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Debbie Ridpath Ohi reads, writes and illustrates for young people. Every few weeks, she shares new art, writing and resources; subscribe below. Browse the archives here.

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Debbie Ridpath Ohi FAQ > Getting Into The Business > I've written a picture book and am looking for an illustrator. Any advice?

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This is a list of questions I am frequently asked. Here's a list of links to my more popular pages. Thanks for visiting! -- Debbie


Q. I've written a picture book and am looking for an illustrator. Any advice?


Unless you plan to self-publish your picture book (in which case you should skip down to the bottom of this page), I strongly advise you NOT to look for an illustrator for several reasons:

- In most cases, publishers prefer finding the illustrator themselves. You don't need illustrations to submit a picture book manuscript.

- Professional illustrators are expensive. It's much better to get a publisher to acquire your manuscript first and let them find/pay the illustrator.

- Publishers have in-house people who have experience in finding the right illustrator for a particular manuscript. In each case where a publisher has hired me to illustrate a picture book, the manuscript has already been written and acquired. 

- If you submit art with your story, you are likely lowering the chances that your story will be accepted by a publisher. Suppose an editor loves your story but doesn't like the art for some reason, for example. Some editors may ask if your story is available separately from the art but some will just reject the whole package rather than go through the hassle of finding out. 

- You may be marking yourself as an amateur by submitting your manuscript with illustrations. Also, if the art isn't professional-looking or the artist doesn't have experience illustrating a picture book (it's much more than just drawing what's in the text), then it will weaken the overall book. 

- Editors are used to reading picture book manuscripts without accompanying illustrations. In fact, most prefer reading the bare text without the art. Try to avoid using art notes (instructions or suggestions for the illustrator) unless absolutely necessary, such as when the story relies on visual irony. Harold Underdown has great advice re: art notes in his Picture Book Manuscripts and Illustrations post.


Again, the advice above applies only to writers who want to get their picture book manuscripts published by a traditional publishing house. There are always exceptions, and of course there are many successful writer-illustrator teams. If you're just breaking into the business and are looking for an illustrator because you think it would help your chances of getting your story published, however, I'd advise against it.

I strongly urge you to join the SCBWI (Society Of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) and browse their Just Getting Started resource library. In Canada, also consider joining CANSCAIP.


Related resources:

How To Find An Illustrator For Your Picture Book - by Dani Jones

How To Find An Illustrator For Your Picture Book, Part 2: The Self-Publishing Edition - by Dani Jones

Picture Book Manuscripts and Illustrations - by Harold Underdown

Choosing An Illustrator (When Self-Publishing) - by Stan Jaskiel, on Harold Underdown's site. Viewpoint of an illustrator who works with writers who are self-publishing.

The Biggest Mistake In Submitting A Picture Book: You do NOT need to find an illustrator - by Darcy Pattison

Last updated on June 15, 2014 by Debbie Ohi