Draw Me An Elephant or How to Hire An Illustrator
I often receive emails from writers who are interested in hiring me as an illustrator for their picture books. I tend to reply with the same questions and answers. I decided to create this post so it’s easily accessible for future interested people.
DO I NEED ILLUSTRATIONS TO SUBMIT MY MANUSCRIPT TO A PUBLISHER?
No, you do not need illustrations to submit your manuscript. Manuscripts are submitted to the publishing houses. Once your manuscript is acquired, the publisher will pick a professional children’s illustrator for the book.
HOW DO I SUBMIT MY MANUSCRIPT?
Submit your work to well-known and respected publishers. Do your homework by researching the publishing houses and their previous publications. I would suggest you submit only to those that fit your story. It will save you time in the long run and you will learn about the houses in the process. Remember to follow industry standards when submitting. Manuscript submission guidelines here. You must also be ready for rejections.
* Note: If you hear back from a publisher with the great news that they love your story, congratulations! Pat yourself on the back. It is never that easy. If your publisher asks for a fee to publish your manuscript, it’s not a respectable publisher. You should be paid for your manuscript acquisition, not the other way around.
ARE THERE ANY EXCEPTIONS TO THIS TRADITIONAL WAY OF PUBLISHING MY STORY?
You can always self-publish your story although I would not recommend it. Self-publishing a book is expensive – $20,000+. You will have to wear many hats, way too many in my opinion. You’ll be the writer, editor, art director, distributor, marketer and the venture capitalist. And being honest, each of those jobs are better done by someone who works full time doing only the job they excel at. That’s why you want to submit your manuscript the traditional way.
BUT WHAT ABOUT E-BOOKS AND APPS?
Yes, the market has and is changing rapidly. Many people will be able to publish. You still have to consider that even if your book is digital, you will still have to pay the illustrator, the company that formats your ebook and the developers. You then have to sell and promote it. And simply put, how many copies would you need to sell in order to get your investment back? I encourage you to search online for other people who have done e-books and apps and listen/read their stories. You must know in order to make an informed decision.
BUT I STILL WANT TO SEND YOU MY MANUSCRIPT.
I appreciate your interest in my work. Unfortunately, I don’t work directly with authors. My agent handles all children’s books contracts directly with the publishers.
BUT I WANT TO SELF-PUBLISH MY BOOK, AND HIRE AN ILLUSTRATOR. WHAT INFORMATION SHOULD I INCLUDE IN MY QUERY?There are some illustrators who work directly with authors. If you want to email an illustrator, she/he would appreciate 1 (one) email with all the following information:
- Your Manuscript
- Type of book (Picture Book, Middle Grade Novel, Chapter Book)
- Number of pages
- Subject matter
- Age range
- Color or Black and White illustrations
- Number and size of the illustrations needed
- Name of Printer
- The illustration from the portfolio that you think fits your story best
LAST WORDS :)
Breaking into the children’s book market is not easy. It is not challenging because the economy may be struggling in this country and worldwide or because there are some remarkably mistaken articles floating around which talk of a dying Picture Book industry. No, those are not the reasons. The market is tough to break into because most people are not ready to be published yet. As a writer it is your job to hone your craft and keep writing. The children’s author Bev Cooke couldn’t say it any better in this article at the Purple Crayon – a must read. She says:
“We blame everything but the work itself and our lack of experience when the books aren’t snapped up. (…) It takes a lot of time, I heard 10 years (…) to get your skills to a level that equals those authors who are gracing bookstore and library shelves. If you go the self-publishing route, then you’re short circuiting that growth and learning process, and you may never become the writer you have the potential to be.”
I leave you with a few great resources and hope I sounded neither conceited nor pessimistic. I would hate that.
- Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators – SCBWI
It is the only professional organization specifically for those individuals writing and illustrating for children and young adults. The Society has more than 22,000 members worldwide and over 70 regional chapters. Join the society and attend conferences, get-togethers and as many local events as you possibly can. You will meet people that share your same interest and will learn all about the publishing business.
- The Purple Crayon
Harold Underdown runs this site and blog with general information about children’s book publishing. Over the years, the site has grown and now includes articles contributed by other people, covering writing, illustrating, marketing, and editing.
- The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Publishing Children’s Books
Harold Underdown is also the author of this guide that answers all sorts of questions about children’s publishing. Try checking it out at your local library or buy it.
- Editorial Anonymous
Blog of an anonymous children’s book editor who gives advice and answers writer’s questions. A must in your RSS Feed.
- Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market
An annual book listing all of the markets that focus on children’s publishing. The 2012 Edition will be released mid September this year.
2011 Children’s Writers and Illustrators Market