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Too many illustrator notes a bad thing?

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Hello illustrators!  I am writing a picture book that would rely a lot on illustrations (like all good pbs :horse:), but I'm not sure if it is appropriate to include a lot of illustrator's notes in the manuscript.  Does that squelch illustrator's creativity?  Is it frowned upon in the illustrator community?  I'm just wondering if you ever have a book where you feel like the writer had been far too dependent upon your ability to illustrate their thoughts?  Let me know what you think... :thankyou
#1 - May 17, 2011, 01:01 PM
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Hi there!

a general rule of thumb is to only put in the notes what is necessary for the ms to make sense. Or if the "joke" is to say one thing in the text, but the illustration shows the opposite. keep the notes as brief as you can, leave creative decisions to the illustrator/art director and you should be fine!

good luck!!
#2 - May 17, 2011, 01:13 PM
THIS LITTLE PIGGY (AN OWNER'S MANUAL), Aladdin PIX June 2017 :pigsnort
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To build on what Artemesia said, also make sure you are not being too descriptive. If the whole book hangs on the fact that the bunny is, in fact, a wolf in disguise, say that. But don't say what color the bunny's fur is, etc.
#3 - May 17, 2011, 06:01 PM
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I rarely insert illustration notes, per the advice of so many and my own sensibilities.
So what do you think the first thing my PB editor asked for, after I signed the contract?

"Twenty-five to thirty detailed illustration notes, Please." :0

I had a wonderful time doing it, feeling that I got back some of the 'control' over the story that I had been relinquishing all along. The wonderful illustrator followed my notes almost to a T.

Even after this experience I continue not to include illustration notes when I sub. Editors are different, and many do not like these sorts of controlling directives. Of course, where the illustration note is absolutely essential you should have it there.
#4 - May 18, 2011, 11:55 AM
THE VOICE OF THUNDER, WiDo Publishing Aug 2012
THERE'S A TURKEY AT THE DOOR, Hometown520 July 2011

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Thanks so much for the info.  I've always heard that is the case.  This book has to have illustrator notes to add some comic appeal.  Part of the plot is actually illustrated.  Is that the kind of book that should be left up to an author/illustrator.  How do you know if you have written a book that requires too much from an illustrator?   
#5 - May 18, 2011, 02:26 PM
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Illustrators are storytellers in their own right. Part of the AD's expertise is pairing an author with the perfect illustrator for their book. I think as long as the parts of your story that *have* to be illustrated to get the idea across you have a clear note for, the illustrator should have no difficulty. And once the illustrator has storyboarded the ms, revisions on both sides (art and text) may likely be needed. So it's definitely a collaborative process.
#6 - May 18, 2011, 03:37 PM
THIS LITTLE PIGGY (AN OWNER'S MANUAL), Aladdin PIX June 2017 :pigsnort
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This is very interesting to me. I have only critiqued one ms that included them. I haven't wrote them in yet, but need to decide before I shop my PB's. So, let's take a poll. Who includes them?
#7 - May 18, 2011, 04:51 PM

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Courses I have attended have always advised to avoid them wherever possible. The rationale is something like "illustrations are the illustrator's domain, and you wouldn't want the illustrator telling you what to write would you?" Of course, when you need to explain something that is not implicit in the text, then you would need to write a very short note.
#8 - May 18, 2011, 06:31 PM
I've Got Eyes! - Amicus Ink (August 2018)

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I guess I think the writing should conjur images in a picture book and if they don't I'm not sure it's a true PB. Thanks, Julie. I think I will avoid them.
#9 - May 18, 2011, 07:24 PM

This is very interesting to me. I have only critiqued one ms that included them. I haven't wrote them in yet, but need to decide before I shop my PB's. So, let's take a poll. Who includes them?
That is so funny because in my critque group, they use them on almost every page.   :bewildered: I think that they need to be used sparingly.  I just wonder what an illustrator or publisher thinks when they see a manuscript that uses them heavily to extend the plot.  That the author is controlling?  That the writing should be stronger?  From what anyone of you have learned, does using excessive illustrator notes just show that the writing could be stronger? 
So...does anyone but my critique group rely on illustrator notes?
#10 - May 18, 2011, 08:27 PM
A neurtron walks into a bar and asks, "how much for a drink?" The bartender says, "no charge."
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But what about wordless picture books?  :ha  

It's best to avoid illo notes when possible, but I have heard of an author being asked for some, like 217mom describes. I think in most cases where they are required it's because the ms cannot be properly understood without them. In that case, a brief note is totally acceptable.

I use illo notes, but I'm my own illustrator so they are mostly for my own reference as I write and illo ideas come to me, so not sure my vote counts in this poll. But, when subbing a ms to an agent, I'd leave in just the notes that are needed to tell the story, even tho I'd be submitting illustrations with it.
#11 - May 18, 2011, 08:35 PM
THIS LITTLE PIGGY (AN OWNER'S MANUAL), Aladdin PIX June 2017 :pigsnort
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In every PB class I ever took, I always heard avoid illustrator notes. Then, at a recent SCBWI Conference, my critique with an editor told me that  I SHOULD have illustrator notes! Reading this thread, it seems that it's a mixed bag. Some say yes, some say no.
#12 - May 19, 2011, 07:37 AM
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I think it's one of those things that when you're first learning PB writing you get told to avoid because some new writers want to dictate everything to the illustrator, right down to the color socks the mc is wearing. There have been a number of threads on the boards about this, and some new writers wonder why they don't have creative control over what the illustrations should look like for their writing. (short answer is because that's not their area of expertise) But, there are times when a note is necessary. If you have an illo note in your ms, ask yourself if it is necessary to understand the story or your concept. If it's not, it should be removed.

#13 - May 19, 2011, 10:12 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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Artemesia,  Thanks for all of your comments.  I think that you make a good point that you don't want to be controlling, but it's OK to fill in holes in the plot.  I just wanted to make sure that the need for illustrator notes doesn't devalue a manuscript in the eyes of a publisher/agent.  I don't want to sound like I don't know what I'm doing just because I include a few illustrator notes.  It sounds like if you need them, use them.  If I hear otherwise, I'll post, but that's what I get out of this discussion.  Thanks for everyone's comments!  Everyone is always so helpful! :grouphug2
#14 - May 19, 2011, 11:48 AM
A neurtron walks into a bar and asks, "how much for a drink?" The bartender says, "no charge."
-Sheldon Cooper (Big Bang Theory)

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Speaking as an illustrator, if the author gave too many notes the project would be too restrictive. I was wrestling with taking on a project once and a friend of mine (a fantastic and experienced illustrator) simply said "you are not a sausage factory" which I have stolen for myself...if someone is telling you what to illustrate, they don't want your vision, they just want to hire your technical skill and for me, thats not why I want to do this job (to be a hired hand). I think offering too many notes is probably not a good idea. I thought that the words and pictures were meant to compliment each other, not rely on each other? (this is just what I thought, I'm not being sarcastic :)

Does that make sense or is it waffle? I can't tell anymore...haha x
#15 - May 19, 2011, 12:21 PM
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I have had editor’s notes or suggestions but none from the writer.
If I have a question I will ask.
 :)  :paint
#16 - May 20, 2011, 03:49 AM

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Sometimes you HAVE to have an illustrator note. For example, in one of my stories a toddler is 'helping' his parents. The story is told from his POV so I have things like, "Then I have to feed the dog." So I need an illustrator note simply saying <toddler throwing food from his high chair> or similar to show that he's not actually feeding the dog in his bowl.

That's just it though - an illustrator note should only exist so the story makes sense. If you can take it out and the story still makes sense, it doesn't need to be there.
#17 - May 20, 2011, 07:28 AM

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Of course, when there are visual gags involved or meta narrative, you have to let the artist know that. That's great, but generally artists don't want to be told how to compose a scene or how to tell a story visually. If they are good, they've spent at least ten years thinking about that stuff day and night. No writer can compete with that.  There is a big difference between mentally visualising a scene ( a good and valuable skill) and actually having the applied knowledge of how to get that scene down on paper.  It's like reading a lot about horse riding and then going to Wyoming and telling some rancher how to do it.

#18 - May 21, 2011, 12:56 AM

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I don't think a professional or knowledgable writer would try and 'compete' with an illustrator. A writer knows that his/her job is to create beautiful prose and the illustrator's job is to create beautiful visuals – if things go to plan, the two work together beautifully. It's just that illustrator notes are frowned upon, because of the reasons outlined, and so it can be off-putting to someone who knows this (original poster, for eg) but feels that their story requires a note or two.

#19 - May 21, 2011, 06:51 PM

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This question has come up before and as an aspiring Author/Illustrator, I’ve always answered to avoid illustration notes except for the times when it’s crucial to the story. Recently, I had to heed my own advice. I changed a verse text into prose and when I did, I put a lot of visuals into the story as I pictured the scenes . . . the flow was quite nice. But, when I sat down to do my illustration samples, I found that I had restricted my creative flow too much when it came to how those scenes should look. I went back to the former verse version, which had sparse text and had a blast working up the scenes, adding nuances that weren’t in the text. In fact, I’ve changed a verse or two to match the visuals I had in my head. That’s something I can do.

However, I have heard when an author and an illustrator are working on a Picture Book and the illustrator has an idea that would serve to enhance the story, they can put it forward to the editor and if the editor agrees, they may ask the author to change their text a bit. It can work both ways as they are picture books and it’s a compilation of text and illustrations.

Unless it’s crucial to the story (Images telling actual story when text in first person is telling something else, etc), it’s best to let the illustrator play their part in the duet of writing and illustrating.
 :oncomputer :paint                
#20 - May 22, 2011, 09:21 AM
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I hope I get to experience this some day, but I would think half of the fun of creating a picture book is seeing how the illustrator makes my story come to life. I'm guessing it's an equal partnership for an iillustrator and writer.
#21 - May 22, 2011, 02:42 PM

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Yes, I think so. I heard an author talking about this issue once. She said it is exciting to wait and see what the illustrator comes up with. Around 95% of the time, it is something beyond what she had envisioned - in a very positive way. For one mid grade novel, which was sold to the US (she is based in Australia), the MC on the cover was a black American. She had not thought of the MC this way as she was writing and was at first surprised to see her cover, but her second thought was the realization that her MC was fairly universal, and that this particular interpretation was as fine as any.
Her bottom line was that a picture book is made of half text and half illustrations. Together they make a wonderful whole that, when executed well, is much more than the sum of its parts.
#22 - May 22, 2011, 03:16 PM
I've Got Eyes! - Amicus Ink (August 2018)

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I think that the points here make good sense.  Thank you to the illustrators who made comments, especially, because I always wonder what they would think of a book with too many notes.  Now to decide what is necessary and what should be left to the professionals.  :bewildered:  It would be exciting to see what they create.  I still think it is hard to write a picture book, though, and not think of illustrations as I write the words.  Don't most people do that?  Do you just see how the text flows together?
#24 - May 24, 2011, 08:50 PM
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I see pictures as I write. However, I just assume they won't be the same as an illustrator's vision. The illustrator's pics are likely to be better! : )  (because they have the skills to put their imagination to "paper")
#25 - May 24, 2011, 09:55 PM
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I got surprised and delighted by my illustrator a time or two, but overall, the producer of the project felt I needed to send many more notes because critical details were getting left out. I thought it was pretty clear my sidekick had certain gear for his adventure, but those were left out. I didn't really want to put my vision of the dystopian dust bunny world on the illustrator, but he really wanted guidance (there were technical issues to manage too, since the pages are layered and one moves across the other for this iPad book.) Thankfully we caught it early on as this would have caused some major headaches in a project that has already been delayed by a YEAR!  :old
#26 - May 25, 2011, 07:18 AM
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