On March 25, 2017, I attended the Oregon workshop Wearing Two Hats, with visiting speakers Laurent Linn, art director at Simon & Schuster and author/illustrator of Draw the Line, and Jaime Temarik, author/illustrator of Alice & Lucy Will Work For Bunk Beds. Linn and Temarik both gave fabulous presentations, and there was a First Glance section where attendees could submit 5 pages from their portfolios, or the first 5 pages of their book dummy. Linn and Temarik then critiqued them in front of everybody. I submitted book dummy samples for a story I wrote titled Henry's Smile. The critique helped me see where my dummy still needs work.
Here are some other things I learned:
- Needs to be clear and as finished as possible
- Must be fully detailed sketches; clean, easy to read
- Include 3 final pieces that show the color palette for the whole book
- Show 3 different moments: quiet, action, close up or far, character consistency
- Let the editor and art director feel ownership of your work
- Book covers come last and are planned by many different departments in a publishing house
- Must be eye-catching
- Illustrate the copyright and dedication pages - establishing piece
- Label your pages
- Richness/texture is favorable in artwork
- Send best color corrected versions
- DO say in your cover letter that you are open to revising
- Include visual hints at the beginning for things to come
- Show variation in scale and perspective
- Light source should be consistent/clear
- A limited color palette is good
- If there are multiple scenes on a page, be clear so kids aren't confused by seeing the same character more than once
- Show ascending drama
- Avoid old stuff like newspapers and telephones with cords unless it's a historical story
- Make sure your character is unique, memorable and GREAT
- Make sure there is a strong child-connection to your story
- Do not duplicate content in illustrations and text
- What does your character really want? Show stages of growth
- Make sure the writing and illustrations are equally strong
- Use visual writing (zoomed versus ran)
- Consider moments in an illustration (before, during, after)
- Warm colors draw the eyes; place the focus there
- Show a variety of scenic elements
- Draw us in
- Have at least 12 solid pieces
- Note that 6-7 years of age is the top age for picture books.
- Consider doing graphic novels or middle grade books; kids will often advance prematurely to YA books.
- Artists usually have other expressive outlets (fine art, music, etc.) - feed this, too.
- Break down your goals into baby steps
- Track your progress on a regular basis; learn your work habits and pitfalls and adjust your work practice accordingly
- Do 1% of your goal each day and carry it on an index card as a reminder.
- Volunteer for SCBWI, connect with other artists, join a critique group
- A day job will enable you to worry less about money, but invest as much of your available time as you can on your goals