Friday, April 6, 2012

How to Pitch Illustrated YA/MG

 Francesca Zappia asked me recently how to pitch a book with illustrations. So I thought it was a great idea for a blog topic.

I've been struggling with how to categorize my book and how to pitch it ever since I started querying. My book is YA with mystery and adventure elements, little romance, and written in a lyrical style that many would consider too 'young' for YA. In spite of all that, the story still handles YA subject matter and teenage emotional issues. (I personally believe that my MS would be looked at differently if my MC was male, but that's beside the point.)

I've already mentioned the opposition I've run into from other writers when I say I've also illustrated my book. So many have told me no one will give an author/illustrator a second look, but they're only repeating what they've heard for so long. I believe that attitude is outdated since that's not what I've been told by agents. So, what do you do when you have a book that's considered by so many people as a 'tough sell'?

Rock on!
I accentuate it. I make it a good thing, because it is! Hey, look agents! I'm two-for-one! I'm a highly trained illustrator who writes! Snatch me up before someone else gets me!

Not every agent is looking to handle author/illustrators. It takes a certain type who knows how to pitch them to publishers. To help me target those who do, I google lists of agents who rep author/illustrators, illustrators, and writers of children's books. I also search and take full advantage of the resources on the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators website.

Lividia pen and ink illustration

When I query, I pitch the book first, then I mention that I also illustrated it, and tell them why I chose to (and include my training to back up my skill). I link to my website for them to see my style, but I don't attach images. (That's a big no-no.) I mention that if they're interested I will gladly send along the illustrations for them to look at. And, of course, I always thank them graciously for their time and consideration.

Also, when I query my YA that could possibly become an MG (if I changed some main elements) I mention that as a strength. "My book is about a teenage girl who's a late-bloomer. Though it deals with older topics like engagement and issues with trust and self-discovery, it's written in a style that appeals to middle grade audiences as well." Boom. I've just expanded my audience, and I firmly believe it's a good rather than a bad thing. I think agents will too. (I have two partials out since I started doing that.)

I believe the publishing world is looking for the next genre-crossing bestseller, the book that will appeal to a wide audience, not just teenage girls looking for romance. I don't pitch them a romance, or a strictly teenage book. While it might be easier to categorize, it's not my book. There are already plenty of teenage romances out there.

The best books are those that reach outside their genre and appeal to a larger audience (ie Harry Potter). So when you're tempted to cut off vital pieces of your book to fit into a mold it wasn't made for, stop and think about it first. What others might see as a problem could be your book's greatest selling point. You just have to know how to pitch it.

Good luck!


  1. I think there's a very real possibility that you're right--you're a double threat! It sounds as though agents and publishers are always on the lookout for the next thing, and it could very possibly be this :)

  2. Oh, and it just occurred to me that MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN was full of photographs that the author included. Why couldn't the same approach be taken with a book that is written and illustrated by the same person? Food for thought.

  3. Love this! I don't see how being an author/illustrator could be seen as anything more than a benefit. Especially when pictures can be so useful to help develop the world. You get the storytelling of pure words with the twist of pictures.


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