As a children’s picture book author, crafting the right words is your forte… but the illustrations? Unless you’re also an experienced illustrator, this will be a bit trickier. You might have a really clear idea of how you want your illustrations to look – great! You might have some idea – perhaps you already have an illustration style in mind. Or maybe you can visualise it at all. In any case, you’re going to need to find an illustrator!
These creative and talented people can take your words and translate them into colourful images that not only tell the story – they enhance it and add to the narrative in their own special way. It’s like magic!
So… how do you find this creative genius? This question comes up a lot from children’s picture book authors, so I thought I’d share my approach.
Other indie-authors might do it differently – I don’t know. But I’ve found this works well for me…
Before you do anything else, my advice is to study published children’s books and pay close attention to the illustration styles. The ones that attract you the most, the ones that you really like and ultimately the ones that are SELLING.
You could go to a bookstore (any excuse!!), look through Instagram, TikTok, Pinterest, publisher’s websites and online bookstores to find this. I would suggest looking in a variety of places and making a list (spreadsheet, Pinterest board – whatever works for you!) of the title, author, illustrator and an image of the cover art of the ones you really like.
I am ALWAYS looking at illustrations and illustrators on SM.
Then, once you’ve got your favourites, follow them on Social Media! Reach out and tell them you like their work (it’s always nice to hear that as a creative, isn’t it?). Establishing that connection can help them to become your illustrator, if you want them to, or for them to recommend someone they know who might suit your style.
If you think their style would work well for your book, you need to find out how they prefer to work with authors.
You should see if they have a website, and if they do, go and see if they have details about the illustration packages they offer, pricing, availability and how to contact them.
If you discover they a represented by an agency, ask them if they work exclusively through their agency. If they do, then contact their agency.
You should also check whether they ‘work-for-hire’ (i.e. you pay them a set rate for their time and you own the copyright at the end of the project) OR if they charge a fee and they retain the rights to their works at the end (they may sell the rights to you separately for a fee). Also, check whether they expect a royalty share.
If they don’t have a website, reach out directly. I’m still always quite nervous about this, I don’t know why? But if you don’t ask, you don’t get. Remember, if you end up working together, you will be communicating with this person a lot in the future, starting that dialogue now is step one.
If you are struggling for places to look, you could try websites like Freelancer, Fiverr or Upwork. They can be a great place to find illustrators. Remember to do your due diligence on them (as you should for any illustrator… or anyone else you hire for that matter!), check their portfolio, published books, reviews and their art style. Illustrators will have their own preferred style that they are confident and comfortable working in. You can’t expect them to produce a completely different style.
This due diligence is very important. Unfortunately, there are con artists out there who will sell you unlicenced illustrations or edited clip art… so do your homework!
So, that’s where to begin, and the things to look out for and when starting your illustration journey … I’ve also given you a great excuse to go and browse the children’s book aisles.
Have you got an illustration style or an illustrator in mind already? Are you ready to go out and find your illustrator? If you’re an illustrator, is there anything you’d add to this?
Next post we will look at working with your illustrator to get the best results for your book!