1.24.2007

Illustrations in novels

Dear Miss. Snark,

How do I show that I want illustrations in my novel? Do I write *Insert Clooney With Gin picture here" or do I do a rough sketch of what I want?

Why on earth do you want illustrations?
Not that I don't love Phiz's renditon of Mr. Turveydrop the very model of good deportment, but I didn't need illustrations to get the picture for that.

I actually have no idea how to answer this. The closest I come to illustrations are graphic novels and as you might suspect the art and the words are a unit there.

If anyone with experience with this can lend a word of advice, I'm all ears (illustration not included).

27 comments:

Heidi the Hick said...

Middle grade fiction often has a few illustrations thrown in. The publisher will choose an illustrator from their submissions.

I actually have read a few novels lately with illustrations. Most recently, Jonathon Strange and Mr Norrell by Susannah Clarke.

I'd like to see pictures in books. Heck why not. Just because I'm in my 30s doesn't mean I don't like pictures anymore. After all, you know I'm picturing the lead man as played by Johnny Depp anyways...

skybluepinkrose said...

Is your novel for children? Kids' novels used to contain line drawings. Most don't anymore, but here and there you'll find one that does.

Publishers make the decisions about art -- will there be any other than the cover art, what style, where pictures will be placed, etc. Don't give instructions or insert sketches. Typically, you will have no say about art at all. Sometimes, you may get an advance peek. A couple of times I was asked to suggest scenes that might go on the cover, and once I was asked to do what should have been the illustrator's research.

In general, though, novels don't have illustrations. Asking for them when they aren't planned means asking the publisher to budget a whole lot more money to produce your book than they planned on. It may also mean splitting your royalties with an illustrator. That's how it works with picture books.

Jane Eldershaw said...

I'm a writer who is also an illustrator (or vice versa?) and illustrated my own "shoe memoir" -- but I've found it can be surprisingly difficult to talk publishers into using illustrations even for non-fiction and gift books. I'd suggest (especially if you've never been published) that you not mention illustrations until you have a publisher who adores your prose. Then suggest they look at books that have been illustrated in the manner you envisage and wheedle. Or -- if you have a unique layout/illustration idea that you really believe in -- create a mock-up and submit that with the proposal.

Anonymous said...

Marisha Pessl's Special Topics in Calamity Physics (*not* a children's book) has line drawings by the author throughout.

I read somewhere that she submitted without any illustrations, but her text referenced hypothetical ones (ie, see fig. 23). Then her agent asked where the illustrations were, so she decided to draw some and they included them.

bebe said...

It definitely depends.

If it's a middle grade novel that you think might be nice with line illustrations, or it's a chapter book (which certainly would get line illustrations but would still be written on its own first), don't worry about it yet. The publisher will make that decision, and they have a good sense of which novels should get them and where they should go.

If it's a picture book or other illustrated book, you could still just send the ms without art notes. Again, unless you're envisioning something totally different from the text, editors and designers will be able to tell from the text what the illustrations should be. Or you could include art notes if there's something specific you have in mind. But the best manuscripts are the ones that you can just see what it will look like as soon as you read it, no art notes needed. If you're not an illustrator, focus on writing a great text.

If you are an author/illustrator, obviously include sketches and art samples.

Some adult books have illustrations here and there. The first thing that comes to mind is Special Topics in Calamity Physics. Not sure, but I *think* Pessl did those herself. At any rate, I think if you feel you need a few illustrations for the sake of the story, and you intend for someone else to do them, yes you should put in an art note in the place you want them.

You can put an art note in brackets. Something like [Art note: illustration of a duck walking up to a bar here] would get your point across.

jamiehall said...

In an adult novel, it can be essential for the plot in rare cases. I remember a couple of Piers Anthony novels where games played an important part, but they were too complex visually to follow the action with text alone. Throw in a couple of drawings of the game board, and everything was cleared right up. I've also got a vague memory of some sci-fi novel where a symbol on a character's body was extremely important to the plot, and the symbol couldn't be described easily so a drawing of it was inserted. In cases like that, you might need to include an illustration with your manuscript from the get-go, simply because the prose wouldn't really work without it.

Otherwise (except in the case of an author/illustrator and in some types of children's books, depending on the publisher) you usually wait until you get an offer on the prose alone before bringing up the topic of those illustrations.

Hopefully, you've got an agent who knows the right time and method to approach a publisher about illustrations, or who knows that you simply should never bring up that topic with certain publishers. However, unless you write for kids or your agent has experience in juvenile literature, your agent may well have no experience in the area of illustrations.

mamalujo1 said...

Not really much here in the way of advice, but you might want to check out "The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana," by Umberto Eco. It's jam-packed with pictures and illustrations which are an integral part of the novel. I don't have any idea how he had it published that way, beyond the simple fact that he is, of course, Umberto Eco.

Bernita said...

One of Mercedes Lackey's novels has illustrations of main characters, inserted at the beginning of each new chapter.

Anne said...

I'm reading Jodi Picoult's adult novel, THE TENTH CIRCLE. The protagonist is a superhero comic book penciler, and Picoult weaves samples of his work throughout the story of his struggle to save his daughter, his marriage, and himself.

In her acknoledgements, Picoult thanks her editor, Emily Bestler, "who said all the wonderful, right things I needed to hear when I gave her a book that was like nothing she'd ever seen before."

I think the lesson here is if you are Jodi Picoult you have lots of leeway.

Ryan Field said...

I could be wrong, and I can't find the book, but didn't they use an illustration in RULE OF FOUR? A map or something about the Hypnerotomachia?

srchamberlain said...

Nick Bantock and Barbara Hodgson both write novels where the illustrations are essential to the text without falling strictly into the category of "graphic novels." Bantock's Griffin and Sabine trilogy is a richly illustrated set of letters with beautiful postmarks and creative use of other invented ephemera to tell the story. The recently published "Journal" (which purports to be the found journal/altered book of a murder victim) uses the same sort of strategy. In all of these cases, the illustrations are the point, unlike in that (whiny, self-indulgent) Pessl tome, where the illustrations served a less obvious function.

UrsulaV said...

Speaking as an illustrator here--do NOT hire somebody to illustrate your children's book on your own nickel with the intent of submitting to a publisher. This does not make your submission more interesting. Quite the opposite. It doesn't so much scream "Amateur!" as take out a billboard to that effect.

Publishers of children's books generally have their own stable of illustrators that they like to work with. And really, it's not about the talent of the artist. Your artist may be very talented. That's not what they care about. Artists are often flakes--I say this as one myself!--and what the art director is absolutely concerned with is "Will this get done on time?" They usually want to work with their own artists that they know will get the job done to spec and looking good. Occasionally there are exceptions, but you're probably not it.

Now, the exception. If you're a writer/illustrator yourself, then great. Art it up art-style. If you are collaborating with someone--genuinely collaborating, not "I am paying you to illustrate my book so the publisher will be wowed!"--then knock yourself out. But don't hire an artist--much as people like me would luv your money--to illustrate your book to help it get published. The author does not pay for the art. The author should NEVER pay for the art.

This doesn't mean that there aren't exceptions--yes, I'm sure there are. But in general, avoid it, and save the money.

*cough* Sorry, had to give that speech a few too many times, 'fraid it's on a hair trigger these days...

Janet Black said...

Unless you're a big name novel writer, or have serious connections with your publisher I doubt you'll have any say regarding illustrations. (As you know, Bob) the author has no say at all regarding the cover art. It might be something you could suggest, but the decision (added cost) would be up to the publisher. Adulst novels normally do not have illustrations.

PJ Parrish said...

The poster doesn't give enough info for a constructive reply.

If by illustrations you mean full-scale drawings requiring a professional artist, you're wading into deep water, I think. But if you're talking small uncomplicated graphics, I can speak to that a little.

The book I just turned in (suspense police procedural) has tree carvings as a major clue for my protag. I drew them myself because they are supposed to look crude and amateurish. I then physically inserted the jpegs into the manuscript pages. Yesterday, I sent the jpegs to my editor via email. The copyedited manuscript had editors' notations: "insert graphic 1 here" and so on. It gets complicated fast, and I am so hoping it all comes out right.

Another author who has done this is Val McDermid in her splendid "A Place of Execution." She had graphics of death certificates, newspaper articles and a crude "hand-drawn" map of her fictious English village.

A caveat: My publisher liked the graphics, but not all pubs might because it entails extra work and cost on their part to produce. I cleared this with my editor first.
If you are in the query phase, I'd think you'd have to be crystal clear this was part of your story.

Anonymous said...

I always liked illustrations in novels. King had illustrations in "The Stand" and Terry Brooks had some in at least one of his books (Druids of Shannara?). Just a cool little selling point to a book IMO.

Anonymous said...

Each book in Rita Mae Brown's "Mrs. Murphy" mystery series includes a few illustrations. I find them irrelevant at best, annoying when the illustrator clearly was working off a quick description of a scene and hadn't actually read the book. For example, in one book, the protagonist's animals jump out a truck window. The illustration shows them jumping out the window of a house.

Steve said...

I never thought about it in terms of added cost. I wasn't talking 1200dpi Quentin Blake or anything, but the idea of a few line drawings (I'm learning the terms now :) )is an appealing option. The book is MG, by the way.

Thanks all for the eye-opener - it's a question that's been bugging me for weeks.

Many thanks,
Poster

Sally said...

Charles Webb's (author of "The Graduate") book "New Cardiff" was illustrated by his wife. But I'm sure his publisher/editor was pretty flexible considering Webb is an established author.

bebe said...

In that case, steve, I think it's cool to mention that you think it would be great with line illustrations but in general be open to it going either way. I'd leave out art notes.

Yes, it adds cost to the P&L, but it also adds value to the book, so if it's right for that book, your editorial/design team will see that and at least consider it. It's not as common as it used to be, but it's certainly not extinct.

Eden said...

Speaking of illustrations

ballet lover said...

Don't forget the Edgar Rice Burroughs' books. What was Mars without the illustrations of Deja Thoris?

Anonymous said...

I'm wondering not specifically about illustrations, but things like the maps you sometimes see as frontispieces of novels like (to use one of the biggest examples) the Lord of the Rings books. How do you communicate to the agent\publisher that you have a map to include? (In the cover letter, sent along with the query, sent along with the complete manuscript, etc.)

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

I haven't a clue how to answer this question. I have the urge to post, however. Someone with a French accent suggested I'd been neglecting my posts. He was hard to understand because he also had this barking cough. ...

Anyway, a hundred years ago novels were often illustrated. The front piece would often be in colour and there would be several black and white pictures on clay-surfaced paper. (Think old-style National Geographic Paper.) Some of these illustrations are simply gorgeous and sought after. Reinhart's Man in Lower Ten as a first edition has beautiful colour illustrations throughout.

In the silent film era and shortly thereafter, there were Photo Play books. These often contained photographs taken from the movie or play based on the book.

I think it was expense that killed the illustrated novel. By the mind 1930s illustrations were uncommon, other than a few line drawings at chapter headings or in children's books. The old People's Book Club used illustrated colour endsheets. Some of these are quite nice. They folded up in the 1950s I think. Their demise wasn't the end of colour illustations, but almost so.

In a way this is very sad. Some of the great illustrators painted the front plates and illustrated covers.

An illustration is a financial commitment. Wouldn't a publisher have to see a good financial reason to invest in illustrations?

Anonymous said...

Bernita said...
One of Mercedes Lackey's novels has illustrations of main characters, inserted at the beginning of each new chapter.

Actually, Merecedes is married to this wonderful illustrator and he co authors many of their books. He joked once that it's such a relief when the book is written and the work is done. And then he remembers that he also has to illustrate the thing, and groans. This is why her covers always use the same illustrator and all have a beautiful sameness that shouts out "Mercedes Lakey book!"

Since most of the more recent books just have a repetative design for each chapter, I'm wondering if the publisher wants to save the expense of using different wonderful illustrationsfor each chapter. Too bad. They really added a special something to those books.

Not that I have any influence anywhere, but I'd vote for more ilustrations in all books.

UrsulaV said...

Uh, actually, anonymous, the cover artist for all those Lackey books is Jody Lee Nye, whom Mercedes Lackey is definitely not married to.

Her interior art is indeed done by her husband, but the consistent cover art is unrelated to that fact.

Marti said...

Dan Brown's "Angels and Demons" (his pre "Da Vinci Code" novel) has illustrations, because the unique artwork is integral to the story.

Don said...

I'm currently reading Jack Finney's Time and Again which is another adult novel with integral artwork. It's a bit surprising how much it helps to have the photos and drawings in the text.