Monday, March 26, 2018

A picture is worth a thousand words

Let's say that a hard working author is also a hard working artist and decides to create a series of very lovely drawings to go with his shiny new book (along the lines of 30 drawings for a 100,000 word story). Is this something that should be highlighted in a query letter or do sharks only prefer the fresh meat of the written word? This doesn't often appear in the FAQ section of agent websites and I was wondering also about how often this happens.

This is an interesting question.

Let's assume you don't have this blog for answers. If you were just trying to figure out how to query drawings with a novel, how would you submit them?

Attach a pdf?
Query guidelines say "no attachments."

Insert in body of email?
Those graphics get stripped out of my email and sent as an attachment OR they send the email directly to spam.

Just say "I have art"
That seems lame, doesn't it?

Ok, so the next step is figure out how other people who have art in their 100,000 word novels submitted it. Off to Amazon for research. Or the local library.

Wait. What?
There are no novels with art?
How can that be?

Well, mostly cause adult novels do not include art. Even from hardworking artists. The first reason for that is money. It costs more to include any kind of art. The higher the cost to produce the book, the less money the publisher makes per book cause they can't just make a novel more expensive than other novels and still sell a gazillion.

And you really don't want to be the most expensive novel on the shelf as a debut author.

So, no you don't highlight this.
You don't even mention it.

The reason it's not in FAQs is cause you shouldn't even be considering it.

Put the art on your website AFTER you know you have a book deal. Your fans will appreciate it.

And in case you think I'm just blowing smoke, if a query letter tells me about all the great art that goes with a novel, I pass at once.  


AJ Blythe said...

I wonder if OP writes fantasy? I always love the maps and drawings in fantasy novels. But the Sharks says no...

AJ Blythe said...

Gah, don't type posts when it's past your bedtime. 'night all.

Ashes said...

It was interesting, to me, that the order was 'website after book deal'. Since I figured the website is where that material really belonged and it might peak the interest of potential readers (or agents?). And contribute to a professional amd engaging website design.

MA Hudson said...

Or hold on to the drawings in case your book becomes a bestseller. Then maybe the publishers would want to include them in special limited-edition releases. Fingers crossed....

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Yeah, just don’t. Art is a great tool for inspiring those 100,00 words but not for query phase.

For myself, I am hoping for tons of fan art once my books hit the stratosphere. Assuming I muster the courage to brave the query gauntlet again.

Mondays. Blah to real world stuff!

Jay Nelson said...

Though I fully agree with the response, there are some examples that I can think of where art is heavily used in the first run edition. Bat's of the Republic by Zachery Dodson springs to mind. Quite a few Clive Cussler novels use pre-chapter artwork, though they are limited to maybe seven or eight images (I'm guessing on the number as I don't have one right in front of me). I'm very curious about how that is pitched.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

OP, you could check out Marjane Satrapi. Although her writing is not 100,000 words. It's a comic book? An illustrated novella? Graphic novel? But it tells the story of her childhood in Iran as it shifted away from a westernized culture and moved into the Iran-Iraq War.

Kitty said...

I understand, and accept, why adult novels do not include art, but it's still sad. I would love to read a book that has some art, especially if the author was also the artist. Just a little pencil drawing at the beginning of each chapter, or maybe at the end. Some art, some art! My kingdom for some art!

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

It’s always been that way and still is that way, story.
Many, many years ago, because I was (still am) such a fantastic artist, I, through no effort of my own, got a publishing deal for a book which was based on many of my amazing and amusing drawings. (My lack of humility is a character flaw. Janet’s March 24th post). The drawings were like cartoons but not cartoons. Nice advance in yesterday’s dollars too.
Then, a second deal popped up. One of the publisher’s authors recognized my remarkable talent and requested that I submit simple and amusing line drawings to pepper throughout his book, big city couple moves to the country, “Funny Farm” kind of memoir.
I read the book, submitted a slew of hilarious and extremely well done drawings. (Insert lack of humility again).
Hey, at the time, I was the most famous person I knew. My head was so big it would not fit through the door.
Guess what. The Funny Farm like book went to press without the drawings. Too expensive to produce they said. And, the author never paid for the drawings which he kept.
MY book was pulled from the publisher’s pipeline for other reasons, one of which was expense to produce.
So OP, save the canvas/sketchpad results for your website. Your readers will search for them and love them.

Julie Weathers said...

I love old novels and books because they have lovely artwork in them, but it seldom happens today. The main reason is cost. The Will James books for one. I always loved the art in them.

I wouldn't mention the art. Lots of authors are also very talented artists.

I was asked to do a map for my fantasy, but that's fairly common and not really the same.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

It is possible a publisher might ask for some kind of art (like a map), but if an agenf wants it, they will ask.

I have been told by many that for maps, art, all that kind of thing that might go with a big fantasy novel, that happens during publication process after agent and/or book deal is accomplished.

Get the writing through the gate first. Let agent/publisher ask or mention art after securing reprsentation. Do not make the query gauntlet be more treacherous than it already is.

K White said...

While all of us fantasy readers enjoy the maps I’ve read in other agent blogs that it’s often difficult to get publishers to pay for them unless you’re a big name author.

A friend of mine who sold her debut to a British publisher hired her own map maker and even then the publisher was reluctant.

Julie Weathers said...


I was asked by an agent during an R&R to do the map. Trust me, I would not have done it otherwise. I guess it's good to have them for fantasy in case someone requests them, but not something that may make it into print.

LynnRodz said...

I love old books that have plenty of illustrations like Dickens and Twain. The MG genre still has drawings, but not as much as readers would like. I did a series of drawings for my MG that I had to put aside because my WIP wouldn't leave me alone and demanded I write it first.

OP, take Janet's advice, mum's the word.

Casey Karp said...

I'm that one fantasy reader who doesn't like a map. I don't mind it being there, but the publisher's money is definitely wasted on me.

For what it's worth, TRTT has a family tree. We didn't include it when we sent the manuscript in, but when the editor said, "Y'know, a family tree would be helpful," we cleaned up the one we'd scribbled and it got added in.

But again, it wasn't part of the submission package.

Mister Furkles said...

Most book art--between the covers--is for MG books. (It is necessary for children's.) My mother did a couple of books many years ago. Her college roommate Alice made a nice living--we know because she had a midtown Manhattan apartment--doing covers and occasionally interior art.

What I glean from this is that Editors ask for artists and hate having authors, their family members, or friends 'offer' it. Alice mentioned it more than once.

Editors not only are concerned with the cost--their usual excuse--but can't judge art as well as they judge writing. They prefer an established artist. That means somebody who has been paid plenty by several independent non friends and non family-members for art by contract.

Apparently, editors consider writers who want their selection of art included to be 'difficult.'

Imagine if an author insisted that Uncle Bob, who had a year of law school, needed to participate--with approval authority--in contract negotiations. What agents would want that?

Anonymous said...

Sad, but true. (Unless you're specifically that one wildly popular fantasy artist who sells art in Hot Topic...)

After your book sells, sell them as prints! (etc)

Theresa said...

I like MA Hudson's idea that the drawings could be included in a special edition after the book has become wildly popular. Always think big!

And I share Julie's love for old novels that have illustrations in them.

Happy belated birthday, Colin.

Gayle said...

Brandon Sanderson is the only fantasy author I've seen recently with lots of art in his books (& the main reason I shelled out for the hardcover of Oathbringer). If he wasn't a BIG TIME author before he wrote the last three Wheel of Time books on behalf of Robert Jordan, he certainly was afterwards. And that's when this series started to be published.

I wish I had more artistic talent. I'm a graphic designer in my day job, but I don't usually create art from scratch and I can't draw at all. But if I could, I would definitely save those drawings. They could be on your author website, or rewards for a Patreon level, or compiled into a collection of related short stories and self- published POD or as an ebook (although that would take some formatting research). I think there are lots of possibilities.

So OP, don't think that your talent and hard work on the drawings is a waste, especially if it makes you happy. You'll find a way to use them--just not at the querying stage.

Kitty said...

I know what you mean, Julie Weathers. I have a 1911 edition of "Treasure Island" and a 1922 edition of "The Boy's King Arthur," both illustrated by N.C. Wyeth.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

I actually had a client whose story was illustrated like this. Intersting illustrations, too.

He took the entire project to a small press who I agreed was a fabulous fit. It should be out, if not now, then soon.

That said, yes, this was totally the exception. But it was a lot of fun to work on with him!

Adele said...

Top question this morning in the jumping-the-gun department: After this novel is published and sells well, is it legal for the author to sell copies (or originals) of the artwork on the internet? Doesn't the publisher buy those rights? Or not?

Lennon Faris said...

I asked almost this same question a few years ago.

Janet & the comment section's conclusion was that it would come across as a little bit juvenile or self-absorbed (in so many words, I think Janet said something about this sort of thinking paving the way to query hell).

However, I'll add mine to the voices that say they love art with a story. I love knowing someone is passionate about their story.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

When I was little, my grandmother bought me a lovely hardcover copy of Kipling's Just So Stories which included both his illustrations and also color glossies that were I guess for that particular edition? To her mild horror, I very much had the attention span to listen to an entire one of those stories before bed, and also the captions on the illustrations. The captions were interesting, because Kipling's ink drawings frequently said things like "I'd love to color this in but they won't let me", and yet there were color illustrations by this other dude?

Just an adjacent anecdote from my life. I myself create no visual art.

I do sometimes wonder how more "difficult" books were pitched or queried. Has anybody here read Mark Danielewski's House of Leaves?

One Of Us Has To Go said...

OP, I so much understand your desire about adding your art. I love that kind of stuff, too, and wish you good luck!

Only one little thought: I wonder if every reader would appreciate drawings and where(!) in the story. Once they have read some of it and used their imagination to 'see' 'their' world you have shown to them with your words, they may then think "Oh no, this doesn't fit... I had it arranged differently in my head. And Maggie doesn't have curly hair at all!"

Some people don't like movies made of books for that reason. I do, though (if they are good) :).

And, I might be overthinking it here with the drawings. What do I know!!

Anyway, hope things work out just the way you'll be happy with all your work :)!

The Sleepy One said...

Jennifer, I'd love to see both the query and submission for House of Leaves!

Elissa M said...

Adele: What rights the publisher has purchased is part of the contract negotiated by the author and their agent. As an artist myself, I would never allow a publisher to buy all rights to my work. And I'll be sure there's nothing in the contract giving the publish all rights to derivative work like my own pictures of my own characters and settings.

I personally was considering using drawings/illustrations on my not-yet-ready website to drum up interest in my writing. I'm convinced the popularity of graphic novels is related to people's desire for visuals to go with their stories. The same goes for fan art. I don't think people would spend hours drawing their favorite characters if they didn't want that deeper connection.

I think it's a shame publishers don't include art in adult novels except in rare circumstances. However, that doesn't stop an artist from marketing their own artwork. A novel that sells well could spawn an art book featuring the author/artist's illustrations for said novel--a much better income opportunity (in my opinion) than simply putting illustrations in the novel.

Colin Smith said...

How many debut novels have author-created artwork? Not many, if any. For the reasons delineated above, no doubt, but primarily cost. Remember, with a debut novelist, the publisher is already taking a risk. They don't know if people will love the book as much as they do. Sure, everyone will market their heinies off to make the book a success, but no-one knows for sure if it'll sell. I can quite understand a publisher being unwilling to add to that risk the additional cost of putting illustrations--especially by the same unknown author. Now, if, perhaps, a famous artist could be persuaded to illustrate the book, that would be a selling point, I think. But that's not Opie's question.

All the best to you, anyway, Opie! The other commenters have offered great ideas (e.g., putting your art online as part of the marketing/promotion for the book), and I have nothing better. :)

Colin Smith said...

BTW, I prefer to use words to stimulate the reader's imagination, so they come up with what they think the characters and scenes should look like. If a book can engage your imagination like that, I think you'll be more invested in the story. It's part of making the characters your own, and not someone else's idea of what they're like. That's my 2 cents on that, for what it's worth. Probably not 2 cents. But anyway... :)

Colin Smith said...

P.S.: My comment above has absolutely nothing to do with the fact I suck at drawing. Nothing at all. Really. :D

Sam Mills said...

The only adult fiction examples that spring to mind are from authors who already had dedicated fan bases willing to shell out the extra dollars. I have a very pretty first edition of Sacre Bleu by Christopher Moore with Van Gogh paintings printed throughout (and the text itself in blue ink, naturally!) and an early edition of the first Dark Tower book by Stephen King with color illustrations inserted as plates.

Alas. I am neither Moore nor King, and unlikely to become so.

Anonymous said...

I agree with what everyone has said here. Yes, hold onto the lovely drawings. Even if a publisher isn't interested in using them at a later date, even if you don't want to put them on your website or use them as Patreon-type rewards -- great suggestions -- do consider self-publishing them in a companion book.

My first foray into self-pub was a book of "essays" [read: re-purposed blog posts] accompanied by several "drawings" [read: I am not at all artistic in any way]. I don't recommend buying/reading it, as it was an experiment in every sense of the word. But I did learn a lot from doing it (mostly, that I could) and I'm inexplicably proud of the effort. The formatting/sizing of the pics was a bit tricky, but more a matter of time spent figuring it out than actually being difficult. And the expense for an ebook version was minimal-- I didn't do print, so no idea what that would've cost. Amazon (B&N too, I think?) charges a small amount more per copy for the larger download size that comes with pics, but it wasn't prohibitive.

Just another option to consider. And isn't it wonderful to have options? Best of luck to you.

Janet, catching up from yesterday, congratulations on the Best of the Best award!! You do throw one heck of a party over here; thanks for letting us come along for the ride (she said, mixing metaphors).

Anonymous said...

Just chiming back in to say, while I found House Of Leaves fascinating, I'm pretty sure the fact the author is the singer/songwriter Poe's brother, and that she made a soundtrack to accompany the book (Haunted) didn't hurt his ability to find a publisher for his super-quirky book.

roadkills-r-us said...

If these are color, then I totally get a publisher talking of expense. If they are B&W, that seems absurd in today's publishing world, where everything is done on a computer.

I know it's YA, but I cannot believe no one has mentioned Harry Potter. While this is not fine art, it *is* artwork with each chapter, and as far as I know it has been there since very early on, if not the beginning.

Panda in Chief said...

Chiming in at the end of the day again...

The actual, physical artwork that appears in picture books and graphic novels, as someone said, belongs to the creator of the artwork, so you are free to sell the originals (or do something else with them)but I'm guessing that the publisher might control the rights to any reproductions of the work. I guess that would depend on your contract.

If I get to do all graphic novels that I am proposing in my series, I'm going to have a lot of art at the end of the day.

Kitty, if you want to leave your N C Wyeth illustrated Treasure Island to a deserving fan of Wyeth's work, you know where to find me. :-D