Book Illustrator FAQ: Where do I start?
Q: My mother has been a professional artist for over 40 years and has recently put together a wonderful portfolio of children's book illustration examples. Her forte is definitely in the area of illustration so she would like to somehow team with a writer to put together a book. She has sent her portfolio to a number of publishers, but has yet to be connected with a writer and ultimately published. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
A: I'm an author. I only restate the obvious to warn you about the questionable value of advice from an author to an aspiring illustrator. That being said, here are some thoughts.
It's good that your Mom has put together a portfolio because, as she has discovered, you must have one to get work. Obviously, a portfolio filled with picture book appropriate art samples would be better to have for this purpose than one of poster art or portraiture. I have heard of writers and illustrators teaming up "on spec," but this seems to be the exception to the rule -- usually husband and wife teams, old friends, etc. Side note: When I first started writing books, I was concerned that I was going to have to find my own illustrator. But a little research quickly revealed that publishers actually prefer it if authors don't come in with their own artwork (unless the illustrations are exceptionally good). Part of the satisfaction that an editor or publisher gets from their job is in the pairing up of the right illustrator with the right author.
So, all that being said, here are some thoughts on getting work as a children's book illustrator...
Your Mom could write and illustrate her own book. Author/Illustrators are a well-respected double threat in the kid's book trade (and get to keep ALL of the money!). If she's not crazy about writing an original story, she might want to think about "re-telling" a classic fairy tale or obscure folk story -- something in the public domain.
Another approach would be for her to keep slugging away and submitting her portfolio to the various publishing houses.
Try visiting the FAQs on the Children's Book Council website. They're the trade organization for all the children's book publishers and they provide a great deal of helpful info. Anyway, they're great place to start. The rest of the site has a lot of useful info, too.
I'd also recommend the most recent edition of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Children's Books". It really helped me out on the author side of things with practical "how to" tips and I've read that the latest edition provides a lot of useful info for illustrators, too.
Tell your Mom "good luck" from me!
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