Critique/Feedback request - cover/spreads/storyboard excerpts from children's book
JQ last edited by
Hi all, I'm working on my first children's book series and since it's my first time I was hoping I could get some critique/feedback from others on it before I proceed further in my current direction. The books will be in Chinese.
I've actually already sent the dummy of the first book to some publishers, but because of the market situation here (ie. the market is so small that children's books, especially in non-English languages, are generally loss-making enterprises), it's more like I'm a customer that the publisher is going to provide editorial/publishing services to, and while one of them seemed keen to work with me, I think that's probably more because they're happy to get some business rather than that they like my work. And I probably won't get editorial feedback from them until I sign a contract (which already means forking out money on my side).
(Actually hearing from a publisher first-hand that their children's books are all generally loss-making was quite disheartening for me and is frankly making me seriously question the viability of this as a career, but that's a topic for another time :')) I'm applying for a government grant to fund my work on this so I don't go broke in the meantime)
My books have a somewhat comics-inspired style (story is mostly told through dialogue in speech bubbles) which I don't see that often in other children's books, so I wonder what others think about this.
I'd also be happy to hear if anyone as any comments on the technical aspects of my style, whether you feel it "works" for a children's book (characters are rendered more realistically but backgrounds are a little simplified and cel-shady).
And of course, is the storytelling working?
(English translations are annotated next to/below the Chinese text, but final version will be Chinese-only, ie: please ignore the English text in the composition)
Excerpts from the storyboard, including a finished 2-page spread
Thanks in advance for your feedback and time!
Meekipink last edited by Meekipink
@JQ Wowwww!!! This is so cool! Your art style is absolutely gorgeous and perfect for children's illustration. I did a quick value check and you might want to further contrast your characters from the background. Also, you may want to zoom out a little for some scenes and change up the angles to add variation - everything feels little too close and repetitive. But that's about it, really - it's looking fantastic!!
If I were you, I'd self-publish these beauties in BOTH Chinese and English through Amazon KDP for free (although you'd probably want to invest in buying your own barcode instead of using Amazon's). You could also look into making a Kindle version to increase visibility and profits. You never know, it might take off, or a brick and mortar bookstore might order a bunch to sell in their own store!
I dunno, any publishing company that requires YOU to pay money to them for a book they've already admitted won't make money doesn't sound like a worthwhile investment. If you're not interested in Amazon KDP, perhaps consider re-writing in English and submitting the story to English-based literary agents around the world along with your portfolio? Don't give up!! Your work is absolutely stunning.
Eliana Bastidas last edited by
@JQ Really cute!! Very well done!
Melissa_Bailey last edited by
@Meekipink makes some great points, especially regarding considering if it's worthwhile to pay a publisher to publish a book that they've admitted won't make money. But there are many reasons to publish a book, and making a profit might not be a top priority for some.
Also just want to mention that while self-publishing is relatively easy to jump into, it's A LOT of work. It's important to count the cost before making that leap. There is no guarantee that it will make money.
The reality is that a self-published author needs to market their book well if they expect it to sell. The chance of a self-published book just taking off--without a strong marketing campaign--is very, very low. It happens, but the vast majority of self-published books don't even earn back the money that was put into publishing them. A self-published book is considered a success if it sells 500 copies. Not to throw a wet blanket on things, but it's important to share the reality of self-publishing.
And there is also the reality that brick-and-mortar stores are hesitant to carry self-published books. The book has to be the same high quality as traditionally published books. And even if it is high quality, most brick-and-mortar stores and libraries won't take on POD (print on demand) books from KDP, Ingram Spark, and the like. It's a hassle for them to order and deal with the PODs, so most just don't do it. A self-published author might be able to get their local bookseller or Barnes and Noble to carry their book, but it often requires a lot of legwork. It doesn't just drop in your lap.
Don't mean to rain on anyone's parade -- like I said, just want to provide a little reality check. This is also not to say that I discourage self-publishing. I'm actually in the process of self-publishing my own picture books and have worked with many self-published authors in over 12 years of freelancing. What I do strongly encourage is looking into self-publishing before you leap. Make sure that it really is the right path for you. And look into what it will really cost to self-publish in terms of time, energy, resources, and money.
Melissa_Bailey last edited by
@JQ your style is great -- completely fits the children's book market. You'll find just about every art style in picture books, so no need to worry that there is one "children's book style". If it's child-friendly, that's all you need. And your style is very child-friendly!
While there aren't many children's books that employ speech bubbles, there are quite a few. More importantly, the speech bubbles work very well with your style and these compositions, which tend to be quite detailed. The white speech bubble sets off the text and gives the eye a place to rest. All good things.
If you read a lot of picture books, you'll find that while there are trends, most books make choices that are based on what is best to tell the story and what fits the artwork.
The storytelling is working. Your characters are endearing, they have distinct personalities, and they're cute. You've put so much emotion into the story so far but haven't been too melodramatic, and that fits the storytelling and genre.
As far as feedback, I'm going to agree with @Meekipink about watching your values and varying the POV and zooming in/out more. Think about visually telling the story, and what angle and perspective will work the best to do that.
One more technical thing in terms of composition: watch the gutter. (That's where the pages are bound together, which creates an area where parts of those pages can't be seen.) Some of your important elements are too close to the gutter or completely in the gutter. They'll get lost. You want to make sure that all important elements are completely visible to the reader.
Here's an example of what I mean. The pink bar simulates the "danger zone" where something could get lost in the gutter or be difficult for the reader to see. Keep all text and main characters' faces (all faces, really) out of the danger zone.
Overall, you've done beautiful work so far! Looking forward to seeing where you go from here. Please keep us updated.
JQ last edited by
Thank you all for the affirmation and @Meekipink @Melissa_Bailey for the very valuable feedback re: values, composition and gutter space . Extra eyes from other artists is just what I needed, and now I have some ideas on how to improve the variation in the composition and am aware of the gutter problem.
Thanks too for the self-publishing ideas and caveats. It's definitely something I'm keeping an eye on but because it's my first time and for similar reasons that Melissa has listed I will probably try to stick with a traditional publisher for now, especially if I can get funding for it.
ArtMelC last edited by
@JQ Yeah I think the market is really very different here. The reason the government offers that grant is because they are pretty much desperate for locally produced mother tongue books because none of the commercial publishers would do it out of their own pocket, because as you said it, they are loss-making ventures. Relying on imports from China/Malaysia/India may not be too relatable for the kids who grow up here and as a results mother tongue proficiency is dying in the younger generation to the point that they are no longer native speakers of their mother tongue language.
My approach is basically if I get the grant, I will move forward and "pay" the publishers using government money. Remember that you can also claim author and illustrator fee if selected for the grant. If I don't get it I'll submit the English manuscript for traditional publishing route.
Just my 2 cents. Your approach might be different and thats okay too But from what I am seeing you have a pretty high chance of getting if you keep up this quality of work and strengthen it with the feedback from people here. You can do it!!
I'll be sharing mine soon too hopefully...