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Finding Mr/Mrs Right (Illustrator)

Once you’ve decided that self-publishing is right for you, it’s time to get your ducks in a row! Just because you’re self-publishing, it doesn’t mean that you have to do everything yourself.

To go from having your story written, to having a ready-to-publish file, you may want to enlist the help of an editor, a cover and/or book designer, and an illustrator or, you may prefer to find someone who specialises in helping self-publishing authors get their books ready to print, like me, who can act as a one-stop shop.

Although we’re always told not to judge a book by its cover, the reality is that we can’t help it. Your book will need an incredible cover to stand out on a shelf, and online, and, if you’ve written a children’s book, or you need internal illustrations, so you’ll need an illustrator for that too. I may be slightly biased, but I think that illustrations can be just as important as the story, and particularly for young readers, sometimes even more important, so you’ll want to make sure you’re working with an awesome illustrator who understands your vision!

But how do you find an incredible illustrator?

First and foremost, you’ll need to get clear on the style of illustration you’re looking for. Browsing Pinterest, or visiting your local library may help you get your bearings. Consider the age of the people who will read your book, and look at other books targeting at the same audience. As a general rule of thumb, the younger the reader, the more colourful and cartoony you could go with your illustrations. As your target audience gets older, you may want to consider making the illustrations more realistic, both in proportions, and colour scheme.

Once you’ve got an idea of what style of art you like, it’s time to look for someone who draws in that style! I highly recommend working with an illustrator who has experience working with self-publishing authors, who you feel communicates well with you, and who is passionate about your story!

You may be able to find illustrators through freelance marketplaces, such as Unicorn Factory, Upwork, and Fiverr. While I always rave about Unicorn Factory, I recommend that you use sites like Fiverr and Upwork with caution. Although these marketplaces are incredible, especially if you’re on a tight budget, and there are so many talented artists on there, they don’t have much in the way of a vetting process to offer services through them and they restrict communication through their platforms to an extent.

If you do use a freelance marketplace like Fiverr or Upwork, be sure to outline specific details of what you’d like to attract the right illustrator (illustrators have to pay a fee to express interest in your listing, so they’re more likely to do so if they’re sure they can help you).

Even better, you could reach out to an illustrator you like directly on social media, ask for referrals from other authors you know, reach out to illustration agents for recommendations, or check out the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). Look for someone who works in the style you like, or who is comfortable working in a variety of styles, and who has worked on similar projects before.

Once you’ve reached out to an illustrator, and given them all the details they need to determine if they can help, expect that they’ll want to chat more before they can give you an accurate quote. I encourage you to take advantage of the offer to talk more, if they suggest it - it’s a great way to ensure you get on well with them, and could see yourself working with them, and it’s also an opportunity to ask any questions you have about working with an illustrator, or the process of self-publishing.

Next time, I’ll go into more detail on the process of working with an illustrator, until then, feel free to book in for a no-cost, no-obligation chat with me, if you’d like to talk about your book, and what your options are for self-publishing.

A children's book illustration of two young girls and a horse.

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