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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5 thoughts on “Two Editors Talk About How Illustrators Are Chosen”

  1. Yesenia Hernandez

    I love this post and video. It was informational and it made me understand the process companies go through to pick an illustrator. I now understand that all publishers don’t have the same process, and can be a huge factor in how a book can turn out. Great post!

  2. Hi, thank you for this post I have a question regarding seeking representation as an illustrator. I am an unpublished author/illustrator. There is an agency seeking new illustrators–preferably ones who also write. They ask for illustrators to send a link to their portfolio and/or website. I plan to submit the link to my portfolio, but my question to you is what types of information should I include in a cover letter to an agency? There are tons of templates online for writers querying agents, but I have not seen any guidelines and templates for illustrators or author-illustrators seeking agents. Please advise. Thanks.

    1. You’re welcome. Illustrators follow submission guidelines just like writers, and guidelines vary from one agency to another. If you have a story of your own, you’d pitch that in a query. If you don’t, I think you could pitch your art/illustration style. What makes it unique? Why will the agent want to represent YOU? But the most important thing is to follow guidelines and give them what they’re asking for. Good luck!

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