Writing a children’s book is a unique challenge for an author. Children’s books are illustrated books. So the author, from almost the moment she gets an idea for a children’s book, thinks about the illustrations which will accompany her words.
For the first time children’s book author this usually raises the question, where do I find an illustrator for my book? The answer is less simple than the question. It begins with another question, where do you want to publish your book? Do you hope to sell it to a traditional children’s book publisher in exchange for an advance and a share of any earnings the book might have? Or do you plan to self publish your book and undertake the work of marketing and distributing it yourself?
If your goal is to sell your manuscript to a traditional publisher, you may not need to find an illustrator at all. Pat Mora, award winning children’s book author explains why, “Understand that picture book publishing is a collaborative process. The collaborators are the author, the illustrator, the editor, the art director, and sometimes the editor-in-chief and marketing staff.”
“The publisher selects the illustrator,” advises Harold Underdown, children’s book editor and author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Children's Books You can submit a book illustrated by a collaborator “… but if the writer is unpublished, and the illustrator is unpublished, doing so will reduce the already slim chance that a publisher will be interested.”
If you decide to self publish, you will need to find an illustrator.
If you can afford to seek out a professional you can look at online portfolios of artists and illustrators whose style might fit your story. Some of the top sites to check include:
- Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators
- The Directory of Illustration
If you don’t have the upfront capital to hire an experienced illustrator, there are some low cost alternatives to try:
- Check with family and friends to see who is an artist or knows one.
- Talk with the staff of a local college or art school or post a help wanted notice on their bulletin board.
- Post your project on craigslist or a similar online bulletin board.
When you find a potential illustrator there are two ways to approach your collaboration. You may agree to have the person produce a specific number of illustrations which you will buy outright. You will then own the art and any earnings from the book will be yours. The alternative is to agree to collaborate with the illustrator working “on spec” and agreeing to take a share of the books earnings as compensation. Whatever agreement you work out make sure to put it in writing as a contract. The Book Cover Café offers some good advice on how to handle these kinds of issues.