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How does a writer leave room for the illustrator to do his or her work?

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Thanks for the reply, Salina. You know that doesn't surprise me on one hand, but on the other it goes against everything I've heard. I've heard authors don't even get to talk to the illustrators. Guess nothing is absolute.
And I can certainly see how a sparsely written pb would need a lot of collaboration once it's accepted, but I still don't understand how it gets accepted in the first place, unless one uses lots illustration notes (which I've heard one should not use or at least very sparingly).  For instance, let's pretend that CR did not illustrate Yo! Yes? and let's say he wanted to sub it. How the heck would he do that...lots of illustrative notes? And would it even be seriously read/considered with THAT many notes? Just wondering.

Carole

Carole, you are quite right that the illustrator doesn't get in contact with the author in most instances. The editor is the "middle-man." Both sides talk to the editor. If the sparse ms (with notes) is accepted, the author and editor will discuss the concept at length. Then the editor relays that info to the illustrator. If the illustrator has a different vision (from the notes offered), then he/she will discuss with the editor, not directly with the author.  Then it all gets sorted out. Ultimately, it's the publisher's decision on which way to go should there be any differences.

And JulieM is absolutely right that sparse-text mss are harder for unpublished writers to sell. An author/illustrator has an advantage with this one. If the art is amazing and the concept or story is unique, even an unpublished auth/illus may make a sale with very sparse words, or no words at all. Sometimes the art is enough. Like WAVE, by Suzy Lee. No words at all, and she's a debut. Got lots of buzz from Chronicle, and got a second book deal after.

Unfortunately, with a picture book, a writer couldn't show the complete book with just the words, since a picture book isn't complete without the pictures. (But it CAN be complete without words.)
#31 - April 16, 2012, 06:18 PM

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This is a great thread! I too have been befuddled as a writer about whether, when, and how to include art notes, and most especially how to create the spare texts that editors seem to be calling for these days without including notes.

I came across Linda Ashman's website, and she actually posted her manuscript for the book "No Dogs Allowed" which is a wonderful and very funny book that is told entirely in pictures and text written on a chalkboard sign in the illustrations.
http://www.lindaashman.com/no_dogs_allowed_108750.htm

She's an established writer, so I'm not sure the same rules apply to unpublished writers (sounds like they don't from Julie M's comment) but it was fascinating to see. I'd love to find more examples like this if anyone knows of any -- especially books where there is reliance on the illustrations to tell a significant part of the story. And especially debut books.

Carrie
#32 - April 16, 2012, 06:36 PM
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"Dog in, cat out" is a good one, although not debut. It is by Gillian Rubenstein and Ann James. Those four little words are the only words used, yet a full day in the life of a busy family is wonderfully depicted in the illustrations.
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1337066.Dog_in_Cat_Out_CL
#33 - April 16, 2012, 07:18 PM
I've Got Eyes! - Amicus Ink

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Dionna

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WOWSIE! I'm learning so much here!!
#34 - April 16, 2012, 08:15 PM

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You aren't the only one! Great thread!  :clap:

Rue
#35 - April 16, 2012, 08:26 PM
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Illustration notes (written by author), or editorial discussions (between editor or art director and illustrator to discuss concept/direction in greater depth). Lots of development takes place before the book is in print, so it's not as simple as author submitting ms and the illustrator illustrating it. Lots of back and forth, push and pull, wipe on, wipe off.

So, SO true but also true that, except for some of the "name" Authors, most times the writer has very limited to no direct contact or input when it comes to the Illustrators job. The Author may speak to the Editor, the Editor may think the Authors point valid and speak to the AD, who then, if agreeing, convays the point to the Illustrator but, as SYoon says, lots of behind the scenes push and pull going on.
 
#36 - April 17, 2012, 03:47 AM
"Penelope and the Humongous Burp"
"Penelope and the Monsters"
"Penelope and the Preposterous Birthday Party"

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For instance, let's pretend that CR did not illustrate Yo! Yes? and let's say he wanted to sub it. How the heck would he do that...

I have also heard that some Authors will submit a dummy, especially if there is little to no text. They may not be able to draw well, but well enough to convey the actions that their words do not.

Personal note: Darn it CarrieF, "No Dogs Allowed" was the title I used for my PB Dummy, (that concentrated on no dogs allowed signs all over town) that I sent to a few Publishers about 4 years ago.  (not that any of them were interested or anything, but darn it anyway:)
#37 - April 17, 2012, 04:02 AM
"Penelope and the Humongous Burp"
"Penelope and the Monsters"
"Penelope and the Preposterous Birthday Party"

Jodell Sadler

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Great postings!

When we write picture books, as writers, we can focus on all the tools of great writing.

We can think about what appears on the page. We have to step into the world of our main character and dare to do less in order to do more. We have to know when to pull back in order for the heart of our story to surface. When we focus intensely on how a picture books sounds (aurally and orally), we can see the picture book as a performance. When we perform, even the quiet around words become important. Think about comedy and the pause before the punch line. This is the power of the picture book.

We can ask ourselves if we enjoy our words strings? Whether or not there is a repetitive word or phrase that will help the manuscript grow and sing. We can investigate whether we are using threes, building tension, offering surprise. If we can even explore the negative space of our writing to define what our character is not like Mo Willems does in Leonardo the Terrible Monster.

“He (Leonardo) didn’t have 1,642* teeth, like Tony.
He wasn’t big, like Eleanor.
And he wasn’t just plain weird, like Hector.”

And this is just one tool... so when we imagine all there is to hone and play with as we write, we can begin to do more by writing less.

I like to think about this relationship as not "leaving room for" but pulling back when the art can help carry our story. Think about Where the Wild Things Are and how Maurice Sendak really pulled all the way back to let the Rumpus begin. Identify those moments an illustrator can do more. 
#38 - April 19, 2012, 07:47 AM

Learning a lot from this thread! I really liked seeing Linda Ashman's manuscript - thanks CarrieF for the link  :inbox:
#39 - April 27, 2012, 01:44 PM

Jodell Sadler

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Love this topic, as I have been really honing in on what makes picture books sing for the past ten years. When I edit, I focus on 10 verbal tools and 10 visual tools that help balance the interplay of art and words.

I use the book Office Buckle and Gloria as an example of how art and words interplay in the picture book form. Office Buckle represents the words, while Gloria represents the art, that does flips and tricks and performs behind the text. Once separated, Office Buckle doesn't get the laughs. When Gloria (the art) performs alone, she falls asleep. This could be argued that their are plenty of successful wordless picture books (Flotsam, etc.) but they point is we can safely say these two works best following the buddy system and perform together.

When we write picture books, I've found that when we focus on key tools, interactively engaging the reader while supporting the stories theme, we find that we do not need so many words. 500 is a lot.

We can look at writers who write slim, like Yo! Yes? by Chris Raschka, but also Orange Pear Apple Bear, Dogs, or Monkey and Me by Emily Gravett. Or even Hurry! Hurry! by Eve Bunting. These are very, very slim texts that allow the art to do more.

Plant A Kiss by Amy Krouse Rosenthal (or many of her other titles) are also great examples of this powerful art and work interplay.  The illustrator, Peter H Reynolds, is another author to study well.

What I have seen in my own study is that when we focus on what makes a picture book interactive and a great read aloud, we invent ways to decrease our word counts because we are so focused on writing for good pacing. Repetition, rhythm, dialogue, description, incorporating threes can be checked and allowed to do more. I do list these tools on my website for your review at http://www.jodellsadler.com or http://www.pacingpicturebooks.com. Often times, small changes like these show us exactly what words are no longer necessary, and when it comes to picture books, the rule really is "less is more."

What is even more exciting is how the study of picture books informs older genre writing. Think Wonderstruck, The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, or even writers who break into picture book like line breaks within their middle grade texts like The Underneath or Keeper, and YA writers like Wendelin Van Draanen who are doing great, slim writing in longer forms.

Great discussion, everyone!
#40 - May 01, 2012, 03:05 PM

kathym44

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  :goodthread: Thanks for sharing all the great info, everybody. 

Thanks for the link to your book, Jodell.  I'll have to add it to my resource library!
#41 - May 01, 2012, 03:55 PM

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When we write picture books, I've found that when we focus on key tools, interactively engaging the reader while supporting the stories theme, we find that we do not need so many words. 500 is a lot.

We can look at writers who write slim, like Yo! Yes? by Chris Raschka, but also Orange Pear Apple Bear, Dogs, or Monkey and Me by Emily Gravett. Or even Hurry! Hurry! by Eve Bunting. These are very, very slim texts that allow the art to do more.

Yet most of these books are written/illustrated by author-illustrators or by established writers. They're fantastic books but for a writer-only person trying to break into the PB market, they're not really books we can even try to emulate in order to get an agent or editor interest. Querying Yo! Yes? would be an interesting process, same with Hurry! Hurry!

Aren't there other potentially more useful books for aspiring non-illustrating PB authors to study - ones that let the illustrations tell half the story but are also stories that hold up in simple text form?
#42 - May 01, 2012, 04:53 PM

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What Franziska said.

I may even try to compile a list (in my "spare" time): picture books by debut authors who are not illustrators.
#43 - May 01, 2012, 05:42 PM
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My books, all of them, have been used from kindergarten through college classes to demonstrate examples of sparse texts that tell a tremendous amount of story in minimal words, yet leave a lot of room for the illustrations. For example, in my book, Iron Horses, I told a complete story of how the transcontinental railroad was built -- in 180 words. Each word is vitally important when you are writing this sparse! None of my stories have been over 350 words long.
#44 - May 01, 2012, 07:43 PM
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I've heard that it is acceptable for a PB writer to submit a simple dummy for sparse or conceptual texts that require more visual examples to be understood, but with the understanding that they are not submitting it as an illustrator, only to show the concept. This could be done with art notes or just simple sketches if you can do them well enough to get your concept across. And not to dictate the illustrations to the illustrator. I wouldn't attempt this without learning about how to do a dummy, tho.

I'm my own illustrator, so I've never tested this. And I tend to be on the wordy side, lol.
#45 - May 01, 2012, 08:54 PM
THIS LITTLE PIGGY (AN OWNER'S MANUAL), Aladdin PIX June 2017 :pigsnort
KUNG POW CHICKEN 1-4, Scholastic 2014 :chicken

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Wow, Verla, that is AMAZING. Do you include any illustration notes at all?
#46 - May 02, 2012, 04:24 AM
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That's amazing, Verla!

Interesting that No Dogs Allowed is being discussed. I just took it out from the library and I rushed here to bring it up as a nearly text-free book from separate author and illustrator rather than author/illustrator. I think this is a sign of how rare such books are, that the same title was brought up by three of us!
#47 - May 02, 2012, 05:42 AM
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My books, all of them, have been used from kindergarten through college classes to demonstrate examples of sparse texts that tell a tremendous amount of story in minimal words, yet leave a lot of room for the illustrations. For example, in my book, Iron Horses, I told a complete story of how the transcontinental railroad was built -- in 180 words. Each word is vitally important when you are writing this sparse! None of my stories have been over 350 words long.

Yeah, but you're Verla. One of a kind. :)
#48 - May 02, 2012, 07:24 AM

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OK, I started a list. Can you tell I'm a list person?

These are what appear to be (as far as I can tell) debut picture books by non-illustrating writers, published in 2011 or 2012.

I'm excited to look at these books and compare them with some of the other wonderful books published recently by author-illustrators. Thank goodness for inter-library loan.

For the record, here's what I did. On Amazon.com, an advanced search with these parameters:
Children's Books - Hardcover - English - Ages 4-8
Publication date after January 1, 2011
Then I sorted by Popularity and looked at the first 300 titles.
I skipped over author-illustrators, known authors (Karma Wilson, etc), anyone famous for another reason (Julie Andrews, etc), novelty books, very religious looking books.

Some tidbits:
- Out of the 300 most popular titles on Amazon the #1 title (Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site) was by a debut non-illustrating author. (Yay!)
- Out of the 300 most popular titles, 11 were debuts by non-illustrting authors. (Not sure if this is good news or bad news?)
- Many of the books I clicked on, thinking they might be debuts, were actually by established authors who were unknown to me. Many of these titles were continuations in a series.

If anyone wants to do the same search and explore the next bunch - be my guest! Or if you happen to know of other recent debuts, please add them.


The List

Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld (May 4, 2011)
And Then It's Spring by Julie Fogliano and Erin Stead (Feb 14, 2012)
Z Is for Moose by Kelly Bingham and Paul O. Zelinsky (Feb 28, 2012)
More by I. C. Springman and Brian Lies (Mar 6, 2012)
When a Dragon Moves In by Jodi Moore and Howard McWilliam (May 1, 2011)
Boy and Bot by Ame Dyckman and Dan Yaccarino (Apr 10, 2012)
I Couldn't Love You More by Jason Ingram, Matt Hammitt and Polona Lovsin (Mar 30, 2012)
The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School by Laura Murray and Mike Lowery (Jul 7, 2011)
A New Year's Reunion: A Chinese Story by Li Qiong Yu and Zhu Chen Liang (Oct 31, 2011)
Barry B. Wary by Leslie Muir and Carrie Gifford (May 3, 2011)
Prudence Wants a Pet by Cathleen Daly and Stephen Michael King (Jun 21, 2011)
#49 - May 02, 2012, 01:10 PM
www.carriefinison.com
DOZENS OF DOUGHNUTS - Putnam (coming in 2020)

Interesting! Thanks for sharing that, Carrie.
#50 - May 02, 2012, 01:42 PM

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Not to be promote obnoxiously, but in August, VAMPIRINA BALLERINA is coming out, and I think it is a good example of collaborative art and text.

:)
#51 - May 02, 2012, 01:57 PM
VAMPIRINA IN THE SNOW (Disney-Hyperion, 2018)
BUSY-EYED DAY (Beach Lane Books, 2018)
GROUNDHUG DAY (Disney-Hyperion, 2017)
among others

kathym44

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Thanks for the list, Carrie!  I'm familiar with many of these, but will have to check out the others you mention.

Ann Marie... definitely not being obnoxious! I loved Teacher for Bear, and I'm sure Vampirina will be equally great! 
#52 - May 02, 2012, 02:22 PM

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Yes, add more to the list! The more the merrier. Horn-tooting strongly encouraged....
#53 - May 02, 2012, 03:44 PM
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Ann Marie... definitely not being obnoxious! I loved Teacher for Bear, and I'm sure Vampirina will be equally great! 

Aw shucks--thanks!
#54 - May 02, 2012, 05:15 PM
VAMPIRINA IN THE SNOW (Disney-Hyperion, 2018)
BUSY-EYED DAY (Beach Lane Books, 2018)
GROUNDHUG DAY (Disney-Hyperion, 2017)
among others

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Carrie, I never sent any illustrator notes with any of my books. Ever.
#55 - May 02, 2012, 09:23 PM
Verla Kay

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I agree, what a thread full of knowledge and advice! Thanks, everyone! And great list, Carrie!
#56 - May 03, 2012, 05:11 AM
Seasons of the Asian Pear Tree, Schoolwide Fall 2015
Girls Guide to Manners, Legacy Press Kids 2014
God Is So Good coloring book, Warner Press 2013

Dionna

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WOWSIE KAPOWSIE, VERLA!

180 words on a subject that has covered volumes of books! Amazing.

I was thinking that since my picture book manuscripts are biographies they could be longer. Many non-fiction picture books (including bios) that I've read are more word-count dense than fiction ones...

Myth busted with Iron Horses! Can't wait to read it!

Dionna

#57 - May 03, 2012, 05:29 AM

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I was thinking that since my picture book manuscripts are biographies they could be longer. Many non-fiction picture books (including bios) that I've read are more word-count dense than fiction ones...

Myth busted with Iron Horses! Can't wait to read it!

I'm not sure what you mean. Are you saying that because Verla has successfully written very short picture books, you were wrong to think that your picture book biographies can be longer?
#58 - May 03, 2012, 06:55 AM
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There's a place in the publishing world for lots of different kinds and lengths of books, especially books on non-fiction subjects. My books aren't meant to give readers "all of the facts." Instead, they are meant to tickle the interest of readers in subjects so they will go on to read more text-intensive books that do have "all" the facts in them. Write your books the length they need to be to say what you want them to say. They can always be cut or expanded as necessary later on.
#59 - May 03, 2012, 07:58 AM
Verla Kay

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Verla, for your non-fiction book that was 180 words.....how did you decide which material to include and what to leave out? I have a WIP that is a biography and already I've found that it has a high word count and I'm not even done! I started with an outline before I started writing but even with following that it's just long.....maybe too long for a PB.

I forgot to mention: My goal is to get the reader interested about the person and to want to know more their life and achievements but there are so many interesting facts about the person and their life that I don't know what to include and what to cut  :scissors:
#60 - May 03, 2012, 08:38 AM
« Last Edit: May 03, 2012, 08:42 AM by Hannah B. »

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