SCBWI's Blueboard - A Message & Chat Board

2 questions regarding the attitudes and practices of publishers

Discussion started on

Worldbuilder
Poster Plus
Hello everyone!

I introduced myself on the "introduce yourself" board but I don't see the post, so I wonder if I broke the rules ... I hope not!

Anyway, I have a few questions for those who are wiser and more experienced. I'm writing and illustrating my first MG book, and my current plan is to release it as an eBook and handle all the marketing myself. The main reason for this is because the illustrations are very important to me (I'm a film director by trade, so I think of the reading experience as a whole, not just the writing). Not that MY illustrations are particularly important, just that I have control over the look of the characters and the world. I know it's bad form to include any kind of illustrations with manuscripts unless I'm already a professional illustrator. That's why I went down the eBook road.

However, after spending some time on the internet and looking at various options, I figured I would have nothing to lose by sending the manuscript out to publishers and agents. If they like it and pick it up, fantastic! If not, doesn't matter, because I'm moving forward with doing it all myself anyway.

So I have two questions:

First, what exactly does it mean that a publisher wants the ability to choose their own illustrator? Does the author have literally zero say? Does the publisher take the finished manuscript and cut the author out completely from the book's design, layout, and decision to choose a certain visual look? Or is it more of a collaboration? Or does it completely depend on the project? For me, it's not a big deal if the publisher wants to look at a few options for illustrators, so long as I can collaborate with them in coming up with the visual style and imagery, and also so long as I can own the rights to the characters' designs (assuming I have a big hand in creating them). But if it's just standard industry practice that the illustrator and author are two completely different entities joined only by the publisher, that's a dealbreaker to me. I'd rather have all the control and do the hard work by myself than have the visual style be up to the whims of someone else.

Second, assuming they absolutely love my material, do publishers and agents care if the book has already been released in an eBook or POD format and is available online? Coming from a filmmaking background, often times a distributor or film festival prefers if the film isn't available yet anywhere else online, so they can maintain a kind of "exclusivity." Does that apply here? Or does it not matter to them at all? I assume it doesn't matter, since all it does is build an audience for the book beforehand.

Infinite thanks! I bow to your knowledge and experience! I'm really glad a place like this exists.
#1 - October 30, 2013, 03:11 PM
The Voyages of the Merry Mariner - newly launched MG fantasy/adventure series!

I don't know enough to fully answer your questions, but aren't there quite a few MG books whose writers also illustrated them? Abarat, maybe? Diary of a Wimpy kid? I don't think it's out of the question.

Also, generally publishers don't want to pick up your book after it's been in ebook form unless its sales numbers are really promising, but again I do hear of exceptions from time to time. Still, it's not a great plan.

Okay... Someone more knowledgeable can come along and school me now.
#2 - October 30, 2013, 06:11 PM
The Echo Room (Tor Teen, 2018)
Where Futures End (Penguin, 2016)
www.parkerpeevyhouse.com

Administrator
Poster Plus
  • ****
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region dakotas
Generally speaking, yes, the illustrator and art director work on the art completely separately from the text author.

However, *if you know what you're doing,* there IS such a thing as author-illustrator. You don't have to have a degree in it, you just have to know what you're doing. I think sometimes, the advice to never ever ever submit your own artwork if you are the author gets taken to extremes--if you have a knowledge of storyboarding and you can create characters that are consistent over a 32 page book and your artistic skills are up to snuff, there's no reason at all not to submit it as a whole creation.

As far as if you have already self published the book, the only way a publisher would be interested in picking it up is if it was selling like hotcakes already--as in, 10,000 copies or something. However, if you have already published something yourself, there is nothing to stop you from writing something new and trying it out with a publisher. What I mean is, one author can do both--they are not mutually exclusive.
#3 - October 30, 2013, 06:36 PM

Member.
Poster Plus
  • *
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region carolinas
My understanding (gleaned from both articles on the internet and from hearing agents and editors talk in person at a recent SCBWI conference) is that if the publisher decides to go with their own illustrator, the author generally has no say in the matter. Which is reasonable. The illustrator will be a professional who knows his or her job. Just as the illustrator doesn't get to collaborate in the writing of the manuscript, the author doesn't get to collaborate in the illustrating. You can make requests or suggestions, but those would generally be made through the editor (not directly to the illustrator), and they're free to ignore them.

As Whizbee and olmue say, there are cases where the author does do the illustrating. You can present your work in that way, with you providing the text and the art. But if the publisher likes your writing but doesn't want to use your art, your only two choices will most likely be either to let them take care of the art with no input from you, or to take your work elsewhere (whether that's looking for a publisher who *does* want your art, or going the self-publishing route).
#4 - October 30, 2013, 06:42 PM

Mike Jung

Guest
I have the same understanding as others who've already posted. If you're not submitting the book as both author and illustrator, then you won't be the decision-maker on who illustrates it - the publisher will find an illustrator that they think is the best match for the book. I've heard of cases where authors are asked for their thoughts on who the right illustrator might be, and I also know PB authors who've been able to give feedback on the illustrations as they progress. I honestly don't know how much input the illustrator gets into design and layout, although I have to imagine there's at least some involvement, since the illustrations are so intimately connected to those things.

My book isn't a PB, but it is illustrated. I had no input on choosing an illustrator (which was just as well, since they picked a great one). I did get a chance to review the illustrations and give feedback, and some changes did result from that - one of the characters looked too old, for example. But the vast majority of the art was done without my involvement.

It sounds like creative control and ownership on a publisher-type level are top priorities for you, in which case self-pubbing is probably the way to go.
#5 - October 30, 2013, 06:58 PM

Emeritus
Poster Plus
  • *
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI PAL
  • SCBWI Region cencal
Olmue and Whizbee pretty much nailed it.

Everything in publishing is negotiable and changeable, so take the following with a grain of salt.

Most publishers won't be interested in publishing a book when you're both the illustrator and author UNLESS you're both a skillful writer and your art is museum quality (or have a truly unique point of view). Yes, you have to be that good.

Publishers put out as much as $100,000 before a book earns any profit back. (I'm talking about pbs because that's what I know. But it's probably similar for MG or YA.) So what is it exactly that the publisher is buying from you?

They're buying the right to publish your writing as they see fit. They're buying the right to enhance its appeal, to possibly merchandise the characters, create animations, maybe even produce a television special. In other words, they want the right to get as much profit as they can from your work.

If you know what you're doing, you can both write a book and illustrate it. But if you're a newbie, you probably won't have final say in much of anything.

If it's that important for you to have final control, self-publishing is the only way to go. Or find an editor who shares your vision.
#6 - October 30, 2013, 06:59 PM
« Last Edit: October 30, 2013, 07:14 PM by Betsy »
www.ellenjackson.net
PICKY EATERS
OCTOPUSES ONE TO TEN
THE MYSTERIOUS UNIVERSE
THE BALLAD OF BOOSTER BOGG
BEASTLY BABIES
TOOLING AROUND

If it hasn't already been mentioned, subbing to publishers and agents is not a simultaneous exercise. Agents do not want to consider representing work that has already been circulated to publishers, so the normal protocol is to look for an agent first and if this is not successful submit directly to markets that accept unagented projects.
#7 - October 30, 2013, 07:08 PM
In Real Life, Tuttle Publishing, Fall 2014

Emeritus
Poster Plus
  • *
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI PAL
  • SCBWI Region cencal
I just wanted to add that, once or twice I've been given my choice of illustrators.

I've also been invited to comment and suggest changes to an illustrator's drawings. I really don't like to do this because I think an illustrator should feel like an equal partner.

On the other hand, if the illustrator asks me to make a change to the text that makes her job easier, I'm almost always happy to do it.

But that's the exception. Almost always they like to keep the author and illustrator separate, so that they both take direction from the editor.
#8 - October 30, 2013, 07:10 PM
« Last Edit: October 30, 2013, 07:16 PM by Betsy »
www.ellenjackson.net
PICKY EATERS
OCTOPUSES ONE TO TEN
THE MYSTERIOUS UNIVERSE
THE BALLAD OF BOOSTER BOGG
BEASTLY BABIES
TOOLING AROUND

Member
Poster Plus
  • *
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI PAL
  • SCBWI Region illinois
Hi!

This is a middle-grade book, right? So are you thinking of doing small black and white illustrations? I'd suggest that you try agents, then editors, for both the text and the art. Of course, this could take years. With your ability and background, self-publishing might be the best bet.

On the other hand, I was in a similar situation although this was many years ago. My husband and I wanted to publish a few books, and I had a collection of stories some of which had appeared in Cricket magazine. I'd sent just the text to a publisher who expressed interest but didn't get back to me again. Two years later, when I had done a lot of illustrations, and pre-sold a bunch of books, I wrote to the publisher to say I was withdrawing the submission. He called  me to say he'd dropped the ball and now really wanted to publish the book. He did -- within a few months and using my illustrations.  That book went on to sell ( in three different editions) about 58,000 copies. I never could have sold so many if I'd self-published that book. Today, maybe, but not then.
#9 - October 30, 2013, 08:31 PM
Sheila Welch,  author/illustrator. Don't Call Me Marda, Waiting to Forget, Something in the Air, The Shadowed Unicorn, Little Prince Know-It-All

Worldbuilder
Poster Plus
Thanks everyone, this is super helpful! Sounds like it's best if I just go the self publishing route, and when (not if!) the book sells 10,000+ copies, I'll let the publishers come to me! And if that doesn't happen, fine, I did it my own way, by my rules.

Thanks again!
#10 - October 31, 2013, 01:37 AM
The Voyages of the Merry Mariner - newly launched MG fantasy/adventure series!

Members:

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.