Children’s Book Process (My Version) + Time Off


This is a portion of one of the cover options for my children’s book that’s coming out next April. Things are still getting tweaked and finalized so I’ll wait a while to reveal more of the actual book — it’s funny, it takes such a long time for a book to get published, many of the aspects start to get hazy for me. The final cover ended up looking very different from what you see above, but this was my favorite concept I presented. Although I was gung ho about this design, I do love how the final version turned out.

At this point, I’ve submitted pretty much all of my illustrations and today, I thought I would share the process I went through from the beginning to now. Mostly it’s because I’m already forgetting details (I had to refer back to a lot of documents and correspondences for this post) and it would be a helpful reference for me. I should point out that my experience may not be typical; I don’t have an agent and I worked on both the story and illustrations, something that is not de rigueur in the children’s book publishing world from what I understand. I assume the structure and sequence of events are a little different with every book, and the one I’m working on now is proving to be a completely different process.

The progression from a seedling idea to completed manuscript/art was incredibly enjoyable throughout. My editor is so sweet, and I particularly appreciated that she sent me a little care package filled with teas and chocolates for extra fortification during one of the deadline periods. I love small gestures of considerateness like that.

It’s rather text heavy today – I tried to create illustrations on the train back to Seattle, but the swaying resulted in motion sickness so I had to stop.Β So here’s how it’s been shaking out for me, for the children’s book:

Step 1: August + September 2013 // Brainstorm of ideas

I mentioned my serendipitous encounter with my editorΒ before, and after a brief initial meeting with her, I took some time and came up with about fifteen book concepts with a short description for each idea. It turned out that my top choice was also her top choice, so that part was easy.

Step 2: October + November 2013 // The Storyboard + Proposal

Since this would be my first book, my editor encouraged me to create a storyboard to give the publisher a better sense of the storyline/flow of images. I was provided the layout and number of pages for the storyboard, so it was essentially drawing and writing out the entire book in miniature form. Once I completed the storyboard along with color illustration examples, my editor took it to her team to pitch the book.

Step 3: December 2013 // The Book Deal

Fortuitously, the book proposal was quickly accepted and I then negotiated terms, which included the advance payment amount, royalty percentages, the deadlines (how long it would take me to complete the book and milestone dates), and design elements such as size of book, whether I wanted a dust jacket, type of paper, etc. I agreed to complete the book in six months and it was just the right amount of time. This is the part that an agent would usually handle.

The contract was drafted and sent to me. Once a contract is signed though, it takes a while for the check to be issued. It was about a month after signing the contract that I received the first half of the advance. The second half is issued upon completion of the book.

Step 4: February + March 2014 // Cover Art Sketches + Detailed Sketches + Manuscript

I designed six different cover options for review. These went through a round of revisions, and I believe I ended up creating about 10 cover versions total. Since the cover gets included in catalogs for book buyers, it needs to be dealt with upfront. It isn’t set in stone at this stage, and ultimately we changed the cover a lot.

I also needed to provide detailed sketches of the rest of the book in full size for approval. The first couple of months are usually spent on developing the storyboard and the detailed sketches, but since I’d already done the storyboard — which was approved with little changes — this step was pretty effortless. I leisurely worked on the sketches over a two-week period. I also finalized the text with my editor, though we continued to fiddle with it for months.

Step 5: May + June 2014 // Final Art

Based on the detailed sketches that were approved, it was now time for me to work on the final art. I had created all my sketches digitally, but I hand-painted the final illustrations. I LOVED this part. It was so gratifying to watch the images come to life from the greyscale sketches. This portion took me about three weeks. Because my book is quite small, the illustration phase was pretty quick. Had the book been larger in dimension, I would have needed to spend more time on the art.

Step 6: July + August 2014 // Revisions/Updates/Miscellaneous illustrations

This is the phase I’m currently in. Everything has been submitted except for the back cover art, but I’m waiting on specifications for that. I’ve received the final cover mock-up from the design department (with my name in the lower right corner!! So exciting!) and am waiting for the rest of the book with text formatted from the design department so I can go over it with a fine tooth comb. I’ve also painted illustrations for endpapers (the section that is glued to the inner part of the cover), title page, and dedication segment.

Step 7: September 2014 // Book Goes to Print!


Step 8: April 2015 // Available for Sale

I’m a little fuzzy on what happens between printing the book and making it available for sale, but these are the dates in the calendar for now.

Wow. 19 months from idea to public release. For someone used to hitting a button for instant publishing, it sounds inconceivably long. But almost there!! Sort of. Thrilling nonetheless.


I’m in the throes of book #2, and although I’ve done my level best to keep up with everything going on and sort of managing, I’ve had to sit myself down and (yet again) give myself a stern talking to about my tendency to go overboard.Β Did you know that I was trying to launch an etsy shop too? I thought it would be cute to open it on K’s birthday, July 30th. Yep, that’s tomorrow. Let’s all laugh together about that one. I’m starting to feel familiar symptoms of my illness again, and it’s entirely my fault. In order to remain on schedule for the book and to keep excessive stress at bay, I’m so bummed but I’m going to have to take some time off from this here blog that I love to work on so much. My attention feels too divided and I need all the focus I can get…I’m letting go of a lot of stuff. For example, we’ll be celebrating K’s 8th birthday tomorrow but there may be no Macgyver dress (super sad face here) and the cupcakes will be store-bought (secretly happy face here since my handmade cupcakes aren’t always winners). I hope to be back Monday, August 11th with a fun post — maybe, just maybe, if I make some serious headway this week, I’ll be back next Monday. Either way, I’ll miss you!



43 thoughts on “Children’s Book Process (My Version) + Time Off

    1. Thank you, thank you, Greta!! I’m making a valiant effort to stay balanced though I’m feeling a little like Sisyphus!

  1. It must’ve been hard to run a one-man show while having so many other things on the plate. Undoubtedly, we will miss you too. Have a great time with the family and happy birthday to little K.

    1. K had fabulous birthday celebrations (yes, multiple)! Thanks for the support, Jing – I shouldn’t complain really, since it’s all so amazing. I just need to make sure I don’t overdo things, which is my default mode. πŸ™‚

    1. Thanks, Kristi!! There’s talk of using a similar cover concept for a future book (!!), but I won’t hold my breath for that one. πŸ™‚

  2. I am so excited for your book to come out. I love your art you put up on this site, and now to have it paired with a story…I’ll be pre-ordering it for sure! Congrats on all your hard work paying off! Throw K some material and duct tape–I bet she could macgyver a pretty stylish outfit herself:)

    1. Oh, so sweet, Megan! I’m adding final touches to the book, so it’s very very close to totally done! I should try the duct tape/material experiment with K — I’m sure she’d make something out of this world πŸ™‚

  3. what a lovely illustration. i cannot wait til your book hits the shelves. i am mildly (read: completely) obsessed with children’s book illustrations and largely base purchases for my kids off how good the illustrations are! so glad you’ve enjoyed the process

    1. You and me, both Sarah! I often don’t even pay attention to the story if the artwork is awesome, though it’s hard to pass up a good story too. πŸ™‚ And yes! It’s been a whole lot of fun working on the book!

  4. we will miss you! But I’m glad you are knowing when to let some things go so you can focus on others. I have fibromyalgia and I have to tell myself that a lot! πŸ™‚

    1. I have a friend with fibromyalgia and I’m so glad you’re focusing on the important stuff and preserving your health, Kristi!

  5. Glad to hear, Sanae! The blog will be here waiting for you when you’re ready, it’s much more important to stay healthy. Good luck with the book deadlines! And happy birthday to K. It was fun to finally meet her this weekend. πŸ™‚

    1. I need to tattoo “stay healthy” on my forearm or something. How is it that I always slip back into my old workaholic ways?? Thanks for the sweet words, and it was so fun to hang out though it was way too short!!

  6. Please, please, please take time off for yourself (not that you’ll be relaxing or anything)!! Also, you’re coming back on my birthday!! Yay!! So that will be my gift πŸ™‚

    Happy Birthday to K and focus on your health!!

    We’ll certainly miss you, but will be here when you get back.

    p.s. Stopped at Britex today while my car was getting serviced. Spent way too much money!

    1. Happy Birthday Alana!! I hope you celebrated in style and that there was another Britex spree πŸ™‚ Thank you for your comment, it means so much to me!!

    1. Thank you, Bella! Enjoy the process, right? So easy to forget…K’s birthday was fantastic and filled with unexpected drama (everything turned out alright so it’s now a good yarn to spin) πŸ™‚

  7. Goodness, my dance teacher takes off the entire summer to focus on her kids and other projects, this is nothing! We’ll miss you but since we all happen to be humans ourselves we also understand, and chances are we aren’t soon to be the authors of two books! Stop. Be healthy. Kiss your daughter. Laugh with your husband. No matter how much you love the things you are doing, if you’re doing too many of them it stops being fun.

    1. Oooh, an entire summer off! I do know that if there is ever a next time in this whole amazing book venture, I will do my very best to avoid starting in the summer. It adds a whole layer of complexity that I wasn’t prepared for. I think I would miss the blog too much to take a whole summer off, thought the two weeks was refreshing πŸ™‚

  8. Hehe… The impulsive etsy shop idea- sounds like me! You definitely need to take care of yourself… Or as my girls in Queens would say, “DO YOU.” Love the sneak peek of the book cover- very looking forward to this!!

    1. LOVE it – “DO YOU” from the girls in Queens. It sounds like a song title πŸ™‚ I couldn’t get my act together for the etsy shop this go around, but maybe if I’m lucky and a whole lot more organized, I can shoot for the beginning of next year. Hmmmm….

  9. well i’ll tell you one thing – i am super excited to read your book from that adorable art at the top of this post! i’d buy that book for sure. gotta be a bit frustrating for it to be such a long process, but it’ll be amazing once it’s done. but yeah, take your break, girl, you’ve got a ton going on behind the scenes. and a happy happy birthday to K! she’s such an awesome kid. so glad we got to meet you both! πŸ˜€

    1. So glad I got to meet your cute little kiddos too — it slayed me when Em offered to let me pet her elephant stuffy. So ADORABLE. Thanks for the encouragement about my book!! It’s a long process, but definitely worth it!

  10. Good for you, Sanae. I”m proud of you for doing what needs to be done to stay healthy emotionally and physically. Things have been pretty crazy for you lately, and it will be good to have one less thing on your to-do list, even if the blog is not considered work. Perhaps it will free up some time to simply “be”:)
    Happy birthday to dear K! I’m sure store bought cupcakes will be a huge success:)

    1. Man, what I wouldn’t give to simply “be” at some point. But taking the time off was the right move, and I did feel productive. I even got to squeeze in some fun with family and friends too, which was a huge bonus! πŸ™‚ Thanks, Lucinda!

  11. Beautiful! I’m super excited to get your book when it comes out x Happy Birthday K – 8 is an awesome age x

    1. 8 is a spectacular age! I feel like our conversations are so eye-opening and amazing and hilarious these days. I love it! Thanks for being so excited about my book, Clare!

  12. So excited about your book!! Can’t wait to read it with my kids. Whatever it is you’re doing, enjoy your time off. Wishing K a very happy birthday!

    1. Book number two is kicking my hiney these days, but it’s coming along. Thanks so much for your kind words, Irene!

    1. Thanks, Liza Jane! I think the break part will come when I turn everything in this December for the sewing book. Whew…that sounds like a loooooong time from now, but I have high hopes that things will come together in the way I see it in my head! πŸ™‚

  13. Wow, I’m lovin’ that title page! Cannot wait to buy your book. Meanwhile, will dig through the archives here and wait for your return, coffee in hand :-). Hope you’re taking care of yourself.

    1. Thank you, Shvetha! The two weeks off helped a ton by letting me focus completely on book stuff, but I did miss my little blog a lot. It’s good to be back πŸ™‚

  14. I keep coming back to look at your header artwork. It is beautiful, proportionate, balanced. Thanks for sharing it!

    1. So kind, Beccy! Happy to share and wish I could share more but I have to keep a lot of things under wraps for what feels like eternity. I hope the gift card arrived safely!

    1. Thanks so much, Tara! I’m loving all of your super cool projects too. You need to start a t-shirt line stat, girl.

  15. Sanae, thank you for sharing this process. It is fascinating, and I’m looking forward to your book so much.
    And I’ll say it again, your blog is marvelous. Thank you for writing it and keeping it going.

    1. Oh, thank you SO much, Annelieke! It’s for selfish reasons that I keep working on the blog, but I’m delighted to be able to connect with lovely people like you!

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