10 Steps for Working with an Illustrator

Maybe your story is like mine. You’ve submitted a children’s book to several publishers without pictures and have had no response. Lets be real can a picture book really make an impact without pictures? Maybe… Maybe not… So after reading through the Children’s Writers Market I’ve decided to try again, except with the pictures included. One problem, beyond pictionary level, I can’t draw.

To get past this I’ve enlisted the help of an illustrator. Here are a few places you can find someone in your area:

1. Local art school. Students need to create portfolio level work. Sometimes you can ask them to do it on that merit alone, as homework subject matter, or for a reduced price. Just make sure when you publish it you give them credit as the illustrator. Sometimes that is all you will need.

2. Art teachers at college or at community centers. Some of them are looking for new projects for the classroom or would be willing to exchange work.

3. Social Media. Many previous art students are now at a full time jobs but want to get back into art.

Writers aren’t the only ones who give up on the dream because of reality. By offering this opportunity you are giving an artist another shot. Maybe you both will hit it big.

Here is the process I went through collaborating without a publisher or agent:

1. Decide on your terms. I traded a website design, something I can do, for the artwork, which I cannot do. Get it in writing, an email will work.

2. Create a packet. Standard picture book length is 32 pages. Create a packet by taking 8 pieces of printer paper and fold them in half. Now stack them together and staple the seam. This is your book packet.

3. Make Your Demo. Take your book packet and a box a crayons, colored pencils, whatever you are comfortable with and sketch out your thoughts. Add the words on each page and try to put down what’s in your head. At the very least write a description of what you are looking for.

KEY: DO NOT hand them your words and say ‘draw it.’ If someone handed you a painting and said ‘write it’ all of us would have a different story and none of them would be the one in the painters mind. TELL THEM WHAT YOU ARE THINKING! Otherwise you are setting yourself up for disappointment.

4. Have examples of other books you like. I’m talking style, colors, etc. Curious George books have a different style than Dr. Seuss. Know the market, what you like and what you don’t like.

5. Look at examples of the illustrators work already done. Illustrators are trying to create a cohesive body of work and don’t necessarily want to go out of the perimeters they have created. Some will try new things but, just like writing, it’s hard to go out of your comfort zone and then share it. Remember your first attempt at Flash Fiction or 1st Person Point of View? Would you have shown it to anyone? Not me.

6. Set up a time frame. Set realistic expectations and goals for both sides.

7. Ask for proofs. This step is vital. My illustrator sketched out what they were going to paint first. Then asked me to approve them. It lets you check out the flow of the book, where the words will go, and how it reads.

TIP: Respect the illustrator and what they know about art. If they say they can’t do something or it won’t look good, accept it and ask for suggestions.

8. Get high resolution scans of the artwork, put it into the computer, and add your words. Don’t have them paint in the words, no spell check and the painting could easily be ruined. If the work was created digitally even better you get to skip half a step.

9. Printing. Most publishers won’t take work digitally, but agents will. Take your new book and get it ready for sending. It’s important to follow the submission guidelines set up by the publisher or agent individually. There is no standard here, do it however the website says.

10. Waiting game. Either you are waiting months to hear from a publisher or weeks from an agent. Regardless, the experience is good and you are getting yourself out there into the market. If all else fails you can self publish.

So how about it? Do you think you could work with an illustrator? Illustrators any additional tips I missed? Feel free to post if you are looking for writer/illustrators.

Illustrators and writers are the same on so many levels the main difference is the medium in which we share our creations. So be friendly and reach out.

I hope to share results past the initial stages but want to see if a publisher/agent picks this up first. Lets see if adding pictures helped my prospects in the un-agented picture market… I’ll keep you posted!

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