I am pleased to be featured in the UK’s Books For Keeps magazine, talking about illustation…
Sometimes writers and illustrators question their ability. That’s normal and keeps us pushing for excellence. However, they shouldn’t question their saleability. That is for someone else to do, so let it go. There are people who know as much about selling as you do about creating, so you are in safe hands…
Teamwork is what makes a book succeed or fail. Besides the writer or illustrator, the editor, art director, designer, marketing, publicity, production and printing team members share the responsibility of making an idea the best book it can be.
This means you can concentrate on your special skill, safe in the knowledge that everything else is under control. No one knows for sure how many copies of a book will sell in a given period. You might think yours is the best idea ever, only to find its not a commercial success. Or, you might question why your idea is being taken apart, interrogated so aggressively, only to find on publication day that it is going to be a massive success…. Each member of the team has a valuable contribution to make, raising the overall quality.
Within the team there can be as much conflict as harmony; Editorial and design opinions are historically tense (editors often want more words, designers less). Or, authors who have a strong conviction their words are the exact right ones, and editors who weigh that conviction against sales and marketing insights. And no one is happy when sales people dismiss a cover that they all love. But the right thing for everyone to do is step back have a think and come back with a different option.
So, when you are finally ready to present your masterpiece to a publisher, you should also be ready to let go of your emotional attachment to it. Instead, be open to what your new team will have to say. They will probably point out things you haven’t considered and, more importantly, remind you that presenting your idea isn’t the end of the book building process but the beginning.
#3 Less is more
In books for the very young say as much as possible with a few words. Illustrations have a high literary value. They really speak to the reader.
If you develop your stories with text, write freely first, then each time you revisit your story craft the maximum meaning into fewer and fewer words. If you prefer to work visually, sketch as much as possible until the images start to pick up some of the slack. The reason they are called picture books is because the words and pictures are equally important. More than that they complement each other and together create a new language.
Let’s break that down; Some people write on their own, some illustrate, some do both. Publishers can start the process from either point but tend to work with words first more often. They will read the text and then make a decision about the illustrator based on their company’s style.
Writers, your part of the book project is going to have other hands and brains joining in. It might be a good idea to write with that in mind.
Normally, illustrators are handed a text and asked to interpret it. Some of the decision-making is already done. The illustrator’s main challenge is to interpret the text in a fresh new way, to listen to the comments and guidance from the book designer or art director. Try using the rule that carpenters use: measure twice, cut once. By the time you get to producing the final piece you will have sketched all the possiblilities you can imagine.
For creators who do both, the challenge is all about discipline. It’s really hard to wite and draw at the same time! Plus you have to be honest enough to look at what youve done and say if its good enough… or not. So do one first, then the other. Repeat until you have what you want.
Everyone has a story…
Everyone has a story inside them. Some of us tell it in a book or a play or on the stage, football pitch or boardroom. But most of us live our story, telling it to our loved ones, every day, year by year… the point is each story gets told and appreciated.
I have heard many wonderful stories and have learned to use the book as my medium. Let me share that way with you in a series of real-time posts, starting with an idea and ending (hopefully) with a beautiful book.
If you have thought of writing or illustrating your own book, or if you are just curious, then this real-time project will be of use before you get in touch.
All you have to do is follow the blog for regular monthly updates on the project. Please comment, spread the word and get involved!
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Are you worried children will be bored by stories of events that took pace ages ago? A little self-conscious that you might start to sound like an old person, a know-it-all? You wouldn’t be the first parent or grown up stuck with the challenge of making history sound, well, current for children. Talking about war is an even trickier proposition. Trust in your child’s intelligence, imagination and empathy. Then do some research, because the facts are already written. Then, all you have to do is tell the story in a way that relates to here and now.
Take for instance, the story of Momčilo Gavrić (pronounced, Momchillo Gavrich), the youngest soldier in the First World War, which started one hundred hers ago in July, 1914. He was the eighth child of eleven. His mum and dad were Alimpije and Jelena Gavrić. With 10 brothers and sisters, imagine the house they all lived in. Life must have been quite full and loud and happy. In the middle of summer, August 1914, one hundred years ago, Austro-Hungarian soldiers attacked. His dad, mom, grandmother, his three sisters, and four of his brothers were killed. The happy house was burnt to the ground. Momčilo was at his uncle’s house at the time. His life changed forever.
Momčilo found the Serbian army nearby and told them what had happened. The soldier in charge, Major Stevan Tucović, ordered someone in the unit to look after Momčilo, as he lead the unit to where the Austro-Hungarian soldiers were.
When he was 10 years old, he was promoted to the rank of Corporal by his commander. The unit was sent to Thessaloniki, in Greece. Major Tucović sent him to Sorovits where he was sent to school for a while.
Back in Serbia, the commander of the Serbian army was shocked when he saw an eleven year-old boy in uniform. Momčilo’s commander, Major Tucović told him the story; that the boy had been with them since the Battle of Cer, and that he had both been taught discipline and had even been wounded during his time in the unit. The commander promoted Momčilo again, to Lance Sergeant.
He was sent to England and finished his education at Henry Wreight school in Faversham, Kent. In 1921 he went back to his country after Serbian Prime Minister Nikola Pašić ordered the return of all children to Serbia. Back in Trbušnica he found his three surviving brothers. He died in 1993 at the grand old age of 93.
What a story! There is so much to discuss…