Monday, 2 August 2010

Written a Children's Picture Book?


I quite often get emails from unpublished children's authors who have seen my books, my website or my blog, and would like to know if I'd be interested in illustrating their book, and what I charge.


I have to tell them that it simply doesn't work like that. So, for anyone out there who has written a book they'd like illustrated, this is how it does work...


The first thing is that, as the author, 
you don't employ the illustrator: the publisher does. It takes me around 3 months to illustrate a picture book so, if you think about a quarter of a year's salary, you'll see that an author really doesn't want to go there.

But there's no need. The illustrator you pick is in any case very unlikely to be the one the publisher would choose, since they have many more contacts at their finger-tips, as well as a great deal of experience in matching appropriate illustrators to texts.


And the thing is, ultimately they are the boss, since they stump up all the money to get the thing on the road!

It would in any case be madness to do the illustrations before securing a publisher: firstly because, to be brutally honest (and you do need to know the truth, though it's upsetting) the success rate in getting your story accepted is pretty low. Which means no professional illustrator would be interested on spec, and you really wouldn't want to incur any costs before getting your contract signed and sealed.

In any case, your story idea is almost always going to be altered by your editor, sometimes just tweaked, but often changed quite fundamentally, so any premature illustrations would need doing again anyway.

So, if you have a text: make sure your story is an appropriate length (look at published books), make sure it is presented properly, then send it out to relevant publishers, to specifically named editors. If you're not sure about any of this, buy (or go to your library and look at) the Children's Writers and Artist's Yearbook.

And don't worry about the illustrator - we will appear by publisher's sorcery, just when you need us!

11 comments:

cassia said...

brilliantly put, Lynne. I love that people like my work enough to want to entrust me with their own, but it does worry me that people seem to think the whole thing is really easy.

Doug said...

Great post! I may just send folks here to read this when I am asked the same question. You put it very well!

Lynne Chapman said...

Thanks guys.

Yes, I'm hoping it will save me time in future, avoiding writing individual explanations. I try to always reply to enquiries, but it can be a bit hard to do quickly, if you don't want people to feel rebuffed!

Capt Elaine Magliacane said...

Thanks for giving us a peek behind the closed doors... now we know how it works :-) So as an illustrator yourself, if you had a story would you illustrate it to try to find a publisher or not?

Lynne Chapman said...

I wouldn't do finished artwork, but would do 'roughs' to show how I visualise it. This is still a time investment, but not as much as finished drawings, and does increase the 'hit-rate' a little.

I talk about doing this on a series of previous blogs, eg: http://lynnechapman.blogspot.com/2008/11/planning-my-new-story.html

Tomás Serrano said...

This is my opinion: I believe that luck is a fundamental factor, it can appear at any time. The luck is what makes the same work interesting for a publisher one day and an other don´t. Because of it I believe that someone with talent, with a good history, can be recognized at any time. Even without talent…
I speak about Spain and about my Salfon's story. Nobody knew me. I sent my story with text and finished illustrations to a famous publishing house of children´s books of Barcelona and 6 months after it was published. I didn´t touch even one comma in the text; in the drawings, only they asked me to change the face of a moon. No importance.
Luck. If I sent it one month later... who knows.
Luck and trust in yourself. And of course, a good history. Or not...
Some things only happen once: why not to you...

Cally Johnson-Isaacs said...

Excellent post Lynne...

John Welding said...

Good advice Lynne. Illustrators have to eat, rent, and pay tax too.

June said...

Thank you for explaining the process so nicely.
I shall be directing folk to your post in the future, rather than trying to say it as nicely myself.

Lynne Chapman said...

Thanks folks. It was a hard one to write - I didn't want to be too harsh or unsupportive, but it's better to know the reality.

Tomas - you are right about luck, which plays a fundamental role in everything, but you can help your luck along I think, by running with the wind and not into it. Well done for Salfon though - that is a very unusual tale of unadulterated success!

Sue said...

Well done, Lynne. That's a well-put explanation and the next time someone puts that question to me I shall point them in this direction!
Then there's the self-publishers....sigh.......