After approving the boy and the dog character design, we move to something called ‘storyboard.’  Although this is a new term for me, it is quite standard for those operating in the space of illustrations and animation. 

I have now learned that the storyboard is the layout of the book drawn in rough sketches. It looks a bit like a comic strip. After all the work done to get the characters drawn over the last few weeks, I am initially startled to see stick figures representing the main characters!

The goal is to match the illustrations with the text and be sure the pictures match the author’s vision. This step is an essential checkpoint as even though I have a particular image in my head of the illustrations and flow of the book, there are times I have not made it clear to the illustrator. I did send some initial illustrator comments [in brackets to differentiate from the manuscript] when I submitted my story. Still, I realize now that adding more detail would have been helpful. One of the most significant modifications in this round is the ship.  I was picturing a barge that carries materials to and from the North Shore.  The illustration in this storyboard leans more toward a speedboat.

Forming comments takes quite a bit of time.  I toggle between reviewing the manuscript, viewing the storyboard illustrations, and typing comments into Basecamp.  Although time-consuming, this step forces me to think through each scene, describe what I want to see and communicate that to the illustrator. Some of the scenes already match my vision, though a few require dramatic changes.

The most satisfying part of this milestone is that I am starting to see the book take shape. The page-to-page flow of the story is evident.  If I had a way to view the text under each drawing, it would be even easier to edit and make comments.

Main tasks for this step

  • Review the 15 scenes of storyboard
  • Match them scene by scene with the manuscript and to see how they match my vision and narrative for the story
  • Develop comments on how the illustrations should be modified

Character design

I received an invitation via email to Basecamp. GetYourBookIllustrations uses Basecamp as a hub to ask questions, add comments, and share sketches and illustrations. I am alerted to new conversations and files in Basecamp via email, and I click on the link to see what’s new.  From there, I can view the latest comments and view or download files. The past conversations and data are stored, so this makes it a useful repository on conversation history as well.

Our first order of business is character design. The boy and his dog are the main characters, and we select a scene from the manuscript that has them both prominently displayed.  After just a few minor changes, the dog matches my vision.  The boy, on the other hand, is much more challenging. Round after round, we discuss age, hair color, hairstyle, eye color, clothes, age, expression, etc. Unfortunately, I find it easier to say what I don’t like then be crystal clear on my vision. In the future, I will discipline myself to have a clearer idea of what I am looking for before getting to this step to smooth this part of the process. 

Little by little, the boy begins to take shape in a way in which I can be at peace. I am trying to strike a precarious balance between playful illustrations and reality. 

After two weeks, lots of communication, and many iterations, we are ready to move to the storyboard and the other main character, Lake Superior.

Illustrations and Formatting

Combing through Fiverr and Upwork makes it clear to me there is no shortage of talented illustrators for children’s books.  However, the monumental task of finding the ‘best’ candidates and repeating the process for formatting and cover design is daunting. I spent quite a bit of time exploring the website and decided to set up a free author consultation. I was able to schedule a meeting for the next morning. 

GetYourBookIllustrations offers a one-stop-shop for illustrations, formatting, font, and cover design, as well as a variety of illustration styles from which to choose.  My consultation and additional follow up was well-organized and professional.

During the consultation we talked about my vision for the book including style and print size.  I found it difficult to explain exactly the illustration style I was going for, so we spent quite a bit of time going back and forth discussing style and looking at sketches.

After much thought I moved forward and signed the contract.  

My agreement includes

  • Illustrations – 2 single page and 14 double-page spreads
  • Formatting and design for both print and ebook versions
  • Cover design for both print and ebook. 

Up next: character design!