Friday, October 23, 2009

Does My Manuscript Need to Be Illustrated? FOR THE LAST TIME: NO

Hi, I was reading your blog about basic picture book contruction - which I understand and find very helpful in sharing with writers who want me to illustrate their books. What I am wondering is, if they ask me to prepare their layouts with their text so that they can shop them to editors/publishers, do I lay their books out so that pages 2 and 3 are on the same layout or so that pages 2 and 31 are on the same sheet? Thanks so much for your time and any assistance you can provide!
The answer you asked for: 2 and 3 are on the same spread.

The answer you didn't ask for: WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS?! Publishers do not want to receive manuscripts that are already illustrated. Publishers want to choose the illustrator themselves.

I have made peace with the fact that you cannot stop some authors from thinking they are artists and can illustrate their own work.
But you can stop authors who think their work needs to be illustrated by someone else before they submit it.
Publishers do not want to receive manuscripts that are already illustrated.

You are either ignorant of this fact (and possibly doing this work on spec, in which case: get yourself out of that situation ASAP!), or you're taking advantage of ignorant authors when you take their money for doing something that will not help their manuscript get published and more likely will hurt its chances. Whichever it is, STOP.

25 comments:

NanU said...

sigh. and you _know_ it's not the last time, either...

Aimee States said...

Am I allowed to crack jokes about dummies?

Kate said...

Somehow I doubt this is the last time.

J. L. Bell said...

The growing popularity of graphic novels and other books in comics format is likely to keep this myth alive. Because in comics publishing, it's far more common and accepted for writers and artists to get together in order to self-publish or even present themselves as a package to a publisher. So people are going to continue hearing about that step and not realize that traditional book publishing works entirely differently.

cynjay said...

As an author who can't draw, I'm asked this all the time. When I tell people I didn't even see the illustrations until the book was finished they invariably say they'd never agree to that. I think that's the reason that a lot of PB writers self publish - because they want to choose the illustrator. Most of the time, it shows.

Errant Knave said...

Wow, I receive self-illustrated manuscripts all the time, but I've never seen someone go get an illustrator BEFORE the MS was accepted. Ouch. I shake my head, I really do.

Adam Rex said...

So I was going to write to ask if I'm an author who thinks he can illustrate his own work or an illustrator who thinks he can write. But I couldn't think of how to phrase it (and doesn't that point to the latter?) without seeming to be fishing for compliments. So I'm not going to write anything at all.

BETHANY OLSON said...

That's intense. Well-said!

BuffySquirrel said...

*offers chocolate*

Haste yee back ;-) said...

Oh, but what about someone who writes/illustrates and the dear ole' dummy book?

LOL, true story. Back when, a very large publisher was considering a pic book I'd written and requested a *dummy.* The editor I dealt with like it. Her boss said, "The eyes of the creatures - a dolphin and a sea turtle - "were too emotive!"

This business continues to befuddle!

Haste yee back ;-)

Editorial Anonymous said...

I stalk you, Adam.

Adam Rex said...

That's...sweet.

And, by the way–I'm currently mentoring an aspiring PB illustrator who emailed me with a similar situation this very day. I just directed her to your blog and suggested she read all 600-odd entries.

Editorial Anonymous said...

Lol, intellectual stalking only.

Jeez, it is nearly 600, isn't it. How time flies.

northwriter said...

I write YA but I've tried to tell a friend of mine who writes PBs that she shouldn't try to find an illustrator for her text, that as far as I knew that was likely a dead-end way to go. She seems pretty insistent on her path. I guess people learn things at their own rate, in their own time.

Anonymous said...

Illustrators also would like aspiring PB authors to stop asking us what we would charge to illustrate their manuscripts.

Anonymous said...

Ok, BUT, upon searching through various agent blogs, it appears many are "looking for" PB authors who illustrate. In other words, it seems as though a PB author is not enough in many agents' eyes. I'm just saying.

Deirdre Mundy said...

Anon 2:52-- Well, for an AGENT a plain old pb author isn't a great deal--because the advance is a lot smaller than an author-illustrators, and so the payout to the agent is alot lower.

BUT many houses are open to unsolicted PB submissions and queries... so a PB author may not NEED an agent as much.....

WV- salves. ANOTHER real word??? What is going on here?

shelley said...

On many freelance sites (elance, guru) it sometimes seems like half the projects listed are PB writers looking for an illustrator. You'd think by now, with all the free information out there, they'd learn but....sigh.
And you're right. It's impossible to reason with some of them. They're absolutely convinced that illustrations will help them sell their book. Had one guy who didn't even have a finished manuscript. Just a concept he wanted a few illustrations for so he could 'pitch it' to editors. Jesus.
Course now with self-publishing, that's a different matter. If they want to pay to have their book illustrated , that's their business. But it's funny how the delusion continues. You wouldn't believe how many offer no money up front. It's 'a share of the book sales." Double sigh!

Haste yee back ;-) said...

ANON 2:52
Seems... (and I could be reading this wrong), Houses doing PB's want an all-in-one package these days. And preferably someone they've dealt with before. And more preferably someone who's a *known quantity* in the PB world!

However, if you're a celebrity, - these "seems" don't apply...

Haste yee back ;-)

Wendy said...

Anon 2:52--If you can both write and illustrate, then you can sell a picture book as a "package," and yes, agents and editors like that.

But nobody in the business EXPECTS writers to be able to illustrate, and they certainly wouldn't reject a writer just because he/she doesn't have both skills. They reject writers because their stories aren't good enough or aren't the right fit. Same as always.

christine tripp said...

it appears many are "looking for" PB authors who illustrate.

Anon, it's actually the other way around. It's far more common that it's a PB Illustrator that can write. While an editor can assist an illustrator with their writing, as with Peter Brown or Jeremy Tankard, it's far more difficult to help with illustrating.
(not the layout, but the actual drawing)
This author looking for illustrator/illustrators willing to work for authors, will never end. Everyone new to the game has no clue how PB's come to be. They ALL assume they must arrive on the editors desk complete with the art.

>I think that's the reason that a lot of PB writers self publish - because they want to choose the illustrator. Most of the time, it shows.<

Exactly cynjay!!! You pay nothing, you get, most often, less then nothing. Bad enough when an author thinks you can work full tilt on something for .10 cents a day but worse yet is when they think they are doing the most wonderful thing by "cutting you in" on half of their royalties if you will only draw all the pictures and when a publisher then buys the book!!!! ARRRRGGGGG!!!!!!
I really should tell every would be author I am approached by, join a professional authors GROUP and learn how publishing works before you begin your career!
hummm, can we tell this subject touches a nerve:)

christine tripp said...

Oh, and now I'm stalking Adam too!
(at least via his web site:)

Rose Green said...

I wonder if some art schools don't explain how this works, either--I see illustrators advertising themselves to writers all the time on the internet.

@Adam Rex: your words and pictures are the reason I cannot get my 9-year-old to PUT THE BOOK DOWN AND GO TO BED!

Jeanie W said...

I had a friend in art school who did a dummy for a friend's PB. They submitted the package, but the publisher had no interest in the story at all. She did, however, request to see my friend's portfolio. My friend's drawings didn't sell the story; they just sold her artwork.

When I get asked to illustrate PBs, I advise the writer to join SCBWI and attend some conferences. It can be helpful to hear editors and art directors explain how they choose illustrators.

Anonymous said...

After reading everybody's comments on this matter, I am still left with one question: what if an agent requires illustrations to accompany your PB when you query?