KidLitVic – Illustration & Picture Books

Sharing notes on Illustration and Picture Books, taken at KidLitVic 2017.

Illustration Panel

Panel: Melissa Keil (Five Mile Press), Michelle Madden (Penguin), Sarah Mummé (Lake Press), Christina Pase (Windy Hollow)

  • Postcards (at conferences, etc) are lovely. But a link is always a good thing to forward on to others. Need to be able to show it around – at acquisitions, etc. Digital is great.
  • Greeting cards are a way to get your work out there.
  • Michelle loves to see loads of stuff. Consistency is huge – to develop a character and be consistent across the pages. It’s good to see what you can do – different styles (as long as it is strong, and done well) – but consistency is important.
  • Melissa: Colour palette, characterisation, line-work – something that’s really unique.
    A vaiety of styles for a range of products.
  • Sarah: It’s very personal
    May fight for it, if she can see potential, with a really good brief, and a little bit of work.
  • Christina – literary picture books
    If she really loves it – or has something to fill the brief.
    Likes to know/see if they can draw people – because that’s a really difficult thing! (Show them in all different poses and emotions, in your portfolio.)
    Technical skills are vital during the process – to see an illustration from the back angle. Or from a different character’s perspective. It’s almost like illustrators are working with a film screen, not a flat piece of paper.

Do illustrators design layout as well?

  • The ideal relationship is that everyone is contributing/discussing and throwing ideas backwards and forwards.
  • The process varies dependent on the type of (and level of) text, and the personalities involved.
  • Very often an edit comes at the rough stage, because the illustrations often drive changes to the text.
  • Sometimes it’s difficult getting illustrators to step back and let the designers operate.
  • The editor is the UN. It’s healthier if feedback comes through the publisher or the editor, rather than direct to author/illustrator.
  • Christina Pase feels very protective of her illustrator and asks them in the beginning if they’re happy to talk to the author. If an author is bossy, she tries to limit contact. (Does try to take the author’s personal stuff out of the illustration notes before sending to illustrators. ie – it’s not illustrated according to author’s specific family members, etc.)
  • Fee-based – (Covers/internals)
    Royalty – you’re co-creators. So the authors and the illustrators need to be consulted at each stage.
  • Boys and girls on covers – or pink. If a book has pink on the cover, customers won’t buy it for a boy. No matter how frustrating that is.
  • Sometimes nine-months turn-around on middle grade. Longer for picture books.

Designer looks at;

  • Text – where to put it in the body of the work.
  • Font
  • Movement in that text – colours, displacement, etc.
  • Cover treatments – embossing, matt
  • Not just a technical person – is part of the process and the publisher has confidence in them to be a part in the vision. Everyone needs to resonate with the story.
  • Illustrators – Get your work before designers, as well as publishers and editors. (Michelle Maddern)
  • Graphic novels / wordless picture books.
    Need to come complete to the publisher, not as a proposal
    (Michelle Madden loves graphic novels.)
  • Quote from Leigh Hobbs; ‘The text should tell one story. The illustrations should tell another story. The child has its own story. And the text and illustrations tell the story.’

Picture Books Panel

Panel: Susannah Chambers (A&U), Kimberley Bennett (Random House), Miriam Rosenbloom (Scribble), Andrew Wilkins (Wilkins Farago)

Acquisitions Process?

  • A&U – Differs between words, or words & pics
    • Finding an editor who loves your work
    • Development meeting – with publishers and editors (Realism, passion & creativity)
    • Acquisitions meeting – marketing, sales (Who is your ideal reader?)
    • Offer
  • RH – similar process – but no development meeting
  • Scribble – Only looking to buy 3 PBs a year. Something has to be really special to take a spot.
  • WF – Will not publish anything, if they don’t love it. (ie – Will publishing nothing, rather than fill a spot.)

Australian market, or universal?
WF – Every book we do has to work around the world. International market.
RH – It has to work here.
A&U – Australian stories for Australian readers. They hope stories will travel – but focus is on our readers.
WH – Story and characters come first. Not international market.

Red flags?
The colour red.
Aggressive letters – or letters identifying personal friends/family who love the books
Letters that rubbish ‘children’s books’ in general. (Alternative;  This is what I love and these are the books this would sit alongside.)
AW – loves when people identify why a book will fit his niche.

See too much?
MR – Australian animals
KB – Grandparent/child PBs – focused on the adult, not the child.

Rhyming PBs?
SC – You do have to be very good at it. Read it aloud. Have others read it aloud.

Author and an illustrator – to submit as one or not?
KB – Generally advises against it.

18mths – 2yrs from signing of contract to release.
Where does it fit in terms of release / school events, etc … It’s all carefully timed and balanced.

What are you looking for?
A&U – Not actively seeking – Has to win one of us over really deeply.

Favourite Picture Books as Child?
Susannah Chambers – Couldn’t pick one…
Kimberley Bennett – Shirley Hughes ‘Dogger’
Miriam Rosenbloom – Maurice Sendak – ‘In the night kitchen’
Andrew Wilkins – ‘Flat Stanley’


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