The manuscript for A Year in the Life of Brack, my first self-published illustrated children’s book, was ready. Phew! I had already made contact with Matador.
Then came the crucial issue of choosing an illustrator.
Yes, it’s a self-published book but it needed to stand alongside the mainstream publishers. I’m OK at art but I knew that my book illustration efforts would not give a good impression. I definitely needed a professional. Someone who could illustrate in a way that would match the humour and quirkiness of characters in the story. I was looking for someone with a lively sense of colour whose illustrations would stand out. Where to find this person?
I looked through as many illustrated children’s books as I could and jotted down some names of illustrators whose style I liked. I searched the internet for their names. It turned out that they happened to be fairly up-market illustrators, but I thought, what have I got to lose? You can imagine, I guess. A lot! The fees they charged were way out my league.
I was stuck. I talked to Matador and they gave me the following advice.
Try Art Colleges, or Universities with Art Departments, they often have very talented students. Try to find someone local, then you’ll have the chance to meet and discuss your ideas. Decide if you want graphically designed, or hand-drawn illustrations? Bare in mind, they said, that hand-drawn illustrations will probably take longer.
In the meantime, I had to decide where, and how many, illustrations there should be. I decided to pinpoint the main events in the story, scenes which would have a dramatic effect. There were over twenty possibilities. (In the end I had to reduce the number, due to costs). As I was writing the story I visualised the events, the scenes, the characters, their reactions and their expressions. I wanted to place the illustrations evenly across the book, although, I don’t think I achieved this in Brack. Next time..!
Back on the internet, I searched for children’s illustrators based in the Midlands. I found Anna’s name, looked at her work on her website, liked what I saw and got in touch. I sent her the manuscript – with descriptions of the illustration suggestions interspersed in the text. she liked the story and we agreed to meet up.
We got on well, and that’s always a good start. She showed me some examples of her work. The vibrant colours and happy feel to her illustrations appealed to me and I thought they would suit the story well. We discussed timeframe and costs. She told me that she hand-draws her work. We talked about style, colours, characters etc. She went away and did a trial illustration of Brack, which I loved, and so we decided to work together.
In a nutshell. Find an illustrator whose style fits your story, your budget and your timeframe. Someone who communicates regularly and promptly. Someone who is open to suggestions and is prepared to adjust. Drawing up a contract between the parties is a good idea, although Anna and I managed quite well without one. I would say that regular communication and flexibility are key to achieving results.
Check out Anna Landmane's website here: