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Which is more marketable: illustrating your own story or a classic?

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Hi All,

I'm a relatively new member of the SCBWI and this is my first time posting on the blueboard, so please pardon me if this kind of question has already been answered--I don't quite know what I'm doing yet!

I have a question regarding how to choose a project to illustrate so that the final book proposal will be attractive to publishers. I recently graduated art school and am nearing the end of the illustrations for my first picture book project, after which I hope to find a publisher. This project has taken years of work and is teaching me how much effort is required for even one book, so I want to be thoughtful about what I decide to tackle next. For my next project, I'm currently debating between illustrating a fairy tale I wrote, and illustrating the children's classic "The Arabian Nights." (A little background: although I consider myself an artist first and foremost, I have studied fairy tale structure and mythological storytelling, and I like the idea of being able to generate my own material to illustrate. Plus, it would appear to be financially beneficial too.)

My question is: As someone who hasn't been published yet, which of the two would give me the best shot at getting a publisher on-board---- a picture book I both wrote and illustrated, or a classic that's in the public domain? (I've seen some stuff on agency websites lately talking about the need for people who both write and illustrate, so I thought that might give me an advantage, but I wasn't sure.)

Anyway, I would greatly appreciate opinions on this! Thanks for your time, guys.
#1 - January 30, 2017, 08:58 AM

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Hi Brenna,


I guess I would ask first if you're looking for an agent or a publisher, since you mentioned both.

If you're looking for an agent, I would submit whichever project is strongest, in your opinion. They'll likely ask to see your portfolio. They might see something in your illustrations that cause them to pursue you, even if your story isn't up to their standards.

If you're looking for a publisher, there are at least two things to keep in mind. 1. Do the publishers you're targeting publish fairy tales? Some do; some don't. 2. Is the text of the book you've written strong? The best way to determine that is to have some knowledgeable people give you feedback about your story.

You're right: author/illustrators are in demand. But if your best thing is illustrating, you might think about going that route, at least initially.

My .02! Good luck.
#2 - January 30, 2017, 09:59 AM
Twitter @jodywrites4kids

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Hi Brenna!
I wanted to say that I, too, have studied fairy tales, and I think it's way cool that you like to write and illustrate them. 
I know someone else advised that you determine which project is strongest.  While I don't know for sure which would be more likely to get you a publisher, I might be able to help you determine which is strongest if you show me both your original fairy tale and your illustrated retelling of "Arabian Nights."
Just out of curiosity, are you planning to illustrate all the "Arabian Nights" stories, or just one?
If you want to show me your two projects, please shoot me an email at
Looking forward to getting in touch.  Take care.

#3 - January 30, 2017, 11:32 AM

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Thank you both! I really appreciate the feedback; it helps a lot to hear opinions from people who have more experience than I do. I will keep those points in mind.

Lily, I'll send you my story shortly. Thanks for your interest.

#4 - January 31, 2017, 07:15 AM


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