Get ready for something special!
I am SO excited about today’s debut-ess I can hardly sit still enough to type! 😊
For starters, she is a dear friend and a totally awesome person!
She is also one of those people who has really worked hard to earn her place as a published author and illustrator, committing in every way to improving and perfecting her craft.
To top it off, she is the first person to appear on this series as a debut illustrator! Although she is also an author and will be featured here again in March when her debut as an author is released, this picture book features Tom Lichtenheld’s words and her amazing art. Given that Tom himself is well known as an illustrator, you know it’s some kind of special deal that he and his publisher chose someone else to illustrate this book.
And today is this book’s actual birthday! 🎂🎉🎈🧁
So without further ado, I have the very great pleasure of introducing you to my talented friend, Julie Rowan-Zoch and her debut-as-an-illustrator picture book, LOUIS!
By Tom Lichtenheld
Illustrated by Julie Rowan-Zoch
Synopsis: Louis the bear has had enough. From day one, life has been one indignity after another. If he’s not being used as a hankie, he’s being hung out to dry—literally. (No one likes clothespins used on their ears!)
This teddy is sneaking away just as soon as he can. Then again, no use running off in the rain . . .or during a show-and-tell routine. Maybe Louis has something to lose, after all.
JULIE: Hello, Susanna! Thanks for having me to introduce my picture book illustration debut today!
SUSANNA: Hi Julie! Are you kidding? I’m delighted!!! Thank you for being our first ever illustrator debut-ess! Having never illustrated a book myself and only seen the process from the writer’s side, I am eager to hear about how an illustrator takes an author’s text and turns it into a picture book. How were you approached to participate in this project?
JULIE: Via my agent, HMH sent me the manuscript and asked if I would be willing to send preliminary sketches, should I want to be considered as the illustrator. That was late in 2017, and after sending off the images we got a quick reply – I got lucky but the book would not release until Fall 2020.
SUSANNA: What did communication look like with your editor and/or art director concerning the book?
JULIE: From start to finish, all communication was conducted via email. I did get to meet both of them once in real life though!
SUSANNA: Where do you begin? How do you approach it?
JULIE: Shortly after signing the contract I asked for a more concrete timeline because I work better under a little pressure. I began sending the editor and art director sketches for Louis, a teddy bear and the main character. I sent 3 or 4 different bears knowing I had to be happy with whichever one they chose The only change they asked to make was to use the coloring from one bear, but the shape /line from another! Once I had the bear, and subsequently the boy and his sister, I began creating sketches for the dummy. The mother, bus driver, other toy animals were all developed as I went along with the dummy.
SUSANNA: Were art notes passed on to you via the editor?
JULIE: I believe there were two or three art notes/suggestions included in the manuscript, but I’ll admit I ignored them and allowed the images to appear as I read the text again. After delivering the full dummy, the editor asked if I might revisit one of the art notes, and I did, and we are all happy with the results!
SUSANNA: How long did it take to illustrate the book?
JULIE: I read the manuscript and completed the requested sketches in November 2017. I believe I signed the contract in January 2018. I delivered the first character sketches in early May. Did you notice the huge gap there? That’s because the team was focussed on other work, and final art would not be due until July 2019! After I delivered the sketch dummy, and again after adding color, a lot of revision work began, mostly with notes from the AD [art director], but she worked closely with the editor in giving me comments and/or suggestions. I was always assured I could keep any art elements the way I liked it if I didn’t agree with their suggestions, but I also made constructive arguments if I did want to keep something – as did they if opinions differed! I really enjoyed the collaboration! I think it was around February of 2019 that we wrapped up the dummy revision work and 4+ months later I handed in final art. The decision to include endpapers and a case cover came later, as did a small amount of text revision, which required some illustration changes.
SUSANNA: What materials, media did you use to create the artwork? Please describe the process.
JULIE: I created everything from dummy sketches to final art in Procreate on the iPad. I used to use the iPencil to draw directly onto the tablet, but while waiting for the stylus to recharge I started using my fingers – and haven’t looked back! Just like traditional work, I lay down my linework first then apply color in different layers. The resolution needed for printing is pretty high, and the higher the resolution the less layers are made available for each file. I struggle with keeping the look of a character consistent, so using layers to drop in a sketch for reference is an advantage. And of course the elements in layers help immensely with revision work! I chose my palette early on and believe I changed just one color for vibrancy after the cover design was finalized. I sent the final files in Photoshop format directly from the iPad to the publisher. On that same day my mother had an accident which required me to fly out that night. Having created everything on the iPad allowed me to make further corrections in the final art from a hospital waiting room – how lucky was that!?!
SUSANNA: Did you have any say in text placement or font choices?
JULIE: I was not given any sort of design instructions or text guidelines before handing in the dummy, so I “wrote” the text into the dummy by hand. Then the AD suggested we collaborate and create a font based off of my handwriting! So I wrote out many pangrams (sentences including all 26 letters of the alphabet) using templates she provided to maintain consistent letter height.
SUSANNA: What about book dimensions and paper choices?
JULIE: With no pre-stated design guidelines I was able to choose the format myself, which is square. Based off of (one of many!) discussions I’ve had with one of my local children’s librarians, I decided on a square book that allows for a wide spread when opened. (Vicky taught me not to move the book while reading to kids, not to pan from side to side, as the children need the time to focus and absorb the image. If they can’t see from their seated position they should move, or the reader should move back, to accommodate.) After the final work was submitted I was sent single spreads in different papers. One important aspect to me is how rich black looks in a print. In October 2019 I was sent color proofs of the whole book and I think there where maybe two places where 2 color corrections needed to be made, and a “big” correction for the placement of the patch on Louis’ leg on the back cover.
SUSANNA: What things can writers do to make mss more interesting/engaging/appealing/easy-to-work-with for illustrators?
JULIE: I’m sure you’ve all heard this before, but leave room! Good writing will allow the illustrator to envision images while reading At this stage it is not yet meant for the consumer/reader. I realize this is no easy task, especially since the manuscript must go through the agent and the editor before it reaches the illustrator, but these are all professionals who work with this very unique, collaborative art form. Trust that they can “see” what isn’t in the text. Yes, there will be exceptions for image suggestions that might be necessary to understand the text, but these too should be as shapeless and colorless as possible.
SUSANNA: How does contract payment work for illustrators?
JULIE: The illustrator receives 1/2 the advance upon signing the contract, and the other 1/2 upon receipt of the final artwork. The same applies to author-illustrators.
SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?
JULIE: I am lucky to be able to celebrate publishing milestones with my dear friend and fellow picture book junkie, Julie Hedlund. We meet halfway between our homes at a restaurant that features cheese! I hope we can do that again soon. I also got the fun idea to have a ring made by my friend’s daughter, and if it’s ready soon I will share a photo of the final piece with you.
SUSANNA: Was the contract what you expected in terms of advance, royalty percentage, publication timeline, author copies etc.?
JULIE: I admit I did not give much consideration to the details of a contract before the offer, but I was quite pleased. The rights have also been sold to a publisher in Japan and Israel, and that was something I did not expect so soon.
SUSANNA: Describe any marketing/promotion you did for this book.
JULIE: I was lucky to know a couple of other authors through the 12×12 Picture Book Challenge whose debut books were to release in 2020, and joined in on the effort with more authors and illustrators for group promotion and marketing efforts, called The Soaring 20’s. Now I would say we are in it for group support and encouragement efforts, as almost all of us will debut in Corona-Time. Gah! I contacted people like yourself to be featured in an interview or article on their blogs or podcasts. After my editor shared reviews with me, and I in turn shared them with my Soaring 20’s friends because I was so excited about good reviews, they pointed out that I should make “quote cards”, little graphics tailored for social media with blurbs from the reviews. I contacted my AD in order to incorporate the font she created, and I shared them on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. I am in the process of creating resource materials for teachers/parents, and activity sheets are available on the HMH page already – HERE. HMH also ran a giveaway on Twitter for Int’l Teddy Bear Day (9/9), and will do another one on 10/16 for Take Your Teddy to Work/School day. I’m doing a joint outdoor signing event with my critique partner, Beth Anderson as her book, “SMELLY” KELLY releases next week, on 10/13. Fingers crossed for sunny weather!
SUSANNA: How many copies did your house do for first printing?
JULIE: I believe it’s 40K.
SUSANNA: Anything else you’d like to share about your book’s journey from inspiration to publication?
JULIE: Yes. A unique thing about this book is that I was chosen to illustrate for an illustrator! And a famous one at that! I was surprised from the get-go and didn’t find the courage to ask until I had the opportunity to meet my editor in person. She told me Tom wanted to see what the process would be like! That’s it! But with that in mind I was worried that my work would be looked at with more scrutiny as people would wonder “Why?”. The good reviews put my worries to rest, but also the support and enthusiasm I received from the editor, art director, and design team (I got to meet them as well!) throughout the entire process.
SUSANNA: Julie, thank you so much for joining us today and giving us such an enlightening glimpse of the creation of your debut picture book from the illustrator’s perspective. I learned a lot, and I’m sure everyone else did too! I know I speak for everyone when I wish you all the best of luck with this and future titles! I expect my copy of LOUIS in the mail today, and I can’t wait to read I’M A HARE, SO THERE when it comes out in March!
Readers, if you have questions for Julie, please post them in the comments below and if she has time I’m sure she’ll respond!
You may purchase Julie’s book at:
(all links below are book-specific)
We can help our debut authors successfully launch their careers by:
– purchasing their books
– recommending their books to friends and family
– recommending their books to our children’s teachers and librarians
– recommending their books to our local libraries and bookstores
– suggesting them as visiting authors at our children’s schools and our local libraries
– sharing their books on social media
Thank you all for stopping by to read today! Have a lovely, inspiration-filled Tuesday! Maybe today is the day you’ll write your debut picture book 😊
Missed any previous Tuesday Debuts? Check them out!
Karen Kiefer – Drawing God (religious market)
Theresa Kiser – A Little Catholic’s Book Of Liturgical Colors (religious market)
Lindsey Hobson – Blossom’s Wish (self pub)