I get asked a lot of questions, so here are some answers.
I want to make picture books. Where do I start?
Do you want to write or illustrate? Doing both can be tricky and I heard someone call it the “Holy Grail” once. I started out as an illustrator first and then was lucky to be given the chance to write. You don’t have to do both. It is crucial that you know that.
Most publishers will not have time or the energy to trawl through submissions. It is tricky for them and much easier to have agencies come to them with vetted illustrators and writers. I will tell you how to get representation in my next point.
Buy this book
This gives you an up to date list of all publishers and agencies and is renewed annually. There is a lot of information in it on competitions, how to get published and case studies written by successful authors and illustrators. This is what I used to get my first break.
If you want to illustrate then get a portfolio together. Gather 20-25 pictures of your best work (work that YOU are proud of) and don’t be afraid to get in touch with illustration agents and request a meet up. This is their JOB! They are there purely to find talent like yours. Do not be afraid of them. If it doesn’t work out with one then ask them how you can improve. Listen to their advice. They know what publishers are looking for. Most agents have rules for how to submit work. Follow those rules.
If you want to write then write more and more. Gather a selection of stories. Don’t just write one book and say “I’m DONE! Fame and fortune here I come!” Keep writing. There is always room for improvement and a new idea. Your brain is a bottomless well of stories. Allow those stories to come out.
Look at all the books. Go to all the galleries. Enjoy all the things. Engage in the world. There is NOTHING that won’t filter its way into how you work and what you produce. It is up to you to be informed. When you look at children’s books think about what it is you like or dislike. This will help form your aesthetic.
And from a technical side, look at how they are written. Understand who they are for.
-Keep at it. Keep drawing and writing. You will only improve. Feel confident. You are probably better than you think. Allow yourself to make mistakes and play with words and pictures.
Should I self-publish?
Honestly, I have no idea. It's worked for some people. The concern I would have with it is that you don't have the guiding hand of a publisher and all their expertise and financial backing. You may end up trying to flog something that can't be flogged. There is certainly a place for publishers. Working on a picture book is a team effort.
Do you illustrate for writers?
I do illustrate for writers, but only if the right text comes through. Usually my publisher will send my agent a text for me to consider, then she will pass it onto me. We then have to decide if it's a good match and then if there is time in my schedule.