Saturday, May 1, 2010

Tim Gillner: Picture Books, from Conception to Birth

Reported by Dana Arnim

Art Director Tim Gillner walked his audience through the picture-book process at Boyds Mills Press, starting with submissions. Over 500 manuscript submissions are received each month, but perhaps only ten are read, and then maybe just one of those gets to an editor.

Once the editor wants to acquire a story, and if he/she can "sell" the manuscript to the publisher, then the art director partners with the editor to find the right artist for the job. Tim usually chooses at least three possible artists, because time and work conflicts can prevent an illustrator from saying yes. Once an artist has been secured, the schedule and price are negotiated.

The working relationship between artist and art director involves allowing the illustrator to bring his or her own interpretation to the manuscript. During the approval and revision stage, Tim has often "fought" to win the publisher over on artwork that the publisher at first rejected, such as black and white illustrations for a picture book. Once the sketches are approved, then the artist creates the final art. Tim stressed that this must conform to the sketches. He also stressed the importance of leaving space for text.

The lengthy process of producing a book involves scanning the art, designing the text, creating an F&G (a folded-and-gathered mock-up), performing color checks, producing plates, and conducting sometimes exhausting press/color checks. Tim cautioned illustrators that the original colors of their art will never be perfectly reproduced. Boyds Mills Press prefers to have its books produced in the U.S.—the publisher has more control over the production timing and transport time. From manuscript acquisition to printing and binding, the picture-book process will usually take at least a year and a half, and can easily take up to three years.

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