This article is an addendum to a previous post I wrote called How to Find an Illustrator For Your Picture Book. It remains one of the most popular blog posts I’ve ever written; it’s also garnered a slight bit of controversy.
In that post, I pretty much said this: Writers do not need to find illustrators for their children’s books because the publisher will find and hire one for them. The only thing writers need to do is submit their manuscript. It’s not only simpler, but it’s also likely to increase their chances of getting published.
Some people felt I was discouraging collaboration between writers and artists. Some artists have gone so far as to say I am ruining potential jobs because the article discourages writers from contacting artists. Yet others say that I’m advocating publishers as tight-knit, locked-down industry gatekeepers.
In response to the critics
I had no agenda when I wrote the article. It is simply an explanation of the picture book submission process, in the traditional sense of submitting a manuscript to a print publisher. It came from info I’ve heard from fellow artists, read in books, and gained from personal experience. No matter what my opinions about the industry or big publishing or collaborations, it is the truth as far as I know.
Also keep in mind the article was written for a specific group of people – writers who contact illustrators wanting them to illustrate the story they have written so they can submit it to a publisher. These writers are mostly beginners and have never submitted a book before, and so are unaware of how the whole process works. The average person thinks you need to draw up the whole book as a completed project, and the publisher picks it up as-is and prints it; that’s simply untrue.
The fact is, these writers do not need illustrators. They might be willing to hire artists and give them money to pretty up their book submissions, but I think it would be unethical and un-smart for an artist to take that pay knowing full well the writer doesn’t need the art, and that it could potentially damage their chances of getting published.
I do not discourage collaboration between writers and artists. I approve of it. I just urge people to be smart about it. Be aware of your markets and clients and how things have worked in the past, and what applies to you. This is a highly subjective industry and there is no one set process that works every time. Just be aware of the rules before you break them. What matters most in the end is that you make a really good book.
So What About Self-Publishing?
Another class of people who tend to disagree with the article are self-publishers. That field is ripe for collaborators and the writers-hiring-artists set. I have mostly responded by pointing out that the original article is largely not about them. It is specifically about the traditional print publishing submission process. I had mentioned self-publishing briefly as a sidenote, saying that it’s a very difficult process and lots of illustrators won’t want to work on self-published books because they are unmarketable (and probably cheap) work that requires lots of time that could be better spent on other projects. That’s still kinda true, except…
That article was written in 2009. That’s pre-iPad, folks. The Kindle was just a baby. Now self-publishing has boomed. People are starting to think of it as a legitimate option. Writers are making money off of them. Illustrators are more willing to do the work. So I think it’s about time I addressed self-publishing more fully, and what it means for writers hiring artists.