I get asked A LOT for advice from aspiring authors and illustrators, so I have compiled a bunch of information and advice that might be helpful to you!
Information for aspiring authors and illustrators
I get lots of emails from people (both young and old) that have written a book or want to illustrate a book or want to do both. I decided I should put it all in one place for everyone to see. And that helps me from emailing the same thing over and over again.
What I am writing here, I cannot stress ENOUGH, is my humble opinion. There is no completely right way to get published. There is no one way to get it done. My way might not be best for you. But what I do know, 100% is that if you have a passion for something in your heart, and you care so much about it that you can’t NOT think about it and you feel desperately that you are supposed to share your passion with the world? Then you should go for it. Please. Try it. Be willing to make mistakes along the way. Be okay with learning and getting it wrong. Be willing to get rejected as you learn about this process. Because the world needs you to shine – and shine so brightly that you help light the path for others.
You have written a story but you don’t have an illustrator:
If you don’t draw, and by this I mean, you are not a trained artist, then put down the pencil and walk AWAY from the paper. No matter how much you can envision your sweet little character in your mind, do not, I REPEAT, do NOT draw it. If you submit your book with your own illustrations, not only will you waste your time, but you might as well wave a giant red flag at the editor you just sent your work that screams, “HEY! Look at me! I didn’t do my research! I’m a total newbie that is not ready to be published!” I know, sounds harsh. But true. If the editor likes your words, THEY will choose the illustrator. Yes. Really. It’s their job. They are good at it. And no. You don’t get a say in illustration style. You can suggest it if you like, but you may as well make sure you have your giant red flag ready. Yeah, don’t suggest it. Editors have their jobs for a reason. They are very, VERY good at it. Don’t insult them.
You are an illustrator but don’t write:
Do you have a website? Do you have a large body of work showing a consistent style? You may consider illustrating some scenes from an old fable or fairy tale to be able to show an editor how you can tell a story consistently in your art style. You will want to research things like Illustration Annual and source and guide books on illustration which tell about how to submit your art to editors and art directors. Children’s illustration is a much bigger world than just books. I suggest you look at my links at the bottom of this page for where to begin submitting your art.
You are an author and an illustrator:
This is where you are allowed to submit art with your book. If you are an artist and you want to be the one to illustrate your book, you would submit a dummy book with art. That means you sketch out the entire book and then have 2-3 finished illustrations as well. This is a harder way to go if you are brand new to the children’s book publishing industry. You are an unknown. They usually like to pair up an unknown writer with a known illustrator or vice versa. This is hard when you want to do both, but not impossible. It is exacly what I did. It was a harder road, but one I am very glad I went down. I wouldn’t change my years and piles of rejections for anything.
Do you need an agent? Advantages and disadvantages:
The advantage of having an agent is that they are ‘in the know.’ They have the contacts to submit your work all over. The advantage of this is that you get rejected much more quickly than if you submit on your own! (little joke, but it’s true) They have the connections you want and in my opionion, when you are breaking into this industry, they are well worth the 15% they get. And yes, if they help you get a contract they get that 15% forever.
Disadvantages are that they get 15% forever. But a good agent is worth it. If your agent is not submitting for you, falls off the radar and is in general not communicating with you? That’s not normal. Consider a different agent.
How do I get an agent:
Best advice I ever got from an agent that had just rejected me: Go to the book store. Find a book in the genre and feel of yours. Find out who their agent is. Look them up an find out their submission guidelines. Write them a query letter. The day after I got this advice I went to the store and found a book by an author/illustrator that rhymed. Her agent offered to represent me a week later.
How do I submit my work to publishers without an agent:
The fastest, easiest ways to submit to a publisher is to go to their website and look for their submission guidelines. It will outline exactly what to do. Do that. I am all for thinking outside the box and originality – but be careful with that here. These editors get LOTS of submissions, they have their guidelines for a reason. Sure, let your personality show through, but if you send them a huge pdf filled with large pictures that clog up their email when they specifically said don’t do that? You will get rejected. Let your work speak for you. Talent is like cream – it rises to the top. If you have it, you will get noticed. Just be patient and be willing to wait your turn.
You keep getting rejected and you don’t know why:
I got rejected by agents for about a year. Then I got rejected by publishers with an agent for 2 more years. My agent suggested that I hire a professional editor. I did. It was the best money I ever spent. A month after hiring Emma Dryden, I was offered a 2 book deal on the books she edited. You can see her website and submission guidelines here: www.drydenbks.com
Just a very, very few wonderful resources that can answer SO MANY more questions from people with far more experience than I, but ones I used the most in the beginning of my career journey:
The Purple Crayon (Harold Underdown’s site. Fantastical.)
SCBWI Boards (Formely Verla Kay’s Blue Boards Seriously, this one? AMAZING resource. TONS of info.)
Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (Kind of a must.)
Communication Arts / Illustration Annual (Don’t get jealous, get INSPIRED.)
Any of this not answering your question? Then please email me firstname.lastname@example.org.