Saturday, June 27, 2015

Query Question: maps, illustrations and other visuals in novels

My question is inspired by your post on permissions
The Author shall, at the Author's expense, deliver valid written permission from the proprietor (ie the rights holder) for the use of .... all necessary illustrations, maps, charts, and photographs...

Now you have me thinking about all of those wonderful maps in fantasy stories. Is it difficult to have maps & illustrations included in novels? Do publishers in general like them or avoid them? If an author has grand plans for maps, is it more likely to happen if she provides them, or do publishers like to hire illustrators and be part of the design?

Generally "all necessary illustrations, maps, charts, and photographs" apply to non-fiction books. The reason you see that language in contracts for fiction is that most agencies have their own boilerplate contract with publishers and it's used for both fiction and non-fiction. To leave it out for a novel would mean the publisher couldn't just include it on the next contract without having to negotiate it.

Whether a book would benefit from a map or illustrations is something that's discussed at the time of acquisition by the publisher. Whether the author provides it is something that's negotiated, not just assumed.

 I love maps** in books and I'm always glad to see one, even in novels.

(This is probably attributable to reading Agatha Christie novels as a sharkling.)

And the map at the start of the movie Casablanca really is an essential part of the tension and atmosphere of the entire movie.

The problem with maps and illustrations is of course that it adds to the cost of printing the book. We have this discussion with publishers when we have photographs to include in a book as well.

Generally you'll want to save the news that you'd like to include art in a novel until after you've acquired an agent. At the query stage, I'm only interested in the writing, and all too often someone who starts talking to me about illustration intends to have their Great Aunt Beverly Buttonweezer provide it.

However, if you do envision maps as part of the book, you should tell your agent. That's something s/he'll want to discuss with the editor as part of the acquisition process. I can recall that one editor's enthusiasm for maps secured her the deal, when a competing editor wasn't so keen on the maps.

Who pays for maps and illustrations and who provides them is something that can be negotiated. Unless you're a pro, expect that the publisher will want to have someone else do the art. There are exceptions to this; it's not a hard and fast rule.

**And really, how could anyone not love maps?!

This is the Peters projection world map. Not familiar with it? You're not alone:


Anonymous said...

I remember being asked to do a map for the fantasy by an agent. I knew where all these places were in my head, but put them on paper? That was a whole other kettle of fish. I actually can draw and cartoon well enough to be published, but maps? Yeah.

It was an interesting exercise.

Unknown said...

It freaked me out as well. There are some things that should never change and one of them is the map in my head from grade 5 geography. And that Britannia still rules the waves.

But turning stuff upside down is a great, maybe even essential, idea in fiction.

I love maps in books. Did I mention I'm going to the Agatha Christie International Fair in Torquay, England, in September? Mother's 90th birthday and she lives only a train ride away from the Fair. I'm sure they'll have maps.

Ashes said...

I love maps!

A love which I attribute to a fantastic university prof who challenged us to flatten an orange peel.

DeadSpiderEye said...

Thanks Janet, just finishing an essay on symbolism as substitute solution in political and social contexts: and I'm introduced to the Peter's Projection, right -- start again then!

I like maps in a fictional context too, you know, they're a relief from the linear exploration of narrative. In long works, well constructed maps can allow aspects of the narrative that might have subsided in the recollection to linger with portent or some significance. Which of course raises a question, using pictorial aids as a substitute for prose and narrative technique. Um -- I don't have the answer to that question BTW.

Matt Adams said...

I don't have a comment on Opie, but that's one of my favorite West Wing scenes, and one of the ideas that's resonated with me even after the series has been gone because I think the point is spot on, so I'm having a pretty good morning. Plus I plan to spend today making paper boats with the kids and launching them down the river. The Peters Projection is a good way to start the day.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Where's the like button?

I love maps too. My Peters map is well worn from sharing tidbits about it during the Children's Chat during Sunday Worship as well as comparing Biblical maps with modern day maps.

When the Peters World Atlas came out in 2002, I bought it. (Quick check to see if it's been updated...nope.)

When I subscribed to the New Internationalist magazine (back in the 90s? early 2000?), I saved their upsidedown map in my Peters Atlas. Nothing like stimulating my thoughts with paradigm shift, as Stephen Covey would have phrased it.

I've wondered if it would be appropriate to include a map with my novel as it has a historical strand and the country I make reference to no longer exists.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Years ago whenever we went anywhere I was the one with the road atlas in my lap. I was the one with my finger on "you are here", driving us where we had to go. NOW, I hate the sound of a stranger telling me when to turn.
I love maps, love examining boundaries and I love that I have a sense of direction like that of migrating geese. What does this have to do with Opie's question, not a damn thing. But maps, topographical, directional and informative, plus nautical-charts, are awesome.
Our map of readers is the best. Hello world.

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

Great question. I've thought of a map for my WIP, to show the graffiti hotspots. But it's not necessary.

I, too, love maps in fiction.

I showed the Peters projection to my husband. He said, "It's upside down." Our kid said, "The words aren't." Husband, "C'est un n'importe quoi." (what baloney)

The video is a mind blow. Nice to see that the female actor was the more openminded.

Like Lisa said: Paradigm shift. Maybe that's what the world needs right now.

Theresa said...

Maps are great in books, both fiction and non. I've only had experience with getting them placed in non-fiction (history) because they were essential to anchoring the story.

And I loved that episode of The West Wing!

Anonymous said...

That scene was scary. I'm not even going to comment on it.

Years ago, I read an article about an ancient map that was found, but no one paid much attention to it because it was considered so inaccurate. It wasn't until much later cartographers realized it was an accurate depiction of a view point from above the earth.

I wallpapered one wall of the boys' room in old maps once and varnished over it. It was interesting to see them now and again looking at the maps and figuring out where things were...or maybe they were plotting their getaway.

And we missed the 139th anniversary of the Battle of the Little Big Horn which took place on June 25-26, 1876. Crow Agency, which is on the reservation where the battle took place, used to play Please Mr. Custer and Garry Owen every year as hold music to commemorate it, if I remember correctly. The radio stations still dust off Please, Mr. Custer and play it around this time.

I went to visit the battlefield once and then went on to see my aunt and uncle. I told Uncle Hap I'd seen his great uncle's name on the mass grave marker, but couldn't find an individual cross for Martin.

Hap puffed on his Bull Durham cigarette and said, "That's because he's not buried there. He's buried in Minnesota. He was one of Custer's scouts. Custer sent him with a message before the fight and by the time he got back there wasn't anything but bodies left. He decided that wasn't a good place for a Minnesota farm boy and high-tailed it back home."

Dad, knowing how much I love history bought two battlefield bullets from the Crow Agency gift shop back when you could buy them. I forgot about them and had them in my purse when I was getting ready to fly home from Dickinson, ND. I also forgot the two Leathermates and four pocket knives. I always carry a knife, but Dad sent some other knives home with me. Yes, I've flown enough to know you're not supposed to carry a small arsenal on the plane with you. I just forgot to put them in my suitcase.

Mother, who is terrified of flying insisted on staying until I was safely in the air. Well, of course, when they scanned my purse they found all my terrorist stuff and escorted me to the security area, which consists of a desk and chairs with some four foot chain link fence around it.

The security guy is really nice and puts my Leathermate's and knives in my suitcase, but he can't put the bullets in there. 130 years old and bent to a fare thee well or not, they're still live ammo.

In the meantime, Mother is freaking out. "Julia! Julia! Come here! Julia!"

I ask the security man if I can go talk to my mother before she has heart failure.

"Julia," she whispers, "there's a terrorist on the plane. Tell them you're canceling your flight and reschedule."

"Mom, relax. I'm the terrorist. It's the Custer bullets. I can't take them on the plane. Will you mail them to me?"

Thus did Dickinson, ND survive the assault by 130-year-old bullets.

Dena Pawling said...

I love maps too, but...........

One of the authors in my local RWA group writes HISTORICAL romance. Not your standard historical, but HISTORICAL. Ancient Mesopotamia. The first several pages of her books include a list of characters with some names I can't pronounce, other lists for things like place names and deities and stuff, and maps.

I don't like reading her stuff, not because the stories aren't interesting [because they are], but because the reader needs to know all these names and places and maps and stuff.

So please, for readers like me who don't like to work too hard and constantly flip pages back and forth, I definitely recommend you make sure your story is understandable even if the reader does NOT memorize the names and maps.

Julie, love that airport story. My dad once took a model train transformer on carry-on, this was a LONG time ago, it weighed about 10 pounds and looked like this. Yes, he did get to take it with him onboard the plane

My Navy son sent me this one day, too funny

Unknown said...

I am 'directionally challenged' in the extreme and get lost very easily -- even in the small city where I've lived for the past 14 years. For one ms, I actually had to draw a map of the fictional town where the story was set, just so I didn't have my main character driving in circles without me noticing it. Though the moments of her traveling through town aren't the focus of the story, I still needed to make that map so I felt more confident about where things were -- even if they didn't end up on the page. On a side note, for a separate ms, I had to diagram where the players sat at a poker game so I'd know who was to the right or left of whom.

LynnRodz said...

Ohh, I love, love, love maps! I remember when I was in 4th grade in our geography class and my teacher pulled the plastic ring at the end of the cord and the world map came down and covered the blackboard. (Do they still do that, or are all these young people thinking, "What in the hell is she talking about?")

Anyway, I turned to one of my classmates and said, "See all those countries, one day I'm going to visit them all and I'm going to live in a bunch of them too." I can still remember being so sure of that. I wasn't saying it like a kid hoping to do it one day. I knew deep down inside that I would. Well, all these years later, I've traveled to over 60 countries (and counting) and lived (meaning living in a place for all four seasons) in 8. I don't think I'll be adding to the second part any longer, but you never know what life has in store.

Thanks for the video, Janet, I had never heard of the Peters World Map.

Colin Smith said...

I too like a good map. And I too am directionally challenged, though I've always been good at map-reading. I guess my internal compass is faulty, or non-existent. Many times I've walked out of a store and had to stop and get my bearings. Give me a map, though, and I can find my way around anywhere.

Maps in books can be fun and helpful, especially if the text has a lot of locational references and I'm having a hard time picturing how far away that is, or where that place is relative to that other place. The necessity of the map should, of course, be determined by how much the narrative needs it. Terry Pratchett was never inclined to include maps with his Discworld series. And there are other books I've read where the relative location of such-and-such a town is not really critical to the story, rendering maps unnecessary. However, if nothing else, maps can lend a sense of realism to your story.

Interesting topic, and another answer that's good to know. Thanks, Janet! :)

DeadSpiderEye said...

I've got a map story, I bought a heavily foxed but otherwise good copy of The Readers Digest Atlas, quite some years ago now. At the back I found four pieces of paper, one's another map, that of The Grand Canyon National Park, along with a compliment slip from that location and its envelope.

The fourth is a small piece of yellowed notepaper, almost square in ratio. On one side is a poem written, it looks, in a single pass with a Biro, with only a couple of minor alterations evident.

This is my transcription:

The wind was blowing out of doors, the drips where piling high.
And I could see pedestrians as they were passing by.
The faces of my --- friends came dimly through the glass
As they trudged the icy streets to worship at their mass.
I watched a while, went back to bed and cuddled safe and sound
As they braved those icy blasts on a sacred duty bound.
I envy them their strength of heart, the faith that they renew
But on an icy cold Sunday morn, it's good to be a Jew.


It continues with a few lines on the verso, in pencil but I've never been able to make out a more than a few words and my eyesight's not getting any better.

The Biro portion is in a quite tight masculine looking hand, I think he was trying to it fit all on the space he had to write it down but It's more open on the verso. I wonder who wrote it, it's a pretty deft composition.

LynnRodz said...

I love that poem, DSE, thanks for sharing. If you Google it, you'll see that it's in Ronald Reagan's Private Collection of Stories and Wisdom only as a poem. Another website calls the poem, The Christmas Mass and a third website calls it, Eleven O'clock Mass. None of them say who wrote the poem, but they all end with "'s good to be a Jew." .

Craig F said...

I will eventually get to a map. It will probably not be until the third sci-fi book. That is when the new world will be 160 years settled and cities will be more than a dot.

Of course the three thrillers that build up to the BIG STEP have to get published first.

Adele said...

I love the early city maps, where they draw in all the houses and gardens as well as the streets, even though they are not necessarily accurate. (Once a printer had a woodcut of a town he would use it over and over for other towns.)

The St. Mary Mead map is a pretty drawing and I enjoy it for itself, but if the map is necessary to understanding the plot I think the author's in trouble. And yes, I have seen that, in mid-20th-century mysteries, where you had to keep flipping back and forth to find places on the map just to understand what's going on, and that is really tedious.

Anonymous said...

I'm probably strange. I like maps, but I rarely use ones found in a novel. Unless the novel gets confusing, and I have to keep going back to see where things are. I'd rather the novel be clear enough to tell what's going on without the map.

I like detailed maps of ancient places. I like ancient maps of current places. I like seeing how the ancients saw their worlds.

In fiction, though, I don't like having to interrupt my reading to go look at maps. And a map at the beginning is pretty useless if you don't know what everything means. But that's obviously just me.

Julie, I can't believe I'd forgotten Please Mr Custer until you mentioned it. Then it all came back. A novelty song, which made the singer out to be a coward... until it could be seen that the singer was actually very prescient. Not to mention pretty dead. I can't think of a better song for the reservation on that day.

Anonymous said...


Yep, I believe that story completely. When Will was in Iraq they lost him for three weeks due to shuffling around, waiting, missing flights due to overcrowding or stupid crap trying to get him on transports to go to a school. They're supposed to scan you every time you change locations, but one of them dropped him out of the system so he was a ? for three weeks on the location board.

He finally got a ride back on a bird they had to dump fuel because they were so overweight. That meant they were skimming treetops in the middle of the night and flying without lights of any kind so no one could sight in on them and blow them out of the air.

"No, cigarettes, phones, electronics. Nothing with lights. We're flying low tonight. Especially you, Weathers. You're sitting on the bombs."

I think reading that story would irk me. I don't like being forced to memorize names and locations to enjoy a book.

I love that poem DSE, thanks for sharing it.

Anonymous said...


Yep, the Indians have fun with that song.

They have a re-enactment every year. The Indian women used, while depicting mutilating the bodies after the battle, give the soldiers a hard time and de-pants them etc. It was always funny watching a dead soldier trying to keep his pants on or one get up and take off running when a rattler came slithering by.

And a good time was had by all.


Anonymous said...

I have to admit that map is creeping me out.

DLM said...

I work at a company for which our maps are part of every day, and Lynn - my boss has one of those pull-down classroom maps IN HIS OFFICE. It is glorious, just a beautiful (and useful!) map.

My brother is an archaeologist and has drawn maps for his job for decades, and his work is absolutely art. He once offered to do a map for The Ax and the Vase, but we never quite got it off the ground. But if I ever start submitting it again, I would love to have his work.

Dena Pawling said...


My son has been "forgotten" a few times in his 2-1/2 years Navy. First time was when he finished A-school and he had to wait two weeks for his orders to his next station, because his chief had forgotten to put him on the graduating list. Since he was technically [if not on paper] graduated, he wasn't considered a student, but he wasn't officially "staff" either, so he basically had two weeks of local leave. He certainly didn't complain LOL.

His most recent deployment was stateside to Colorado. Yeah, why is that even called a deployment? But anyway, his work section arrived at the airport to fly home [to Gulfport MS where he's stationed] and the chief had forgotten to count them in the number of bodies returning. So 11 of them got to stay in some fancy expensive hotel for the night. After the previous two months living in barracks they were refurbishing [he's a Seabee, electrician], I think even a Motel 6 would have been considered fancy. But this was a Marriott or something of that caliber. He didn't complain about that either.

His philosophy is “so long as he keeps getting grub and a paycheck” he doesn't mind if he's forgotten every once in a while.

Anonymous said...


You should take him up on that. I need to do a better maps, but the words are the important thing to me right now. Either cutting old ones or putting down new ones, even bad ones. The enemy isn't bad words, it's the blank page.

I love maps in books, I just don't want to feel like I'm in class.


Yes, getting forgotten wouldn't be too bad except in that case, he could have just as easily have been kidnapped and losing 3 weeks looking for him wouldn't be good. The last they knew he crossed the border into Kuwait then dropped off the radar.

I'm just glad they didn't contact me to tell me they couldn't find him.

Has anyone heard from Julie H?


DLM said...

Julie, oh, I took him up on it. Emailed him existing maps and explained the territories. We just never quite got it together. :) His work is the kind of thing you can just lose yourself in. That is the thing I love about maps.

Did anyone else grow up with Richard Scarrey picture books? Images just packed with layers and layers of detail, telling their own stories. I used to spend hours sinking deeper and deeper into those.

That, for me, is what a good map does. Its information tells a different story every time you look, because you are looking for something different every time and there is so much there.

Anonymous said...

I've been wondering where Julie H is, too.

The last she posted/commented on Facebook was June 20. A week ago.

Julie? Are you out there?

Lance said...

Interesting post. Maps have always fascinated me, whether in books or just for their own value. Maps in books can be very important, such as Middle Earth in Tolkien's books. I got an Indian Country map to go along with Tony Hillerman's Navajo Tribal Police series. I also use a map of Great Britain for books set over there. In writing, I depend on maps a lot to get the setting as accurate as needs be.

An intern and I were walking through an office building earlier this summer, and she counted seven world maps on people's office walls. She didn't get it. I wasn't sure where to begin explaining it to her.

Dena Pawling said...

Julie - Yeah being forgotten overseas isn't quite the same. My son's next deployment will be his second overseas, and isn't as friendly as the last one. But not Iraq or Kuwait. Ouch.

My husband and I had dinner for our anniversary a few weeks ago at Outback Steakhouse, which prominently displays an "upside down" world map with Australia very large and at the top center. Definitely added to the atmosphere of the restaurant.

Some maps are more "fun" than others. The CA fire map right now shows 9 contained fires and 5 not contained. None of these are within 10 miles of my house, thankfully. I've lived thru 2 that came within 2 miles [and I used one of those in my WIP], don't want to live thru any more than that.

Anonymous said...

Love maps. One of my most treasured childhood possessions was a big wall map of the world that came folded up with some boxed set of books about science-y stuff. I spent hours looking at it and daydreaming about far off places with interesting names.

I think the most disturbing part of the upside-down map is that the winds and weather would all be going the wrong direction. Shifts in perception are good for the brain.

DSE, I had to look up not only Biro but also "heavily foxed." Thank you. Love learning new-to-me words.

I miss Julie H too. Hope she's okay.

Colin Smith said...

Here are Dena's links:

I too wonder how Julie H is. Julie? You out there? :\

Craig F said...

One of my current favorite maps in the Nullschool map. It is a current animated and interactive map of the winds around the world. It is really cool.

Here is my first try at a link

Craig F said...

It didn't work. It is

Colin Smith said...

Here you go, Craig:

Colin Smith said...

A note about linking. If the link doesn't have a "www" (e.g.,, you need to supply the "http://"). To be on the safe side, whenever you link, use the full description: "" or ""

Craig F said...

Thanks Colin. I'll get it eventually but I don't post that many links. I know I have a certain lust to be a Kuddite and it takes me three or four tries to do those kinds of things,

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Craig and Colin, love, love, love the link.

Elissa M said...

Craig--That Nullschool map is awesome sauce. I love maps, but globes are better. Globes that you can turn all around and look at from every angle are the absolute best. The wind patterns just make it gorgeous as well.

I drew maps for my current WiP just to keep stuff straight in my head. I've also drawn my characters, plus a few scenes and settings. I'm an artist, and tend to think visually. If it ever gets to the publication stage, I won't care if the editor wants maps, and I won't care if they want someone else to draw them. I'll be sure to discuss it with my agent either way though.

Okay, my stupid TSA story (though it didn't involved actual TSA people, just stupid regulations):

My husband came back from Iraq on a cargo flight with his unit's equipment. The flight originated on a U.S. military installation and landed on a U.S. military installation with no stops in between. The crew was all U.S. Air Force. The passengers were all U.S. Army (101st Airborne).

The whole shoe-bomber thing had just happened a few days before, so no liquids of any kind were allowed on board. Yeah, every Soldier had a weapon. And yeah, they were M4's. And yeah, they had bayonets. But they'd been made to throw away all their toothpaste, shaving cream, etc., etc. Because, you know, someone might have somehow tried to take over the plane with toothpaste. Or something. And all the other Soldiers (who had just finished a year's deployment) might have just sat there and let them. Riiiight.

Anonymous said...

Oh my. Oh MY! That map really is interactive! You can double-click to zoom in and click and drag to rotate the earth. And not just on its axis, you can tilt it to see the poles too. This will be my new favourite map during hurricane season (well, it IS hurricane season, but I meant when there's a storm approaching). Thank you, Craig!

No, I'm not procrastinating. As if. Why would you even ask me such a thing?

Amy Schaefer said...

Someone has probably beat me to it, but I love this xkcd cartoon:

What Your Favorite Map Projection Says About You

Sam Hawke said...

Oh man, I want to waste the rest of my weekend watching the West Wing now! I love that map. Much more sensible positioning for my half of the globe. :)

Joseph S. said...

Thanks for this question. Put on my checklist. Ask agent (if I get one) about a map in my novel.

Megan V said...

Maps are wonderful, but using them to navigate is another matter. It's so easy to get caught up in 'what direction am I supposed to take' that you use the map as an excuse to quit the journey before it's even begun.

I guess that's why writers feel lost all the time. We're so busy focusing on the map, we walk into the labyrinthic woods of publishing wholly unprepared for the actual individual outcome.

Kate Larkindale said...

I love maps to look at, but as a practical tool they are useless to me. I can't read a map to save my life. Any piece of paper that depends on you holding it the right way around for it to work is flawed in my book. And then, there's the problem of left and right (I can't tell which is which). I failed a French assessment in high school not because I couldn't speak French, but because the assignment was in giving directions off a map. None of my tourists made it to Sacre Bleu or the Eiffel Tower because I kept telling them to go droit when they should have been going gauche.

You'll be pleased to know I don't drive. The world is a much safer place as a result.

S.D.King said...

I really want to include a hand drawn map of the town in my book. Hope I can convince the bosses that it is valuable.

Hope I can find a "boss".

LynnRodz said...

Diane, I love those pull down maps and I love maps in books. Many times they're needed. Lucky you that your brother can do yours for The Ax and the Vase. Don't give up, keep trying.

DeadSpiderEye said...


Thanks for the pointer, I can see where my transcription has gone a bit awry, why didn't I spot 'Irish'? It's interesting to see it has some currency, which leads me to question my assumption about it being a composition, perhaps it's simply a transcription, with the alterations due to slips in recollection.

Megan V said...

Kate—but...if you don't drive...that means you're the p-p-passenger...which means you're the navigator! Eeek! :)

lala412 said...

I can so relate to that! I could pull into a grocery store and, when I left, have no idea which way I was supposed to turn to get back home. And that was in a town where I had lived for five years. Now I just leave my Garmin on all the time...