Smart Dummies

How Done is Done?

How done is done? This is a question that I’ve been asking myself a lot. I’ve seen a lot of dummies and some are very loose drawings and some are fairly tight. How tight a drawing needs to be is up to the editor that takes on your work.

I’ve mostly been erring on the side of polished, but I’ve seen a lot of dummies and some don’t polish their work. You want an editor/art director to be able to visualize your work. There also has to be lots of room for changes. If your drawings are too tight (or perfect) an art director might feel like the artist is done and might not be open to changes. 

Depending on your story you’ll want to submit 24+ pages of sketches and 1-2 spreads (2-4 pages) of finished illustrations. Here is some idea of some picture book length stories. of Chapter books and board books are similar to picture books in the submission process. 

Graphic novels are a bit different. Depending on the type of graphic novel you are submitting you may be publishing through someone who does picture books, or an agent or editor like First Second that just does graphic novels. If you are submitting through someone who does picture books your submission package will likely be similar to a picture book package. Graphic novels and comics are usually different and based on the pitch and previous work. Here is the submission guidelines from First Second: The guidelines here is generally more of what I’ve seen for graphic novels and comics (both children and adults). 

Be sure to check out some submission guidelines before you start your work!

I recently did a poll to see how done illustrators were with their work on their first book contract. I didn’t get enough people voting, but thought the results were pretty representational of the hundreds of book dummies I’ve seen. I had 6 votes and 83% (5 people) said their work fell under the “Nice but not perfect” category and the other 17% (1 person) said their work was very sketchy. See the poll here:

I’m not sure if they voted but one person said they had color samples and a complete manuscript, but no dummy. One said an art director just found them. One said their images were very loose.

I’ve seen a wide range of stories and dummies and generally they range from nice to sketchy. I recently saw a very sketchy dummy from a book that’s being published soon. To see a good range of book dummies use “book dummy” (not book dummies) in an internet search. You’ll see some great visual references so you can see the range of “doneness” for yourself. 

I recently attended a webinar with an Art Director who didn’t seem to believe in dummies. She works for many companies and was okay with sketchy work for first time illustrators! 

I say go with your gut. Worrying too much about the actual sketches may cause more problems than it’s worth. Go with the guidelines of any agent/editor to a “T” but if there are no specifics, then do your best. The final images will help an agent or editor interpret your drawings as long as your drawings are fairly representational of the story you are telling.

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