Portfolio Tips for the children's book industry

I’ve had many a RedBubbler asking me for advice about becoming a children’s book illustrator. Rather than write to the individual, I thought I’d post the information for all the read.

In 1998, I decided to become a children’s book illustrator, I learnt the hard way! – It took me two years to get my first picture book published (apparently this was fast going). I would like to share some of my knowledge with fellow Redbubblers, in the hope that your success as a published artist will be an easier journey than mine. All I ask is that you share with me your success stories.

Preparing your work for publishers is the first, and most important step for getting noticed by publishers.

Portfolio Tips
- Show uniform, quality colour copies on an easy A4 or A3 format.
- Make your portfolio light weight and easy to carry or mail out
- Label your portfolio
- Don’t show originals EVER!
- Don’t show more than one style
- Do show colour and BW work
- Do show one or two samples of finished sketch
- Do make sure the image reflect subject matter appropriate for children (parents, grandparent, animals, interior/exterior scenes.
- Do give each image its own space. One image per spread, unless it is a series of images.
- Include 12-18 pieces in your portfolio. Fewer don’t show enough. More can be too much to take in. It’s better to have 10 pieces of WOW! Than 20 pieces of so so.

Visit bookstores and Libraries. Read and study the latest releases, award winners and the classics. You’ll learn from other illustrators, get ideas, get a feel for how plots are constructed and how characters are developed or the rhyme and pacing of a picture book text. Enjoy the research!

Perfect your craft and don’t submit until your work is its best.

Compare your work to published illustrators. Can you improve? Really step back from your work and ask yourself. Does my work measure up? Join a critique group. Don’t ask friends what they think.

Be patient, learn from rejection, and don’t give up. Thousands of manuscripts and illustration samples land on editors desks. They are so many factors that come into play when evaluating submissions. You might not hear back from publishers immediately. Persistence and patients go with the job. As Winsten Churchill put it “Success is going from failure to failure without any loss of enthusiasm”.

All the best and good luck my fellow RedBubblers!


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