Monday, 25 July 2011

Step 3: Illustrating your Book

How much illustration do you really need?

Some people say Illustrating your book is an optional phase and to a degree this is true. Not every book requires the skills of a professional illustrator but every book needs something more than text on each page.

There are generally 3 views as to the level of illustration required in any given book. These are:

  1. Fully Illustrated - using either fine art or computer art 
  2. Partially Illustrated - using designer created illustration elements 
  3. Not Illustrated - pages typeset with no illustration elements 

It is 100% true that not every book needs to be fully illustrated, however it is also 100% true that a book with no illustrations at all will never hold a reader's attention (and therefore not have as good future sales value) as effectively as an illustrated book. It depends on the genre of your book as to what kind of illustration is right for you.
For example: A children's book obviously needs to be fully illustrated to match the current market standard, whereas a novel traditionally is not illustrated at all. Photo books are very popular these days. These are an example of what I refer to as the partially illustrated option where the text, whether it be family holiday snapshot captions, associated poetry, quotes, songs etc. is accompanied by associated imagery. In this case the photos can be laid out by the designer in the design stage and serve as the illustrations. Every book needs some visual element to break up the text and make your book stand out from its competitors in your market who are generally producing plain text books. 

A partially illustrated book may be the way to go for you if there are different elements eg. photos, drawings, computer art etc. that would accompany each page well, but are not necessarily consistent with a story going throughout the whole book eg. cook book, poetry book etc.

A novel is traditionally a non-illustrated book. However, there are still ways to add touches of illustration to your book without straying too far away from the novel format but still making your book stand out from your competitors. Something as simple as a watermark in the background or a graphic element around the chapter headings can be enough to make your book (no matter how lovely the type is set) stand out from all the other novels on the market that are purely typeset and have no illustrations at all.

For a list of recommendations of genres suitable for each different illustration method please check out the table below.

Fully Illustrated
Partially Illustrated
Not Illustrated
Children's Book

Comic Book


Photo Book

Cook Book

Poetry Book

Travel Book


'How to...'Book

Regardless of which form of illustration you choose, you still have to choose how you are going to carry that method out.

Traditionally the dream book is illustrated by the authors themselves, the publicity book uses a professional illustrator and the partially illustrated book is used by those trying to make a profit from their book. 

Irrespective of the most common choices, you need to ask yourself what feels right for you.


1. Do you want to illustrate or partially illustrate your book yourself?

2. Do you want to use a professional Illustrator to illustrate the whole book, or only a portion of it? (eg. caricatures of the author on each title page illustrating the content of each chapter are popular these days in the'How to'genre of book)

3. Do you want your designer to add elements for you that are relevant to the text on that particular page, or do you actually want no illustration at all for a particular reason or purpose?

You need to think about each of these questions before you go into the next stage of the Book Publishing Process i.e. designing your book, as the two are very closely intertwined. Only once the illustration process is completed should the book design begin.

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