Finding an Illustrator—and Introducing Mine!

Self Publishing Artist Childrens ArtHow do you find an illustrator for your children’s book?

Or perhaps more adequately…

How do you find, choose, and trust a person to take what’s been in your head and turn it into the tangible something special you know it can be?

There are many ways to go about finding an illustrator:

  • You can already know of an artist you respect and enjoy working with. In which case, lucky you!
  • You can do a basic Google search for local illustrators.
  • You can attend mixer events for local writers and illustrators. (I recommend checking out your local Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators branch.)
  • You can reach out on social media for recommendations.

I tried all of these routes, but the method that worked for me was social media.

As detailed in a post last fall, a college friend, Jason, saw my query for illustrator recommendations and forwarded me someone who could be a good fit.

Once you’ve found a potential candidate, what do you do next? 

I started following my friend’s artist recommendation on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to get a better feel for her and her work.

“A Conversation” © Khalid Albaih, Flickr Creative Commons
“A Conversation” © Khalid Albaih, Flickr Creative Commons

After a few months of liking her stuff (figuratively and literally, with social media “likes” and commenting), I took the plunge and messaged her about my project.

Several months and late-night messaging marathons later, we scheduled a project-briefing phone call. Two hours into that first conversation with this exuberant, insightful lady, I knew she was “the one.”

However, that doesn’t mean I released the confetti balloons and unfurled the “YOU’RE HIRED” sign. If you think you’ve found your illustrator, you shouldn’t either. Not yet.

Month To Do List

What should you do before signing a contract?

1. Make sure you’re both on the same page about compensation.

You don’t need to get into specifics at this point, but there are a couple of key discussions you need to have:

  • Who will retain the copyright for the images? If you don’t, you’ll have to buy all related images piece meal (beyond the images that make up the book itself). What if you want to use the main character as your profile pic? That could be extra. What if you’d like to make a banner for book signings? That could be extra. In other words, determining this is critical for the sake of planning your budget.
  • Will you be paying the artist a small amount up front with potential for royalties in the future, or will you pay the big bucks up front, so that you don’t need to pay (and manage) quarterly profit percentage checks, from publication into infinity?

Now, with those pesky logistic out of the way, it’s time to get to the fun stuff…

Photo by Roxanne Ready, Flickr Creative Commons
Photo by Roxanne Ready, Flickr Creative Commons

2. Create a Pinterest board, where you and your illustrator will share images for the direction of the book.

This is a easy (and rather fun) method to collaborate on the look and feel you’re going after. When you post images, try to note what you do and don’t like about each one, or the specific reason you’re including it.

Even if you haven’t found an illustrator yet, you can get started on this now. That way, when you find Mr. or Ms. Right, you’ll be ready to hit the ground running. That’s what I did with my Illustrator Envy board, and it really helped my designer know (a) what I wanted and (b) if she could deliver.

3. Request a mood board.

After you’ve bounced ideas back and forth on the Pinterest board for a while, ask your potential artist to create a mood board to get a more focused sense for his or her vision for the illustration style. Depending on the artist, if you like what you see…

4. Hire him or her for a small design project.

This step was SO HELPFUL for me. I hired my designer to create a logo for my self-publishing company.

Publishing Design Winner Jackie Phillips

You could hire your potential artist for a logo, a social media banner, or even a print for your kids’ room. Think of this project as a mini appetizer for how you’ll work together in the future.

How did she deliver on the first draft, based on your design direction? Were there ways you could’ve improved your design direction? How did the art evolve along with your feedback? How well did you work together throughout the collaboration process? What would you change? How do you feel about the final product?

All of this is instrumental in knowing what’s in store for your future teamwork and the outcome of the book work.

Alright, enough with the nitty gritty…

After all of the work outlined above, I’m 100% confident in my design choice and ready to introduce her to all of you!

It is with downright giddiness that I can FINALLY announce the illustrator for my first book, Denim Jungle!

Artist Illustrator Denim JungleJACKIE PHILLIPS

The rainbow revolutionist behind Precious Beast, Jackie’s color-forward designs have been featured in Vogue, LOOK, and Emma Magazine. Through partnerships with GREAT.LY marketplace, DiaNoche Designs, and Serendipity Gallery, among others, Jackie’s work reaches an average of six-million people every week!

Included below are a few of my favorite Precious Beast pieces, but if you like what you see, you should check out her site—or better yet, pick up something on her Etsy shop.

Seriously, her colors can’t help but make you happy. And who doesn’t need more happy?

Jackie Phillips Illustrator Art Artist Color Denim Jungle

Jackie Fun Facts:

  • Before pursuing art, Jackie worked 10+ years in Hollywood for the president of The FOX Network and Hugh Laurie (aka House M.D.), among others.
  • She and I both attended Northwestern at the same time, but never met.
  • Her seven-year rabbit pet, Jasper, is the inspiration behind her art company, Precious Beast.
  • She does most of her art and design work while watching Investigation Discovery.
  • Her favorite children’s book is If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, but she also admits to reading every book of the Sweet Valley High Series.
  • She’s a goat cheese and classic rock aficionado.
  • Jackie is a self-taught artist who took the great leap toward following her bliss just four short years ago… right at the moment I was first conceptualizing Denim Jungle. Jeez, I’m humbled by how much she’s accomplished in that time!

I couldn’t ask for a better partner to kick off my first book. She truly understands my passion behind Denim Jungle and motivates me to chase my dream above and beyond. With someone like that in your corner, the possibilities are as vibrant as her work.

Cheers, Jackie! Here’s to a great adventure together!

Interested in setting up your self-publishing empire? These posts should come in handy:

Self Publishing Logistics
Self Publishing and Branding
Building a Beta Reader Dream Team

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