School visits for Illustrators and Authors
School Visits. Authors do them; illustrators do them, should you? I would say, most definitely yes! Not only are they a wonderful way to let your audience know about you, your craft and your books, they are a great opportunity to learn about your audience and they are a great way to supplement your income. However, my favorite reason for doing school visits is to see how excited the kids and teachers get when you shown them your books and tell them about what you do. I come away from a school visit excited and inspired about what I do and eager to get back to work. That to me is worth more than anything.
So what is involved with school visits? Well, I won’t sugar coat it, they are a lot of work and take quite a lot of preparation. How do you book a visit? What do you include in your presentation? How much should you charge? How do you tie into the school curriculum? There are countless questions that come to mind, especially if you have never prepared and presented a school visit before.
Instead of writing up a huge long blog entry, I thought it best to provide some web resources from what I would call school visit experts. There is a lot of information on the web but I have found the following to be the upmost best on the subject. If you stumble across additional resource please send me the links as I am working on updating my website, where I am adding a section on school visit resources.
A couple of months ago, my AZ Chapter of the SCBWI offered a workshop with Alexis O’Neill on “Creating School Visits That Wow”. It was a very helpful presentation and offered some great resources. Alexis O’Neill a successful author, Regional Advisor for the SCBWI and the founder of both The Children’s Authors Network and School Visit Experts.com. You can read more about this incredible lady at: http://www.childrensauthorsnetwork.com/author/AO.htm This workshop sent me on a path to find out more about school visits seeing that I am not doing them much more frequently. Following are some incredible resources to get you started. Here we go:
School Visit Experts.com (http://schoolvisitexperts.com/)
This site is a great place if you have specific questions about school visits. The resource page http://schoolvisitexperts.com/?page_id=6 ) has a long list of articles ranging from Nine Business Basics for School Visits, (http://www.schoolvisitexperts.com/resources/TEXT-01%20Nine%20Business%20Basics.pdf), Promoting Your Availability, http://www.schoolvisitexperts.com/resources/TEXT-14%20Promoting%20Your%20Availability.pdf , Shaping Your Presentation, http://www.schoolvisitexperts.com/resources/TEXT-02%20Shaping%20Your%20Presentation.pdf and The Reluctant Presenter http://www.schoolvisitexperts.com/resources/TEXT-09%20The%20Reluctant%20Presenter.pdf , just to name a few.
Children’s Authors Network (http://www.childrensauthorsnetwork.com/ )
CAN! was formed to provide meaningful programs promoting literacy and the creative process. This site is incredible when it comes to understanding what is involved with school visits. Check out these to get just a little taste of what you can find on this site:
Author Visit’s Guide: http://www.childrensauthorsnetwork.com/hostinganauthor.html
Verla Kay: http://verlakay.blogspot.com
The award winning author Verla Kay, http://verlakay.com/ offers a wealth of information when it comes to writing in general and her website, which even has a message board, has twice been named one of the 101 Best Websites for Writers by Writer’s Digest. On her Blog, http://verlakay.blogspot.com , She wrote an entire series of articles about school visits that are all a must read. There is a search feature on her blog. Just type in school visits and you’ll get a list of articles about the topic.
Elizabeth Dulemba, http://dulemba.com
If you are not familiar with “E” you have to check out both her website and blog, http://dulemba.blogspot.com/ . I would say that she is the one to follow when it comes to self-promotion and thinking outside the box. Check out her page on school visits, http://dulemba.com/index_visits.html , for great pointers and even a way on how to help your school get funding for the visits. “E” even presents her visits via Skype. She has a wonderful Media section, http://dulemba.com/index_media.html , featuring posters, brochures, and other things that are great for school visits. Her links page, http://dulemba.com/index_links.html , features some great articles that she has written.
Ok, so this did end up being a little longer than I had planned. I hope this helps a little.
Traditional Publishing versus Self-PublishingBy Tanja Bauerle – written for “The Journey”- SCBWI-AZ Newszine
I wrote a story. Now what?
The first question that comes to mind when I hear that an author is looking for an illustrator is: What are your publishing plans for your manuscript? There are two basic routes that you can look at. Those are the traditional publishing avenues or self-publishing. You are probably thinking what all that means. I’ll give you a quick overview into both fields, but there is so much more info out there that I will also give you some resource links that you might be interested in looking into.
There are literally hundreds if not thousands of publishers in the U.S. and the rest of the world. Their job is to acquire manuscripts, edit and publish them and then market and sell the end product. This is the preferred way to publish a manuscript. As an author you are not required to submit illustrations with the manuscript. In fact, publishers generally prefer to read the manuscript on its own without any illustrations at all. The manuscript must be strong enough by itself without the distractions of pictures. Also, the publisher wants to make their own decisions regarding the illustrator that will eventually illustrate the book. Personal preference, marketing, and art direction are only a few of the factors that play into the selection process of an illustrator.
Be prepared when going this route that you most likely have little or no say what will happen with the book visually. The publishers have a team of experts that know what needs to be done in order to bring the story to life. The author’s idea of what the book should look like is secondary.
The main thing to consider is that traditional publishing really is the best solution to get your book to the world. There are many quality checks in place from the editor to the art director that you do not have when self-publishing. Your end product will be the most professional and polished book you can attain, plus you have a huge marketing and distribution engine that will get the book out there.
From a cost perspective to the author, traditional publishing should not cost anything. If your manuscript is good enough to get a contract with a publishing house, you can expect an advance against future royalties to start. Once enough books have been sold to cover the advance, then royalties will follow. Of course this is only a simplistic overview. There is so much more to all of this from contracts to editing to marketing, but I could write for days to cover the basics.
In a nutshell this means that the author publishes the book completely independently of publishing houses. In a nutshell, this means a huge financial investment and well as time commitment by the author. Here is a list of some of the benefits of self-publishing followed by a list of definite draw backs.
Pros to self-publishing:
- CONTROL: Authors have complete control of what is published. Everything from the visuals, the manuscript, the marketing and distribution is purely dependant on the author.
- THE ABILITY TO GET PUBLISHED: Anyone can get a book published. One does not need to send the manuscript to hundreds of publishers in hopes of one day getting that elusive acceptance letter.
Cons to self-publishing:
- CONTROL: Authors have complete control of what is published. Unfortunately, that is not always a good thing. Authors are often very attached to their written word and as a result might not be willing to make needed edits. They may not want to “butcher” their baby, which often can lead to sub-standard work.
- COST: The cost of getting the book to market falls entirely onto the shoulders of the author. Publishing a book is very expensive and the printing of the actual book is only a drop in the bucket. Paying for an illustrator to create the illustrations can range from $8,000-$12,000 plus most established illustrators will also expect a royalty. Once you have the illustrations you will need to pay a designer to layout the book and make sure that it is in a format that a printer can handle. These are only a few of the costs that will be incurred, so you can easily see how quickly this becomes a very expensive endeavor.
- LOW QUALITY: Oftentimes, due to the costs involved, hiring a professional illustrator might be out of the question. Most professional illustrators may also shy away from self-publishing scenarios leaving the author to having to settle with an inexperienced artist that may produce sub-standard work. Furthermore, the low quality can also pertain to badly designed books, and inferior printing runs which cost less than high end printing. As a result, there is a danger that self-publishing can produce inferior books.
- DISTRIBUTION: Getting your book to market is a huge job. The key is to have a distributor handle distribution of your book. Unfortunately, many distributors and retail establishments choose not to carry self-published books due to the assumption that these are sub-standard. Without a good distribution network your audience will not be able to access your book which means you will have reduced sales.
- MARKETING: This is a huge element that is often overlooked by self-publishers. If people don’t know about your book they won’t be able to buy it. Reviews, endorsements, awards, book signings, school and library visits, are just a few of the things that the author will be responsible for to let the world know about their book. This is extremely time-consuming and over-whelming to only one person.
It might appear that based on the above that I am not a supporter of self-publishing. That is not the case. I just want to point out that there are very many things to consider when looking at the route of self-publishing. The reason that there are many inferior self-published books out there is that people don’t realize all that is involved with this avenue. The quality still needs to be there, even if it is a self-published piece.
A huge resource and a must have for anyone wanting to learn more about Children’s Publishing is a book that comes out every year that lists all the publishers and their requirements and contact info. It’s called: “Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market”. There is also a really good section in the book that talks about the process of submitting manuscripts and the do’s and don’ts associated with the process.
One good recommendation would be to connect with other children’s’ writers in your area and have them critique your manuscript. It is really good to get the input from others who are not so close to your manuscript. Often you’ll come away with great input about character development, voice, plot, etc. You can look at www.scbwi-az.org for possible critique groups.
I hope that this has at least helped a little with shedding some light on the world of children’s publishing.
So You Want to be an Illustrator?
By Tanja Bauerle – written for “The Journey”- SCBWI-AZ Newszine
What is involved in becoming an illustrator, and where should you start? Making illustration a career means hard work and persistence. You have to love what you do, because it can take years to succeed. Getting your first break can be tough; the illustration field is highly competitive. It is not a good career choice for the easily discouraged.
Does this sound disheartening? Perhaps, but understanding what you’re up against will help you mentally prepare for your journey. It’s unrealistic to think that once you’ve sent one sample out, you’ll make the big time. Sure, it might happen, but it rarely does.
Here are some steps that will put you on the right track for your illustration journey:
- Go to the library or bookstore and look at what books are out there. Study award-winning books and try to learn why they are the best.
- Frequent illustration-specific discussion boards. You can learn a lot from public discussions that include successful illustrators and others who are just starting out.
- Familiarize yourself with publishers and what they are publishing. This will tell you whether your style is suitable for a particular house.
- The Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market (published yearly) is a must-have. It lists most publishers and their art directors or editors, tells you what they are looking for, and provides their submission guidelines.
- Join a critique group or a professional organization, such as SCBWI, to familiarize yourself with people in the industry. Networking helps you to meet like-minded individuals willing to help you on your journey. Also, it’s is a great way to learn about the industry as a whole and to become familiar with the publishing and illustration processes.
- Look into the various markets that are part of the field of illustration. Picture books constitute a huge market, but by no means the only one. Consider mid-grade interior illustrations, editorial work, and cover art as opportunities to explore.
Refine and improve your craft.
- Your ability to draw, paint, or create is the backbone of your career. Take field trips to the zoo, mall, etc., and draw every day in order to keep improving.
- Invest in your craft by taking classes. Life drawing, fundamental drawing, color theory, and composition are just a few of the disciplines you need to understand in order to produce quality work.
- Attend workshops, seminars, or conferences that focus on illustration. You will learn about your trade and be inspired by the other artists you meet.
Be patient and realistic.
- Realize that you will most likely start out small and work your way up to bigger projects.
- Understand that the career of a free-lance illustrator will probably entail having another job to support yourself or your family while you are building your free-lance career.
- Don’t get discouraged. You may get many rejection letters before you get a commission. This is normal. Even if an art director loves your work, he or she might not have a manuscript that suits your style at that moment. Be assured that the art director will hang on to your sample and contact you as soon as a suitable project comes to his desk.
Be business savvy.
- Working free-lance as an illustrator means that you own your own business. You are responsible for getting clients, completing and delivering the work, taking care of your own bookkeeping, and paying taxes and your own insurance, just to name a few of the responsibilities.
- Marketing yourself and your work is a major part of being an illustrator and the only way you will be able to find work continually and build your clientele. If consumers don’t know about you, they can’t hire you for a project, no matter how gifted you are as an artist. Realize that sending out samples to potential clients and meeting with art directors is as important to your career as your ability to create artwork.
These suggestions will help you begin your career with both eyes open. Illustration is truly an art form. You must be passionate about it if you plan to make it your career.
Information about Illustration and Publishing (5)
Considering that being a freelance illustrator is a one man show, there are very many tasks that need to be taken care of and addressed on a continual basis. Often people think that all an illustrator does is draw, but that is far from the case. Seeing that being a freelance illustrator is a business there are many things that one is responsible for in order to remain working. Here is a basic list of things that need to be considered in order to manage you illustration business:
- refine and develop your craft
- built and improve your portfolio
- market and promote yourself and your work
- maintain and update website
- continually contribute useful industry specific posts to blog
- participate on industry activities (Illustration Friday, The Doodle Diner, discussion groups and listserves, etc.)
- recruit new clients
- send mailings to art directors and other potential “employers”
- maintain database of contacts and marketing activity
- work on current client projects and deadlines
- conduct visual research for current projects (ie, how do the different Puerto Rican Coqui frog species look? etc.)
- work on own projects and attempt to find a publisher for them
- general book keeping such as billing, invoicing, paying taxes, etc.
- recruit school visit opportunities
- build school visit presentations that are appropriate to school curriculum & research curriculum standards
- promote books that I have already illustrated
- arrange book signings and book readings
- research the market including what publishers are producing and who current and past illustrators are.
- Daily correspondence, generating quotes and follow up emails
That is a rather difficult question to answer seeing that there is no specific range that is standard. It can be as little as $0 and as much and several $100,000’s or even more. It all depends on the artist, the artist’s circumstances; the demand of the artist’s work or style, and the list goes on. Seeing that illustration, especially children’s book illustration, is a freelance type of career, it is very common that illustrators will have a full time job as their main source of income and then take on freelance illustration jobs on the side.
Granted, there are some very successful illustrators that make a very lucrative income. Some even book out years in advance when taking on new projects due to the high demand of their work. Looking at artists like Chris Van Allsburg, who has made a very lucrative living of his illustration work, one might think that being an illustrator is a way of making a lot of money. Even though this is a possibility, one must realize that this not the norm.
Depending on who you talk to, some say you don’t need to go to school in order to be an illustrator. If you can draw you can illustrate. I disagree with that. Drawing is the foundation of this profession but there is so much more to the skill that needs to be learned before you can work professionally. Ideally, someone should go to school and focus on drawing or illustration. I went to school for graphic design and also hold a degree in Computer Animation. Design is a very valuable field to know if you are an illustrator so taking classes in it would be extremely helpful. Also, I continue my illustration education every chance I can get. I’ve attended many conferences and workshops to learn more about my craft and stay informed about any new developments in the industry.
As with anything, the more you do something the better and more efficient you get at it. With illustration, every project will help you with the next one in the sense that the more project experience you get the faster and more streamlined your work process will be the next time. Also, the more you draw the better you get. Having said that, however, each project is unique and presents a new set of challenges that need to be resolved. Experience will help in overcoming obstacles more efficiently.
Also, prior to making illustration my main profession my career was Graphic Design. I have found that my experience in this field has been a tremendous asset in the field of illustration. A successful picture book is a perfect marriage between the illustrations and the type. Each aspect is as important as the other. Having a solid grounding in design and good understanding of type, has been a huge benefit when composing my visuals and ultimately has made them more successful.
This is a question that many illustrators working now are asking themselves. The downturn in the economy has seriously impacted the publishing industry. Many, if not all, publishing houses have cut back their lists quite drastically. This means fewer books are being published. With all the illustrators working today and all the new ones graduating from schools throughout the country and world, there are more artists looking for work than there are projects available. This simply is the reality of the industry.
Does that mean that you should not try to become and illustrator? By all means no. New illustrators with a new vision and vigor are always needed. Projects are out there and books still are being published. I like to look at this gloom and doom time right now as a way of weeding out the talent. Those that are serious about illustration will always be there looking for work and they will get it. The key is to be persistent, focused and positive. Bottom line, if one is looking for a career to get rich quick, then illustration is not the career for that person.
Here is some additional information that I think might be of use to you in your research. I remembered that I had written an article about how to become an illustrator for our AZ chapter of the SCBWI a while ago. Here is the link to it on the SCBWI-AZ website: http://www.scbwi-az.org/uploads/scbwiaz_tj_07spring.pdf My article begins on page 5 and concludes on page7. This should give you a good idea to what is involved and what one’s mindset needs to be in order to begin the journey to becoming an illustrator.
Here is also a link to my resource page on my website: http://www.tanjabauerle.com/resources.html . There a quite a few links to sites and blogs that are really useful for illustrators. I try to add more as I find them so check back every so often. Here is a link to some very good books on my website, that I think you might find very useful as well http://www.tanjabauerle.com/illustbooks.html , specifically the Children’s Writer’s And Illustrator’s Market . This book comes out every year and I have not yet updated my link the 2011 edition. The book lists all publishers for the children’s illustration and writing market. There a book, magazine, game and greeting card publishers listed. This is the way illustrators connect with publishers and art directors that might hire them for projects.
Questions About Tanja (9)
Since I was a little girl I have always loved drawing. In school my favorite subject always was art. So at a very early age I knew that I wanted to have a career in the art field. I just never knew how to go about it. With my love for art and drawing I naturally was drawn to children’s books. I especially loved picture books.
I love Scuba diving even though I have not done it in many, many years. I actually met my husband on a Scuba diving trip to Mexico. I love that when you are at depth you actually feel like you are flying. Plus, I love the marine life that you are able to encounter.
One of our favorite family things to do is to go camping at the National Parks. We pick a park each year, take our pop-up trailer and spend a good week exploring and enjoying nature. A couple of our favorites have been Sequoia National Park and Rocky Mountain National Park.
I often call myself culturally confused. :o) I was born in Dacchau, Germany, which is not far from Munich in Bavaria (you know, Heidi country). We often would go hiking in the Alps and look for wild mushrooms in the forests. It was a great place to live as a child. In the Winter I would take my sled to school. Simply splendid! All that snow was a dream come true when you are little. I loved drawing ever since I was able to hold a pencil.
I grew up speaking German. My mum is German and my dad is American whose mum is Australian. I didn’t speak English but could understand some because of my dad. At the time I always associated speaking English with being in trouble. My dad could scold better in his native tongue.
When I was eleven, my English was suddenly put to the test because we moved to Australia. What a scary time that was! Australia was a great place but when you don’t speak the language, especially in sixth grade, it can be quite challenging. Being a German child trying to learn a language that had sounds like “Th” wasn’t easy. I sounded rather strange and was often reminded of it. It builds character, right? I loved Australia. A beautiful country with amazing animals. I loved going to the beach and spending time with my horse, but most of all I still loved drawing. When you draw you speak a universal language that anyone can understand. Drawing became my security blanket.
After High School I went to Art School and LOVE it. I knew that I wanted to be an illustrator but really didn’t know how to go about it. I ended up focusing on Graphic Design.
When I was twenty I moved to America, Arizona to be precise. Luckily, I didn’t have the language barrier this time around. Well, I almost didn’t. I spoke Australian English with a German accent. Bottom line: I still sounded strange. I still loved to draw.
I think I am most proud of approaching each project with enthusiasm and vigor and being very positive when faced with challenges. Being a freelance illustrator requires intense passion, dedication and drive. There is no one standing over your shoulders pushing you to work and stick to a deadline. No one scolds you when you are not actively recruiting new projects. If you don’t have the work ethic and tenacity in order to perform without supervision then this is not a career for you.
Everything and everywhere. Sounds crazy but the world is full of amazing things if you just pay attention. Sometimes the way a leaf is floating in a creek, or an old farm house, or a dingy old street in a busy city. All such visuals can trigger the question: what’s the story here? Asking this is a great starting point when it comes to developing a story or character.
Looking at my own life experiences and history is also a great source of potential story and character material. When you are close to an idea, the story can just flow from you plus you can gain a greater understanding of what a character might be going through. I have also used people that I know as inspirations for picture book characters. Not necessarily from a visual stand point but more in regards to character traits. The visuals just grow organically once the character has taken shape.
Are you only interested in illustrating for children’s books or do you specialize in other types of illustration?
Even though I love illustrating children’s books, picture books in particular, I enjoy any type of project where I can utilize my art and drawing skills. Some other illustration projects that I have worked on in the past have been greeting cards, illustrations for psychology journals, character design, and theatre sets to name a few. Essentially, I will take on any illustration project that is suited for my skill set and that I have a connection with.
I love food but have a major weakness for desserts, especially peach cobbler with icecream.
Every Animal. My family and I are really big animal lovers. We have cats, dogs and chickens, a tortoise, a horse as well as two alpacas. I am passionate about animals and have a very soft heart when it comes to animals in need.
Reading, painting and drawing
Favorite ice cream flavor:
Chocolate Mint or hazelnut or banana
Favorite music artist:
Sting, Peter Gabriel, Kate Bush
Kate Bush, Running up that Hill
Favorite television show:
Game of Thrones
I am and probably always will be a painter at heart. I love the way the paint moves under the brush across my canvas. I love watercolor and acrylic as well. However, my favorite lately has been acrylic gouache. I love the matte finish and find that it is a great compromise between acrylic and water color. Your finish can range from very translucent water color to heavier opaque effects.
When I am on a book project the first this I do is read the manuscript. I want to get a feel for the story and so usually read it several times. Then I begin trying to figure out where the pages should break in the story. The thing to keep in mind is that every page and spread in a book needs to have a purpose. You want to lead the reader to the next page and you also want to have a good balance between text and imagery.
Once I am comfortable with how the pages will fall, I then start to write down and loosely sketch what each illustration needs to contain. Knowing what needs to be incorporated and represented into the illustrations will help compose the book and images.
At this point I will make a loose layout story board that helps structure the individual illustrations and make sure that the book is dynamic and logically structured. Composition is a huge part of a successful picture book and I could write a book just on that topic alone. One of the things to take into account is that the book needs to work as a whole and well as each illustration contained within.
Now, I start to sketch and thumbnail the illustrations making sure that I am always aware of the text placement. It is easy to get caught up in the development of an illustration that the text can become an afterthought. The best picture books make a successful marriage between the visuals and text. This is achieved by always thinking about the text while working on the illustration itself. Once the thumbnails are complete they get reviewed by the publisher.
The rough sketches get massaged into more finished drawings incorporating any requested changes. Once this is complete all the black and white sketches get are compiled onto a working “Dummy” or mock-up of what the final book will look like. Further revisions and changes take place until the publisher gives the OK to start the final artwork.
I love working with a textured ground so my paint surface take quite some time to prepare. I gesso my 140 pound Arches cold-pressed watercolor paper and let it dry. Then I apply my ground which actually needs to dry for quite some time. The longer I let it cure the nicer the texture. Once it has dried to my liking I transfer the sketch and begin painting.
I paint in layers so it takes quite some time before the images take shape. Each painting goes through the “ugly stage” for quite some time before is really develops into what the final illustration will look like.
That’s it in a nutshell. T.