Sunday, September 02, 2007

Should I paint the cover for my book dummy????

Hi girls!
I had a pretty productive weekend so far. Considering the last two weeks I came up with practically nothing I'm glad to say I was able to enjoy my drawing board a lot more. Well above is a sketch for the cover to my book dummy and I don't know what to do at this point. I've heard conflicting suggestions as to whether one should submit a dummy with a finished color cover or not? Of course I'm going to digest all of your feedback first and foremost on the prilimanary sketch and then decide whether to paint this or not. But I'm totally confused whether one should present the dummy as a concept in sketch form with a few illos in color inside ( which I have) or go with the tremendous temptation to give the cover life so that it will stand out more and be more eye-catching? I've heard that the cover to a picture book is the most art-directed part of a book and so you shouldn't impose a finished concept on the publishers because you might rub them the wrong way. I actually got that feedback a while back when I posted a different, very finished, painted version on the SCBWI boards. But lately since I hit 45 this past June I'm feeling like I should go with my gutt instinct and make it pop a little bit more out of the slush pile. Was curious to know what everyone else here has done with their's? Also any suggestions on the type for the title would be great. I choice this one because I thought it would add some playfulness to the piece. All the traditional fonts seemed very boring when put together with my style. Any info would be great. PS If you didn't spot him the wolf is lurking in the woods to the right making his plans! Oh and thanks so much for the feedback on last week's piece. Great suggestions.


  1. Hi Giselle, I'm so glad you mentioned the wolf, I missed him altogether! Nice touch. I think Red is adorable. I would like to see a bit more of her hood though. I think it would make her look more 3-D and would draw our eyes directly into hers.

    All the things you mentioned about the cover being left for the AD to give direction on, is exactly what I have heard through the years.

    Although this cover is lovely, my opinion is that you have far greater pieces inside your book,(that show off your great sense of composition, text placement and drawing capabilities)...ones that I would love to see done in color for your 2-3 finished color pieces. (Yes, I have heard that as well.) I've read time and time again that 2-3 finished illo's should accompany your Sketched dummy.

    As for the cover text...could you design your own to reflect the drawing techniques within? Like, for the sake of discussion, could the letters be made of twigs, or flower stems intertwined? Just a thought.

    Also, where's your name kiddo???? It should be on the cover somewhere!

    Another thought, (I'm on a role)...I would love to see her carrying that sweet little basket that is on the last page! (Maybe move her up a tad to make room for it?)

    Okay, I'm done....NEXT!!!! :D

  2. That is a tough one, Giselle. I've made two dummies in my life and did them both very differently. Of course, I've never had either published (since I've realized since my Gum experience that they both need some work!) so I'm certainly no expert!

    With my first one, "Lola", I went all out and even had it bound at the printers like a real book! And I made the horrible mistake of inserting the colored paintings as a PART of the bound book, including the cover! (Oui!) But then again, I had this book dummy critiqued by an agent in NYC at the Illustrators Conference a few years back and she never said one word about it! She had other suggestions but never said a word about presentation.

    So then I figured I probably spent way too much time and money on that version so for my next one, "Chicken" which you probably remember, I went MUCH simpler and got some report binder thingys at Staples, photocopies each page and just stuck 'em in, all black and white, and then accompanied this with nice color copies of 3 finished pieces. I would have to say that if I were to do this again that is probably the route I would go. It was much easier and in the end, if you have good work I doubt it matters all that much. You want to look professional of course but if they're interested, they're interested no matter what the cover looks like (meaning color vs b/w).

    So I guess that's what I would do personally - take the whole thing, black and white, and assemble and then just accompany it with a few finished paintings. In the end, every art director is different and likes different things and trying to read their minds is nuts, so just do your best and a good art director will see that.

    Now, with that said, if you are going to leave the cover black and white, I would emphasize things like wolfy (which took me a while to find) and Red's red hood by going in a bit deeper with your values. Color or no color you definitely don't want an art director to have to hunt for important aspects like the wolf so I would say go a little less subtle here. I might even bring wolfy out of the woods a bit more so that it is very clear that he is there.

    I'm sure whatever you choose in the end will by great, Giselle! I have every confidence in your abilities! :)


  3. Hi Giselle,
    As Lisa and Gina have already said, it's a hard call to make as everything depends on the art director looking at it on a certain day or at a certain time, looking for a certain thing.
    If it was me, I would probably keep it black and white just so the art director doesn't think you are too set in your ways and not willing to change things if needed.
    I too would make her hood and even her cape a little darker so they will stand out. I also would emphasis the wolf because I misses him until I read the posting by Lisa.
    I am happy for you. You have put so much time and work into all of this. It really does look great! Congratulations!

  4. Hi Giselle,

    I'm not even going to attempt to answer the color or not question since this is all new to me, and I'm just learning now as I read your comments from everyone else. I'll let the experts handle it:-) But I do agree with Lisa, that although this is cute, you have some other pieces in the book with more interesting perspectives and original compositions that I think would wow the publishers more if painted. I would darken Little Red Riding Hoods cape to make her pop out more and make wolf stepping out of the woods, maybe give him a little bit more character. The idea about doing the text in twigs, flowers, etc. is a fantastic idea! It must feel so great to be so close to having this dummy completed, congratulations!

  5. Hi Giselle,
    I have also heard that making a dummy separate from finished pieces is the way to go. I might seem jarring to go from sketchy pages to COLOR then back to b/W again.

    As for the image, I would push Red up more contrast wise, especially her hair which starts to get redundant with the grass behind her. And do make the wolf come out a little more so he has more of a chance to be seen...but can still be one of those surprising "OH LOOK didn't notice that before," details.

    As for fonts (I LOVE FONTS!) I would consider deigning your own if you are up for it, based on a font that is similar, but I would only do this if you are confident in your lettering skills because you don't want an AD to notice how weak they might be. Also take a look at other children's books and notice the font styles VS story tone and artwork. There are many artists to do their own lettering and I have started to compiling a list because it's something I am also interested in.

    For inspiration, and a way to pick up new fonts or perhaps see some that might be fun to use in the future, check out this site:

    I get a lot of my fonts from sites like this.

    This reminds me of a funny article in book production that Lane Smith posted with his wife a while back. I think I will post it with my stuff on Monday. It is a MUST see for fun ways to consider type and design with Illustration.

  6. Hi Giselle -
    Red on the cover, looks very sweet. I love her hair and that expression.
    I do think the wolf needs to be way more prominent or you could do something completely different for the cover. For example - the colored image you had of Red moving though the village street was really nice - or perhaps you can have one similar to her skipping through the woods, with a close up of the wolf in the background.
    Just food for thought, but, it looks like you're at the same stage as me - it feels like you're done, but, not quite yet - but, soon.
    As for the color vs. b/w on the cover - I'm still learning like you, but, what the other's say makes sense.
    On my first book, (an educational publishier,) the editors liked one of the inside b/w illustrations for the cover. Neither the author nor I felt that it was the strongest illustration, but, the publisher liked it, so, c'est la vie!
    I say have fun, be professional, but, don't sweat the little things - I'd just go ahead and keep the cover b/w, (and focus on a strong composition) just in case they do want to change it - rather then color - because they most likely will. :)
    Hope your labor day weekend was fun - mine was! In fact, when I got back, my mom decided that it was her turn for a vacation - she really keeps me on my toes by golly.
    Toodles for now and happy drawing! Chris

  7. Hey again!
    I just wanted to add here, too, that I personally like having the completed black and white dummy accompanied by separate finished paintings because this way, an art director can clearly see how you go from black & white to color and what to expect from the other pieces. Does this make sense? So he or she can say, "OK, if this is how this artist shows "sketch" and then this is "finished art" I can imagine in my own mind how these other sketches might look, too." And of course, that's just my feelings on it and I have no real way of knowing if this is how they think or not frankly, but I guess that's what I would think if I was an art director! :)


  8. Thanks for the extra input Gina. That makes a lot of sense. I will make it all black and white then add the color sheets separately in the packet.