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Illustrator notes in a PB manuscript?

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Hello!

I've always read that including illustrator notes in a PB ms. is a big no-no. But I'm wondering if this is actually the case? I've read it's a sign that the author is naïve / doesn't know how the process works -- but what if you have a PB ms. where the illustrations truly tell half the story, as is also touted to be a mark of a good story? What if the text wouldn't make much sense otherwise, or if you genuinely have a good idea to offer your future potential illustrator?

Thoughts?
#1 - November 11, 2020, 04:56 AM
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If the text won't make sense without the illustration notes, then yes, include them. Just don't include unnecessary notes (I.e. "girl wearing yellow jacket" if the fact that the character is a girl, wearing a jacket, or a yellow one is not crucial to the plot of the story.)

But, be careful with the "good idea to offer your future potential illustrator" idea. They are professionals and will probably come up with incredible ideas all on their own. Give them the room to do their part. So yes, if the story won't make sense without the illustration note, definitely put it in. But trust in the process. I've heard of so many stories where the illustrator came up with something so wonderful that the author had no idea how wonderful his/her book could be until they saw it.
#2 - November 11, 2020, 06:22 AM
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I attended an SCBWI conference last spring where the two critiquers--one editor and one agent--gave feedback on first pages. (A moderator read the page out loud so we all knew what they were reacting to.) The PBs were quite interesting--the most experienced, best mss were the leanest, not just in terms of art notes but also text. Instead of, say, "Eloise bounded down the stairs, still struggling into her jacket. She sat at the kitchen table, took a bite of her waffle, and said, 'Hey, dog!'" the experienced PB writers would say, "Hey, dog!" Because all the rest of that stuff will be shown by the illos, right? So what was left was a very lean structure--a scaffolding, really. And both the editor and agent tilted their heads and got dreamy expressions and nodded. It was a bit of a revelation.
#4 - November 11, 2020, 08:42 AM
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My son says illustrators get annoyed when the author does the illustrator's job instead of his own.  :)
#5 - November 11, 2020, 09:10 AM

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I think art notes get a bad reputation because many writers misuse them. You don't want to provide unnecessary notes or step on the illustrator's toes. But I've also heard that most pbs that sell include art notes, and this has been my personal experience, as well.

Tara Lazar has called them "action notes" to make the point that art notes should explain key actions that aren't in the text but are needed for the story.  She has a blog post where she shares some of her own (very short) art notes: https://taralazar.com/2019/08/05/art-notes-are-action-notes/.
#6 - November 11, 2020, 09:24 AM
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Tara Lazar has called them "action notes" to make the point that art notes should explain key actions that aren't in the text but are needed for the story.  She has a blog post where she shares some of her own (very short) art notes: https://taralazar.com/2019/08/05/art-notes-are-action-notes/.

Great link. Here, the notes contradict the text, making them very necessary. Perfect example.
#7 - November 11, 2020, 06:17 PM
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Sometimes you can avoid many art notes in the manuscript with an overall comment in the "header" or in the cover letter. E.g. The illustrations will show the characters doing the opposite of what is described in the text.
That still leaves options open for illustrator to come up with some wacky stuff.
This may not fit your scenario, but it could be helpful.
#8 - November 12, 2020, 03:10 PM
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Thank you everyone (dkshumaker, Vijaya, desanddamps, pons, laurel, Debbie and Julie)! Good to know I'm on the right track here - I sort of suspected this was an "over correcting" sort of rule. i.e., they say this due to too many notes out of whack. Currently, my mss. have art notes included similar to how Tara includes hers in the example cited. I'll go through them all again with a critical eye for concision (I like how Tara only has one-word art notes in her ms.)

Super helpful! 
#9 - November 14, 2020, 03:36 AM
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