Creating a book from start to finish!
Updated: Mar 4
Working with an illustrator and a designer.
I see a lot of confusion from new illustrators and authors alike about the book collaboration process so here’s a little insight into working with an experienced illustrator and designer duo, AKA me and Ryan!
Self-publishing can be daunting for the new writer, with pitfalls and challenges lurking around every corner, and sometimes the advice you receive, although given with good intentions, can also be unhelpful or misleading. With that in mind, I always tell any prospective clients that regardless of what route they take with our services Ryan and I are always happy to answer questions and give advice. If we can’t answer directly I can usually point you in the direction of someone who can. Ryan and I have worked on many books and have had the honour of working with a varied cast of self-publishing authors and indy publishing presses. Depending on what services are still needed for your book, you have the option of working with me as an illustrator alongside Ryan as the formatter and designer to bring your book to life, or you can work with Ryan as a formatter and designer separately.
Generally, with self-publishing clients, I offer a full package deal, a work-for-hire contract. This means you pay me for the work outlined and broken down in the contract and I do not request any royalties. In return, you receive everything you need ready to launch your book at the end of the project. A one-stop book conjuring stop!
I break this cost down into four milestone payments and I invoice before I commence work for each section outlined below.
I take 10% on booking as a deposit and deduct that from the first milestone payment.
I request four copies of the book when it’s printed.
Upon completion of the project, you are left with:
Final files ready to launch, including hardback, paperback and ebook;
At least two time-lapses from the illustrations being created and painted;
PNG’s where feasible of your characters taken from the spreads;
3D mock-up of your final book and cover design;
Internal illustrations without text;
And of course, all the sketches and process updates shared.
I do not provide source files of my illustrations. Some clients request a sample first, I do charge for this service. All of this is outlined in our quotes and contracts.
When we start a book together I will create a google drive file and keep all the notes, references and everything I create in this file for both of our easy references.
I begin each project by storyboarding the story. The storyboard consists of a rough thumbnail illustration of each page. I’m looking to create flow and momentum throughout the book, ensuring each page is visually engaging and leads the reader through the book to its conclusion. Each page will be unique and striking, working together as a complete piece with variety and cohesion. We are sowing the foundations of the book and creating a plan of the essential things we want to happen on each page. When I’ve finished this I share it with you the author and we can talk over anything you’re unsure about, anything you want to be included and make any amendments as needed.
Once we have the storyboard locked in and we’re happy with the book’s flow, we will develop our main characters. Some illustrators like to start with the character, though personally, I prefer to start with the storyboard to get a feel for the flow of the book, which will inform visual characteristics such as floppy ears, wagging tails, or flowing hair. I will then share the design with the author and discuss any points, making any agreed changes if required.
Armed with the above book foundations I begin the detailed sketches of each page. When I work I have a template that roughly marks margins and gutters and I put placeholder text in place to allow space within the illustrations. This is extremely important. If this isn’t done correctly text may be forced into unsuitable spaces making the text extremely difficult to read and can make a beautiful, professional book look amateurish. Once discussed and finalised with the author I pass the sketches over to Ryan so he can look over the layout and flow and begin to weave his magic, ensuring the text complements the illustrations and the right allowances are taken into consideration.
Now we have everything finalised for the internal pages it’s time to start on the cover. I create lots of thumbnail ideas and only when I have at least 3 thumbnails that I believe would all work do I share to discuss them with the author. It can be very tempting to stop at the first if you have an immediate idea you’re excited about, but you must trust the process and keep brainstorming to be sure you end up on a strong concept. There’s a lot to take into consideration with cover design, so I will do a separate post about that soon. Once we have one we are both excited about I sketch this idea up and again we review it. At this point, Ryan steps in again with his cover design expertise offers his design eye and begins looking at the title treatment.
Once this is finalised I will start painting and rendering. Before we begin the final inking and colourisation process it’s extremely important that we take the time to make sure we are both happy with the cover concept before it’s signed off. Although I’m always happy to make small and reasonable changes, once I start to paint and render changes become much more difficult so it’s best to be sure you’re happy with the design and flag anything you’re remotely unsure or worried about before we get to this stage. Once the finished and painted cover is signed off by the author it goes back to Ryan to finalise the layout and make any required changes before finalising the cover and creating 3D mock-ups for your social media as many authors like to begin marketing the book at this stage.
Back to the internal pages! This can be the lengthiest stage of the project, where I will paint and render all of the internal illustrations, which generally consist of between 12 and 14 spreads. Once the illustrations are completed I will send the project back to you for review and make any small tweaks if required.
Back to Ryan for his final typesetting and design flourishes, before formatting the final documents ready for publishing!
And voila you have your beautiful book.
We are a team and we work collaboratively. As a self-publisher, you are the author, the project manager, and the publisher. You need a strong and capable team to make your book the very best it can be. We’re available at every step of the project to talk over options, make suggestions, and offer our years of experience.
If you want to reach out for a chat please do, we’re always happy to talk, we’re terrible sales people so there will be no pressure ;)