Friday, September 7, 2007

Stick Figure Theatre

1) You have written a picture book.
2) The text of your picture book does not make complete sense without pictures (very common of course).
3) You can't draw.

What is the best way to present this as a submission so that all of your ideas are transferred? Assume that you include the complete text in a double spaced document complete with suggested page numbers.

a) Dummy book with the text in place and descriptions of potential illustrations?


b) Include an explanation or breakdown of your illustration ideas in the covering letter or separate document.

Exactly. But hold yourself back. Only include enough direction to make the text make sense. Extras are not appreciated. As I said not long ago, illustrators are half of the creative team—not a tool for the author's use. Sure, you have a vision for how your book will look. Open your mind to the idea that an actual artist will have a better one.

c) Find someone who can draw to illustrate your dummy book.

This is a bad, bad idea. Many of the people in slush send in their own illustrations in the belief that they might be in the running to illustrate their own book. Most of those people are at an artistic level so far from professional that this belief qualifies as loony-tunes. People that unrealistic give us serious pause.

I know, you're not one of them. But if you send in the best illustrations you can get done from the very small pool of illustrators you know and with the very low amount of money you can pay, those illustrations are going to look damned unprofessional. And you will run a very strong chance of being mistaken for one of the loony-tunes who think that level of illustration is acceptable.

Editors get plain old manuscript pages all the time. Here's the thing to remember: we have very good imaginations, and we do this for a living. We're good at visualizing. Give us a little credit.


Anonymous said...

Thankyou so much EA for promoting my post to your blog.

I have taken it all on board and believe I am now ready to send in submissions with confidence.

... confidence that I am being rejected for my writing rather than any inability to lay out my ideas.



Jennifer R. Hubbard said...

I've had a couple of short stories published, and one essay. Most of them were accompanied by illustrations. I never exchanged a word with any of the illustrators, nor did the editors ask me for input on the illustrations, nor did I offer any. And you know what? I LOVED what those artists did.

Anonymous said...

Liquidambar, you touch upon an interesting topic: in what types of situations (if any) is it appropriate for an author to offer an opinion on the illustrator/illustrations?

Surely, you illustrators out there will scream, "Never!"

However, a writer I know did express concern about the illustrations for her picture book early in the process and, yes, no one really cared. Sure enough, the book debuted and the reviews were less than glowing ... because of the illustrations. Moreover, the reviewers specifically touched upon several of the concerns she brought up.


Jennifer R. Hubbard said...

I once saw a panel where a writer and her editor talked about their disagreement over a cover (editor loved it, writer didn't). The writer was fairly well-known and had some input into the ultimate cover decision--as did the marketing team, and others within the publishing house. My perception is that the longer your track record, the more clout you have. I imagine EA knows more about that than I do.
I just want to encourage fellow writers to be very open to what the art people bring to the table. Everybody's trying to make the book or magazine look as good as possible, and the artists bring visions we might never dream of on our own.

Anonymous said...

Hi, EA! : ) I have a related question.

I've written a story that I've also illustrated, but I'm self-aware enough to realise that, while I'm very fond of the illustrations, a professional might think me naive for even considering suggesting them officially. How then (if it all) should I mention them in a query to a potential agent? Should I introduce the story as one that I've illustrated and add that I'd be happy to have somebody else illustrate them? Not mention the illustrations at all and, if an interest is shown in the manuscript, bring the illustrations up later? Or tell them very humbly that I've illustrated the story and ask them to specify whether they want the manuscript alone or the accompanying pictures as well? I'm very wary of the possibility of my story being discarded because I made the mistake of presenting myself as a "looney-tune"!

Anonymous said...

One of my favorite Illustrated Novel is "The Plucker" by Brom. It's so wonderfully executed that I drool over the whole book (with a signed autograph!).

I aspire to create something on the same level ... possibly even better. ^^;

Thank you so much for this EA! It's helping me a great deal and so is it helping a LOT of inexperienced people.