Advice for Working with an Illustrator

Early illustrations of the main characters for Two Wins for Wiley

Working with an illustrator is not as difficult as you might think. As a self-published author I have learned a few things about working with an illustrator. I would like to offer you some advice for working with an illustrator.


Think of your book as a collaboration. You have written the words and the illustrator will bring those words to life. A talented illustrator knows their craft.  Let them impress you with their expertise and creativity. The more you let your illustrator create the more they will be invested in your book’s success.

Be clear about what you want

If you have a specific vision for your book in mind, be sure to let your illustrator know. I generally provide some guidance, but the illustrator knows their job and I prefer to see their interpretation of my words. I provide: 

  • Character descriptions 
  • Cover design ideas
  • Photos or images for reference

Try to be realistic

Be realistic with your expectations as to when you should have heard back by from your illustrator. It may take them a day or so to get back to you. You may not be their only client. A gentle yet respectful nudge or reminder will usually get a response. 

Be open

Each illustrator works a little differently. For example, some illustrators love to create all sketches first before diving into the coloring process, while others prefer to break up the sketching and storyboard creation by sketching and coloring one illustration at a time. Try to be open to their process. 

Stand up for yourself and your book

While you want to incorporate your illustrator’s, suggestions don’t be afraid to speak up.  You can ask for changes if you feel like their vision does meet yours.  It is, after all, your children’s book.  

Self-Publishing is not an easy endeavor. It takes financial resources, a well-developed marketing plan, courage, and a risk-taking spirit. One thing I can say is I love the illustrations in my books and working with the illustrators was a pleasure. Want to learn more about my first illustrator – Daniela Massironi? Check out her interview.

Here is the link to another perspective on working with an illustrator from the Society of Children’s Book Authors and Illustrators. Have you worked with an illustrator? Have any advice for working with an illustrator? Please share below.

Requests …

I am so glad you’re here and so grateful that I can share my writing journey with you. I believe that you too have a story to tell and the world is waiting to read your story. 

I’m looking forward to helping you as a children’s book writer in any way that I can. Speaking of helping — please leave a comment below and let me know what questions you have about picture book writing. This will help me to tailor my posts to your needs. 

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Have a great week.

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