Getting a book published


Owing to current deadlines, I regret that I am unable to answer your questions until further notice ~ Thank you


Q - What advice do you have for someone who has written and illustrated a children’s book for the first time and is looking to publish it?


A - The world of publishing is very competitive and, especially now, in a state of uncertainty due to many factors, such as the global recession and the undercutting and closure of bookshops due to the rise of on-line retailers like Amazon. Emerging alternative technologies to printed books are another complication. Many publishers are uncertain of the future themselves and are therefore much less inclined to take market risks, as they might lose large amounts of money. However, they are in the business of making and selling books, so are also constantly searching for the right products and trends.  My advice, to give yourself the best chance to get through this barrage of negativity, would be to observe and understand the market you are trying to enter as clearly as possible before approaching them with your ideas. One way to get some insight into publishing might be by participating in a writer’s and/or illustrator’s group or organisation. I have added some suggestions on this in the section other sources of advice, as well as some useful books that are full of better advice than I can outline here. In addition, go and have a look around with your own eyes at what’s selling in bookshops and on the internet. Research the number of pages, target age group, text length per page and ratio of text to pictures of the market you are aiming for to get as clear a picture as you can.


Also find out who publishes the kind of book you are creating. Look at publishers’ websites to see what they publish, as you can often order their catalogue via the website or by ringing their switchboard.


You’ll find that many of the larger publishing houses are segmented into different imprints specialising in books for different markets. It’s really important to find the right imprint, which will have its own name – for example, MacMillan Publishers Ltd has several imprints, including Campbell Books and Young Picador. MacMillan is the parent company.


Through your research, try to assess realistically whether your story might be of interest to your chosen publisher. Is it at the standard they publish already, and is it akin to some of their other books?


If, after your research and feedback from honest friends and colleagues, you feel confident that your work might get a favourable response from a publisher you’ve identified, look them up in the Writer’s & Artist’s Yearbook – see Other Sources of Advice. You’ll probably be able to find out whether the publisher is willing to see unsolicited manuscripts MSS. If they are unwilling, it’s a complete waste of time to send anything and your next best approach might be to find an Illustration Agent. If you can’t find out elsewhere, you could try ringing the publisher’s switchboard. If they confirm that they are willing to see unsolicited MSS, find out the name and role of the person you should send your package to.



Q - If you are thinking of writing and illustrating a story in the hope of getting it published, should you do the whole thing then send it off to a publisher?


A - No, I really wouldn’t do that. Send a package containing your proposal by post, with return postage. The package should include a covering letter and the whole text if it is short, or a chapter and synopsis if it is an idea for a longer book. You should also enclose a copy of the storyboard of your rough drawings, in colour or black and white, based on the number of pages the book is likely to have – see How Books are Made and copies of one or two beautiful pieces (maximum) of finished artwork for the book, to astound and delight, so that they can see how you would render the artwork.



Q - So they don’t mind seeing rough sketches?


A - In my experience, that’s what they prefer to see initially, more than lots of finished artwork. Rough sketches are a good way for a publisher to see the way an artist is thinking. Basically, your idea is more likely to be responded to if it is in a fluid state, as they may like some aspects of your submission, but want you to adapt other aspects. If you send them something too finished, it’s then more difficult for them to intervene editorially, so they might be inclined to reject your submission out of hand rather than look any further at it. The approach outlined above would also make it clear to them that you understand the professional process.



Q - What happens then?


A - I’d wait for a couple of weeks: if you don’t hear back, you could ring reception again to ask if they’ve received your package, but don’t be surprised if they haven’t looked at it yet, as long as you know that they have actually got it. You could ask them when you should expect a response by, then sit back and wait. If you still don’t hear by the date they’ve mentioned, I think you’d be justified in getting in touch again – politely!



Q - My daughter has got a really good idea for a children’s story. How would she go about finding an illustrator to do the pictures?


A - Your daughter might just know an appropriate illustrator who would be the perfect creative partner for her story. However, text and illustrations should work in creative harmony together and people often mistakenly believe that any illustrator is able to draw anything and everything. This isn’t the case, as illustrators usually have their own styles, strengths and weaknesses. So, unless the story has evolved as a collaboration from the start, it’s probably better to submit the MS on it’s own either to a publisher – see above – or a literary agent. The publisher would then look for the right illustrator for your daughter’s MS if they decided to accept it.



Q - My friend and I have written and illustrated a story together and want to get it published. Where’s the best place to start?


A - This is different from the question above, as it’s already a collaborative relationship and you could try submitting it as such, following the guidelines above. I would advise drawing up a collaborative agreement between you though, even if you are – especially if you are! – good friends. Everything in this agreement should be clearly outlined, so that there’s no room for misunderstandings in the future. If you are previously published and meet its requirements, the Society of Authors can help with this sort of situation once you are a member. A note of caution – the publisher may decide that they want to take only one half of the submission. That is, they may choose the writer’s contribution but not the illustrator’s. It’s important to take this possibility on board before you draw up your agreement and to think how you would both feel.



Q - I love your website and illustrations. Simply magical. And thank you for the advice you posted to help us beginners.

I’m a newbie and have completed my own children’s book with story and illustrations. This story is based on my own childhood so took years in the making, but finally brought it to life! I attached a sample page of the main character ‘Evets’. At this point I don’t know whom to turn to or where to start of attempting to having my story published. It’s simply overwhelming with all the publishing books available. Any assistance to get me started would be greatly appreciated.

I later realized that you’re in England and I’m in the US! But nevertheless, I’ll be grateful with any words of wisdom you can suggest. After reading all there is about finding a children’s book agent, etc,. it’s as if it’s a secret society that only a select few can enter. It’s as if I have to sell my soul, to change my initial artwork and story in order to conform to the market, which I will not do. I love my story and wouldn’t change a thing.


A - I do a lot of work  for US publishers too, so I think the same advice applies mostly. Thank you for sending me your image – I think your character Evets is appealing and nicely drawn. I hear what you say, that this story is very dear to you and you don’t want to have to compromise – that is entirely understandable! It does also sound though as though you are very keen to get your book published/ find an agent and have done a fair amount of research into looking for representation. There is, as you will know, a bit of a miss-match between those two positions, as an agent or a client would certainly require you to show that you can develop your character and the story to fit the market in order to make it commercially viable. It isn’t an entirely closed ‘club’, but yes, it is hard to break in and all you can do on that front is suck-it-and-see by sending your ideas off to see what response you get. If you firstly take a look at my FAQs, there is some guidance on what to send in your package, there is also a great book in the US called Children’s Writers & Illustrators Market   - it’s worth reading up on the relevant chapters in that book. The other way of course, if you do not find a way in via that route, is to think of self publishing – then you wouldn’t have to compromise. There are artists whose work is met with public success that way and subsequently go on to have their books picked up by publishing houses when they have proved themselves commercially. You might find it helpful to join SCBWI - The Society of Children’s Book Writers and illustrators – do you know about them? They are in both the US and UK and have groups set up in many regions. In my experience the groups are helpful and friendly, so you may find further advice there.



Q - I am an artist and a friend has asks me to illustrate her children’s book she has not found a publisher yet, I wondered if I can ask some questions, if you have the time to answer them , thank you.

Would it be okay to draw paint and then use photoshop layers so it ends up a digital file or would it be best to hand-draw paint the whole page. I was thinking doing one detailed page to show them, with the story before we illustrate the whole book,as it would take a long time any advice would be welcome.


A - You should be fine to work in a mixture of hand drawn/ painted, then digital layers on top, most publishers deal with either or, or a combination of the two methods now. I’m actually combining both methods for a publisher with the book I’m working on right now. I would just create one or two samples at most to send out at this presentation stage, together with some rough ideas for the rest of the book.

Once you find a publisher, it would then be good to consult their production team to see what kind of files they would require.  They might want to run some proofs so they would know what the digital elements of your work will look like when printed. What I’ve done with publishers when I have combined digital and actual artwork, is to work digitally with their scans of my originals and return them to the client as flattened Tiffs. If you keep all the elements of your samples on your system as layers to be able to present to publishers (sending them flattened versions), then that will give you flexibility to recreate the images later for a publisher when you know their requirements.



Q - I have written a childrens book with my girlfriends father. He had sent me some illustrations and I wrote a cute and witty rhyme to go with each illustration. I also put together an opening and closing page. I contacted a publisher on line and sent them a copy of the book via email. They said they absolutely loved the book and wanted to work with me,  however they said although the illustrations were precious they would want to use their own illustrations. This is my question to you. Is this common practice or do you know any publishers that would use our illustrations? It is important to us to use our illustrations because they were the start of the whole project and the illustrator is the driving influence for the entire book. Without him there would have been no book. Thank you for your time and any advice you may have would be greatly appreciated.


A - Thank you for your enquiry. I understand your concern as I have worked on a number of children’s book collaborations, some of which have worked and others that have foundered – this is a tricky problem, as a publisher may love one aspect of the collaboration and not another –  and that’s fair enough. It is great that this publisher is interested – and presumably you have both decided that you would be happy for this particular publisher to publish your book if they wanted to take the illustrations too, – but as you don’t want to separate the writing from the images you will probably need to explore the market further and send the idea off to other publishing houses to test the waters. If you get the same sort of response from other publishers, it might just be that these illustrations are not going to make the book saleable – the publishers will of course be basing their decision on market appeal. If that’s the case you will both you and your girl friend’s father, need to decide what to do next, whether you could bare to let the publisher provide their own illustrator for the project – having the power to approve the choice built into your contract – which from what you say would still be a collaboration, if however you are both totally wedded to publishing the book using the existing illustrations and can afford to take the commercial risk, then you could look into publishing and distributing the book yourselves. It sounds as though it’s worth some further research either way.



Q - I have written an unusual short story for children age 3  to 6 years of age I would like you to illustate it as a joint venture, are you interested enough?


A - In answer to your query, my initial question is do you have a publisher for your book, or is this a speculative project?


Q – Thank you for replying to my query the story I have written is so cute and original ,and is not more than 7 or 8 pages. and the truth is it has not been published but an artist  friend is in the process of illustrating it so it is speculative as you say . Can you give me any further advice?

Incidentally, this story and others were written and told to my grandchildren who asked me to tell them every bedtime.


A -  Great that you already have someone illustrating it for you! There is masses of info on the FAQs pages of my website, if you read this page - I don’t think I can really add more. There are also other resources for advice on the final page Other sources of advice.

Good luck with it.



Q - Firstly, thank you for taking the time to create a FAQ section on your website, it has been useful to read the info there. I bet you’re probably trying to minimise the e-mails from people like me, so apologies! Haha.


Your work I have seen on the gallery is superbly executed and is very vivid. I especially like “The Fantastic Jungles of Henry Rousseau” & “Robi Dobi”. Your work has certainly struck a few chords with me, as I can see some of the inspiration sources you may have had for the stories and your developed style. “Tales from India” – this especially was great to see, what an excellent source of inspiration for illustrative work. I was brought up in West London, so having lived closely within a Hindu environment has influenced me deeply from a young age. An idea I’ve been fostering for years has been to do an illustrated version of the Bhagavad Gita. Pretty ambitious, perhaps overly so, but I always strive to push myself.


Not much point trying to categorise myself, I have an instinctual drive to create, so this takes different forms. I enjoy most mediums but probably feel most true to myself when sitting drawing. I’ve worked lots of jobs (still juggling some unrelated to Art), hoping for a time when I can drop these and be solely committed to a creative existence!


As such I’ve achieved a fair amount with some commissions, selling work, working as an art tutor, tattooist, muralist, etc etc. However, my heart lies with creating illustrations from my imagination, on paper. I’m aware of how competitive and difficult it can be, having read your info and from general awareness of the market and changing times.


So, my idea is to create a series of illustrations for a book, I work traditionally, so I suppose the completed works would need to be scanned later for print. The idea is a Bestiary, based on the medieval codex, filled with creatures from my own imagination, and some from the ‘real’ world. I’ve no contacts, no representation, but estimate this will take a good 18 + months to do, so no major rush.

I want to make the book as marketable as possible, but do not know where to start. I hate being constricted by briefs, so am planning to make these drawings, then offer them to someone (or more than one person), so they could be accompanied by a story, poems, or even facts. Perhaps a pre-existing classical story or tale, myth. My usual process is to just sit and draw freely, letting learnt visuals and ideas combine as dynamically as possible. Really unsure about the whole process of getting published. Dont want to commit to a size either without some research into what could be an optimal size for a childrens book.


Do you think that it is possible, that my book could be published without text? Do you think that it is good practice, or advisable to encode a moral to the poems or stories that might accompany it? (I was thinking Earth harmony, sustainability, comparison of animals to humans ie only humans can be cruel, plants evolution, the carbon cycle, plant processes, etc) plenty more obscure references and methaphors. Just a tad unsure if this is the best approach.


Well, if you’ve reached this far, then many thanks for taking time to read my plight. It’s a little unfocused, but mainly wanted to get in touch with someone who has clearly made an artistic success of their life. I havent had any help or guidance with my art, so am completely self-taught. It’s reached a stage where I am just making drawings and paintings and stacking them at home or filing away. I think making a book would focus me properly and give me the chance to achieve some success as and Artist.


Do you know of anyone who might like to make contact with me and discuss making a book? Would you be interested in working on one together perhaps?



A - Thanks for your email, I’m glad you’ve found the FAQs helpful and thanks too for your kind words about my work – it’s always nice to be appreciated! It’s interesting to see your work. It’s clear that you can turn your hand to many creative tasks with your art and I can see why you are drawn to the intensity of Indian imagery.


In answer to your question, I think that the best first step for you would be to clarify your ideas, as you point out they are rather unfocussed at the moment. You outline various possibilities and there are as many possibilities out there, so you really need to focus on what you are trying to achieve with this for yourself, as it’s clearly very important to you. Do you want to produce a book with an explicit moral or not? If you do – that’s your call, but bear in mind that you will probably limit the number of publishers who might be interested. You’d then need to find publishers who are dedicated to promoting that particular cause, I think. I’m just highlighting the sort of things you need to clarify before you proceed.


Once you are clear about those fundamentals, you could then put together a book proposal – this could include the concept for the book and probably a text, a storyboard and say one stunning piece of artwork to demonstrate your technique.


- Can you look for a traditional text or write one? You would then have words to respond to and something to formulate your ideas around.


- I would advise you not to do too much finished artwork before taking your proposal out to the market place. As I pointed out in my FAQs, many people make the mistake of doing hours/ months of painstaking work, which is very dispiriting if it’s not ultimately used. Also bear in mind that publishers have their own book sizes they like to use – that’s a decision they would make at a later stage, so again, keep your rough images flexible so that they could work in different formats. Have a look in book shops / online for the publishers who produce the sort of book you are wanting to do. You’ve probably seen my final FAQ page which has got some further resources to explore.


Certainly no problem in work being executed traditionally and then scanned, as you say – that’s the way I usually work.


Anyway, I do hope that’s helpful. I’m sorry, it’s not something I would want to get involved with myself speculatively, but good luck with it!



Q - I came upon your site while researching how to publish a book that needs illustrations, and you are probably the only person who could help me right now!!!


I have written a book that I need an illustrator for. It is supposed to be a funny/silly comic-style book (at least first draft, almost finished, and can take about 2 more weeks to complete everything), but there is a serious message behind it. Target market is young business professionals in their 20s and early 30s. I am not an artist though and will need someone to illustrate the book for me.


I have the following questions and hence I am emailing you:


1) Should I find an illustrator myself and then have the work complete, then find a publisher?


2) Should I find a publisher and the publisher will then find an illustrator?


3) Should I find and illustrator, but have him/her illustrate a couple of pages for the publisher to approve then continue with the work?


4) How about royalties or payments? How is that supposed to be taken care off?


I really would like to hear your opinion. Obviously I am at a loss in terms of what’s next for my book, and need guidance on that. I would like to thank you for taking the time to even just read my email and hopefully I hear back from you. Just in case you are wondering, and if this makes any difference, I am contacting you from Toronto, Canada. (Does the Canadian/US market differ from that in the UK?)



A - I haven’t worked directly for Canadian publishers, but I do work a lot for the US, however I would have thought that publishers would respond in a similar way to these questions regardless of which country you are in. In answer to your questions, here is my advice from my own experience of how these things work:


1) I think the best policy would be to submit your idea without worrying about the illustration aspect. This would then be an easier task for you and means that you wouldn’t be second guessing the publisher’s preferences.


2) Yes, that would be the usual route.


3)  See answer to question 1.


4)  If a publisher commissions your book, then they will draw up the contract which would, hopefully include royalties. If you work with an agent, the agent would become involved in negotiating the royalties (agents sometimes work with their own contracts).


Finally, there is a great book called Children’s Writers & Illustrators Market (for the US market), mentioned on this page of my online FAQs Other sources of advice. Although your book is for adults I’d strongly advise you to buy something similar. That book is full of advice about publishing and publishers. I don’t know the title of the version for adult publishing in Canada, but a quick hunt on Google should give you some leads.



Q - Apparently, I have written a book, in French no less, and complicated this unforeseen situation by adding illustrations.  This is not a children’s book, but more of an easy French reader for French language learners of all levels.  It was never my intention to write a book, let alone illustrate one.  However, the deed is done.


I have read a lot of information on how to submit an illustrated manuscript to agents/publishers, but have been unable to find information on how to submit an illustrated book that is not a children’s book, or who would be the appropriate agents/publishers.


This is likely not your cup of tea, but I thought I would give it a go.  Any information you could pass along would be greatly appreciated.



A - Thanks for your email. I can’t really help I’m afraid, as it’s beyond my area of knowledge. I would suggest looking at some books that deal with the adult publishing market. I’m not sure where you are emailing from – the US, the UK, other? If the UK, then there is a book called The Writer’s & Artists Yearbook that is full of valuable information, if you Google it, you’ll find it.




Q - I wrote a children’s book that I want to get published. I read that publishing companies has illustrators they use. I would like to get my book edited before I send it in, but getting it edited is expensive. I was thinking about selling digital copies of my book to pay for editing but I would have to use my own illustrations. Do you know if I could sell my unpublished picture book before I could send it to publishing company so they could use their illustrations?



A - If a publisher is interested in your book, they would do their own editing, at their own cost, that’s part of what they do as publishers. If however you feel that the text needs to be developed more before you submit it, maybe there is another way of going about it, other than paying an expensive editor. Have you done any creative writing courses? Something like that would give you the tools you need to edit your own work, which is really what you need to do if you want to get your writing published. I can’t really follow your logic about selling your text elsewhere before submitting it to a publisher. If you have sold the rights already elsewhere, then you wouldn’t be free to sell those same rights for the work to someone else easily. I think you would benefit from reading up about the way the publishing industry works. Start by looking at the books mentioned on this page of my FAQs Other sources of advice.



Q - I have written an unusual short story for children age 3  to 6 years of age I would like you to illustrate it as a joint venture, are you interested enough?



A - In answer to your query, my initial question is do you have a publisher for your book, or is this a speculative project?


Q - Thank you for replying to my query. The story I have written is so cute and original ,and is not more than 7 or 8 pages. and the truth is it has not been published but an artist  friend is in the process of illustrating it so it is speculative as you say .Can you give me any further advice?


Incidentally, this story and others were written and told to my grandchildren who asked me to tell them every bedtime.


A -  Great that you already have someone illustrating it for you! Have a thorough read of the rest of this page if you haven’t already – I don’t think I can really add more. There are also other resources for advice on the final page too.