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Hello!

I am an illustrator, and I was wondering whether anyone would be able to help me figure something out.

I have been wanting to do a picture book for a while now about my cats. Obviously I would like to illustrate the book myself, and I have a general story in mind. However, I will freely admit that I have no confidence in my own writing. I don't have any children and I'm not good with interacting with kids, so I keep thinking that there's no way I could possibly write a story that kids would like. I've seen self published books with nice pictures and just awful words, and I really don't want to end up making something like that.

I know that when writers pitch stories to publishers, they can do so without an illustrator, and the publisher actually prefers to find an illustrator for the story. But I don't know what happens if it's the other way; if I make nice pictures but the story stinks, will a publisher even look at it? Do publishers ever approve of a book based on the pictures and then find a writer? Or would I be better off finding a writer who I could work with to co-create something to pitch?
#1 - February 04, 2015, 01:30 PM
Charlene Chua, illustration | www.charlenechua.com
Twitter: @sygnin Behance: @charlenechua

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Hi Charlene!

I'm not an illustrator (by any stretch of the imagination  :lol4 ), but I do write picture books and because of it, I usually think in pictures. I think your questions can be answered in a few ways:

1) It's my understanding that illustrators work hard at their craft to build portfolios and do what they can to get their work in front of editors (you should look through the Illustration board to get ideas on how to do that, or perhaps an illustrator here will chime in), who then might show interest, and, at some point, perhaps pair you with a writer on a suitable project. So, yes, to your first question. Making nice pictures is good. Making awesome pictures is even better.

2) It is possible to tell a story entirely through pictures, though it is a challenge. In this case, you would not need a writer. (To answer your second question.)

3) If you want to find a writer to co-create with, do so. But in that case you'd be limited to self-publishing, as traditional publishers find illustrators for picture book manuscripts they acquire; I suspect it's only rarely (and perhaps celebrity or niche) that they'd acquire a team.

As far as having no kids, well, that's not really an issue. However, the bigger question you might ask yourself is: Why do I want to write for kids? Why do I want to write *this* story for kids? If you have friends with kids, spend some time with them. But, better yet, spend some time in the library and read picture books that have been published in the last 5 years. Read about 100 of them. Pay attention to which are written and illustrated by the same person, and which are not, and get to know what publishers -- and kids -- are looking for.

The other thing to do is write the story! Get some feedback on it -- we have a section for critiques here -- or you can find someone to swap manuscripts with -- we have a board for that as well -- or find a critique group to work with regularly (yes, we have a board for that too!). Build confidence in your writing!

I hope any of that helps! Good luck!

#2 - February 04, 2015, 05:47 PM

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Hi Jenna! Thanks for taking the time to reply.

Regarding writing for kids, I think it's an excellent question. I don't actually relish the writing bit; I mostly want to do a pictorial story but at the same time, I don't believe it would be good without any words.

It is a strange thing to admit but I'm actually quite scared of kids. I've done some events where I draw for kids and that's ok, but otherwise I don't really know how to relate to kids. That may be partly because I grew up in Asia and at least when I was growing up, the culture and approach to kids was very different from here in Canada.

I think you are right in that I'll just have to get out of my comfort zone and try writing something and see how that develops. Worst case scenario is I'll have some pretty pictures that make no sense whatsoever :)
#3 - February 04, 2015, 07:58 PM
Charlene Chua, illustration | www.charlenechua.com
Twitter: @sygnin Behance: @charlenechua

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Take a look at Susannah Hill's class : Making Picture Book Magic.  I just finished the course and it is an excellent start to PB writing.
#4 - February 08, 2015, 11:36 AM

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You were a kid.  Think about that.  Recall what books YOU liked.  Why?  What was it about those books that entranced you?  Write for that child in you. 

Then, have some children look at the book with the parents reading it.  You can sit quietly and observe reactions or ask the parents to get back to you. 

All valuable.

All the best,
Ellen
#5 - March 02, 2015, 08:12 AM

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The two books I'd suggest reading are:
1. Writing With Pictures by Uri Shulevitz
2. Writing Picture Books by Ann Whitford Paul

A blog post I wrote for illustrators might help:
http://sruble.blogspot.com/2014/12/five-things-for-illustrators-aka-five.html

More resources on my site here:
http://sruble.com/extras.html

I think the biggest thing is to read and study books like the ones you write.

The second biggest thing is to decide if you are willing to start by illustrating books other people have written, and if so, put together a portfolio and have it online as well, and send out postcards to publishers. They will match you with a writer if they think your art is a fit for a story they have acquired.

Good luck!

p.s. ReFoReMo (Reading For Research Month - a.k.a. reading mentor texts to help you write picture books) is going on right now, and that might help you too. http://www.carriecharleybrown.com/reforemo
#6 - March 02, 2015, 11:11 AM
« Last Edit: March 02, 2015, 11:16 AM by Stephanie Ruble »
Site - http://sruble.com
Twitter - http://twitter.com/StephanieRuble

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

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