The Book Beautiful: Illustrations

We all started out reading illustrated children’s books; perhaps your parents would read the words as your eyes were captivated by the images of a hungry caterpillar, the Berenstain bears, a Curious little George, etc. As we grow older, however, it’s probably not too often that the books we fill our time with have accompanying illustrations. Nevertheless, it has not always been the case that book for adults went unillustrated. Charles Dickens, for example, was known to have very close relationships with his illustrators, to whom he would give plot outlines before he’d even written the text itself. So while it’s easy to pull up references to colorful children’s books illustrations, that is not to say that they don’t have a valid and important place in other genres of books geared toward young adults and adults as well.

curious george illustration

So you want to write an illustrated book? First of all, don’t look at the illustrations to an illustrated book as supplemental, but as a crucial aspect to the themes you are trying to convey. Images help augment the reader’s imaginative experience, they make a book fun and easier to read, and they definitely help hold on to the reader’s attention.

There are certain genres that illustrations or photographs seem to be an obvious and necessary accompaniment–cookbooks, DIY-books, textbooks, autobiographies and biographies, and as we’ve previously mentioned, children’s books. The illustrations for a cookbook could simply be photographs of the final result of your recipe, and for a DIY-book they could be drawings or photographs of the different steps of the project your book conveys. If you’re writing an autobiography or a biography, photographs of the subject throughout their life or at pivotal moments in their life will help the reader further identify with the subject as a person rather than as a character in a story whom they have to fabricate an image of in their mind. As far as children’s books goes, the adage ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ doesn’t really apply–kids will always judge a book by its cover and they will be inevitably more drawn to eye-catching, colorful illustrations.

Quantity is another important consideration to make as far as illustrations go. For a young-adult book, one illustration per chapter will usually suffice, while a children’s book should probably have one illustration per page. With a children’s book then, layout becomes another consideration–will your images be a full-page spread, or will they be next to, above, or below the text? If you’re writing a biography or an autobiography, you may want to have your photographs placed at the relevant points in your text–for example, your subject won the Olympic gold medal and here is a picture of her doing just that. OR, you could have a center panel with multiple pages of photographs and use footnotes in the text that will direct the reader to the relevant images that they can flip to easily.

Now, assuming that you yourself are not going to illustrate your own book (not to at all doubt your artistic abilities), the question of how to get your book illustrated become important. Outskirts Press offers custom, full-color illustrations for authors, even if they haven’t published through our company. By using this service, you can be sure that you’ll never have to split royalties with an artist, a cost that is always nice to avoid. Remember, no matter who you choose to illustrate your book, that quality illustrations are going to be a very important factor in the marketing value of your book.

Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠


ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog,

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