During this past year I’ve mentioned dominating publisher trends. YA, and particularly the Children’s and the Picture Book subgenres, continue their strength from 2015. And if anyone can illustrate and tell a preschool story, this seems to be the market with the easiest barrier to entry at the major-house level.
There are two schools of thought for Picture Book material, and one is that the author should also be the illustrator, or have one on his or her hip, or that the publisher–if the story is strong enough–will provide an illustrator after the book is signed. My personal experience with the Picture Book market is limited, but I tried very hard to find an illustrator a couple of years ago for a client who, in my opinion, possesses a terrific premise. My search ranged from free-lancers to a well-known newspaper cartoonist. Alas, no one could meet the demands of my client, who eventually settled on a famous European illustrator.
Yes, it requires substantial wherewithal to do this, so a search of this magnitude is certainly not for everyone, but what I learned above all else is that matching up an illustrator is just as complex as finding the right editor; meaning, it’s also a horses for courses environment. I had to charge a straight hourly rate for my time, as there’s no other way to do this sort of work, but I found it impossible to land a publisher for my client if the material wasn’t already illustrated, which is the point of this entire section. Hence, any subscriber reading my comments on whether or not I feel that a Picture Book should be illustrated prior to submission now knows my sentiments.
However, ignoring the challenges presented by the Picture Book subgenre, YA, and Children’s material in particular, seem to be dominating the market. I wrote some years back that I believed that it would be difficult for the digital medium to take print books out of little kid’s hands, as the feely-touchy part is impossible to replicate in a virtual setting. This might change over time, or it could become less an issue as even the littlest children become tech oriented, but until a fold-out or a bas-relief picture can be simulated and “touched,” I’m holding to my opinion that the printed book, especially in softcover, will continue to resonate with children. Anyone parsing the daily Publishers Lunch genre listings will quickly understand why I’m making this statement.