re: Any Hope for Non-Artists Submitting ABC/Other Concept Books?

in Picture Books/Submissions by

Dear Editor…

Is there any point in submitting a concept book such as ABC, colors, numbers if you are not an illustrator. I have a great idea but I am concerned that editors/agents will think my contribution to the end product was not significant enough. What are your thoughts on this?

Sincerely,
Laurie

Dear Laurie…

That project will probably be tougher to place than a less art-dependent one, but it’s not impossible. It could happen in a number of ways. If you have an opportunity to submit directly to an editor, she likely wouldn’t acquire it until she gets an illustrator to commit. She’d then take you both to her editorial board as a package deal for the final okay. I’ve seen that happen plenty of times with concept book projects that hinge on the illustrations. If you submit to an agent, the agent may decide to handle the pairing herself, pitching your concept to editors with an illustrator she already represents. An option you might consider, if yours isn’t a time-sensitive concept, is holding on to it until you’ve secured an agent or editor with another manuscript, one with more textual “meat.” At that point, you’ll be talking with them about other projects you’ve got in the works and can pitch this concept. Its acquisition may still depend on an artist’s solid commitment, but you won’t be trying to land your first deal with a manuscript that’s more idea than text.

Happy writing!
The Editor

5 Comments

  1. I know that publishers probably would prefer pairing your work with their chosen illustrator, but have you thought of finding your own illustrator as a means to better market your concept? Think of it like the pencil drawing of an artist before they put oil paint to canvas. Just a thought.

      • I recommend you don’t find an artist on your own. As I said in my reply to Bill’s suggestion, writers submit text only in picture book submissions. Don’t even include art directions in your text unless the action for a particular moment in the manuscript absolutely needs to be explained for comprehension and then stick to stating the action rather than describing what the visuals could look like. To do otherwise is against industry standard submission guidelines. You’re not an expert in picture book illustration, and you can’t make yourself one through some research. Editors are trained to see a vision in text documents alone, have the connections with illustrators already of professional caliber and standing or with those trying to break in but just waiting their chance, and understand the current marketplace for particular styles of art for each particular audience. Set up your concept in your cover letter, then trust the editors to get it. All those unusual and great picture books that’ve inspired you are proof that they can.

    • Always glad to hear suggestions, Bill. Alas, picture book writers should not find their own illustrators for submission. They should send text only unless they are a trained and professional level artist intending to illustrate the book themselves. Writers should not even include illustration notes in the text. The editors and final illustrators will bring the visual storyline to life. They specialize in that; i’s part of the illustrator’s contribution as a co-creator of the final book.

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