Questions for published illustrators out there.



  • I'm zooming with a publisher this week to discuss a possible contract and he wants to hear my vision for the manuscript. How polished should my ideas be at this point, and is this a typical way you work with publishers? How much say do they have on the overall "vision" of the book? How much guidance should I expect from the publisher/art director? It's my first book so I'm a little nervous.


  • Pro

    @Laurel-Aylesworth I have to say I've never had a Zoom meeting with a publisher, ever so far! But I have been asked what my vision is for a book. I've just told them the ideas that came to me for how I think the book could look. Things like "I imagine a very clean white background, with colorful characters standing out against it" or "I'm thinking it could be interesting to show this cute secondary story visually through the images". The amount of guidance varies wildly. My very first book, I was pretty much given carte blanche to do whatever I liked. In other books, I've sometimes had a page by page breakdown of what illustration should be on each page.



  • @NessIllustration At this point in your career, which do you prefer? More guidance or less?


  • Pro

    @Laurel-Aylesworth I like both for different reason. More freedom is always great! I recently made a book where they were happy to let me experiment a bit with my textures and give them a result that's not 100% like the style shown in my portfolio. That was super fun! But there's always the risk that they tell you they have no preference at first, only to have a huge laundry list of feedback for you once you deliver the artwork... That can happen, and then you're like "...You really should have said." Because of that, it can be reassuring to have a client have a more specific idea of what they have in mind. They are some of the contracts that go the most smoothly. But they're not always the most... exciting!



  • @Laurel-Aylesworth I have never been asked to provide the vision for the book yet. But I was asked to do roughs in fairly short time for the last 2 books.

    One of the books I did a test spread, so the editor and I have agreed on the look and feel before I even start the rough. The editor provided the manuscript with page breaks, and minimal art notes - she was very open for my ideas during the rough sketch phrase. There are a bit more change notes after I have done the final art. I feel it is not so much coming from less guidance. But I could have let the editor approve the more refined sketch and color script before moving to final. For this book, the editor basically approved rough sketches, and the next thing she sees is final art. I did share some very rough color script to show the overall color for the book. I want to refine the process for the next book.

    As for the other book, the AD is much more micro managing - which was less fun for me. She wrote out her idea for each spread in details, but then told me that I can have my own ideas. I ended up not using her art notes very much (as I think most of the ideas were a bit boring for me). She asked for rough sketch revisions a lot more. I think one of the spreads I did 3 revisions if not more. But things are actually working out well in the end. The change notes for the final art are minor.

    Personally I would go for more freedom, less guidance. But I will make sure to let the editor+AD approve rough sketches, refined sketches, and color script before going to paint the final. The risk with this approach is things can take long time with clients. If you have serval round of approvals, you are risk of running to getting feedback too late. I would check with my agent to see if they have history with your current client, and to see what communication style they have.


  • Pro SVS OG

    My experience is different with every new publisher I worked for. Some wanted to hear my vision, some did not. But usually, when I had something to share regarding my opinions, they were always pleased I took care. I think as long as you are polite and humble, the publishers are glad when you are invested in the book. It means you take your job seriously. 🙂



  • @xin-li That's interesting how different some people approach art directing. And yes, I hope to have a working relationship where I feel comfortable going back and forth with my ideas and showing them rough sketches before moving on to the next phase.



  • @Laurel-Aylesworth I've worked on 3 books till now and have never been asked for my vision on them.

    All the clients had given references to some pieces of my work in terms of the style they were looking for so I think the vision of the book was already decided by them.
    I'd also been given page wise art notes on all of them. Since they all had tight deadlines, I didn't stray much from the notes either.

    I suppose, if asked, I would also describe my vision similar to how Vanessa describes it. Eg. bright colorful and dynamic, or, clean and minimal, or maybe a dominant color palette if something strikes you. If you have any illustrations that you've already created that could fall in line with your vision, you could share them as well.

    I think they'd just want to get a rough idea of what you're thinking so that they're not taken aback by the illustrations. This is just a thought, I have no idea. Maybe they do it for new illustrators?

    But I would encourage asking as many questions as you can at the start!



  • Oh I should add that for my first project, the client asked for a cover sample for the book (free sample in case I didn't get the contract). They had already specified the style they were looking for and wanted to see if I could match it. This was done before signing the contract.



  • @Neha-Rawat Thanks Neha! This makes sense.


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