Q&A with Lilla – Children’s Picture Books

question of the dayWALL

Our ‘Q&A with Lilla’ series is back! This is where we share questions from the previous class of Make Art That Sells. You can see what a wide variety of topics are covered – and you might even find the answer to that burning question you have been wanting to ask! These questions were asked during the Children’s Picture Book Market week in class.

Q: How subversive and/or dark can you be and still get work with larger clients?

A: This takes time to learn. Are there companies that are doing work you like? Send your work to them. Find products that you like and see who is making them. You can adapt a piece like that to feature items that are less subversive, too. The question is, are you willing to adapt to make money? Can you adapt and still love your work, not sell out? We live in a society that requires some degree of compromise in every field. But remember, you can make pieces for yourself, too. I do see a demand for your style. You will just need to look for those clients.


Q) I am a writer and have written a story that I plan to illustrate.  How willing are publishers to look at books written and illustrated by the same person, and how developed should the product be (i.e. Fully illustrated? Just a few pages? Digital or hard copy?) before submitting?

A: Most artists have not studied writing and therefore are not as strong in their writing as they are in their art. That being said, go for it if you are a writer! It’s always great to take risks as long as you have many eggs in many baskets. One way is to first get work for your art, and over time, you can pitch your idea to your editor/art director. It’s going to be easier to get work for your art since that is what you have much more experience with, unless of course you are a professional or experienced writer, in which case, go for it!


Q: I have an idea for a children’s book but I do not consider myself a writer. Is it possible to pitch an idea to a publisher in hopes that they would connect you with a writer? Or are you better off looking for a writer first?

A: Don’t look for a writer first. The art director’s job is to take manuscripts from authors that they have signed, and then match them with an illustrator.


Q: What level of creative control does an illustrator get for a children’s book? Do you think it will expand one’s marketability by having anthropomorphized animals her/his portfolio? This class is epic. Thank you.

A: Thanks! Creative control is something you earn over time. It is not given day one, for your very first book. Do you like doing anthropomorphized animals? Then do them.


Q: I was told that Terms & Conditions and rates of a normal children’s board book is different from an educational book. What is the difference between the two?

A: Educational books tend to pay less per illustration, and be work for hire. That means they own all rights. We used to try to negotiate this to no avail. Then we realized it’s fine. They just don’t want the art from the second grade reader showing up on some sketchy site!


Q) My question is regarding eyes when it comes to children books. Do bigger eyes sell better? I like both big eyes and little dot eyes.

A) Not necessarily. But dots for eyes typically don’t reflect emotion as well as more developed eyes.


Q) Would hand lettering the cover or any part of a book make it less likely to get translated into other languages?

Lilla: That’s a good point. I know for my book I couldn’t hand-letter the title for that reason. But I’ve seen SO many children’s books that are hand-lettered and so many of our artists that we represent are asked to hand-letter their covers.


Q) If we write and illustrate our own book which then gets published, can we still license icons from it afterwards (in fabric & other paper media)? 

Lilla: Usually you can negotiate that, no problem.


Q) I am working on an alphabet book. there still a call for it? How would one pitch an alphabet idea? Are there drawbacks if it is centered around learning concepts rather than a story?

A) Alphabets are always strong. They are also in demand in Wall Art for the children’s market. We’ve licensed flash cards ABC’s, too  An alphabet is a great way to strut your stuff and show how you approach this common theme in your own way.


Q) How do you get work illustrating for children’s magazines?  I have had a hard time finding submission guidelines for this area.

A) The Artists’ and Graphic Designers’ Market is a fantastic resource.  You can download the kindle edition if you are eager to have it, and it saves you a few dollars that way.  We will also be covering all about magazines in MATS Part B, (Editorial Market week).


Q) If I am submitting work to potential clients for children’s books, what is best to show them?

Lilla: Art directors have often told me that they suggest the artist illustrate a folk or fairy tale for their portfolio. Both finished double page spreads and sketchbook ideas can be good to show. Again, do what you’re passionate about and that will come out in the work. It’s very rare to visit an actual client with your portfolio, but if you can get an appointment, there’s nothing like the one-to-one. In that case, you’d bring a physical portfolio.


Q: What we should look for when selecting an illustration agent to represent us?

A: My book goes into great detail on agents, so you can look there. We also share a PDF on how to get an agent in Week 4 of MATS Part A.

This is a huge question, but a few top tips would be:

-Do you like their site?

-Does it look like they are getting lots of work?

-Are they representing artists similar to your style?

-Are they professional and have solid plans for how they get their artists work?



Got your own questions for Lilla? Join us for the next round of Make Art That Sells. Class begins on Monday October 20.

Book your spot here!

1 Comment

  • I love reading books to my little nieces and nephews. I do voice-overs and sound effects for them. They love it. They really enjoy story time. but I think I enjoy it more!

    March 3, 2015

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