Children's Book FAQ


Here are the most common questions people ask me regarding children's books, creating them, breaking into the field, etc. Please feel free to email me if your question isn't on the list.


I have a story I’ve written that I’d like you to illustrate. Will you read it/consider it?

How does it work? Does the author approach you?

Someone has approached me about illustrating their story . . . they’re planning to publish it themselves. Should I do it? It would be my first book.

How long does it take you to do a children’s book?

Can you visit our school?

I love this painting from this book . . . can I purchase the original art?

We are raising money for our school/organization/library, etc. Would you consider donating one of your books?

Who are your favorite children’s book authors and illustrators?





I have a story I’ve written that I’d like you to illustrate. Will you read it and/or consider illustrating it?

No. I'm sorry, but I have my own stories that I want to illustrate, and if for some reason I want to illustrate someone else’s story, I will get one from one of the editors I know at a publishing house.

Truthfully, if your story is good, send it, WITHOUT illustrations, to a publisher. Publishers want to see your story on its own. If it’s not good enough to stand on it’s own as a manuscript, it’s not good enough to illustrate.

How does it work? Does the author approach you?

The process works like this: the author’s manuscript is purchased by an editor at a publishing house. The editor then looks around for an illustrator they believe is suitable for the project. The editor will send the manuscript out to illustrators until they find one who is interested in the project. Once an illustrator takes it on, they work with the editor until the story is done. Generally, the illustrator has very little contact, if any, with the author. (This almost always comes as a surprise to people . . . I'm not sure why.)

Someone has approached me about illustrating their story . . . they’re planning to publish it themselves. Should I do it? It would be my first book.

Run for the hills. While there ARE examples of people doing this successfully—in general these would-be publisher/authors are naïve, and ignorant of the book distribution process. If they’re willing to front you a $5000 advance (half up front, half when art is completed) and they’re willing to pay you a 5% royalty on the retail price, then sure, what the heck, as those are professional standards and that’s about what you could expect from a major publisher for a first book. If however, they balk for any reason at that, than it’s a good sign that they don’t throw what they’re doing. Run for the hills or you’re in for a world of pain.

How long does it take you to do a children’s book?

It’s always hard to say, but about 9 months of steady work when all is said and done. I teach 2+ days a week from Sept. to June so I get less done during those months. However, if I was working exclusively . . . maybe six months.

Can you visit our school?

Probably. Send me an email with details like the date, etc. and we can discuss it, please also take a look at my “School Visits” flyer. Visits to schools in the Greater San Francisco Bay Area generally are no problem at all. If it involves significant travel or an overnight stay, I'd need to have those costs covered by the school or organization in question.

I love this painting from this book . . . can I purchase the original art?

Generally no, but anything’s possible. EVERYTHING is available as a high-fidelity, archival quality print. The originals though . . . let’s just say you COULD if you made me an offer that many people would consider crazy. It would have to be enough money that I would have to be nuts to refuse. It also varies from painting to painting. Painting A might be one that I’m not that fond of. If someone offered me $2000 I’d sell it. But Painting B, one of my all-time favorites, if someone offered me $50,000 I’d obviously consider it, but I would still think on it for a while. For my all time favorites, I can’t imagine anyone valuing those images more than me. So, in closing, I don’t know . . . make me an offer. :)

We are raising money for our school/organization/library, etc. Would you consider donating one of your books?

I’d really like to. As a reader, a teacher, a believer in education and libraries, I’d really like to. But I get these requests several times a month. If I honored them, my business would quickly become a non-profit endeavor, and I’d still have a mortgage to pay every month.
If you’re running such a program, please, APPROACH THE PUBLISHERS! They have much deeper pockets and receive the lion’s share of the purchase price of the book. (Authors and illustrators generally split 10% of the retail price, the other 90% is shared by the bookseller, distributor, and publishing house.) They can afford it, authors and illustrators cannot. (Excepting the J.K. Rowlings and Chris Van Allsburgs of the kid lit world.) (I am always happy to sign copies for this kind of event however.)


Who are your favorite children’s book authors and illustrators?

This often surprises people because of the “realism” of my work, but my favorites are:
Crockett Johnson (Harold and The Purple Crayon)
Shel Silverstein (ESPECIALLY for The Missing Piece)
My good friend Peggy Rathmann (Goodnight Gorilla, Officer Buckle & Gloria)
And my old, well former, teacher, David Shannon. (No, David)