You’ve put in the hours of writing, the late nights editing, and successfully transformed your story from an idea into a children’s book. The next step? Finding an illustrator. For most of us writers, it is the writing, not the illustrating, that is our gift. However, especially in children’s books, the illustrations are a vital part of the story! The pressure to bring our words to life makes selecting an illustrator a nerve-wracking process. After all, you want to pick someone who will align with your vision. I found the process of selecting an illustrator one of the most difficult parts of creating my book. Who could I trust to bring my story to life? 

My Method

One day while surfing the web, I came across a platform called 99 Designs. The site allows you to run a contest to select a designer. The process is relatively simple. You create a profile, explain the project you want to be completed, and then launch a contest. I uploaded a picture for inspiration and explained the idea behind my book. I wanted a personal, endearing cartoon style that highlighted Prince and the fun, bustle, and diversity of New York City. Much to my surprise, 29 different designers entered my contest! I was so impressed by the talent of all the illustrators, but Ikhsan (Bird) Ditya stood out above the rest. 


Communicating your vision to your illustrator is absolutely essential. Think about where you found your inspiration. Try and narrow down the style in which you’re most interested to a few words or a concise vision statement. Do you want the pictures to be whimsical or realistic? To which age range do you want to appeal? 

When I communicated my vision to potential illustrators, I also included some personal images from my birthday in 1982. I wanted them to capture the same joy and attitude of the pictures below. While of course you don’t need to include childhood photos, you can offer your illustrators images that inspire you, whether they be cityscapes, other works of art, or color swatches. Ikhsan Ditya did a fantastic job of capturing my vision and spirit! 









Collaboration and Trust

Remember that working with your illustrator is a collaborative process. While you may think in words, they interpret the world in pictures. There is a lot of trust involved, and it can be hard to let go and allow the illustrator to do their work. When you do give feedback, try to be as concrete and specific as possible. Keep things constructive, but don’t be afraid to give feedback, especially at the beginning of the process. 

Though the process was a bit daunting, I can’t deny the thrill of seeing my words brought to life. 99 Designs gave me the opportunity to shop around and connect with an extremely talented illustrator. From there on, maintaining communication, collaboration, and, though at times difficult, trust will ensure that your experience with an illustrator is as smooth as possible.