The Perfect Picture Book Partnership

KidLitVic 2018 panel on children’s picture book partnerships discussed author and illustrators as being 50/50 creators of the picture book process. Without words there’d be no book. Without illustrations there’d be no book. Illustrations have the potential to sell the book beyond words. Words have the potential to inspire the illustrator beyond belief.

‘It’s like a baton relay.’ Author’s words are passed onto the illustrator who then brings a level of richness to the text… – Anouska Jones EK.

11:30 – 12:30 Panel — The Perfect Picture Book Partnership

Anouska Jones (EK Books), Miriam Rosenbloom (Scribble), Sarah Mumme (Lake Press)

Vision for Book

  • Communication is key. Author has a vision for book. Publisher will have a vision too. Their aim is to pair the best illustrator for the book. They have numerous illustrators who will bring a measure of uniqueness to the book.
  • When working with publishers, do not be shy to communicate. Do it early-on to avoid miscommunication. Any concerns discuss them.
  • Enjoy the picture book partnership process. It takes time from contract to illustrations to publication. Approximate timeline is from 2-3 years. Some illustrators are booked three years ahead. Patience is understanding the process.
  • Pinterest board can be helpful for publisher to look at author’s vision early on to know their thoughts — characters, tone, setting etc.,
  • They will listen but they have other considerations to consider — viability of project, success of project etc., Know everyone involved love your book. They have a commercial responsibility, copious departments involved eg., accountable to sales, marketing and publicity etc.,. They have a team of people who are professionals in the publishing industry who will consider longevity of book.


  • Hold your illustration ideas loosely. The publisher usually engages the illustrator. A less known author could be paired with a high profile illustrator or vice versa. This is to give your book the best chance possible in the crowded marketplace. Well-known authors have established long-term, good working relationships with illustrators.

  • No need to add illustrations or illustration notes (unless critical). The paired Illustrator needs the space to create their own visual interpretation of the story.

  • The co-creators’ 50/50 process is where author creates the text story and illustrator creates the visual story.

  • Illustrations are imperative for early picture-book non-readers because their focus is on pictures – not words.

  • Illustrator creates initial roughs for publisher and author to view and feedback. When authors see illustrations they are usually exquisitely impressed. Publishers are familiar with numerous illustrators’ works from portfolios, at conferences, instagram, who their authors and illustrators follow, plus illustration challenges etc.,

Themed Books

  • If you’re considering a special picture book theme book eg., Christmas, Mother’s Day, anniversary of events – 100 year celebration, turtle day – work 2-3+ years out.
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Left: Michael Wagner – interviewer, Anouska Jones, Miriam Rosenbloom, Sarah Mumme.

Some Illustrator Portfolio Displays

Nicky Johnston
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Katrin Dreiling


Heidi Cooper Smith


Christina Booth


Kym Langfield


4 thoughts on “The Perfect Picture Book Partnership

  1. Thank you for this summary. Each publisher is different. As author, I received no roughs to discuss and the art for my last book was completed before I saw it. Not a problem! An art director from Charlesbridge US said at a SCBWI Conference that she chooses the illustrator knowing that they will create what no one else could possibly imagine from the words – readers like surprises. It’s the way that most of the best books are created. Yes, each member of the publishing team will have input and and try to make it the best and most profitable book possible. They are expert professionals, with track records and enthusiasm for the book. Everyone in the team will consequently think of it as ‘my book’.

    Editors should know illustrators’ tastes. Some of the best – I can think of an artist who is everyone’s dream illustrator for their book – will not work on a text that has even a single illustration suggestion in place and the editor will delete them all before sending the story to the person to consider. Other illustrators delete them all as soon as the text arrives, without reading them …no matter how famous the author is.

    Liked by 1 person

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