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Another Dummy Question (Book Dummy...that is.)

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Rock of The Westies
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I am a writer/illustrator. Sometimes I work on my writing, because my illustration style does not always complement that of my writing...and at times...I work on my illustrations. Recently, I have attended a couple of conferences and it was mentioned that writer/illustrators are something that publishers and agents are seeking. I have heard the opposite in the past...both the writing and illustrations have to be excellent. I've just completed a PB manuscript that suits my illustration style and am starting to compile a book dummy.

I have seen many book dummies that were almost "done." So much work for a possible "no," or gee you really need to consider changing all of your illustrations." I know that is always the risk, but I was wondering if pencil renderings and a few finished illustrations are a good alternative? Even the pencil renderings are taking time because I want to be sure that the characters are consistent, leave space for text and that the pacing is right.

I am reducing the images to 8 1/2 by 11" and using photoshop to place text in the samples. Is this sufficient? Should I lightly color the dummy and give 3 to 4 finsihed illustrations? If any of you have heard of preferences from the publishers, I would like to hear what they are.

Thank you so much.
#1 - May 19, 2008, 05:26 PM
Fur Balls & Feathers & Fins, Oh My! Animals Are My Kind of People
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Z-cat

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Dummies are such a challenge because it's so very, very vague just what a dummy should be, especially after you've done a little research on sub'ing manuscripts, and all of those particulars.

A dummy just needs to be a black and white (pencil, pen, charcoal, whatever) mock-up that shows how the illustrations will be composed, where the text will be, and how the layout will flow from one page to the next. Then you should include one or more "finished" samples in full-color. And of course, just like with a MS, expect everything to be edited.

It sounds like you're on the right track. I don't think the whole dummy needs to be in color. It's really more like a storyboard for the finished book.
#2 - May 19, 2008, 06:23 PM

Rock of The Westies
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Thank you Z-Cat. That's what I was hoping for. Some of my artist acquaintances have worked on their dummies for 2 years and others for less. One, sold his manuscript, but the publisher wanted a different illustrator to represent his writing. That's why I wanted to know if it was really necessary to go through all of that work initially. I definitely am putting work into it because I want to show my style through the dummy, but didn't want to put all that finish work into it, as that takes me a great deal of time.

And yes, the descriptions that I have received have been vague and varied. Your suggestion is what I'm swaying towards.
#3 - May 19, 2008, 06:31 PM
Fur Balls & Feathers & Fins, Oh My! Animals Are My Kind of People
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laser_braids

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I wrote an article about this a while ago, and I continue to keep my eyes open for what people want to see. They really do prefer black-and-white dummies. The sketches can be as rough or as developed as you like... it seems logical though that if you're unpublished and you're trying to sell yourself that the dummy should be really good! It can certainly be sketchy - just show that you can draw, what your style is, that you know how to compose a page and leave room for text, that you have a unique vision. That's all! You also send one or two or three samples of the finished art.

It's true that it's a ton of work. This is a very competitive business, and it's hard to break in. It's also true that if you're submitting as both the writer and the illustrator, yes, both the writing and the illustration need to be excellent.

Here's the article: http://yellapalooza.com/tutorials/dummies.html
#4 - May 19, 2008, 06:53 PM

Rock of The Westies
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That is great advice Sarah. It's interesting to read that black and white is preferred because if the dummy looks too finished, it may give the impression that the artist will not be as apt to revise.  Also of interest, is that editors do not receive many dummies, and even less, ones that are prepared in a professional manner.

I think that photoshop will make for more ease getting the dummy prepared. I have done a couple of finished illustrations with it and had fun with the ability to rearrange the text until I found the best placement.
Your article is a great help and is stored in my favorites now.  :thanks2
#5 - May 19, 2008, 07:14 PM
« Last Edit: May 19, 2008, 07:16 PM by funny stuff »
Fur Balls & Feathers & Fins, Oh My! Animals Are My Kind of People
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Cynbad

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Great question, and great advice! I too am writing and illustrating a story. After reading everything I could find on the topic and talking to as many published authors/illustrators as possible, I've decided to submit a dummy with pencil illustrations (I might ink them, not sure, but just b/w) with 2-3 finished color pieces. I'm also going to use Photoshop or possibly InDesign for placement of text.
#6 - May 21, 2008, 06:40 AM

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Here are a couple examples of picture book dummies that artists have posted online:

http://www.pilkey.com/behind-tg4.php

http://aaronzenz.tripod.com/dummyB1.html

I've heard editors say at conferences that they prefer a sketch dummy with 1-3 pieces of finished art. The sketch dummy shows them that you can draw your characters consistently, that you'll have a good variety of vantage points and compositions, and that you have a good narrative instinct for pacing. Your sample "finished" pieces need to be in a style that they feel fits with the story, that they personally like, and will sell.

Hope that helps!
Kristi Valiant
#7 - May 21, 2008, 07:09 AM
Kristi Valiant
Illustrator: PRETTY MINNIE IN PARIS, written by Danielle Steel, Doubleday 2014
Author/illustrator: PENGUIN CHA-CHA, Random House 2013

carlynnw

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I agree with what everyone's saying:  a b&w sketch dummy with a couple of finishes is the way to go, editors might get scared off by a dummy with too much finished art, etc. etc.

I would add, though, that as an "unknown," it's probably best to err on the side of tight / fleshed-out sketches rather than loose / vague / messy sketches.  (Unless you are a superb draftsman whose quick sketches come out looking beautiful in their own right.)  In other words, don't slack off on the sketches and expect the finishes to carry you through.  Make the editors, who don't know you professionally, really comfortable about working with you...make them want to entrust you with a book!

Anyone else agree or disagree? 
#8 - May 21, 2008, 09:49 AM

Cynbad

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I agree, absolutely. Those sketches will make an important first impression, so let them see (if they already haven't) that you have fierce drawing skills. And don't forget 2 or 3 finished pieces too, of course:)
#9 - May 21, 2008, 12:09 PM

Rock of The Westies
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This is such good information. And Kristi, Dave Pilkey's link is another great additon to my favorites. Though, I have to say, his black and whites look quite finished. Mine are not sketches by any means, but outlines of what would be the beginnings of my "finished" art. I might throw in a little shadowing, but not too much. All of your contributions are valued.
#10 - May 21, 2008, 01:51 PM
Fur Balls & Feathers & Fins, Oh My! Animals Are My Kind of People
 www.cynthiakremsner.com

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what a great thread.

i, too, have just found myself in the
cateogry of childrens book writer and artist.
i know nothing about it and have so much
to learn. my dummy is due in january. ee!
so i have a lot to research and think about.

i am NOT an illustrator but a painter.
(i'm not sure i can draw to save my life.)
so what the dummy illustrations will be is beyond me.
maybe just rough paintings?

good luck to everyone!  :love :star2
#12 - June 01, 2008, 04:06 PM
Silver Phoenix (Greenwillow: 4/28/09)
Fury of the Phoenix (Greenwillow: 3/30/11)
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Barbara Eveleth

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Oh well. I 'm sure you'll be fine. Great luck to you.
#13 - June 01, 2008, 04:54 PM

thanks for the vote of confidence, AE!  :hearts
#14 - June 01, 2008, 05:13 PM
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stacebee

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Guys,

I enjoyed reading this thread . I am currently trying to figure out HOW to post my book dummy online. Should I just do the layout  as a blog post ?
I feel techie dumb :confused2

Thanks!
#15 - July 13, 2011, 11:32 AM

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Are you putting the whole dummy online? If so, why, for a request?

I don't think I'd put my whole dummy online in a public area. IMO, posting your whole dummy online is similar to posting your whole ms online, but worse because they also get to see the visuals and any extra storylines that aren't in the text. For requesting editors/agents, I have posted dummies in a private area of my site (and sent the URL info by email to the editors/agents). You could also send it as a PDF if you have a request.
#16 - July 14, 2011, 09:36 AM
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Twitter - http://twitter.com/StephanieRuble

picture book: EWE AND AYE (now available as an ebook!)

stacebee

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Hey Stephanie,

Thanks for responding !
I was advised to prepare a  url link to my book dummy just in case I do get a request, so I was  trying to figure out the best way to create this.
I have a blog not a website so I of course would not want it exposed to everyone. Maybe the pdf would be sufficient ?

Thanks for your feedback!

 
 
 
#17 - July 14, 2011, 10:01 AM

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It's more convenient for an agent/editor if you can provide a link for them right in your query letter. I have a couple AI friends who do a free one page google site just for viewing an online dummy. And you can keep them so that you have to provide a link for someone to access it. I use a free wordpress site for mine as I have multiple pages (set up as a site, not a blog) and keep it private and block search engines. Wordpress has a lot of tutorials and help pages if you are not sure how to set it up, and their tech support are pretty helpful and get back to you pretty quick. Wordpress also has some extra security features, like passworded pages, or keeping the entire site private and allowing you to give access to users you choose. As Stephanie said, it's not advisable to put a full dummy up on a public site. I created a separate account that is not attached to a blog and use it as a guest user. My dummy is still in progress (only 3 scenes left to finish!), but this allows my critique partners to go and check out new spreads as I update it. I'm not sure if having to sign in as a guest would be annoying for an agent or not, but according to the Wordpress techs it's the most secure way of keeping the site private. I'll have to decide before I query if I want to take my chances just blocking search engines, or use the guest log in.

Stephanie's system of keeping a private page on her site is great, and that's what I would do if I had a public website.
#18 - July 14, 2011, 12:44 PM
THIS LITTLE PIGGY (AN OWNER'S MANUAL), Aladdin PIX June 2017 :pigsnort
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stacebee

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These boards are excellent ! You can learn so much.
I did not even realize that you could use Wordpress as a site.  :shame
Thank you very much for the info Artemesia I will definitely check it out.
Good luck with your dummy ! 
#19 - July 15, 2011, 08:40 AM

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thanks!! good luck to you too!

I do advise reading the tutorials if you haven't done a wordpress site before. I monkeyed around with it for a couple days, and I'd have saved myself a lot of time if I'd read them first.
#20 - July 15, 2011, 10:04 AM
THIS LITTLE PIGGY (AN OWNER'S MANUAL), Aladdin PIX June 2017 :pigsnort
KUNG POW CHICKEN 1-4, Scholastic 2014 :chicken

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Penn Bender

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I love making dummies just for the joy of making them.  I find I can cut my word count in half once I have pictures in place telling the other half the story.  I have a hidden part of my website too, that way I can send a link to editors. 

The examples on this thread are really great!
#21 - July 15, 2011, 04:57 PM

DDHearn

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HI Cynthia,

You've gotten some really good advice here.  Whether you make your dummy by hand or on the computer, you want it to be clear enough for an editor to "read" but not too finished so that an editor might feel you would be unwilling to revise everything.  My dummies are very loose pencil sketches on white paper that I fold into a book the size I hope it will be in reality.  I tape the type where I think it should go.  I xerox the pages (both front and back) which gives it a slightly more finished feel.  Often I include character sketches as well as a finish to show the style of art I'm considering for the book.  For me, the dummy is just a starting point.  Often my finished sketches will change dramatically from the dummy stage.  There's no completely wrong way to do a dummy, but I wouldn't spend too much of your creative energy on it as most editors are very skilled at reading dummies, and they understand that these are to show potential more than a finished product.

Good luck. :goldstar

Diane
#22 - July 27, 2011, 12:17 PM

Rock of The Westies
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Thank you Diane. I think your advice is so spot on about how far to carry the rendering.

It's been awhile since I first posted this and the original dummy went through a revision process during a mentor program with an AD. One of my characters had a pretty big change in structure and I had to redo all the images. That's why your advice rings true. Too much finish, even in B&W, can mean a lot of undoing and redoing.

A lot of my friends aren't doing physical dummies, they are posting them on secured websites or making an electronic dummy for submission. What a relief when it comes to mailing costs. Physical dummies still speak tons, especially at conferences.

It's been great reading all the advice through this thread. :paint
#23 - July 27, 2011, 02:21 PM
Fur Balls & Feathers & Fins, Oh My! Animals Are My Kind of People
 www.cynthiakremsner.com

"Often I include character sketches as well as a finish to show the style of art I'm considering for the book."

Thanks, Diane. This is something I am doing now along with a few more color samples to include in the package I plan to send off hopefully by the end of September.

In regards to the dummy itself, I really like using the Itoya portfolio (or something like it) because I like the clear plastic sleeves. With these, I can move things around... or take things out and sub things in easily.
#24 - August 20, 2011, 08:31 AM
What's for pudding, Mimmy?

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http://www.puddintanesbrain.com

www.puddersputter.blogspot.com

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I create the dummy with 2 internal,consecutive colour pages/spreads - the rest are b&w apart from the cover.

Although I put the colour work in, these are colour roughs rather than finished illustrations.

The physical dummy that I've put together measures around 3"x4". I subbed it digitally as a pdf (made with InDesign but MS Publisher is just as good for this purpose) x
#25 - August 21, 2011, 11:25 AM
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