Tuesday, September 22, 2009

You Are the Book Creator! But You're Not the Book Seller.

I'm working on a series of children's books -- 3 are finished, 3 in 'final draft' and ideas/outlines for 3 more are done. In the process of submitting work to agents (with query letters, etc.) none of the advice books clearly state where the illustration comes in. Do I have to contact one first (one of your posts says no), or note in the letter "to be illustrated in the style of..." and list some the are close to the creative direction I want?
The publisher will want to choose the illustrator. And the illustration style. Not you. You'll be the least disappointed if you don't go into the submitting process with any expectation that you'll have a say in the illustration.

I'm not saying that's ideal-- I personally try to involve my authors in the illustrator choice-- but some editors do not. And some authors know very little about what illustration style will serve their book best in the marketplace.

If you want your book to be entirely under your control, then that's what self publishing is for. If you want your book to have the benefit of a team of people who know the industry and how to sell books, that's when you submit it to publishers.

Publishers are sensitive to the difference, you know. Every one of us knows at least a couple authors who feel they should be in charge of every little thing, and who resent the interference of their editor, their designer, their marketing department... etc. And every one of us doesn't want to work with those people ever again if we can help it.


Anonymous said...

I know that author/illustrator teams are frowned upon, but that if a single person is the author and illustrator, that's just dandy. So: do authors every pay illustrators on a 'work for hire' basis and pretend it's their own?

I suspect that would really appeal to the control freaks.

Kate said...

This question, which seems to come up again and again, always makes me a little sad.

Writers and illustrators are all creative communicators. Writers would be horrified if someone said all they did was type for a living, and yet many see illustrators essentially as graphic transcribers.

As a writer, I want the book to be layered. I put as much as I can into the text, and I love the idea of a good illustrator creating whole new layers that I would never think of - because I am not a visual communicator.

Unknown said...

I worked as an editorial intern at a children's publisher and found the illustrator meetings/selection to be fascinating. The editors clearly had their favorites and focused fully on what illustrator would be best for each book. Honestly, there aren't too many picture books that I pick up where I think, "Wow, that artwork is just terrible for this book." Except self-published works. The artwork is usually sub-par in that realm.

Christine Tripp said...

Kate, as an illustrator I have to say I LOVE the way you think, well said!:)

Anon 10:36, interesting question. I can imagine someone HAS tried just that somewhere along the line. If, by some crazy chance, the writing was great, the WFH illustration was great and an Editor loved the package, can you imagine the scene when they get down to business and the author is asked for changes to the art work (which would of course happen)
That author would be lucky to not find themselves with a lawsuit on their hands:)
I appreciate that this question from an author mentions having imput into "style" and not exactly picking the illustrator. I can certainly understand that wish.
I'm reminded of a story told by a well published author. Her story, in her mind as she worked on it, was about children. After it was accepted and the illustrations completed, she was horrified to see the f&g's that arrived in the mail. The illustrator, after reading the manuscript, had a completely different vision and the characters were all now mice!
At first the author was beside herself, it was NOT how she had pictured her story at all. I imagine it took some time but eventually she came to love the turn her story had taken. It must be difficult for an author to turn over their (often years) hard work to a complete stranger and have faith that they will treat their manuscript as if it were their own.

Anonymous said...

So much of these issues could be solved with a little communication. If illustrators were told upfront -- the way you just told this questioner -- that hello, they are *supposed* to stay out of it, I think a lot of them wouldn't try so hard to control things. You have no idea how little anyone tells you in this business, even your own agent.

Yay for telling it like it is. If only EA wasn't the exception but the rule.

Stroppy Author said...

If you are an author - and not an illustrator - of a picture book, you have to accept that you are supplying 50% of the product and leave space for the illustrator to add to the story. Indeed, encourage the illustrator, leave gaps for them to fill in, share, co-operate... I am always consulted on choice of illustrator and sometimes asked if I can recommend someone. Often the person I would like is not available (good illustrators have lots of work). On only one occasion have I really hated the illustrator chosen. And then I took a childish glee in seeing the book bomb and being able to say to the editor 'told you so'. OK, you need a lot of books under your belt before you can take delight in that, but in some strange way it was a small triumph - an endorsement of my judgement, I suppose.

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