Acquiring an illustrator

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A question I get asked a lot is, “How did you get your illustrator?” Many people think writers find someone to illustrate their book before they send it off to a publisher. Not true. Unless the writer is also an illustrator, the manuscript will go to an editor as simply text. And unless there’s some part of the text that can’t be understood without explanation, the text will stand alone–no illustration suggestions included. Editors who find a manuscript they like will have their own vision for the book. They’ll have their own ideas of who they’d like to illustrate it and what they hope it will look like in the end.

Here’s an example of how a writer’s vision and an editor’s vision might vary: When I wrote Goodnight, Dragons, I was thinking of a medieval setting.

After all, there are dragons. The horse and wagon I wrote about were, in my mind, a real horse and a farm wagon. But my editor at Disney*Hyperion, Abby Ranger, saw a pretend horse who was really a dog, and a little red wagon.

Close-up of spread from Goodnight, Dragons

Now I think, Of course! Why didn’t I think of that? But in the beginning I was surprised that we imagined such different books.

Abby’s first choice for an illustrator was Pascal Lemaitre. An editor doesn’t always get her first choice. Factors include timing (it takes a long time to illustrate a book, and the illustrator’s schedule may be full), payment, and whether the illustrator is interested in the project. We were fortunate that Pascal was willing and able to illustrate Goodnight, Dragons. I love what he did with it. And it’s also cool to me that he’s international. Pascal was born in Belgium and divides his time between Brussels, Brooklyn and Trouville. I’d love to meet him sometime and say, “Bonjour.”

Pascal Lemaitre, international illustrator

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About Judith L. Roth

When I was about ten, it occurred to me that books are written by people and I was a person. I could create my favorite things–I could write books! I got a B.A. in English. My first poem was accepted for publication before I graduated. I had some success with poetry, but my real dream was to write fiction for children. My first fiction piece was accepted about 25 years after the first submission. Things you might want to know about me: I know how to persevere. I’m a third-generation California native, living in Indiana. I have two remarkable sons who are now young men,and a husband who’s supported my writing for over three decades. I love cats and currently have three of them. I love being near water–oceans, lakes, rivers all work for me. Chocolate is probably my biggest downfall. I’m exceptionally curious. (Or nosy, as my family calls it.)

One response »

  1. I knew editors matched up MSs with illustrators, but to see first hand the contrasting differences of your vision and Pacal’s vision is amazing. Wow! How interesting! I like his technique. Thank you for sharing.

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