Advice for New Children's
Illustrators and Writers (FAQ)
Question: I've just written my first children's book. I can't draw. How do I find an artist to illustrate my book?
Answer: You don't. After a publisher accepts your manuscript, THEY find, hire and pay an illustrator.
Question: But I have specific ideas on how I want Penelope Pony to look. How will I be able to direct the artist?
Answer: You will not be able to direct the artist. In a trade picture book, the publisher picks an artist they have faith in; an illustrator they feel will add a complimentary creative voice to your text. After you have had several books published you may be able to suggest an illustrator.
Question: But, WHY can't I find my own artist?
Answer: You can if you self-publish - and sometimes if you work with a very small, independent press. But established publishing houses like to pair their own writer/artist teams. For instance, if this is your first book and you haven't yet made a "name" as an author, a publisher would probably choose an illustrator for your book who DOES have a name. What it all comes down to is, the reason a publisher chooses to accept your book is because they believe it will make them money. (Most first books do not even earn back their advances.)
Question: I am an artist who has written a book. Can I send my illustrations in with my manuscript?
Answer: Yes. Most publishers are open to seeing picture book dummies by illustrator/writers.
Question: What is a picture book dummy?
Answer: A picture book dummy is a mockup of the finished book. (Of course, this is your chance to impress the editor and get a great portfolio piece. Don't hold back on your book-crafting skills!) It should be done at about the size you envision the finished book. It can be black and white or color sketches and must be the correct number of pages. Most picture books are 32 pages including front matter (title page, copyright and publishing information.) You should paste or type the text onto the pages. A publisher will use this dummy to see how well your book flows. There are many helpful books on creating picture books that include sections on making picture book dummies. My favorite is Uri Shulevitz's "Writing with Pictures."
Question: I'm a writer, not an illustrator. Do I need a dummy?
Answer: A writer should NOT include one in their submission to the publisher, however I often recommend a writer make a very rough dummy for their own information. It's a good way to see if your story has enough "tooth" for a 32-page picture book. If the text seems too light for a book, perhaps you should consider submitting it to a magazine as a story instead.
Question: I'm an illustrator, but don't feel confident in my writing skills. Should I do a dummy?
Answer: If you wish to illustrate other people's books, you should send sample packages to art directors instead of the editor. Do not send originals. Send 5-10 samples of your best work. Most art directors like to see examples of how you would carry a character consistently through several scenes. A child should not look six years old on one page and twelve on the next. Some art directors suggest making a dummy of an old folk or fairy tale. (Do not use a copyrighted work.)
Question: Speaking of copyright, how do I copyright my work so no one steals my idea?
Answer: First of all, ideas may not be copyrighted, but writer or artist's original work is automatically copyrighted on creation - no lawyer, no paperwork. Secondly, no reputable publisher would steal your work. Believe me, in their stacks of manuscripts waiting to be read, your idea is represented a dozen times. You just should hope you have the most original and timely take on the idea!
Question: I'm a writer with a picture book manuscript. What should my submission package include?
Answer: If the publisher accepts unsolicited manuscripts you will need a brief cover letter, the manuscript and a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE) for the return of your manuscript if it is not accepted. You may also include a self-addressed stamped postcard requesting notification that the publisher has received your package. If the publisher accepts queries only, you will need to send a letter with a description of your story and a SASE. Make sure you have done your research. Check the Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market or a similar publication so you know which publisher and which editor there to send to.
Question: I'm an illustrator/writer with a picture book manuscript. What should my submission package include?
Answer: If the publisher accepts unsolicited manuscripts you will need a brief cover letter, the manuscript, a copy of your dummy, one or two color copies of sample finished pages and a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE) for the return of your material if it is not accepted. You may also include a self-addressed stamped postcard requesting notification that the publisher has received your package. If the publisher accepts queries only, you will need to send a letter with a description of your story and a SASE. Make sure you have done your research. Check the Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market or a similar publication so you know which publisher and which editor there to send to.
Question: How long until I hear from the publisher?
Answer: Generally 3-6 months. If you haven't heard from them by then, it's okay to give them a call or send a note to ask if they received your manuscript. The best thing to do while waiting is to try to forget about the manuscript under consideration and work on your next book !
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