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Some time last year, Erica Wagner, Publisher at Allen and Unwin, was reported as having said, in relation to graphic novels, that there was a lot to be gained by submitting a text already illustrated or mostly illustrated [Allen & Unwin publish purely commission only picture books]. Perhaps this may signal a change in direction that may even extend to those other illustrated tomes – picture books and picture book/graphic novel crossovers.
Some writers/illustrators I know have recently signed contracts for ‘print ready’ books. This is not self-publishing, nor submission to a print-on-demand house but submission to a traditional, royalty paying publisher of a book that is ‘ready to go’ in publishing terms.
What constitutes a ‘print ready’ book? It is a book that has been –
- professionally edited,
- designed to industry standards,
- professionally designed cover and,
- if illustrated, has all images appropriately set.
This is a great way to go for authors who are able to pay illustrators and book designers up front. Most authors are not able to do this. This then means all creators involved in a book project agreeing to royalty share and working between paid projects to collaborate on their book.
What have I gleaned about such ‘print ready’ deals? One company, smaller and reasonably new, offered a small advance and a good contract, by industry standards, with higher than regular royalty share for creators. An offer of help with promotion was also part of the deal. Another company, medium sized and established, offered no advance but better than average royalty shares for creators and help with promotion and marketing of the book.
How does this stack up against what is generally on offer now?
- Small and middle range publishers, in general, do not offer advances.
- Larger publishers offer advances depending on the book, depending on the author, and depending on the agent involved.
- Smaller and middle range publishers often [there are exceptions] expect the author to do it all in relation to promotion, even requiring the submission of a marketing plan.
- Larger publishers vary greatly as to how much promotion they will give a book.
- Generally, publishers will submit copies of their publishing output for major awards, such as the CBCA, and to a selection of leading review outlets.
What’s the down side for author, illustrator, book designer, [often the illustrator], to go down the ‘print ready’ publishing path?
- It IS a lot of extra work for all creators involved to ensure the book is ‘professional’ standard even before it is submitted.
- There is no money upfront.
Are the rewards worth the effort?
- If you love collaborative work, it is a big plus.
- Creators have much more project control to create the book they have collaboratively envisaged.
- A quality product, ‘print ready’, is a major bargaining point for creators/agents. ‘Print ready’ saves the publisher heaps!
The first company mentioned does small print runs, sells out their print runs, reprints and even sells out reprints and so it seems to be gradually snowballing.
It is too early to know in the second instance. [I’ll keep you posted!]
My feeling is that, if Erica Wagner was sensing a ‘trend’ and if these companies make a success of it, we will see more such deals. It’s something to think about!
My own news –
Books are created from the imagination and inspiration of authors and the insightful vision of illustrators. They are then crafted. The authorial crafting may be right brain with a touch of editing or slow and laborious left brain plotting. For an illustrator, it may be inspiration flowing like rivers from brush or stylus or it may be storybook or dummy creation then rethinks, scrap some ideas, adapt others. Eventually, a book emerges that is then ‘ready for submission’. These days, that may mean adding animation and audio to make the book a digital production for app developers like Utales or Flying Books, or for YA, formatting it for Kindle or Nook e-publishers. It may mean self publishing on Createspace or Lightningsource, Smashwords or Lulu. Or it will mean the long road via submission to traditional publishers.
If the latter is chosen, the publisher will often require more editing, changes and perhaps more changes. My own book, started under contract to one publisher, was already well underway with the inimitable Sarah Davis as illustrator. We were having a ball creating our book. Then our publisher was taken over and the new publisher wanted to institute changes. At first, the major change – ‘get rid of the dead bird’ – seemed straight forward. Then we realised the book needed the bird but, to keep it, we had to make some big adjustments. An injured bird can’t just disappear in a children’s book, it has to get better and be released, which, in our picture book, meant its story had to be woven into the fabric of the main story seamlessly. No problem, a few days and Sarah and I had nailed it! As book creators, you have to be flexible and, especially if going the traditional publisher route, you can’t be too precious about your creation.
SO! This exhibition is about the journey numbers of wonderful children’s and YA books took from creation to bookshelf! Each book has a different creation story to reveal – something the public doesn’t see, it’s behind the scenes. Now the reader can take a peek backstage, behind the scenes to how it all came together!
THE SET UP
Setting up was not straight forward. The spaces has to be utilised to best advantage and the items displayed needed to be seen from as many angles as possible given I had a two shelf rectangular glass case. I didn’t end up using everything I brought with me. It would have been too cluttered. Last minute inclusion, bulldog clips, proved life-savers! They held the photographic prints in place.
I had never ‘hung’ a painting before at an exhibition and that proved ‘interesting. Sarah Davis sent up her wonderful original painting via kindly courier, Peter Taylor, but it was unframed. I had no time to find a frame. Fortunately, I had one around the house that was a good match colour-wise though not quite the perfect size.
Given my exhibit was about my close collaboration with Sarah, the items displayed needed to reflect the two minds working together to make a new creative whole – our book! Sources of inspiration, stages in text change, changes in images, cover and trivia relating to the characters, objects and places in the book, all combined to make a successful ( I hope you agree) exhibit!
The Exhibition, Journey of a Book, has a wide range of book journeys exhibited, from YA novel, like David McRobbie’s, to real life adventure by Prue Mason, picture books like those by Kathrine Battersby and chapter books like the one by Angela Sunde, to non fiction works on calligraphy as an illustrative art form by Peter Taylor.
Ian Beck on Visualizing the Characters in his YA novels,
Hearty congratulations on the release of your two new YA novels, both in the one year! That is some achievement! I’m fascinated by how you come up with such a range of amazing and vastly different characters and all so vividly drawn.
Do you ‘see’ with your illustrator’s eye, the characters before you flesh them out? What part of the author is still the illustrator? Does the novel roll out in movie sequence in your mind?
I do see the characters quite clearly and I watch them move about in my head too, so in a sense it is a little like watching an inner cinema sequence but not quite, not entirely. At the same time you are questioning their motivations and inner lives, thoughts etc so it is also like seeing an x ray of the character too, all very hard to explain and much more like a waking dream than a film, and one which you are able to leave and enter again at will. The story certainly rolls out in movie like sequences, a chunk at a time but not necessarily in the narrative order, which is where the importance of editing comes in, the shaping and reordering and the advice and admonitions of the third eye, your editor, which is the vital spark. I could never publish my drafts without the benefit of my editor’s input.
Firstly, the characters in “The Hidden Kingdom” [see review below]-
What was the origin of Prince Osamu, the arrogant prat turned soldier king?
The whole book started with a single sentence. I wrote it for inclusion in a book which was intended to kick start ideas in children and encourage their own writing . The original sentence went something like, ‘The Prince woke to the howling of wolves’, and I thought, ‘well I would like to write that story myself and see what happens’, and so my Prince was the first settled character around which the story built. I imagined him as a pampered princeling in a fairy tale forced to confront something very big but I wasn’t sure what it might be at the beginning of the process.
Why Baku and the Snow Maiden? Is this a tip of the hat to the Brothers Grimm with their tales of transformation and tragic love, thinking particularly of The Little Mermaid, but with role reversal?
Not quite, Baku and the Snow Maiden were in a separate book, based on a Japanese myth story. It was only after working on both discretely for a few months that I realised in a flash of inspiration, (which now seems obvious but didn’t at the time), that they belonged in the same book as Prince Osamu.
Lissa, the warrior maid, is a thoroughly modern miss. What were her antecedents?
I think Lissa is to me quite clearly based on the character and beauty of Zhang Zi Yi in the film Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, that is exctly how I saw her in my mind, fiery and difficult, but dedicated to the saving of the Prince even though she begins the story despising his weakness.
Secondly, the lead roles in the very visually realized, “The Haunting of Charity Delafield” [see review below]-
Charity Delafield, is a quintessential heroine for a disaffected generation. The working woman’s children, tossed from home to childcare, child care to school and back and never long enough in one place to identify with it as ‘home’, whom I suspect ask ‘Who is Mum? Is she really the hollow eyed lady who picks me up late afternoon/early evening, rushes me through dinner to bed and pulls me out in the morning, drives me and drops me off with a stress fraught kiss and a wave?’ Charity is a brave new kind of heroine, finding her way, finding herself. In a seemingly disaffected world. What inspired her?
Charity began life as picture book idea. I had drawn some rough sketches of a girl in a long red coat out in the snow in an old fashioned formal garden. I liked the place and time of the story, the only difficulty was that there was no story. At about the same time my daughter started leaving notes for the Fairy she believed to be in the house and I started to leave replies in minute hand writing, which developed into a nice game. I mentioned them to my agent and she thought it might be worth developing as a book. My editor at Random House, Annie Eaton, always liked the initial drawings and would occasionally enquire if I had done anything with them. After I had finished the Tom Trueheart books, I finally saw a way to develop the story as a novel with the girl in the red coat in the garden. It went through three very different drafts before it was finished.
Do you ever get tempted to ‘storyboard’ the creation of your characters in the way you used to ‘storyboard’ illustrations to a picture book?
I do have visual avatars of my characters in mind usually a strange amalgam of bits of drawings and half remembered films, or people I know or have known and so on.
Have any of your own doodles or sketches actually inspired one of your book characters?
In the case of Charity Delafield certainly yes.
How do you go about plotting a story or does it just flow through mind to pen as if you are scribing from a screening?
I am very much a ‘gardening’ type of author. Apparently there are two kinds of author, Architects and Gardeners. Architects plan carefully, and gardeners scatter seed and wait for the growth. I tend to plan in retrospect, what Bernard Cornwell calls ‘putting doors in alleyways’.
Finally, what are you creating for readers right now?
I am working on several things. One is a book of my own poetry (for grown ups) called, Behind The Dusty Glass. This will be a limited edition and finely printed on heavy paper, illustrated by me too, and in the case of the special copies each illustration will be hand coloured by me as well.
Click here for a preview of poem and illustration for “Behind the Dusty Glass”: “Flora at Kings X” by Ian Beck from forthcoming “Behind The Dusty Glass”
I am also publishing a book of poetry which I have written as if I were someone else; namely the husband of Lucia in the Mapp & Lucia books of the 1930s by E F Benson. He is called Pepino by Lucia and his book is called Fugitive Lyrics. The poems are mentioned in the novel and the appearance of the book is minutely described. He is dead and Lucia wants to be found reading the poems in her grief but can’t untie the ribbon on the binding. My late Brother in Law, Jonathan Gili, always wanted to see the fictional book made real and so it is being created in his memory as an elaborate spoof. I have also illustrated the poems and, again, specials will have hand colouring. I am also writing two novels. One is called The Sky Stone and is set in the 1300s, a big adventure story about art, lapis lazuli, and a fallen warrior which will be published by Oxford University Press. For Random House I am hoping to write a series of stories collectively called; The Casebooks of Captain Holloway about a top secret department during world war two in London dealing with the mysterious and the occult and the inexplicable. The first will (I hope) be called The Disappearance of Tom Pile. I also hope to write the story of the Sweep’s boy Silas and what happens to him up to and after the Charity Delafield story.
Thank you Ian! We have a feast to look forward to! Keep us posted! 🙂
Review – The Hidden Kingdom, by Ian Beck
The Characters are drawn very visually in this old world adventure with an Asiatic setting. This is no surprise, as author Ian Beck , is also a master illustrator who half way through his illustrious career turned to story telling himself. The prince, Osamu is very typical of his era and culture, spoiled, petulant, and arrogant. Not a particularly likeable character till circumstances take through him together with Lissa, a girl soldier and Baku, a humble potter’s assistant and the three of them find themselves fleeing for their lives in an unforgiving winter, though lands torn by war with a supernatural origin. Will the prince find his destiny, despite himself, as leader of his besieged people? Will the young potter ever find happiness with his love and nemesis the mysterious snow maiden? And the fierce soldier girl, is she capable of more than dealing death? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DyLad-6odnw&feature=related
Review – The Haunting of Charity Delafield by Ian Beck
Have you ever felt you are a stranger to your own family, a prisoner in the life you find yourself living? The heroine of Ian Becks’ latest YA book experiences exactly that. Her father treats her a bit like a potentially dangerous alien, surrounding her with rules and regulations so she feels a prisoner in her ‘home’. And where is her mother…? Children are good at unraveling conspiracies of silence, and this is exactly what Charity does with the help of a mischievous chimney sweep and a curious black cat. The cover is wonderful, a genuine enticement to open and savour contents, but then Ian Beck is a master illustrator as well as an award winning author. Peopled with larger than life characters and a magical world within a world, this is a thoroughly enjoyable read. The central character deserves a revisit in another adventure. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_XMwYigBNiw
Interview with Nicola L. Robinson, illustrator turned author and the trials, tribulations and triumphs of a change of hats!
First off, HEARTY CONGRATULATIONS on the release of “The Monster Machine” with Pavilion Children’s Books – a sort of mad inventor meets Granny’s knitted nightmares joy of a book!
Have you always had a strong visual sense of story?
Yes I have, I’ve always loved drawing (like all illustrators I should imagine!) but particularly loved drawing pictures with something happening in them, be it a big thing chasing a small thing or any kind of interaction between my creations. As a child I’d name the characters and make up stories around them..
I grew up and went to university and did a degree in Fine Art, which was fantastic, but I realised my work was more illustration and less ‘Fine Art’. I have always looked for the story in the picture, and love adding narrative details to things, be it a little mouse hiding behind a teapot or something more sinister watching through a crack in the curtain... I am a visual thinker, but at this point I didn’t consider writing the actual words down to go with the illustrations.
What were your favourite storybook images as a child and how did they influence you as an illustrator and the style you adopted as ‘you’?
I didn’t have many traditional picture books, I did however pour over photos of crocodiles and snakes from a really old book on ‘The Animal Kingdom’. One of my favourite storybooks was a book of Greek Myths which had a lot of colour plates inside of the various mythological beasts and some nice black and white ink illustrations, fairly traditional in style. My favourites were always the ones I could imagine myself being in, something with some perspective, or one where you can see inside an open door or window. I also loved the Hobbit by JRR Tolkien, with Smaug the dragon. I have drawn many dragons since then and continue to do so today.
I have always loved the traditional fairytale illustrators like Arthur Rackham and others like Aubrey Beardsley and more recently Edward Gorey. Black and white ink illustrations in particular have always appealed to me, as has the sinister so I expect I have absorbed a little of their influence into my current working style. I certainly hope so!
Do you have a favourite among your previous illustrative projects? Would you tell us something of the creative process involved in bringing the images to light?
My favourites change all the time, but I am still very attached to a detailed illustration from last year titled ‘Downtown’
It started off like so many drawings as a few scribbles on the page, I could see a cityscape of sorts in my head… I often write lists of words and ideas to include in a piece, little descriptions like ‘Dark alleys’ and ‘Iron Bridges’ just as little word pictures, alongside thumbnails which I find very helpful.
From here it gets its structure and is drawn out. If I’m going to be working in colour I usually stretch some paper at this point before transferring the idea to it.
I work up the details in pencil…
Before going back in with a fine nibbed pen using black waterproof ink to make an underdrawing…
and here I decided I needed to add some life into the scene, I knew the city itself was alive and alert, but it had to be interacting with something, so I re introduced the tiny little figures on the bottom right.
I then add my colour and shading using various materials including pencils, watercolour acrylics and other coloured inks before transferring to Photoshop where I make the final enhancements…
I love collaborating on picture books! Have you been able to collaborate with authors or have the books you have worked on been more a case of the traditional ‘publishers keeping at least an ocean between author and illustrator’? What are your thoughts on collaborating as opposed to working on a project entirely on your own?
I have had a fairly traditional experience so far as an illustrator and have not had much contact with the authors whose work I have illustrated, although there are a few who have connected with me through twitter which has been great. You do wonder whether the author likes what you’ve drawn, and you hope they do, so it is lovely to hear it from them!
I think collaborating is a wonderful way to work the creative process, and a way to bring more creative ideas and experience to the table, being able to communicate directly and discuss ideas with one another has to be a good way to work. Providing you get on well and have harmonious ideas of course!
That being said I can’t deny enjoying being both the author and illustrator for my picture book, for me I found it saved time with regards to putting the book together in that I was the one who could edit both text and pictures simultaneously, which was handy.
When and why did you decide to go it alone as author/illustrator?
I have been illustrating for a good few years now but had not had the opportunity to be considered for a picture book, and I had always wanted to illustrate one, they always look like so much fun. However I hadn’t tailored my portfolio towards this with my work being geared towards an older audience, so I wrote one for myself.
I honestly wasn’t sure how people would take to it though, I had my illustrator hat well and truly screwed onto my head, so it was a bit alien to think of myself as an author too.
Did you do the traditional storyboard for your book?
I did, I had a look at other existing picture books and also had a look online to find out the right format. Square seemed like a good shape, and already suited my machine drawings, and I started drawing lots of little rectangles into my notebook… [see storyboard left] before working out the page breaks and what images I wanted to put on each page with lots of crude little thumbnails like these –
Honestly, how did you find the journey from inspiration to publication? I’m sure other illustrators will be fascinated to get a belated peek over your shoulder into the whole process.
Patience is a virtue, as the journey is not a quick one!
After the initial inspiration had set in and I knew my subject matter, I tackled the words. I knew it was also important to have a book which would read well out loud, so kept rereading it until I was happy.
I then took this along with my thumbnails and rough storyboard and I set about drawing up fairly detailed pencil spreads, and a cover. I picked out a couple of the spreads and worked them up in colour to give the publishers a flavour of how the book would look. I then put it all together into an A4 sized mailer. There is quite a lot of work involved in putting together a manuscript idea to pitch, particularly, when you’re doing the illustrations too.
I researched likely publishers, which I thought may be interested in my work, spent a lot of money on stamps and envelopes and sent them out into the universe. I also discovered the post box on my road has a really small letterbox that day so I had to walk a few miles to the nearest post office to send them off. Lesson learned.
Then came the waiting….
It did cross my mind that as both Author and Illustrator I was in a sense putting all my eggs in one basket. What if the publisher liked my illustrations but hated the story? Or worse, as an illustrator, what if they liked my story but hated my illustrations? Would I have wanted someone else to illustrate it? Probably not…
Fortunately, it wasn’t too long until my publisher contacted me saying they were interested in my work and invited me down to London, which was a wonderful experience, and such a relief to think that someone else likes the idea, something which I have written! After some more waiting, I was finally given the go ahead and contracts were signed. (It is very important to fully understand any contract you go into, if you aren’t sure get some legal advice to make sure you’re absolutely happy with the terms, read all the small print!)
The actual writing and illustrating of the book was the quickest part, I was lucky that I did not need to make too many major changes and I just set about working my way through the book. I submitted all the work ahead of deadline, which was nice, and also gave me some time to work out little extras for the fly pages and a This Book Belongs to page etc.
For me the longest part has been waiting for the actual book to come out, and be ‘published’ which happens a good few months after all the artwork is signed off. I did get my advance copies in the interim which was wonderful! They looked great, and I was really pleased with them. You rarely get your name on the cover unless you’re the author so it was really nice to see it there for once!
One of the most frustrating things has been friends and family and those not in the publishing universe constantly asking about ‘the book’ and other than being able to say ‘it’s on its way’ I haven’t been able to give a satisfactory response yet. But now it’s actually out which is nice! 🙂 Now they can see for themselves.
I’ve been tempted, from time to time, to illustrate my own book but feel I am a learner artist, not an illustrator of story. It is quite a different skill. I have, on occasion, used illustrator friend’s orphan images to create the story hiding in the image – a sort of collaboration in reverse – a different kind of challenge and creative pleasure. Did you get the image inspiration first or the ‘story’ inspiration? Can you tell us about the evolution of your ‘story’?
Chicken or egg? In this case it was the Machine. I can pinpoint the beginning of the story itself from the day I sat down and sketched a machine.
I love machines so this isn’t unusual for me. I was thinking about the machine and it crossed my mind that the machine would be a machine that makes something, monsters…. it really went from there. I worked backwards from the machine and then forwards from it creating the monsters.
Something which I have enjoyed, which has come from being both author and illustrator is the fact that I can write about things I love to draw, which is great. I love monsters and I love machines. Obviously you hope a good editor will match a manuscript with the perfect illustrator who will love the subject and themes it requires, but in my experience, there is no surer way than writing it yourself.
Finally – what next? Have you anything else ‘on the drawing board’ yet?
There’s always something on ‘the drawing board’ it is a matter of getting the time to coax it out to its full potential! Indeed what next?! I’m currently working on a pop-up book project which is great fun, and getting some ideas for more picture books! I’d love to do another one.
Thank you very much for having me Jennifer!
The Monster Machine has its own website to match the book- www.monstermachine.co.uk
Nicola’s website www.nlrobinson.co.uk
It’s official, my design plus Anil Tortop’s brilliant execution [the ‘Q’ as the wave was a stroke of genius] = the new SCBWI Blog Logo.
We both had a ball playing with ideas.
I did some amateurish sketches of my original idea and then a clipart mockup. Anil took it from there and evolved her final brilliant image:
Jennifer Poulter: My design symbolises the joyous spirit of creativity! The pelican represents authors and illustrators catching ideas, surfing waves of inspiration. It also symbolises Queensland with its long, long coastline and the pelican, one of our most prolific water-birds, which is found on the coast and on inland lakes. Water symbolises growth, nourishing, renewal – a great symbol for the dissemination of knowledge and the generation of ideas, the stimulation of imagination. It also captures the joy of playing in water, which all children love whether it is in the bath on the beach, river or lakeside, in the pool or under the hose!
Anil executed the design and – a stroke of genius – incorporated the Q for Queensland in the wave!
The link to the official announcement: Our new SCBWI (QLD) blog logo.