I thought I’d use this blog to answer some frequently asked questions about the submission process, starting with one of the most common. Do I need to find an illustrator for my book before I submit it?
The simple answer: no. There are various reasons for this.
- Publishers usually like to source their own illustrators. They may even have artists in mind that they want to work with, and are waiting for the right manuscript to come along (as was the case with my own manuscript Professor McQuark and the Oojamaflip and the illustrator Julia Patton).
- A publisher will often have a house style that makes their books stand out as theirs. The type of illustrators they choose will reflect this. Yours is unlikely to fit unless you are only ever targeting one publisher.
- Fashions change in children’s illustration as much as anywhere else. Your publisher will have a much better idea of how your book should look and what will make it fit (or stand out) in the current market.
- The right illustrator takes your book to another level – it’s like having a co-author who comes up with brilliant ideas. The publisher knows which illustrator will make the most out of your text.
- Your editor and designer have a wealth of experience in laying out books, not only in terms of pictures but in the way the text interacts with the pictures, the pacing of the text through the spreads, typography etc. Rarely these days does text simply sit under a picture. It’s more likely to be dancing across a page, growing and shrinking or even spiraling through a spread. If you’ve already provided illustrations, this hampers the space the designer can use rather than allowing them to work with the illustrator.
If you are already an illustrator then of course you will want to provide your own illustrations. (Picture book author-illustrators are amazing and, in my opinion, demi-gods!) Another exception might be that you have already teamed up with an illustrator and you want to work as a partnership or not at all. It will be harder to be published in this case as both words and pictures will have to be accepted. And finally if you are self-publishing you may need to find your own illustrator. Self publishing is not something I tend to cover in this blog but there is plenty of help on line if you do pursue this route.
What happens next?
So how does your publisher find an illustrator? While you are going through the editing process and refining your text, the publisher will also be researching artists and asking for sample pages to be created. They may approach the artist directly or through an agency. You may see these samples and be asked for your opinion but you may not! Rest assured, your publisher knows what’s best for your story.
After the illustrator has been commissioned they will produce sketches for each page which are put together into a dummy pdf together with the text. Again you may be asked to comment on this. Once the roughs have been agreed, the illustrator finalises them with colour and detail. The whole process can take a few months, but when you see the detail that goes into a picture book it’s surprising it’s not a few years! By this time your text is normally complete too and you will be asked to look over the finished pdf and check for typos etc. The book then goes for printing which can take about three months if it’s being printed abroad. Finally you and your illustrator have a bouncing baby book – and you may never even have met!