Ask a Picture Book Editor

How to Submit Your Picture Book Professionally (and pitch for other kinds of book illustration work)

Part 3 - What to Submit if You're an Illustrator 

If I am an illustrator, what should I send to publishers?

If you have a picture book dummy: send complete b & w roughs, polished text, character studies and 2 pieces of finished artwork. Do NOT send originals in the post.

Top tip:  DON’T put together the entire picture book in full-colour as a finished fait accompli. If the publisher likes your book, the editor and designer will most certainly want to make changes to help make it the best book it can possibly be.

Here is an example of a dummy and character sketches submitted by Lizzie Finlay to Natascha at Random House Children's Books:

They were later published in a best-selling picture book:

If you are pitching for picture book work or black and white fiction work, you might want to send postcards, bookmarks or similar.

Top tip: Do NOT send emails with links to your website or send large image files to publishers' websites.

If an image grabs an editor or designer, they will often pin it up near their desk until a suitable project comes along. So be sure to include eye-catching examples of your work. Include clear contact information and your website.

We asked Ness Wood, experienced designer at David Fickling Books, to tell us what she's been sent and why she liked it:

Top tip: Don't send anything in March or September. The best time to send anything is after a bookfair when publishers are looking for new material: mid-April or end-October.

Can I follow-up with a phone call?

Yes, if you haven’t heard after about 6-8 weeks, do follow-up with a polite phone call to the designer or editor and ask if they would like to see your portfolio or discuss your picture book dummy. Then you can establish a personal rapport with them and discuss how your work might fit on their list.

Be aware that editors and designers are busy people and so don’t try to schedule appointments just before or after a bookfair!

Be prepared to accept rejection gracefully and ask for feedback if the editor or designer has time to give you some so that next time you submit you can learn from this experience!

Top tip:  Sometimes, editors and designers are so busy they may need a nice reminder – if you haven't heard, send them a postcard to say 'hi'!

Should I put up my work on a website?

Yes, a professional-looking website is really helpful. Make sure that it is clear how to contact you, what kind of work you do (for instance, you can have different sections for different kinds of work – e.g. greetings cards, picture books, b & w, fine art, etc.), and give some more detailed information about you. Did you study illustration? Include a short bio. Do you do school visits? Include some information and photos of what you can offer. Are you already published? Include book information.

If you are a member of SCBWI, be sure to update your online profile as it’s searchable by commissioning editors and designers, and those booking school, bookshop and library visits.

What should I include in my portfolio?

Include samples of your work that are representative. If you have a couple of different styles, you can include these. Do your research about the publisher you are meeting! Consider tailoring your portfolio to each publisher you visit, including the pieces of work that are most akin to what they are currently commissioning. Don’t clutter up your portfolio with too much old stuff or too many pieces – less is more!

Ellie's pin board at Little Tiger Press

Be prepared to talk about your work professionally, sometimes telling a story about a character or how you came to do a particular piece. But don’t go on and on!

Top tip: Good draughtsmanship is essential! Consider life-drawing classes or go on sketch crawls as a way to keep your drawing fresh. Attend the SCBWI's portfolio intensive to get more ideas and feedback on how to hone your portfolio.

For picture book work, include the following in your portfolio:

copyright (c) Lizzie Finlay

From an in-progress dummy of a badger story by Lizzie Finlay

When you include sketchbooks and rough doodles in your portfolio, publishers may see a character that you don't see huge potential in but they do, or that they don't already have on their list.

Think about the content of your images:


For black and white fiction work, include the following in your portfolio:

Top tip: always remember who gave you your first break and always invite them to events/private views and book launches. 

Good luck!

Many thanks to Ness Wood  and  Bridget Strevens-Marzo and Lizzie Finlay for their generous contributions to this blog post!  

Natascha Biebow is editor, mentor and coach at
Check out my new online small group-coaching courses:



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