What is the biggest mistake made when submitting a picture book to a publisher?
You do NOT need to find an illustrator
The question most often asked is this: “How do I find an illustrator for my book?”
You don’t. The publisher chooses the illustrator.
In fact, you cut your chances of selling in half, if you try to team up with an illustrator and submit a package. The editor may love the text, but not the art; or, love the art, but not the text. Either way, you get a no.
Reputable trade publishers do not want you to find an illustrator, or pay for an illustrator, or do anything more than provide illustration possibilities in your text.
After an editor decides to publish your picture book, they decide on likely illustrators by looking at factors like these:
- Style. What sort of style seems best for this story? watercolor v. pastels? Modern v. traditional? Perhaps, collage?
- Reputation. Who is up and coming? Who is building a reputation and could add to the sales potential of this story? Or, is there a new illustrator they’d like to take a chance on?
- Track Record. Who have they worked with before? Does the illustrator deliver on time? Does the illustrator do good research for the type story, i.e. for a historical, does the illustrator research clothing styles, etc.
LIKE YOU, THE PUBLISHER WANTS TO SELL BOOKS
Always, the publisher is looking for ways to improve sales of your book by matching it with the best illustrator. Once the editor and art director agree on an illustrator, and the illustrator accepts the project, the publisher takes care of the contract and any money that will change hands. You sit back and wait.
Do you have input into the choice of an illustrator? Depends on the editor and art director involved. Once, an editor asked me to look at several illustrators and kept me in the loop as the text was sent to a couple possibilities. At a different publisher, the editor kept things close to the chest and told me nothing until the illustrator signed a contract.
You can usually, however, suggest illustrators and an editor will always be glad to review a professional portfolio. That means, your neighbor is out, unless s/he has a professional portfolio.
But what if you WANT to work with your neighbor? Sell your text first. Then, ask the editor to consider a portfolio, dummy book, or sample illustrations. That way, you keep a friend, but still sell your text.
As a professional writer, write the text, and include appropriate illustration possibilities IN THE TEXT. Leave the pictures to the illustrator.
Check your manuscript. In the text, did you include actions for the illustrator to work with?