The Business of Writing

How Do I Get My Picture Book Illustrated?
Part I by Hazel Buys

There are really two questions here. How do I get my picture book illustrated and, very importantly, should I get my picture book illustrated?

In this post I’ll address the question, should I get my picture book illustrated? In September’s post I’ll address the question of how to go about getting a picture book illustrated, if that is the answer for you after reading today’s post.

You need to ask yourself the question, should I get my picture book illustrated, if you want to publish traditionally, as opposed to self-publishing. Traditional publishing means submitting to an agent or directly to an editor at a publishing house who will hopefully offer you a contract to publish your book. Illustrations are such a big part of a successful children’s picture book that it is not surprising that authors of such books are very interested in how their words will be translated into pictures and feel some ownership of that process. If you wrote the words, how can you be expected to keep your hands off the images that will expand on those words and bring your story to (visual) life?

But you must. If you want to publish traditionally, that is. When submitting a picture book manuscript to a publisher or agent, do not, repeat, DO NOT submit illustrations. In this instance, you get your picture book illustrated by letting the publisher who contracts with you to publish your book arrange for the illustrations as part of its publishing process.

This is the case because publishing houses have a branded approach to matching images to words and want to choose from illustrators with whom they have worked before. This approach means publishing houses have a “look” that is associated with their product (picture books, for example) and they have a stable of illustrators that have been vetted for compatibility with their brand. Sometimes, there is also a marketing strategy at work, e.g., pair a new author with a well-known illustrator to enhance recognition in the market place.

A “sometimes” applies here, if, and only if, you are also a professional artist/illustrator. Then you can illustrate your picture book yourself and submit the work as an author/illustrator package. But even for those who can wear both hats, be sure to research your submission targets thoroughly. Publisher websites or other sources will usually tell you if author/illustrator submissions are welcome.

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