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Opinion: Why It’s Important To Credit Illustrators

Opinion: Why It’s Important to Credit Illustrators

Sarah Macintyre in a giant pink wig

Flamboyant illustrator Sarah McIntyre – it’s hard not to notice her!

At The Bookseller‘s recent Author Day, author and illustrator Sarah McIntyre made an impassioned plea for the campaign that she founded, #PicturesMeanBusiness, calling upon authors, publishers, publicists, and everyone else in the world of books, to give due credit to illustrators.

As if we needed a reminder of the enormous talent of the illustrators that add interest and value to our books, Sarah spent most of the conference creating fantastic cartoons of all the speakers, including ALLi founder and director Orna Ross. The Bookseller‘s editor Philip Jones was sufficiently impressed to use her portrait of him in his editorial column the following week, duly credited, of course! Over to Sarah…

banner image for pictures mean business campaign

When asked, everyone I know says they love illustration and support illustrators wholeheartedly. Yet illustrators continue to suffer career setbacks when:

  • Illustrators’ names are left off covers of books they’ve illustrated (even highly illustrated). Sometimes publishers even forget to put illustrators’ names inside the book. (This happens most frequently with ‘middle grade’ illustrated fiction.)
  • The artwork is used as branding for a writer (for example, on the writer’s website), but the illustrator never gets mentioned, implying that the writer did the artwork.
  • Publicists launch illustrated book cover artwork to great fanfare, mentioning only the writer’s name.
  • Media interviews and articles talk about a picture book as ‘by’ the writer, leaving out the illustrator’s name even though the book is mostly pictures.
  • Many award websites list only writers of books.
  • Reviewers neglect to mention illustrations in their reviews, even when the pictures tell much of the story.
  • Teachers lead their classes in studying a book without mentioning the illustrator or studying the book’s illustrations.
Cartoon by Sarah McIntyre of publisher and illustrator signing a contract

Sarah McIntyre illustrates her point

How to Support Illustrators

  • Publishers (including self-publishers/author-publishers) – be attentive about your Nielsen data! Whoever is entering the data, make sure they know it’s essential to include the name of the illustrator. Nielsen can only work with what you give it. If a book is highly illustrated, include the illustrator’s name on the front cover of the book.
  • Agents – insist on this in the contract.
  • Authors – when you show off a beautiful new book cover for the first time, mention the person or people who make the cover happen, and credit the illustrator on your website.
  • Publicists – mention illustrators and cover artists. Be sure your Advance Information sheets include illustrator data.
  • Illustrators – research metadata issues. Ask questions. Get a Twitter account, even if just to have a website link. Be vigilant about your contracts. Get credits in writing. Sign your artwork whenever possible.

Find out more about the campaign at its website, www.picturesmeanbusiness.com.

Caricatures by Sarah McIntyre

Credit where it’s due: evidence of the genius of illustrator Sarah McIntyre!

#Authors - why and how you should credit your illustrators - inspired by @jabberworks' #picturesmeanbusiness Click To Tweet

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Debbie Young

Debbie Young writes warm, funny feel-good fiction, including the Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries series, which begins with the bestselling "Best Murder in Show". As ALLi's Author Advice Center Manager, she also writes guidebooks for authors. Founder and director of the Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival, she is a frequent speaker at other literary events. Find out more about Debbie's writing life on her author website www.authordebbieyoung.com.

This Post Has 21 Comments

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  1. Hi Debbie! This was very informational thank you!

    I am a semi professional illustrator myself and the author i worked with recently had a question, “How should i credit you in the book?” I Did the front cover, back cover, spine, and font for all three. Would putting “Illustrated by-” on the back cover be reasonable?

    Thanks for the help!

  2. Debbie,
    In a short, self-published children’s book with 24 illustrations, should the artist’s name be on the spine of the book as well?
    Thanks,
    Johnny

    1. You might have trouble fitting it on there, Johnny – if it means the title and author name might end up too small to read, I think it’s reasonable to leave it off what’s likely to be a slim spine, provided it’s clear on the cover and inside the book.

  3. If the artist illustrated only the cover of the book, do we put the artist’s (illustrator) name on the cover, as in: Illustrated by Billy James Ortega? Or do we credit the cove on an inside flap, as in: Cover Jacket (or cover design) by Billy James Ortega 2018.

    Most juvenile novels (middle grade fiction) I see present the illustrator’s name of the cover if the book is illustrated by that artist, as in several illustrations throughout the book.

    Otherwise it’s just a cover art credit.

    What is the protocol, I wonder.

    1. William, if the image is just for the cover, include a credit somewhere – typically on the back cover in small print, and also inside on the copyright page. If the illustrator has provided more images throughout the book, it’s more usual to add their name to the front, and also in the dashboard on your publishing platform.

  4. I’ve made a point of crediting the illustrators I use. If they then say “I designed this cover” they give me free publicity in the process. And that’s one bit of publicity that’s priceless in my opinion. I put their name, company name, and web address on the copyright page inside the book, and a “Cover design by on the back right under my social media links. If reader looks at them they also see the illustrator’s name too. I’m also adding the illustrator name on Amazon, and I also am adding it on my website (which I’m redesigning at the moment and this process is ongoing – I’ve made a point of scheduling every Wednesday as my “website update day” now).

    Remember, add the illustrator. They MAY mention doing the design for you, and if they have thousands or tens or thousands of fans those fans COULD BE potential readers for your books. 🙂

  5. I like the idea of crediting the illustrator but what if the agreement between the illustrator and me is that I own the copyrights to the images/pictures… if I credit the images to him will that somehow revoke the agreement of my owning the copyrights?

    1. If the deal is that he or she have sold you copyright to the images or pictures, then that should be stated on the copyright page of your book, so there will be no doubt about who owns the copyright – and presumably you have your contract in writing with the illustrator. But I think it is still courteous and good practice to name the illustrator on the cover of your book, not least because it will help the illustrator find more clients and also build your own relationship, invaluable if you want to use that illustrator again in future. Also, if you don’t credit the illustrator anywhere, people may assume you have done the illustrations yourself, which could be confusing.

      Look at it this way: if you wrote a story to be published in an anthology or magazine, and the deal was that the publisher then owned the copyright, would you be relaxed about your work appearing without your name on it – or with the editor of the anthology, suggesting that the editor was the creator of all the content? As an author whose work has appeared in magazines and anthologies, I don’t think I would be very happy about that, even if I had received a fair sum in exchange for the rights to the story.

  6. If I am writing a children’s book and have also sketched the illustrations myself, but want to hire an artist to put my sketches on a digital file for me to use on the computer, do I still need to put the illustrators name on the book? What if the illustrator makes my “sketches” look better by tweaking them or adding color? I want to do what’s right, but if a one time compensation to the artist isn’t enough, then I want to know.

  7. I recently wrote my first children’s book, and I’m about to self-publish it. I’m planning to put my illustrator’s name on the cover, but what else should I do? My bio is on the back. Should hers be there, too? Where else should she be mentioned in the book itself? I don’t have any acknowledgements and it’s dedicate to my son. I have the commercial rights to the images. Should she have some kind of copyright mentioned, e.g. on the verso of the title page?

  8. Someone does a rough sketch for the cover of a children’s picture book,
    The illustrator of the book redraws the rough sketch so that it will match the style of the pictures that are inside of the book.

    Does the person who did the rough sketch get a cover design credit?

  9. I illustrated a children book for a friend. I did the cover (front/back) and 3 images on the inside. The book is about 50 pages. I was mentioned inside the book. However I was not placed on the cover and I am not listed on amazon as the illustrator.
    Should my name be on the cover even though I only have 3 pictures inside? Should I be listed on Amazon also?

    http://www.amazon.com/Ticker-Terra-Beverly-R-Cole/dp/1519693702/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1456164766&sr=1-1&keywords=ticker+terra

    1. Tricky when you’ve done it for a friend who may have assumed it was just for a favour rather than as a commercial undertaking. Great that you have a credit inside the book – maybe it just didn’t occur to them to put your name on the outside too, as lots of authors don’t think of it (hence the need for Sarah’s campaign!) Whether or not it’s too late to adjust the cover, which may be expensive to change now, I suggest you ask your friend if it can be done. Adding your name to the Amazon listing should not cost anything and should be easy to do. You could always show your friend this post to make it easier to raise the subject. Good luck!

  10. My daughter is an artist who spent way more time on my cover than I could reasonably afford, but I’m grateful. I credit her all over the place, but I wonder about the terminology. Someone who does cover art only is not really an illustrator, right? We’ve wanted to not use that term lest we suggest there’s artwork inside . . .

    In other words, what’s the best way to give full credit to the cover artist/designer?

    1. Cindy, I’d put somewhere “Cover Design by x” – often appears on the back cover in small print near the barcode, and in the Copyright page inside. Good idea not to make it seem as if there will be lots of illustrations inside!

  11. I never realized this was an issue. Each of my book covers has the artist’s name on the work and is noted on the inside in the front matter. I thought pretty much everyone did that as a matter of course.

    1. Well done, Jonathan, that is exactly how it should be. Unfortunately not everyone is as switched on about it as you are – I have known a few children’s authors who didn’t want to credit their illustrators anywhere, never mind on the front cover, on the pretext that “it’s my book, not theirs”. Not a smart move if they want that illustrator to carry on working for them!

  12. That’s mad of any author to neglect their illustrator. When you eventually find a good illustrator to work with (and that’s not easy) it makes all the difference – coming up with the final book can be a lot of fun! It makes sense to recognize their contribution and acknowledge it wherever possible. However, that does also mean the illustrator should do the same thing for the author with their portfolio.

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