Children’s book as a main portfolio piece?

  • Does anyone do this?

    I’ve browsed a lot of illustration portfolios and haven’t seen anyone do an actual book/book mock up. I keep hearing that publishers are much more likely to hire someone who’s been published and I understand that illustrating a book and illustrating a book that’s been published aren’t the same thing but completing the illustrations for a book must account for a great deal, right?

    Looking for a little insight here is all.


  • Pro SVS OG

    From what I gleamed by talking with art directors and my agent, they really want to see if you can keep character and style consistency throughout a series of illustrations. To that aim, it is important to have sets of three to five illustrations relating to the same story in your portfolio - and many children´s illustration portfolios include that.
    A whole book is probably an overkill.
    Also, it´s good to show that you can tackle different subjects. So overall, it would be better to have three illustrations each for four different books than to have 12 illustrations for only one book.
    Unpublished books should not be .....published 😉 So if you have a book dummy you are working on to submit to agents or publishers, do not put the illustrations in your digital portfolio. Publishers do not like that - the right of first publication is what they buy from you.

  • @smceccarelli slightly off topic but related. There’s a thought though of ‘doing your work in public’ - so does this mean that it’s not advisable to show the development on the way through?

  • Pro SVS OG

    My approach is to bin work in three different categories:

    • Client work: never publish anything anywhere unless the client gives you explicit permission to do so. It`s normally ok to publish after an embargo time - I try to have this spelled out in the contract, if possible.
    • Work created for pitching (to agents or editors): I do not publish anything of this work anywhere outside of a very small critique group. Sometimes I do publish something here on the forum, but I am getting a bit careful with that too. My feeling is that pre-publication in any form can affect the (already slim) chances of selling a book idea.
    • Work created for self-promotion. I always try to have something going on for a competition, for social media or just self-assignments for portfolio — and try to publish those anywhere and everywhere I can, both work-in-progress as well as finished work, details, process, etc....

    Maybe I am erring on the side of caution, but I find this approach lets me use social media channels for marketing without any anxiety about people misappropriating or misusing work.

  • @smceccarelli no I think that’s quite wise. I ask clients if it’s ok to show WIP (work in progress) but as mine are self publishers it actually creates a buzz for them and they’ve had sales because of my Wip pics and videos. Maybe publishers need to catch up a bit!

  • SVS OG

    What I've been told is it is OK to show a couple pieces from a dummy you hope to publish, but not to show all the pieces and certainly not the entire story. So 2-3 images for a portfolio is OK (as I understand it) but don't put the whole story up for everyone to see.

    Personally I have a couple pieces in progress I did exploring my character for a dummy, but they will NOT actually end up in the final story. Once I have them done I plan to display them in my portfolio.

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