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To dummy or not to dummy?

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PatrickW

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Hey.  I am a little confused here.  I am a writer/illustrator.  I have several books that I want to submit and I have read all types of advice.

If I am looking to illustrate the PB I have written, it seems given that I should send in 1 to 3 samples of finished art.  I read on another thread that I should include the dummy. 
 
I am considering sending my work to several agents.  Some how, I got the idea that making the dummy came after acquiring an agent or publisher.  I have a day job.  If I send in several books at once, won't they get an idea of my illustrating style and ability?

Ugh!
 

 
#1 - May 23, 2009, 09:44 PM
« Last Edit: May 23, 2009, 09:47 PM by Wiseguy14 »

Avalon Ink

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What does "dummy"  mean in this context? Is that some sort of illustrating for books term?
#2 - May 23, 2009, 10:18 PM

mariannabaer

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Wiseguy -- If you don't have any published books to show, I think a dummy is crucial. Although your finished art is an indication of your style, it doesn't demonstrate your ability to carry a narrative throughout an entire picture book. This skill is a different one from being able to pick out a scene and illustrate it. It shows your sense of narrative pacing, your ability to be consistent when illustrating the same characters for an entire book, your ability to create effective page turns, etc.... But the dummy DOES NOT have to have finished art throughout. 2-3 finished examples are plenty.

(Avalon -- a dummy is a rough mock-up of a picture book, with text and illustrations.)
#3 - May 24, 2009, 06:16 AM

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Wiseguy, (it feels wierd writing that with good intentions) MRB is right on.

As a writer/illustrator both the writing and illustrating have to be strong. I know a feel published author/illustrators who did not break into the industry doing both. One sent a book dummy and the publisher loved the story, but had another vision for the text. He agreed to have another illustrator represent his writing. His following contract was to do illustrations for pretty well known author. Another person I have met is known for her illustrations but has begun to write her own text and much prefers that. This sort of process is always a possibility so it's important be open to the idea.

The book dummy is also a great editing tool. Once you start laying out a storyboard, the pacing of your text as well as your illustrations will be evident. I found the dummy as a wonderful editing tool for the text. In the past, I wrote my manuscripts and sent off two to three art samples. A year ago, I prepared my first book dummy and what a difference! I replaced some descriptive words with sensory words which cut down my word count. The pacing of the text was adjusted as needed. The process made me realize how much better all of my manuscripts would have been if I had prepared a dummy. It's my belief that if you are just writing alone without illustrating, a storyboard or rough dummy is necessary to see if your manuscript is working as a Picture Book.

Preparing a dummy is not a guarantee of publication, but it is enlightening. The duet between pictures and words is something we need to consider when writing or illustrating a picture book. Sometimes the words take the lead and sometimes the visuals. As an illustrator or writer, preparing some sort of mock-up, whether it be a storyboard or rough dummy, is a helpful process helps that lets us know where the words or visuals should take the lead and to adjust accordingly.
#4 - May 24, 2009, 07:33 AM
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mariannabaer

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Uh...okay. I apologize for offering my opinion. (Although it was based on a number of years of submitting as an author/illustrator, and several back-and-forths with editors about a couple of my books.)
#5 - May 24, 2009, 08:02 AM

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Different publishers require different types of submissions. Some want to see dummies with a couple of finishes, and others want to see a few finished spreads w/o a dummy. It's hard to find an agent for picture books if you're not published, although some people have done it, so it's not impossible.

The advice that mrb and funny stuff gave you was excellent and worth considering. It is hard for a publisher to tell from one piece of finished art what your narrative skills and character consistency will be throughout a 32 page picture book.

I used to read through slush and sometimes would get art or dummies with the text. It was much easier to tell the artist's vision and skills with a dummy and finishes. A few finishes also worked, but one piece of art was just not enough to convince us that that they could pull it off. If your art was super spectacular, maybe you would get a request to see more before they made the decision, but maybe not. You are competing with many other authors, illustrators, and author/illustrators.

As for personal experience, I've sent in dummies with samples and even went back and forth with a publisher sending in more samples and working on a new dummy and samples (still in limbo on that sub). It all depends on the publisher and their preferences, but the more information you give them and the more professional your submission, the better chance you have.

It's a ton of work and money to do the dummy and samples. I can understand why you might want to short cut or not complete them. However, as funny stuff said, doing the dummy (even if you don't sub it) can really help your writing, and as mrb said, a dummy will show the publisher your narrative pacing, page turns and consistency of drawing characters. Several finished samples will show the publisher that you have a consistent art style and that the skill you demonstrate in whatever medium it is, is not just a one-off; you can create another successful picture.

Just my 2 cents.

Edited to respond to your last post (we posted at the same time): A dummy is not all finished art. It's tight sketches that show how you would handle the story. 2-3 finishes are usually included either as part of the dummy or as separate pieces of art (based on preferences or submission guidelines).
#6 - May 24, 2009, 08:36 AM
« Last Edit: May 24, 2009, 08:39 AM by sruble »
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Z-cat

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From my point of view, one finished picture that tells or sets up the story of the entire book, like the cover, is a great example of illustrative skills, narrative skills and page turn skills. 

Um, I'm going to go ahead and totally disagree with this.
An art director is going to need to see you illustrate the same character consistently, in a number of settings and poses, as well as how you would move the story along from page to page. One really phenomenal piece of art does not an illustrator make.
Dummies are also going to be a part of the process, even if you sell your book, or get hired to work on someone else's manuscript. Think of dummies more like storyboarding.
Finding info on putting together dummies is tricky. There's not a lot out there.
The very best advice you're going to find is on this board.
 :goodluck
#7 - May 24, 2009, 08:47 AM

Barbara Eveleth

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I am a BIG fan of dummying(if you read my posts years ago I was probably less enamored and confident). Every editor I've met has said to absolutely dummy. And the art directors I've shown to have also been positive.

The dummies don't have to cost a lot of money to make up (it is the mailing that costs) but they often take a lot of time to complete, indeed.

I'm waiting on a couple myself...both done after having had critiques on the writing by professionals and after having my folio looked at by ADs.

You may want to have your writing assessed first especially if it is not concept or has an involved plot/structure.

If the story changes structurally then your dummy will inevitably be altered.

Please realize that the feedback you are getting here is not hearsay. It comes from what we hear from professionals often face-to-face and many conferences.  :yup :yup :yup
#8 - May 24, 2009, 08:53 AM
« Last Edit: May 24, 2009, 09:04 AM by AE »

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Wiseguy,

It's pretty standard that even if you are both an author and an illustrator, publishers like to pair an unknown author/illustrator with either a known author or illustrator, unless you can show that you really are the best person to illustrate your own books. Both the writing and the artwork need to be outstanding. I think you need a dummy to demonstrate this if you want a publisher to take a chance on a complete unknown. The fact that you have a day job and don't think you have the time to prepare a dummy doesn't excuse you from needing one. Even the majority of published authors on this board still have day jobs. If you don't have the time to spend making a dummy, you need to think about whether you will realistically have the time to do the finished artwork if your book is going to be published. Getting a book deal is not a guarantee that you can quit your day job.

I have been working on my manuscript and dummy for a year now. I'm close to finished and the patience has paid off because as funny stuff said earlier, doing the storyboard/rough dummy has tightened my text and my word count has gone from 850 to 690.

Also, if you want to send several books at once, they each need to be sent in separately, not together. Each book should have its own cover letter, samples and dummy if you choose to do one. Do not send them all in the same package, even to the same publisher.
#9 - May 24, 2009, 08:54 AM
« Last Edit: May 24, 2009, 09:13 AM by Artemesia »
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There may be a general misconception about Picture Books. They are short, but the limitations make them difficult to write. On the illustrating side, they are lengthy. Producing thirty two images takes time and motivation. Putting a Dummy together shows that you are dedicated and you are aware of what you will be expected to deliver. If the work is accepted, the art director and illustrator go through the revision process just as the editors and writers do.

Once you are established, the publisher knows your work and your process. But as a first-timer, putting your best foot forward, showing you are aware of the time involved and can pull your characters through an entire story is the best way to get noticed.
#10 - May 24, 2009, 09:07 AM
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laser_braids

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When I was trying to break into the business as a writer and illustrator, I submitted dummies and samples. However, the first book I got a contract for was based on the manuscript, a storyboard, and some character studies - my agent didn't feel it needed a dummy and she was right.

If your writing and illustrating are both very strong, and you're unpublished, it makes sense to submit a dummy. Just a few weeks ago I showed some works in progress to an editor: a manuscript for one, some sketches for another, and a dummy for the third. He was excited by the dummy and took it with him, I think because it made the strongest case for the story.

I have never heard of a publisher requesting a dummy after seeing a manuscript and samples. But, from my own experience, if the manuscript and samples are really, really strong, it may be enough to get a contract. I think a dummy helps though. I still do dummies before my agent submits my stories.

Just FYI, if you get a contract as an author/illustrator, the process usually goes like this:

1. Manuscript revisions
2. Thumbnail sketches or storyboard
3. Dummy
4. Final art
#11 - May 30, 2009, 06:59 AM

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Wiseguy, do what feels right for you. Just be sure to check submission guidelines, most publishers are very specific.
#12 - June 05, 2009, 12:14 AM
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Barbara Eveleth

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Just wanted to share something that was imparted to me yesterday at a conference:

I had a ms critique yesterday (and a first page listen of another ms) with a lovely editor at Knopf. At our sit-down she saw that I was an illustrator (with portfolio in hand). She returned my ms with her thoughts. And after showing her my folio she said to send my dummied submission(s) directly to the art department of her house. She said that editors often don't get the whole story and thought process of author/illustrators; and that art directors are sometimes better at it and that they review dummies with editors.

I've done it before and will do it again.  :yup

I mentioned this to a famous illustrator I had an art critique with (at this conference) and he completely agreed.



#13 - June 07, 2009, 04:25 AM
« Last Edit: June 07, 2009, 11:21 AM by AE »

janeeeeee

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Sometimes, it depends on the manuscript. If it's totally understandable without illustrations or art notes, you might be able to sell it without a dummy. If you write in such a way that the illustrations tell a big part of the story (or tell a different story than the manuscript tells), you're probably going to need a dummy to get your idea across.

If you're approaching an agent and asking him/her to take you on as an author-illustrator package, I'd think you'd want to include at least one dummy in there.

I've sold three picture books as author-illustrator so far, and each one of those sales was made with a dummy.
#14 - June 07, 2009, 01:30 PM

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My recent experience with preparing a dummy was a bit of a success. The application for the Nevada Mentor Program for author/illustrators states you can send a manuscript and 3 finished pieces of work or a manuscript and dummy (2 Copies each as you were to select from 2 Mentors.) I indicated my preferences were the Art Director or Author/Illustrator as they were both quite talented and had much guidance to offer,  and sent two copies of a dummy. (I felt it best represented my artistic vision.) I was tickled to be selected as a "mentee" and what's more, by the A.D. The dummy is not perfect, as nothing ever is, but some valuable insight has been shared that will hep to improve it.

That said, I think the dummy spoke of my abilities to carry a story more than if I had sent a couple of finished samples. Putting a dummy together for a story you've written is a great way to "prove" yourself as an illustrator, but another way to display your artistic vision is to take a story that is in public domain and render a few scenes as you see fit. I've been working on some of those types of pieces for my portfolio and find it an enjoyable venture.

And Thank You AE for sharing that it might work best to submit dummies to ADs. I've thought about this because an Art Director appreciates the efforts involved in putting one together, (maybe even a bit more than editors because they don't have hands-on experience in the making of them.)
#15 - June 07, 2009, 04:29 PM
« Last Edit: June 07, 2009, 05:10 PM by funny stuff »
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ladylind

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I am putting together dummies on a website after reading Rebecca Sherman's website request for an electronic dummy or portfolio.  Has anyone ever done this?  Are there publishing problems with having the manuscript on a public domain (it is possible to limit who has access)?

Mucho thanks.

LL
#16 - August 03, 2009, 12:02 PM

Barbara Eveleth

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Do you mean for an actual book you want published or just an example of dummy aptitude?

Personally, I would never put my dummies of stories I've written up for public display. No way. Call me paranoid.

Dummies of any old thing is different.

Sending dummies to agents privately is okay.

I don't think your publisher would like it either. Not at least,until it is out on the shelves.

JMHO.
#17 - August 03, 2009, 12:13 PM
« Last Edit: August 03, 2009, 12:15 PM by AE »

noirbettie

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 :nothing I just had to tell you that when I read your title I got really confused about where I was, because I belong to a few parenting boards and some people call pacifiers (about which there is a raging debate in some circles) dummies.
#18 - August 03, 2009, 12:15 PM

Barbara Eveleth

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New!
Mais nous sommes Americain(e)s.
#19 - August 03, 2009, 12:16 PM
« Last Edit: August 04, 2009, 03:06 AM by AE »

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