or having any say in the musical score. However, I do understand that this probably happens often with children’s book publishing today, unfortunately.

    1. Laate Olukotun

      This is a quandary that oftentimes finds me perplexed and uncertain of how industries succeed sometimes in spite of themselves. It’s true: the film industry does connector writer with director and director to producer, etc, but it oftentimes involves layers of agents and managers who manage the business end – usually working in many people’s best interests (though we know that’s not what always happens). In the book industry, the double-blind collaboration strategy where author and illustrator are not fully aware of each other as individuals seems to set up an unusual collaboration. However, the work speaks for itself. Perhaps it truly depends on two creative forces being in sync with one another – thus raising all boats (so to speak).

  13. Pamela

    Hi. I’m trying to put together a series of very specialized children’s board books. I found a great illustrator, and we agreed on profit-sharing in lieu of payment. I just wasn’t sure what percentage is typically given to the illustrator. I conceived the book series, will write all of the text, and will do all of the shopping around and marketing required to get it published (I have contacts within the industry). Her sole responsibility is to do the artwork–though this is obviously a major component. What would you suggest is a fair split of the profits? Also, does it seem unreasonable that I should retain sole ownership of the book concept? Thanks for your help–the website is great!

  14. Dani Post author

    Pamela – If you are shopping the book around to publishers, the publisher will decide how the author and illustrator are paid. Typically, author and illustrator receive the same amount.

  15. Pamela

    Thanks! I just wanted to provide a contract between the two of us since she asked for one. What kind of contract do you suggest I use for a creative partnership? Is there an off-the-shelf one that exists for this type of thing. I am assuming she wants to retain copy protection for her portion of the work and a promise of shared payment. I am new to all of this–I used to work as a screenwriter and the process is so different.

  16. Dani Post author

    Pamela – I don’t know what kind of contract you would need. Like I implied in my article, I don’t typically collaborate with writers before the publishing stage, so I am kinda unfamiliar with that territory.

  17. kathy weller

    I love, love, love this post and I agree with most, if not ALL of it. (… And, probably, ALL of it.)

    I just shared this link with someone today. Thanks so much for writing it.

  18. Delena

    Well said! I’m tired of explaining it all to people who ask. I’ve been thinking about adding all this info myself to my website but I can send your link instead.

    Another thing people don’t understand is the TIME it takes to put a book together! I don’t know what your experience as been like but it’s my understanding is the average time from acceptance to publication could be anywhere from 6 months to a year!

    Thanks for posting what many of us need to say!

  19. Jeffrey

    While this is sound advice for people looking to publish through traditional methods, I don’t think it applies in the world of iPads and other robust digital platforms. Picturebooks are hurting as more and more publishers expand their chapter book offerings, and I don’t think the old rules of engagement apply any longer. If I were an illustrator I’d be networking with authors and content developers to get my content on devices like the iPhone and iPad sooner rather than later. For proof, take a look at Alice for the iPad. An early success story, a perfect model for how to publish in the current market.

    1. Dani Post author

      Good points Jeffrey. Yes, there will be exceptions to the rules, and digital media makes things a bit more iffy. The thing is, so many people I receive inquiries from have no idea what the children’s book industry is about or how it works. You have to know the rules first before you break them. :)

    2. Muckraker

      I don’t see children’s picture books ever breaking out in digital formats.

      1. You can’t wrap digital format books, and neither can the dozen kids showing up to a birthday party.

      2. Toddlers don’t have Kindles, or Ipads, or Iphones. And if they do, I guarantee their parents don’t know about it and the device won’t be functional for long enough to read a book.

      3. Digital media can never achieve “keepsake” status. You can’t tuck a few treasured digital tomes away in the attic in the hopes your children will one day read them to their own children.

      4. Alice for the Ipad is an application, not a digital picture book. At what point does the level of interactivity transform something from a digital book to a video game, or a movie, with lots of text? So instead of looking for illustrators the children’s book writers should be looking for programmers to turn their books into amusing games that kids will only be able to play under strict adult supervision? Notice the hands on the Youtube demo – a little big and hairy for a school-age child don’t you think?

  20. Donna

    Hi Dani!

    First of all, thank you so much! You have saved me a huge amount of time and resources with the simple advice of, “don’t worry about an illustrator.” (I’m paraphrasing, but yeah.)

    Secondly, so I have the text done. Is there a certain way that I should showcase that? For example, in my mind, I havae a definite set-up for how I’m envisioning the book. Would I write out those descriptors, or simply submit the query letter and text for consideration?

    Lastly, I do have a couple of ideas for how I want to art to dovetail with the text so that both aspects “play together.” Am I allowed to have this voice or input? For example, I was thinking of the last page culminating in all of the characters of the book having a fun party together, highlighting the traits of each character for the reader. I hope I’m making sense … if not, thank you for your patience.

    And, again, thank you for your information. I am so glad to have stumbled upon this, and am so appreciative that you took the time to put this together for newbies like me.

    All the best,

    Donna

    1. Dani Post author

      Donna – You would submit your manuscript in the same format as any other manuscript – standard fonts, spacing, etc. Sometimes the publisher will have specific instructions in their submission guidelines.

      As far as descriptions of the illustrations or how to divide the text, I would only include it if it was absolutely necessary to the concept of the book. You could probably just put these notes within the text, as long as you make it clear that it is a note and not part of the story.

  21. Mia Mia

    Thanks very much for this information. Luckily, this is the first site that came up after googling “how to find an illustrator for a children’s book.”I had been worrying over where I would find someone willing to work on a book by a young, first time writer with no knowledge into the industry. So again, this is incredibly helpful. ^^

  22. Shari Mac

    Dani,
    Thank-you for this info! This is very valuable as I’m about to seek a Publisher.

    My question and it’s a concern that Steven touched on earlier. I’m a writer with a STRONG artistic sense. And I have definate ideas about the illustrations. I have photographs to help translate what’s in my head as well as pictures of the gentleman who inspired the story. He is the subject of this book. He IS my charaacter – so how does that get incorporated using an illustrator chosen by the Publisher? I may sound like the type of writer that can’t let go of control – and I assure you I am willing to let go of that to get this work published EXCEPT for the face of the man the story is about. He already looks like a wonderful character in a children’s book. Advice?

    1. Dani Post author

      Shari – If there is info or research that is necessary for the illustrations, I would imagine the author would give it to the publisher, and the publisher would pass it along to the illustrator.

  23. Kristina

    Dani,
    I have an amazing idea for a children’s book but I don’t know if I qualify to even be the witer. Where do I go from here and still get credit for the idea? I know if the story is done right it could be huge. I have written a rough draft based on a true story and I feel nervous to even tell people my idea. I have inqired on the internet to see if anything like it has been done already and it hasn’t. Any suggestions. Thanks for the help you have already given me from your website.
    Kristins

  24. anthony

    i have been interested in doing illustrations for children’s books but like many have said i would like to be able to give my voice as well and work in unison with the writer as an organism not really just a contracted extension of a story. I have done a few zines, were i have created many images with little bits of mindless written word, those have been fun!

  25. melissa

    Thanks Dani. I wrote a children’s story a year ago after much pressure from my daughter to actually put it on paper. She wanted me to get it published and I foolishly thought I had to send pictures in with it. Now I will just submit it as is and see what happens. *fingers crossed*

  26. Alyssia Alexandria

    Hi Dani:

    THANK YOU for sharing your experiences and for your honest cut to the chase approach at all of the questions those of us who left comments wanted to know.

    Question? Production Houses like PIXAR receive submissions for story lines all of the time. Friends family and collaegues who could care less all have told me that my story line is a good one and would make a great short film. How can I get any one in a position to see it without having them steal it from me.

    Happy New Year -

    Alyssia Alexandria
    My Darling Theo Foundatiion

    1. Dani Post author

      Alyssia – 1) No respectable studio or publisher will steal ideas from an artist. That’s simply illegal. 2) Realize there is a difference between ideas and execution. If you’re especially worried about someone stealing an idea, you need to get it down on paper. An idea like “a movie about talking cars who live in a small town on Route 66″ is not copyrightable. However, a script, storyboard, or manuscript about such talking cars is. 3) Pixar probably gets their ideas for movies and shorts in-house, so I’m not sure how you can pitch your story without being an employee.

  27. Irene

    Dear Dani;

    If you were the first person I connected with, I would be totally depressed and give up. Fortunately you are not. Your opinions preclude the many good sites that exist that allow new children’s writers to connect with legitimate illustrators. In today’s high technology, publising is no longer the monopolized industry it once was. Self publishing is increasing rapidly and also becoming more affordable. There are many authors writing to a specific audience whether it be family or a cause or to deliver a message. We need assistance in finding talented illustrators to work with us to make our thoughts, our books come to life for our audiences.

    Your perspective gives such a dour, unforgiving and totally one sided view on publishing. Please try for a more balanced approach.

    1. Dani Post author

      Irene -

      Hmm… I’m not sure how you interpreted the blog post as depressing. I just took a huge load of work off of the author’s back! If anything, I was trying to encourage new writers to continue their dream and to not worry about anything other than what they are most good at – writing.

      That being said, I agree that there are lots of new avenues popping up for self-publishers, and it’s easier to network with illustrators. BUT the post was not aimed at self-publishers, but rather to writers who are under the mistaken impression that they NEED to and are responsible for finding an artist before they can pitch their book to a publisher. I get emails regularly from writers who want me to illustrate their book pitch for them, and it is simply not necessary, time-consuming, and ultimately detrimental to their cause if they are pursuing traditional publishing venues.

  28. Irene

    Dani; Key words “ultimately detrimental to their cause if they are pursuing traditional publishing venues”. Now a reality check….the majority of these authors will never get their work pulished if they pursue traditional publishing venues, not because their books don’t have merit but because publishers are inundated with manuscripts. My books have been sitting for a couple of decades. I have received some nice notes from publishers, one almost offer and essentially nothing. At least I got replies. Many authors don’t even get that. I even had my stories endorsed by Robert Munsch himself. Still no offer.

    Now I have found a talented pool of illustrators and I know that my grandchildren will be able to read and look at my books. I need my work to have ‘life’. Without the venue of self-publishing my books would have to sit indefinitely. My ego suffered through the rejections and I actually stopped writing as a result. Perhaps if I had persisted….suffering more repeated rejections…but the process left me deflated. Now I am motivated again. Thanks to Mike Motz (mikemotz.com)and his illustrators, I am on my way to seeing my stories come alive. Prices, in my estimation, are quite reasonable(and no I am not rich by any stretch of the imagination), especially when you consider you own the work outright when finished. As for a profit, we’ll see. A look at PJ Cowan’s site shows what a self published author can do.

    Beating at the doors of publisher’s is a frustrating process that eats away at your talent. By taking control, you at least can see your work…and the joy on the faces of the children listening to you and looking at your characters….in full color!

    This site seems a great place for inundated publishers and overworked artists (really?)rather than aspiring authors. Mike Motz, who is very talented, has lots of work, also takes time to help authors realize their dreams, rather than patronizing them with unrealistic expectations of being published…by the mega companies who really don’t have time for the struggling new authors. Once more, I am glad I found Mike before finding you. Oh and perhaps you should title this article “How NOT to find an Illustrator”. It would be more honest.

    1. Dani Post author

      Irene – Let me repeat – this blog post is NOT intended for self-publishers (see the Exceptions section). It is for the writers who are beating on those publisher’s doors and trying to get traditional publishing deals. I get emails from these writers all the time. I stand by everything I wrote in the post. It is meant to HELP, not patronize.

      If you want to make your book for the sake of seeing a finished product, then by all means, network, find artist friends, and produce the book. I am not discouraging that at all. I just wanted to point out that many professional artists ARE busy, and that writers need to be aware that not many will take on such heavy projects for (usually) low price points and little benefits.

  29. Pauline Todd

    Hello, I’d just like to say THANK YOU!! Such good advice, will be following it to the letter!

  30. Teresa

    I think the link to this article should be a permanent fixture on the Craigs list job listings. I get a LOT of emails offering me some invisible exchange (portion of the business when it succeeds… or promise of a better tomorrow) if I simply put in the effort, time, materials and for sake all other obligations to make THIER dream come true. The most outrageous one I’ve received was an individual asking for 150 illustrations (for free) to promote his energy drink that “could be the next red bull”.

  31. Ronda Bradburn

    Dear Dani–
    My dream, since I was a teenager, has been to be a writer and illustrator of my own books. Basically, combining two things that I love, with the end goal of me being a successful, published writer/artist and getting paid for it. I’ve since realized that, although I love to draw and paint, my writing abilities outweigh my artwork. I have my own collection of poems, short stories and possible ideas for children’s books. I also thought I needed illustrations to accompany my stories that I intended to submit. I actually have been fortunate to find someone locally that is talented and interested in being my illustrator. I’ve decided to self-publish my work. But should I ever decide to go the traditional route, it’s good to know that having illustrations aren’t necessary. I’m very new to the process of publishing my works. Thank you for these insights.

  32. Chris

    Just wanted to say a huge thank you to you for your insight into an industry that I know NOTHING about. As a beginning author for children’s books, I cannot thank you enough for addressing my concern over illustration.

  33. amber

    It’s almost as if you knew what I was about to do and wrote this to stop me! Wow! Thanks! I love it when people don’t beat around the bush with sugary words! Tell it like it is! Very, very helpful. Now excuse me while I go cancel my meeting with a student illustrator… LOl:)

  34. dooogal

    I would like to ask,how would it be possible to pay for an illustrator to do illustration work for a poem story for my daughters 21st birthday,without going all commercial about it.
    I have wrote a poem story dedicated to her and her bobbily blanket,and need to find a way to make say 10 books for freinds and family.

    1. Dani Post author

      If you want to work for an artist, expect to pay them. Not a lot of artists will want to work on such a large project for such a small scale. However, you might be able to find someone who would do such a commission. Just ask around.

  35. Jennifer

    I have been frustrated over 8 month’s about my book project. I wrote a story for my daughter and wanted to get it done before she is not interested in the book because its won’t be age appropriate. My characters in the story need to look like animals and people in my life. How can I give the illustrator directions without not letting them be creative. I have hired a illustrator from another country that’s let me give her direction and does beautiful art. Unfortunetly she is not a understanding the story line because of her language barrier. Its taking way to long per illustration. We only have 3 done. Should I get out and start over. I’m not enjoying my project and its bringing me grief. I’m planning to self publish my book. Should I just use one of their illustrators. I have a vision and I just can’t let go.

  36. Emlyn Addison

    “…self-published books are not considered legitimate in a lot of venues.” Perhaps in 2009, but in 2012 this is changing. Fast.

    The swell of crowdfunding websites like Indiegogo and Kickstarter are propelling an explosion of self-published books–whether or not the established, traditional institutions consider them “legitimate”. What iTunes did for artists and their music, these crowdfunding sites are doing for writers and their books. I recall the indignant recording industry being equally dismissive of that unexplored source of talent as “not legitimate”.

    Indie bookstores’ greatest threat are websites like Amazon (who are, as of this writing, unfortunately tied to Kickstarter) which, like Wal Mart, drain money and motivation from the local sphere.

    Not only is self-publishing increasingly legitimizing itself as a player in the marketplace, but with e-books taking ever larger bites out of the pie, it’s a more direct creative route from concept to execution for many writers and artists who recognize opportunity in diverging media platforms.

    And, given what I’ve seen in many of what pass as children’s books coming through our house, I see no evidence to suggest that better quality necessarily comes from the old publishing houses.

    Crowdfunding: Art by, for and of the people!

    My 2 cents.

  37. Sue Richards

    This sounds like wonderful advice however I believe this to be an american website? and would be interested in comments regarding the difference between the UK and American experience. Would the Complete idiots guide be as relevant in both countries?

  38. Daki

    I agree with Addison. This is a great and helpful article (even in 2012) for those shooting for traditional publishing. But SO much has changed in such a short time…self published authors, that put out quality work, are much more respected now. And ebooks are quite popular, and I believe indie sales (and possibly revenue) are comparable to traditional publishing.

  39. Lynnette

    Hi Dani, Your post helped me so much. I need to do more research. I do have one question. Will it matter if I sent a two sentence note to the publisher for the illustrator on what I feel is a perfect picture for my book?

    1. Dani Post author

      It’s probably fine to make a quick recommendation or a note to suggest the style you are envisioning. Just have no expectations for the publisher to use it.

  40. Monnie Bess

    Thank you very much for this post, even though you wrote it several years ago. I have twelve children’s books ready to submit and reeeeeaaallllyyyy wanted to send a few illustrations along with a couple of them; however, your special advice has helped me to decide not to do so. Now I just have to figure out if I want to send the manuscripts (difficult to think of so few pages as a hefty manuscript) via snail mail to traditional publishers or try to publish them as e-books.

  41. Christian Spark

    Wow..it amazes me how many “writers” on here cant spell…lol! In any event, this article has more reinforced to me what Mr. Addison said..self pub may be a better option than “traditional” ones. I will be researching “crowdfunding” for sure!!!

  42. Dani Post author

    This remains one of my most popular posts, and also the most controversial! I don’t mind the criticism, but I think I should point out a few things for future commenters:

    1) Notice that this blog post was written in 2009. This was before or right at the cusp of a lot of the big self-publishing movements. This was before iPads, and the Kindle was still pretty young. I was not thinking about apps or ebooks or anything like that when I wrote this. I will admit, the market for self-publishing has changed a lot. BUT I still maintain that it is a very difficult route if you choose to pursue it. (I have self-published a few books myself since this article and can say this from experience.)

    2) That being said, I wrote this post for writers seeking TRADITIONAL publication. So even though the market for self-publishing has grown significantly, the bulk of this article has not changed in relevancy. Traditional publishers still don’t need to see artwork when you submit a manuscript, and many naive writers seem to be under that incorrect impression.

    3) I am in no way discouraging writers and artists from self-publishing or collaborating if they want to (I would encourage it, actually). I am just noting that in some ways, it will make things more difficult, not easier, to get a book published in a traditional manner because the relationship between art and story can be complex. The publisher is -usually- better equipped to handle that relationship.

    and 4) There is one thing I did not mention in this article: Authors who are also illustrators. Because this post was written mainly in response to writers emailing me asking me to illustrate their manuscripts, this was not on my mind at the time. However, if you are both author and illustrator, you actually have an advantage. From my experience, publishers generally love this and are more keen to it than receiving collaborations because usually the voice of the art and writing naturally fit together.

    Again, I stress that if you are new to the whole process, please check out my recommended resources I mentioned and learn as much as you can. My opinions and experience may not apply to everything and everyone, but you should at least be aware of rules before you break them. This is a very subjective business. The only stone cold hard and fast rule is MAKE GOOD STUFF.

  43. Rocco Baviera

    Thanks for this great post!
    I’m an illustrator, whose illustrated a number of children’s books for some major publishers.
    I get approached by numerous private authors each year and hate having to turn them down.
    Now I can send them a link to your sage advice.
    Great way to educate the uninitiated.
    Thanks!

  44. Hayley Solich

    Some great advice, but it really doesn’t work across all markets. For example, the Kindle Children’s book market is one that you can get into very easily and what you need is a good illustrator to give your book the pizzazz to get people to pay and download it.

    What would you recommend in these circumstances where you are doing digital publishing, with little no outlay up front and want to minimise your risk by finding a cheap illustration method.

    1. Dani Post author

      First, see my previous comment. This article is mainly for those seeking TRADITIONAL print publication. It was written before Kindles and iPads were major players.

      If you are seriously considering self-publishing for profit, then you have to be willing to put down the money up front. Invest in your business. When it comes to art, you usually get what you pay for.

      The digital market may be cheap and easy to enter, but it doesn’t mean that pro-quality artists will or should be willing to work cheaply. It means you don’t have to pay to print books. That’s it. But that’s a major advantage nevertheless.

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