Thursday, February 24, 2011

“Hey! I have a great idea for a children’s book!” Part 6: Meet Your Illustrator!

This is Part 6 of my blog series on publishing a children's book.  If you missed the first articles, read
“Hey! I have a great idea for a children’s book!”: Part 1!
Part 2: Know your Publishers!
Part 3: Two Ways to Self-Publish
Part 4: Self-publishing Author’s First Step

Part 5: Choosing Your Self-publishing Company

Yes!! NOW it’s time to get the art together for your book! Incidentally, this is usually the part people are most excited about and try to do first. If that is you --yes, YOU-- go back and read the last 5 posts! There are a bunch of other things you need to deal with first. Trust me.

You can hire a freelance illustrator yourself or use someone provided by the self-publishing company. Hiring a freelancer yourself will most likely give you the most choices, though if you want to get an estimate for the publisher’s illustration service rates and see their artists’ portfolios, you can determine if their work quality and cost would be right for you. So either way, let’s figure out who Mr. or Ms. Right will be...

Okay, wait, I lied. One more thing:
Call your publisher and find out this important info your illustrator will need to know:
• What are the specs for the size book you are going to produce?
(Specs are the measurements an illustrations will need to be, including a bleed edge. Ask for single page and spread (double-page) sizes as well as the cover. Some people will tell you that it doesn’t matter, they can work with any size but that could become an image quality issue later. Artists usually create the illustrations in actual book size so that the art will be as true to what was created when reproduced as possible.)
• Is there a design format for the cover the artist must use?
• Do they provide scanning services? If yes, you may need to pay them an extra fee for this  If not, ask at what resolution will the art need to be scanned. Usually 300 dpi is the norm for art, but it varies.

To choose an illustrator, start by doing some internet research:
• Check out illustrator web sites for an online portfolio or book list.  Try looking through the illustrator portfolios on SCBWI (Society for Children’s Book Illustrators and Writers).  (I'm listed here, too!)

• Visit your local bookstore and look for books with art created by illustrators in your community. Often, contact information can be found in or on the book itself or from the publisher. If you are interesting in using an illustrator who is from your local area who does not have a web presence, call and ask to arrange a meeting where you can view his or her portfolio in person.

• Look for an illustrator whose work catches your eye. The illustrator’s site may have samples of different styles and materials in which the artist works and maybe a listing of the type of projects the illustrator is interested in working on.

• If the illustrator’s current work doesn’t look like the type of style you had in mind, move on. Some artists say they are willing to work in or copy “any style”. My advice is be wary of that claim and stick with an artist who shows a consistent approach so you can better know what to expect when they create the art for your unique project.

• Styles in illustrating are widely varied and good illustrators pride themselves on their unique personal styles. It’s difficult to categorize, but you see everything from highly realistic (Chris van Allsburg) to abstract (Eric Carle), minimalist (Roger Priddy) to painterly (Tasha Tudor) to cartoonish (Dr. Suess).

• The materials used often dictate the overall look of the final book as well. Typical materials include watercolor, pencil, charcoal, colored pencil, acrylic or oil paint, ink/marker, pastels, and digital software. Block printing, textiles or photography can also be used in illustration.  Again, select an illustrator whose work shows experience in using the style and materials that most reflect your vision for the book.

Okay, so now you have found the perfect person to bring your book to life! What next? Check my next blog post for the answer...

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