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When You Need an Illustrator for Your Children’s Book

If you’re anything like me, you may have zero plans to illustrate your children’s book. However, knowing that children’s books almost always involve pictures, you may be wondering…well, when do you need to find an illustrator for your children’s book?

Great question! Let me help answer it for you.

When to Find an Illustrator for Your Picture book:

When You Need an Illustrator for Your Children's Book

First, it’s important to point out that you DO NOT have to illustrate your own book. (I know when I first decided to write a children’s book, I thought about illustrating it, too.) However, you really don’t have to — and mostly-likely SHOULDN’T try to.

What is the Children’s Book Illustrator’s Role?

As you may already know, the children’s book illustrator’s job is to create the images that go along with the story. However, what you may not know is that the illustrator is also the storyteller for the book. (That’s why not every artist is an illustrator.)

The writer isn’t the only one who gets to tell a story! It’s also the illustrator’s job to help bring the story to life through the images. Whether that’s through complementary images that fit the words, to illustrations that convey the exact opposite message as the words written on the page.

However they work together, it creates a cohesive bond that brings the story to life.

Who’s job is it to find the illustrator?

This is a two-part answer because it depends on how you plan to publish your children’s book. If you’re planning to self-publish your picture book, you’ll need to find an illustrator. Although there are many different places to find an illustrator, I suggest checking on freelancing sites, like Fiverr or Upwork, because they have a variety of different styles to fit a range of budgets.

But if you’re wanting to use a traditional publisher, you won’t have to find the illustrator first. The publishing house will find someone they feel is best suited to create the images for your book. (Sometimes you’ll be able to give your input on who they choose and other times you won’t be able to voice your opinion.)

Is it better to submit illustrations with your children’s story to a publisher?

This question often comes up with new writers and I completely understand where it’s coming from. As someone who first submitted a dummy book with my story, I know how important images can feel to help support a manuscript. However, I would highly suggest you DON’T submit illustrations with your story.

Here’s why.

Kidlit Writer's Starter Kit | Your guide to help you write a children's book

1 – It might be the wrong fit for the editor.

As an editor at a publishing house, I know what it’s like to read a story and instantly visualize what the book will look like. Sometimes I even have specific portfolios pop into my mind with whom I’d like to collect a sample from.

However, if the illustrations are already included, that could vary my vision. Sometimes it lines up and other times it’s way different. And if you submit to an editor who doesn’t like the illustrations but enjoys the story, they may not want to go with them.

2 – It might give the impression that you aren’t willing to edit your story.

Often, if an editor likes a story but not the illustrations, they will offer to purchase the story and not the art. This can come as blow to someone who’s an author/illustrator but it can also be a bummer when it’s a duo.

If you’re submitting the art along with the story, the editor may assume that this is the final vision you have, and if it’s not theirs, they may think you won’t want to change it. Because they get so many submissions a day, it’s sometimes easier to pass on a project rather than see if you’d want to publish just the story and find a different artist.

3 – It can lead to rejection.

Because submitting the art with the story can cause a change in vision and belief that you may not want to change your original submission for the story, an editor may just send a rejection letter and move on. Especially if the art’s not done well or the story is relying too heavily on the illustrations instead of being a well-written book.

So what you may think is giving you an advantage as a non-illustrating author by having the artwork finished ahead of time, may actually be working against you.


So if you’re working on a children’s book, finish it! You won’t want to find an illustrator for it until you’re ready to publish. And you only need to search for someone yourself if you decide to use a hybrid publisher or choose to self-publish your book. If you’re going to submit your story to agents and editors, wait to find the illustrator.

Learn more about the ins and outs of working with an illustrator in the Kidlit Writer’s Starter Kit. The best resource to help new writers learn what it takes to write a children’s book. Get your kit here.

For more articles to help you:

Download the free children's book template

Your Guide on When to Find a Children’s Book Illustrator for Your Story!

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