Preparing your Children's Story for Illustrations

Tutorial / 12 April 2023

So, you want to write a children's book but you're not sure when it's okay to reach out to an illustrator?

Here's a quick, no-nonsense guide.

The first question to ask yourself is this; are you self-publishing?

If the answer is no, then don't worry about the illustrator. Let the publisher take care of that. 

If the answer is yes, then stick around.

It is best to contact the illustrator when your manuscript is complete and well edited. Re-writing is part of the editing process, and sometimes new ideas come up.

When you reach out to an illustrator, they are likely to ask you questions about your book. You need to be able to answer all the questions without sharing your manuscript. It is important to protect your intellectual property. But how can you be sure of how many illustrations you will need?

You can figure that out by creating a picture book dummy. A picture book dummy is a very useful tool. It helps you organize the text in your story and see how things will flow from page to page. 

There are many ways to do this. You can use sticky notes, or a folded sheet of paper. But I've created a digital tool for this. I used this tool to develop my author-illustrator projects. You can get it for free here.

Once you have the text in dummy form, you may choose to write prompts for the illustrator to work with.  It's great if the left and right sides of the book work together. Take note of what is happening on each spread, and how scenes change from spread to spread.

With that you are ready! You have a clear vision of what you need. You can create an illustration brief with confidence, and answer all questions easily. You can also identify illustrators who are the best fit for you. 

If this helped you, share it!