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Is PB Market moving to author/illustrators only?

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I've been researching agents to query for the last several months and it seems that SO many agents that represent PBs are only looking for author-illustrators and won't accept submissions from authors-only.  As a non-illustrating writer myself, should I be expecting fewer and fewer agents/publishers to accept my submissions in coming years? I'm curious about why so many are moving in this direction and what it means going forward for author-only opportunities. I would love any insight anyone has.

(Searched and couldn't find this topic so forgive me if it's been discussed.)

-Lauren Jane Redmond
#1 - January 25, 2022, 11:14 AM

I'll just speak as an editor, since that's what I am. I'm definitely NOT just signing up author-illustrator projects and I see no reason to move in that direction. I want the best writing AND the best illustrating and I can't always get that from the same person.

FWIW, I can understand agents having a preference for author-illustrators on PB projects, since there's no splitting of the advance and royalty. I don't know if that explains this shift, or if this shift is actually happening.
#2 - January 25, 2022, 05:25 PM
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I do think Harold has explained the shift many agents have made. I haven't seen it from editors.
#3 - January 25, 2022, 09:35 PM
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Perhaps some Agents feel selling the story to an Editor is a bit easier, when the same person who has written it, is the person who fleshes out the story with the Illustration as well. Submitting to an Editor a dummy, vs text alone. This may be even more true with books that have very few words and were  the story is being mostly told through the art.
But I do think the biggest draw for the Agent is, that advance and royalty split. If they are repping an Author/Illustrator, the full advance goes to that one client and so does, eg:,  10% royalty, as opposed to an Author only getting just 5%.
#4 - January 26, 2022, 04:18 AM
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I have also observed that the vast majority of agents for picture books now request only author/illustrator submissions.  I am sure that this has everything to do with the effort required to market a clients' work and the return on investment that the agent will receive  ($$$).  I've also been tracking the Rights Reports that appear in the magazine Publishers Weekly.  What's interesting is that you'll see that, despite what the agents are requesting, an ample number of picture books being bought by publishers still have separate author and illustrators.  Any change in this practice, I deduce, will be due to the push from the agents.
#5 - January 26, 2022, 08:02 AM

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I have also observed that the vast majority of agents for picture books now request only author/illustrator submissions.  I am sure that this has everything to do with the effort required to market a clients' work and the return on investment that the agent will receive  ($$$).  I've also been tracking the Rights Reports that appear in the magazine Publishers Weekly.  What's interesting is that you'll see that, despite what the agents are requesting, an ample number of picture books being bought by publishers still have separate author and illustrators.  Any change in this practice, I deduce, will be due to the push from the agents.

Yes, I am worried that since most works will be submitted through agents it will cause the general field to shift that way if it's financially motivated. Good to know that the current numbers haven't shifted too much, though.
#6 - January 26, 2022, 08:41 AM

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I'll just speak as an editor, since that's what I am. I'm definitely NOT just signing up author-illustrator projects and I see no reason to move in that direction. I want the best writing AND the best illustrating and I can't always get that from the same person.

FWIW, I can understand agents having a preference for author-illustrators on PB projects, since there's no splitting of the advance and royalty. I don't know if that explains this shift, or if this shift is actually happening.

Thanks to everyone who has weighed in so far. It's comforting to be able to hear from an editor's perspective, Harold.
#7 - January 26, 2022, 08:42 AM

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I agree with everything that's been said. And I'm always grateful for Harold popping in to share his knowledge.

I think one more issue for agents is the HUGE amount of picture book submissions. Some newer writers might not have critique groups and shoot off a different manuscript to the same agent/agency every time they receive a rejection. Saying they're closed to picture books (or text only for picture books) can lower their slush--but they could still keep an eye out for new writer-only clients through referrals, conference critiques and submission opportunities, etc.
#8 - January 28, 2022, 05:23 AM

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Time was (dial back ten years or so) when almost no agents accepted PB from writer-only creators. But back then you could sub directly to editors in the majority of publishing houses, and that was the route to traditional publishers if you never wrote longer stories.
If you did write novels (MG or the newly invented category of YA) you'd get an agent for that, and good agents would then also market your PBs almost as an aside.
More and more (in a rather rapid succession) almost all publishing houses stopped accepting PB directly, and agents began accepting writers who only wrote them even if they didn't write longer books.
As of about two years ago, the agenting world had begun to constrict the opening for PB writers who don't illustrate.  Sadly, this isn't accompanied by publishers accepting these manuscripts directly. For all the reasons mentioned (a huge number of PB subs and the split commissions), we are reminded that PBs are the artists medium.
There's still a larger number of agents who accept (and some who even specialize) writers of PB who don't illustrate than there were back 10-15 years ago, when they were almost non-existent. But the number of subs has increased many folds, and the competition is fiercer than ever.
#9 - January 28, 2022, 01:10 PM
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In PB sales announcements, I’m noticing more instances of the writer and illustrator having the same agent. This type of arrangement might make agents more likely to accept writers-only or illustrators-only, as agents still get the commission for both.
#10 - January 28, 2022, 02:20 PM
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In PB sales announcements, I’m noticing more instances of the writer and illustrator having the same agent. This type of arrangement might make agents more likely to accept writers-only or illustrators-only, as agents still get the commission for both.

I'm seeing this too, but you still can't submit to them that way even if you know a professional illustrator who is really good. Once or twice I have heard of someone asking for a submission by an author and an illustrator together at a conference/workshop, but I don't think either of those sold.
#11 - January 28, 2022, 06:28 PM
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I was at a writing conference just last week attended by three agents. One made a specific comment about being particularly interested in author/illustrated PBs. It is what it is.
#12 - February 03, 2022, 06:57 AM
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