This is a quick blog post and my first non-review, prompted by Twitter posts last night and a passion for children’s books and illustration. This is a dedication to children’s book authors and illustrators everywhere! It has been announced that next week BBC’s The Apprentice candidates will be required to write, design and market a children’s book. Yes we should all know this is a TV programme and not reality. Few of their tasks are truly representative of real life situations. However it does raise an ongoing and alarming issue about the perceived value of children’s books, those who create them and the immense work involved from all parties.
I have recently read, over the old World Wide Web, examples of people implying that artists shouldn’t take payment for their work, that the satisfaction of creating the art alone should be enough. Yes illustrators and artists may do what they love to do, but they have bills to pay and a skill that has value! Recently Twitterati @ cleverly re-imagined this, and stated – would an electrician rewire a house free of charge as the satisfaction of doing it would be payment enough? Of course they wouldn’t. I love my job, but if I wasn’t paid, sadly, I could not be there.
From my experience illustrators are incredibly generous with their work. I’ve come across numerous charity auctions containing specially designed pieces. Most illustrators and authors have downloadable activities on their websites to make teachers’ and library assistants’ jobs much easier. This all takes time and effort. The least we can do is value and pay our artists when required. The same applies to writers.
Take into consideration the fact that there is currently a campaign mainly on Twitter running to get illustrators fully credited for their work on books!! #PicturesMeanBusiness was launched by Sarah McIntyre – @ to end the woeful lack of credit for illustrators on children’s books and in the media. It’s now starting to have an impact, but it should never have been necessary in the first place.
Where an author is concerned it’s not just a case of having an idea and writing it. Children’s books need a lot of work to pitch them correctly to the required audience, of which there are many variations in children’s literature from writing for emerging readers, confident readers, children with dyslexia, young adults and of course parents and carers reading stories out loud. Each type requires a different set of specialist skills.
Writing and illustrating is very much a skill, and like any it requires years of hard work, training and refining. Yes some people may have a more natural ability, but this doesn’t negate the need for hard work and effort in perfecting that.
Not only this, but authors and illustrators then need to sell themselves, find representation, create portfolios of varied work, push, push and push some more, all while, in many cases, badgered by self doubt and struggling to make ends meet in an increasingly competitive industry.
Of course the ones that are able to get published, then have to create the books. One recent example, picture book The Bear and Piano took David Litchfield over a year to illustrate and write, and if you read his blog (http://tinkerd.tumblr.com/tagged/The-Bear-and-the-Piano/chrono) you can see what is involved, it’s mind boggling.
Authors and illustrators are now encouraged to promote their books on various social media platforms, hold activities in shops, schools and libraries. Sitting in a studio doing what they love isn’t always enough, they have to be salespeople, performers and public speakers too.
Children’s literature has never been better. As a person immersed in it all day I have a huge amount of respect for authors and illustrators for what they do. Without them, and the up-and-coming them, what would the Book Monsters have to munch on?
… But it’s easy right? Good luck Apprentice candidates, you’ll need it …