Artist Shaundra Schultz Offers Tips to Authors Working With Illustrators

I loved to draw when I was a kid. The modest chandelier in our dining room became my obsession for a short time: it was fun doodling the tear-drop crystals and making a corkscrew of loops for the chain.

My creative leanings were not a big surprise. My dad is an artist, specializing in oil paintings and mosaics, and it seems everyone on his side of the family is creative (see my cousin’s website,

But for whatever reason, I didn’t pursue art classes in school, and then I started a diary soon after I learned to read and write. That did it. My fate was sealed: I became a writer.

Still, whenever I see artwork that moves me, I think, “what if?”

This happened when I saw the bold and colorful illustrations of Shaundra Schultz at the monthly “schmooze” for the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators, hosted by Northern Colorado Writers Executive Director Kerrie Flanagan. About 20 authors and illustrators of children’s and young adult books attended the July 21 meeting.

The event – coordinated by author, speaker, and writing coach Teresa Funke – highlighted Schultz’s career as an illustrator and how she works with authors.

Schultz discovered her passion early in life, doodling and drawing animals. Her enthusiasm for art led to a career in graphic design, illustration, and photography.

“Doodling takes me to a place where time passes differently,” Schultz said. “I lose track of time and space. Nothing exists except the drawing and the pens. My mind is free to roam and gallop.”

Nowadays, her focus is illustrating children’s books. It’s a natural match, since Schultz’ favorite subjects are animals, specifically wildlife of the rainforest and African savannah.

The following list summarizes Schultz’ process of working with authors.

1. Meet with the writer to review content and goals. Is it a 16-page or 32-page book? Schultz explains the differences between self-publishing and traditional publishing. Many of her clients decide to self publish. Do they want to produce an e-book? Print on demand? etc.
2. Ask writers what they’re capable of doing. This will help determine the price.
3. Discuss budget. She tailors the illustration style to the client’s budget.
4. Prepare the quote.
5. Divide the manuscript into book pages.
6. Draw thumbnail sketches; a mini-storyboard.
7. Create enlarged thumbnails, if necessary.
8. Work on character design. What will the characters look like? How will they move? What are their facial expressions? Initial ideas may come during the thumbnail sketch phase.
9. Refine and define.
10. “Comps.” Comprehensive layout, meaning almost-final versions that leave out fine detail. Schultz shows these illustrations to the art director (of the publisher) or the client for approval before starting on the final artwork.
11. Revisions can happen at any point; it would be ideal if they happened right after the thumbnails.

Important Tips for Working With Illustrators

  • If you’re considering more than one artist, request to see their samples, lay them all out on a table, and decide from their existing work. Do not ask them to create a free illustration for your book as a sample.
  • Ask them how they work. What is the price? About how long will it take to complete the project? (This wasn’t mentioned specifically, but I’d add: consider whether their personality is compatible with yours. Trust your intuition.)
  • Schultz prefers to work by the rule “Don’t tell me until I ask” when it comes to creating the characters. If the character’s hair absolutely must be brown, then tell her, otherwise she’d prefer to give her imagination free reign.

More Tips

  • If you’re an illustrator, you will save countless hours during the revision phase if you create your illustrations on the computer.
  • Check out (Schultz learned valuable insights from this master, including repeating a layout three times throughout the book)
    With e-books you don’t have to worry about avoiding illustrating in the gutter (the center of the book where it folds)
  • Schultz happens to offer layout and design services, so she will choose the font and arrange the text on the page. For young readers, a plain sans-serif font like Helvetica works best.
  • In traditional publishing, the illustrator will normally have six months to a year to complete illustrations for a book. The cost might be $5,000 to $10,000; the publisher pays for it. The illustrator’s contract might include royalties as well as an advance. The advance for an illustrator will often be larger than for a writer, due to the amount of work involved.
  • Turnaround time depends on the specific project and her workload, but Schultz mentioned one recent project in which finished the final illustrations in about a month.

Know Your Rights

  • The illustrator has rights to the art they create for your book.
  • If Schultz charges a flat rate for a small project, she’ll give full rights to it, based on a prediction that the project will remain small. This is agreed upon with the understanding that she will be able to use those illustrations to promote her work and business.
  • Ask whether the artwork can be used in subsequent printings.
  • Ask whether you can use the illustrations in various formats, such as e-books
  • If the artist keeps the rights, ask about uses.

Online Resources

Interested in learning more? Check out Schultz’ website:


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