Two Editors Talk About How Illustrators Are Chosen

Have you ever wondered how and why an illustrator is chosen for a particular book project? Whether you’re an illustrator looking for work, or a writer wondering if you’ll have any say in your book’s illustrator, this post is for you.

In the following Submission Ready video, Ariel Richardson and Melissa Manlove, two editors at Chronicle Books, talk about how editors consult with designers or art directors about what books need before hiring illustrators.

Ariel mentioned that sometimes editors have an illustrator (or multiple illustrators) in mind when they take a book to acquisitions, but usually they have an idea of what they want for the illustrations without having a specific name. They discuss what the manuscript needs with their designer or art director.

She said, “Let’s say it’s really character driven, and it’s a human character. Then we’re really going to be looking at how an illustrator does humans and body language and facial expressions and emotions. Or if it’s an animal manuscript, and it really kind of cutesy and sweet, we’re going to look for that. There’s a wide range of every manuscript that has it’s own needs and demands. Sometimes we’re looking for humor. Sometimes we’re looking for page turns.”

When it comes to finding illustrators, Ariel said, “Often they’re pulling illustration samples from Instagram or the artist’s website or wherever.” So, it’s really important to keep your portfolio current on your website. In the class, Ariel also mentioned Etsy as a place that editors and art directors look for illustrators. I'd never thought of Etsy before!

Melissa pointed out that, at Chronicle Books, they include writers in the process of choosing an illustrator, but there are some publishers that don’t. So, if you’re a picture book writer who would like to be included in those decisions, that might be something to ask about before signing a book contract.

However, she did add, “there are lots of ways to make a good book.” You're probably in good hands, whether you get to weigh in on the decision or not. Publishers invest a lot of money to make a picture book, and they want it to be successful just as much as you do.

Do you have any questions? If so, you can ask them in the comments!

Thanks for reading!

Blog Contributors

Myrna Foster writes and edits content for Storyteller Academy and the WriteRiders Newsletter for SCBWI Nevada. She has spent a lot of time teaching and coaching children, including five years as a preschool teacher. She's also worked as a journalist, and Highlights High Five has published six of her poems. 

Arree Chung is an author/illustrator and the founder of Storyteller Academy. Arree’s Ninja! series has received starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal. Kirkus also gave a starred review to Mixed, which recently won the FCGB award. 

Today Arree lives a creative life, making stories for children. Arree spends most of his time making picture books, writing middle grade novels, and sharing his love for art, design, and storytelling with kids and dreamers everywhere.

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