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.
I am taking part in Pathways, which is a fantastic new programme for young and emerging children’s books and comics talent in the UK.
The Pathways into children’s publishing programme is a groundbreaking new two-year illustration programme for diverse, talented and ambitious artists taught by world-class illustrators and writers, university tutors, children’s editors and art directors. Pop Up Projects has partnered with House of Illustration in the UK and secured 12 publisher and 10 university affiliates who are giving money and time to this project to support the next generation of children’s illustrators!
The project aims to increase diversity and representation in children’s books. Help them find new and ethnically diverse illustration and comics talent from across the UK!
Applications are open until September 2nd. Enourage the young people you know to take part and make sure that they see themselves in the books they create.
You can find out more on pathways-org.com, or on Instagram (@PathwaysINTO), Twitter (@PathwaysINTO) or Facebook (@PathwaysINTO)
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.
I first wrote a post with this title about a year ago. I was intending to take you through the lifetime of a book project ‘in real time.’ Each project is different though, and the project I chose is still in its early stages so there isn’t much to report.
So while that’s taking shape, here are a handful of tips and suggestions for anyone thinking of creating a children’s book.
#1 Listen first, draw or write later!
Working on a childrens book? You can learn from listening to young children at their pace. These intelligent, brave people are happy to express their opinions and ideas. Learn to listen first, draw or write later.
This really means know your audience as well as you can. Take them seriously, as seriously as if they were CEOs or leaders. Remember that one day they might be! Find out all you can about child development, for instance. Observe young people and how they interact with others. These insights will inform your ideas.
Find out about how bookstores and publishers sell books for children. Do they aim at the children or the parents? Challenge your own opinions, and others’ about what works and what doesn’t. Most of all remember the books you loved as a child, and more importantly why you loved them.