Friday, November 28, 2014


Art from the self published book
My Father's Hands, (Cline) illustrated by
Sheila McGraw
Part three is about choosing an illustrator if your book is a kids' book... or a cover artist and/or designer for a novel. Sounds like fun, right? But lissen up big-time-typer, now crunch time is ON for real. It's decision time.

So here's the dealio. You have a vision for your masterpiece; how it should look. And your most excellent "vision" includes likenesses of your kids, you, your spouse, and certain views of your living room or backyard. You feel married to your vision. You're certain it is the only way to allow your masterpiece out into the lonely harsh world of sharp-edged bookshelves (and critics).

Art from the self published book
 My Mother's Hands (Cline), illustrated by
Sheila McGraw
To that end you have been toying with the concept of getting your Auntie Madge (or whosoever has some drawerly talent in your gene pool) to pony up some illustrations for your weighty tome. Or worse, you have already got her started. Auntie Madge is there in the dead of night, after 12 hours of exhausting hole-drilling at the button factory... toiling at sketches for your masterpiece with $royalties$ dancing in her wrung-out mind (royalties which YOU intimated would be wheelbarrows full of cash) as her shaky hands try, oh how they try, to realize your vision for you. 

Whaa, whaaa. Call Auntie Madge and tell her to stop right this minute. That's right, Wordsmith. Here's why... Before you hire, that's right hire, not bamboozle an illustrator to picturize your book, you must decide whether you are going to find a publisher for your no-doubt stellar classic, or whether you're going to go the Indie, self-publishing route.

Here's why... if you find yourself a publisher, the publisher will get the book illustrated; not, repeat NOT you. They will also work out the contractual legal stuff which is a pain. You will most likely have no say in the picturizing. It may not be illustrated to your specs (since the publisher doesn't care a rat's patootie about your kidlets and he/she simply wants a dang good book that'll sell like Rubik's cubes, or Beanie Babies did in bygone days).

*in robot voice... Relinquish control. Relinquish control.* 

Relinquishing control is tough for the ego-centric slice of the population who call ourselves
Art from the self published book Where the Lost Things Go
(Farnsworth), illustrated by Sheila McGraw

If you send a book out with illustrations it will be (shockingly) even less appealing to a publisher than the usual detritus they have to wade through to find that rare gem. Sounds counterintuitive, I know, but it's true. Adding illustrations may prevent the publisher from visualizing the book THEIR way, which may be waaayyy better than your vision. The pictures also complicate The Deal. The publisher now has two people to contract with and if he throw's out Madge's amateur sketches you have another problem. After you break the news, Madge is liable to have a breakdown at the button factory, fall into the shank-attaching machine, and get shanked to death. And whose fault will that be? Yours, of course! You need to allow your manuscript to shine on it's own. If it's as good as you think, illustrations will just be a distraction because it's not the first manuscript the publisher has ever assessed.

But, on the other hand, if you Self Publish, you have total control! You can hire any sketcher you like! Wow, you say. Yay! Awesome!... But hold on a sec... That's right, I said HIRE! No freebies for "the supposed exposure" or the supposed soon-to-be-realized boatloads of "royalties". You must pay for the artist's work, and since you are paying, you must be involved in the process as an art director who trusts his artist. If you don't trust your artist, hire a different one. You are also the publisher and as such, must write a contract with the artiste. Ick. Legalese and lawyers' fees. And don't kid yourself. If there are complications, this will be possibly the most intimate and challenging relationship you will ever have outside of the bedroom. Bring the stimulation! 

Here's the takeaway. If you find a publisher you will lose a certain amount of control of your masterpiece but you'll be working with pro's who want your book to succeed because that makes more drachmas for them too. And bonus! The publisher will write the contract and pay the illustrator.

If you self publish you have to wear the art director's hat. Working with talent is a skill and if you don't have those skills you may be left scratching your head wondering what the heck happened. On the other hand you will have complete control of the look of your book. But then again, you'll have to fork out some dough to your paint-slinger. No freebies... after all, you generally get what you pay for... even from Auntie Madge, no matter how much she loves you and reminisces about the time when she changed your diaper and you... erm, never mind. Also, there's the expense of that pesky contract, which could have you digging in the lint of your empty pockets searching for more cash to hire a lawyer.

An image from the traditionally-published book, Love You Forever (Munsch)
Illustrated by Sheila McGraw
So, getting closer to making a decision? Stay tuned for the next episode.

Thanks for stopping by. For more info and books please visit
To purchase art online, please visit SAATCHI ART
US representation: Archway Gallery
Canadian representation:  Loch Gallery

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