This is a portion of one of the cover options for my children’s book that’s coming out next April. Things are still getting tweaked and finalized so I’ll wait a while to reveal more of the actual book — it’s funny, it takes such a long time for a book to get published, many of the aspects start to get hazy for me. The final cover ended up looking very different from what you see above, but this was my favorite concept I presented. Although I was gung ho about this design, I do love how the final version turned out.
At this point, I’ve submitted pretty much all of my illustrations and today, I thought I would share the process I went through from the beginning to now. Mostly it’s because I’m already forgetting details (I had to refer back to a lot of documents and correspondences for this post) and it would be a helpful reference for me. I should point out that my experience may not be typical; I don’t have an agent and I worked on both the story and illustrations, something that is not de rigueur in the children’s book publishing world from what I understand. I assume the structure and sequence of events are a little different with every book, and the one I’m working on now is proving to be a completely different process.
The progression from a seedling idea to completed manuscript/art was incredibly enjoyable throughout. My editor is so sweet, and I particularly appreciated that she sent me a little care package filled with teas and chocolates for extra fortification during one of the deadline periods. I love small gestures of considerateness like that.
It’s rather text heavy today – I tried to create illustrations on the train back to Seattle, but the swaying resulted in motion sickness so I had to stop. So here’s how it’s been shaking out for me, for the children’s book:
Step 1: August + September 2013 // Brainstorm of ideas
I mentioned my serendipitous encounter with my editor before, and after a brief initial meeting with her, I took some time and came up with about fifteen book concepts with a short description for each idea. It turned out that my top choice was also her top choice, so that part was easy.
Step 2: October + November 2013 // The Storyboard + Proposal
Since this would be my first book, my editor encouraged me to create a storyboard to give the publisher a better sense of the storyline/flow of images. I was provided the layout and number of pages for the storyboard, so it was essentially drawing and writing out the entire book in miniature form. Once I completed the storyboard along with color illustration examples, my editor took it to her team to pitch the book.
Step 3: December 2013 // The Book Deal
Fortuitously, the book proposal was quickly accepted and I then negotiated terms, which included the advance payment amount, royalty percentages, the deadlines (how long it would take me to complete the book and milestone dates), and design elements such as size of book, whether I wanted a dust jacket, type of paper, etc. I agreed to complete the book in six months and it was just the right amount of time. This is the part that an agent would usually handle.
The contract was drafted and sent to me. Once a contract is signed though, it takes a while for the check to be issued. It was about a month after signing the contract that I received the first half of the advance. The second half is issued upon completion of the book.
Step 4: February + March 2014 // Cover Art Sketches + Detailed Sketches + Manuscript
I designed six different cover options for review. These went through a round of revisions, and I believe I ended up creating about 10 cover versions total. Since the cover gets included in catalogs for book buyers, it needs to be dealt with upfront. It isn’t set in stone at this stage, and ultimately we changed the cover a lot.
I also needed to provide detailed sketches of the rest of the book in full size for approval. The first couple of months are usually spent on developing the storyboard and the detailed sketches, but since I’d already done the storyboard — which was approved with little changes — this step was pretty effortless. I leisurely worked on the sketches over a two-week period. I also finalized the text with my editor, though we continued to fiddle with it for months.
Step 5: May + June 2014 // Final Art
Based on the detailed sketches that were approved, it was now time for me to work on the final art. I had created all my sketches digitally, but I hand-painted the final illustrations. I LOVED this part. It was so gratifying to watch the images come to life from the greyscale sketches. This portion took me about three weeks. Because my book is quite small, the illustration phase was pretty quick. Had the book been larger in dimension, I would have needed to spend more time on the art.
Step 6: July + August 2014 // Revisions/Updates/Miscellaneous illustrations
This is the phase I’m currently in. Everything has been submitted except for the back cover art, but I’m waiting on specifications for that. I’ve received the final cover mock-up from the design department (with my name in the lower right corner!! So exciting!) and am waiting for the rest of the book with text formatted from the design department so I can go over it with a fine tooth comb. I’ve also painted illustrations for endpapers (the section that is glued to the inner part of the cover), title page, and dedication segment.
Step 7: September 2014 // Book Goes to Print!
Step 8: April 2015 // Available for Sale
I’m a little fuzzy on what happens between printing the book and making it available for sale, but these are the dates in the calendar for now.
Wow. 19 months from idea to public release. For someone used to hitting a button for instant publishing, it sounds inconceivably long. But almost there!! Sort of. Thrilling nonetheless.
I’m in the throes of book #2, and although I’ve done my level best to keep up with everything going on and sort of managing, I’ve had to sit myself down and (yet again) give myself a stern talking to about my tendency to go overboard. Did you know that I was trying to launch an etsy shop too? I thought it would be cute to open it on K’s birthday, July 30th. Yep, that’s tomorrow. Let’s all laugh together about that one. I’m starting to feel familiar symptoms of my illness again, and it’s entirely my fault. In order to remain on schedule for the book and to keep excessive stress at bay, I’m so bummed but I’m going to have to take some time off from this here blog that I love to work on so much. My attention feels too divided and I need all the focus I can get…I’m letting go of a lot of stuff. For example, we’ll be celebrating K’s 8th birthday tomorrow but there may be no Macgyver dress (super sad face here) and the cupcakes will be store-bought (secretly happy face here since my handmade cupcakes aren’t always winners). I hope to be back Monday, August 11th with a fun post — maybe, just maybe, if I make some serious headway this week, I’ll be back next Monday. Either way, I’ll miss you!