Friday, August 16, 2013

The Route to Publishing as an Author/Illustrator

So you have an incredible, cohesive, honed-in portfolio. 
Your artistic voice is loud and clear.
You also have brilliant, heart-felt, kid-friendly stories just waiting to be published.
You even have a book dummy sketched out for one of these stories with a couple finished color samples.
You’ve sent this dummy to a few editors and had some nice feedback, but all rejections (or worse, no response at all!).

Q: Why is this taking so long?!
A: Try a different plan of attack.

There’s nothing wrong with submitting your own stories to editors (continue to do so), but author/illustrators who are ready to be published should consider this:
Make it known to art directors and editors that you’re available to illustrate manuscripts that are under contract by other authors. 

 An editor might see and like your story, but oftentimes are hesitant to offer a book contract because they want to know how it is to work with you first.

It can be hard to take a risk on a completely unknown writer/illustrator, and they often like to pair unknown illustrators with known writers (and vice versa) who already have a built-in audience. That way, they hope to guarantee at least a certain amount of sales from the fans of the known writer or illustrator.

Q: How do I let publishers know I’m available to illustrate for them?
A: Promote your art to them!

Send mailings to as many art directors/editors as you want. 
You can send your promotion to everyone within a publishing house (where-as with a manuscript it is NOT acceptable to submit to more than one editor in the same house at a time). This gives illustrators the advantage of having wide exposure to their work. 

Promote to book designers and editorial assistants too: they might share your work with the editor or art director. At the recent SCBWI Summer Conference, I heard Melissa Manlove, editor at Chronicle Books, explain that the designers there have a chief role in seeking out illustrators. 

Create your promo postcard and mail it to this list 3 times a year.
- Always use a new piece of artwork
- Include your name and website address.
- Make sure to keep your online portfolio up-to-date and easy to browse. An art director who takes the time to go to your web-site won’t be impressed if your work is out-dated, and it’s your online portfolio that’s the key for an art director’s decision in choosing your work. The postcard is just a pointer to your work online!

Q: How should I know who to send my promotional postcards to?
A: Research.


Compile a mailing list with necessary info. This does take some time, but start by researching publishers that might fit your genre of artwork by:

- looking at the books currently in bookstores, making note of the publisher
- searching through the newest “Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Market” and the SCBWI “Market Survey” in The Book, available to their members.
- making sure all the information is current – check on each publisher’s website for their submission policies and preferred format (digital or snail-mail, or both).
- keeping this list up-to-date; publishing folks change positions and publishing houses frequently.

Q: Oh my gosh, they hired me! 
A: Yay! You've been hired to illustrate a book.

Be creative, gracious, communicative, easy to work with, and hit your deadline.

You can see how you like working with this editor or art director, and they can see how they like working with you. If it goes well, they will often invite you to submit your own stories to them. And luckily, you’ve got that brilliant, heart-felt, kid-friendly dummy book ready to go.

In my experience working with multiple publishers, it hasn’t been until after a project was over that they told my agent, “If Eliza’s got anything of her own, we’d love to see it!”

Though, I’m still working out the brilliant, heart-felt, kid-friendly story part . . .

Eliza Wheeler illustrates and writes for children's picturebooks and middle grade novels. Author/Illustrator of MISS MAPLE'S SEEDS (Penguin), and more . . . visit,

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