Working with an Illustrator
Once you’ve found the right illustrator for your book, then the magic happens!
In all honesty, every illustrator will have a slightly different process for illustrating a book. The steps in this process will depend on whether you are publishing traditionally (remember, your publisher will pick the illustrator, if you’re publishing traditionally), or self-publishing. It will also depend if your illustrator is also doing your book design and typesetting, as well as creating the artwork.
When I work with clients on book projects, I can help out with editing your manuscript, creating your illustrations, completing the book design, typesetting, and really, whatever else you need to get your book ready for the printers! I offer all of these services individually, but most authors enjoy liaising with as few people as possible, so wherever I can help, I’m more than happy to.
Typically, the process begins with a chat. Whether it’s over the phone, Zoom, or in person, this is a crucial step because you’re trusting me to work on this very special project of yours, and we’ll likely be working together on it for a few months, so it’s important that we communicate well, set clear expectations for timelines and deliverables, and are on the same page about what you want your book to turn out like.
During our chat, I’ll gather all of the information I need to get started. If there’s anything you’re undecided on at this stage, such as the dimensions of your final, physical book, or who will print your book, I can help you work that out before we get going - this is really important because we don’t want to create artwork in the wrong dimensions and have to redo it!
Once everything is clear, and we’re both ready, I’ll crack on.
Firstly, we’ll need to plan out the whole book. I’ll mock up a very rough visual of your book. This will include any reference photos you’d like me to draw from, notes on style, perspective, etc. This mockup will help us to ensure that the illustrations fit beautifully with the story, and it’ll also show us how many pages your book will be and whether we may need to add more pages, or condense the story to fit your printer’s requirements.
Generally speaking, I don’t offer to do concept art for self-publishing projects. I find that it’s easy to get hung up on making the concept perfect, but it can be hard to visualise how the finished project will look (spoiler alert: the final artwork will look way better than any concept art). Instead, I find it quicker, and less stressful for both of us to work from a super rough mockup, and then move to the final artwork.
Final artwork is a bit of a misnomer - once we have a super clear plan, and we’ve discussed the style and feel you’d like to invoke, then I will check in with you every week with “finished” pages. These pages are complete, and you’ll be able to see your book come to life, page by page, but at any point, I also welcome feedback, and I’ll happily make any changes you’d like to better capture your vision. This is my favourite part of the project because it’s the part where you get to see your story come to life, and it’s also the part where we get to know each other - it’s kind of like having a pen pal, and I’ll also be creating drawings for you!
As I mentioned, I’ll check in with you every week with completed pages. Usually, I can draw up 2-3 pages each week, so, for example, if your book is 32 pages, we’re looking at around three months to complete all of the artwork, plus a little bit extra to allow for final touches.
Final touches come once we’ve finished all of the internal pages, and the cover art. At this stage, you might decide to change the font size, add in an extra page or whatever other details will make your book perfect. I’ll comb over each page, make sure everything is perfectly aligned, and there are no continuity errors (Why is the sky a different colour on this page? Whoops! The bow in our main character’s hair has changed sides on page 9. You get the idea!), and then, once you’ve given it the final sign off, it’s ready to send to your printers!
But that’s not the end of the road!
It’s not uncommon for the printers to come back with a little bit of feedback, it could be that background details need to be adjusted to avoid getting chopped off during the printing process, or colours may need correcting. No matter what the changes are, we can work through them and it’ll make the finished product as amazing as it possibly can be!
Your printer should send you a proof copy of your book. I always suggest leaving a proof copy with me for a few days, or getting your printer to send me one directly, so that I can comb over it too, and catch any tiny faults that may have popped up - at this stage, I’ve spent days staring at each page, so if there’s anything wrong in the printed copy, I’ll do my best to spot it! Many hands do make light work though, so I also recommend showing your proof copy to trusted friends and family for their feedback.
If you’d like to make any changes at this stage - it’s not too late! Once you’re happy with everything, you can give your printer the sign-off, and your book is ready to meet the world!
My favourite snippets from my most recent book, Fledgling's First Flight
This is where I leave you…
Not really! My email/phone/door is always open to you! But, this is the edge of my area of expertise. I can point you in the direction of publicists, distributors, and stockists, but the rest is up to you - you’ve got this!