I get asked a lot of questions, so here are some answers.
Where can I buy your books?
I am so glad you asked! My books can be purchased at all the regular places online and IRL. If you can’t find my book in a bookshop they can most certainly order it in for you at no extra charge. I order books for collection at my local Waterstones all the time and it’s a cinch. Also, supporting book stores is essential to keep our high streets full of beauty and culture and helps the economy, publishers, authors and illustrators.
Please also support your library! You can find my books there, and if you can’t find them on the day you can reserve them and they will order them in and let you know when they arrive. And it’s free! Amazing!
What age groups are your books for?
Mainly the 0-5 year olds. If you look online for my books there are always guidelines as to whom the books are suitable for. Personally I enjoy picture books too, and I am a long way from being 5 years old!
What materials do you use?
I use a variety of things depending on what kind of work I am doing. On my current project I am using:
Gouache paint, water-soluble pencils, pencils, pastels, my son’s chunky Stabilo pencils, Conté, charcoal, collage, tin foil and Bockingford watercolour paper, Photoshop and whatever else I can get my hands on.
Other times I use the following things:
Watercolours (both wet and dry), acrylic paints, thick water colour paper (rough or not depending on what I am trying to achieve), coloured paper, newsprint paper, rough sketching paper, pen brushes, fountain pens, colour pencils, pencils, oil pastels, Gouache paints, ink, and Photoshop.
How do you make your illustrations?
I will always plan my images first. Usually with a pen (Pilot G-Tec C4 Black) in a Moleskine cahier notebook (soft cover). Then, once that is signed off, I will paint all the elements freehand according to my sketches. I will probably paint most of it separately, so that when I collage it all together in Photoshop I have greater control of how it looks.
This doesn’t make sense, why do you create so much work for yourself?
Probably because I don’t know any other way to do it. I tried other ways, but I never get the outcome I want.
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 a 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.
Will you illustrate for my story?
As outlined above, all submissions should go through my agent, whose details can be found on my contacts page. And then it depends if it is the right fit. I am not in a position to guarantee or bring anyone’s work to a publisher personally. The publishers decide who they want to publish. I don’t get to choose writers for them. I would suggest in this case to read the answers above this one on how to get into writing for children.
Is there anything I can do for you?
What a lovely thing to ask. Thank you. I would very much appreciate it if you and the children in your life would be so kind as to enjoy reading my books. Please read them in funny voices and talk about what bits you like the best. And if you like something I have written or drawn, please tell your friends and your favourite booksellers.
And if you see me around, please do say hi. xxx