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Picture This: How Illustrations Can Level Up Your Book

Many authors overlook illustrations because they think they are just an element of children’s books. However, illustrations can help elevate books across a variety of genres, from fantasy to self-help and more!

When you jump into the world of publishing, you have a lot on your plate, what with writing the book, creating a cover, formatting the manuscript, and marketing it to your ideal readers, and that’s just to get it all started! Adding illustrations might seem like too much to handle, especially if you’re not an artist yourself. It doesn’t have to be, though!

There are many different ways you can find the perfect illustrator for your book, but first let’s consider how using illustrations in books could benefit your project.

The Importance of Illustrations

Illustrations are used in children’s books because they draw a child’s attention to the page. Pictures pull them into the story, and can help them understand what is going on in the book. They can use the illustrations as context clues to help them figure out words they don’t understand.

As children become more fluent readers, their books fill with more words and fewer images. But just because more experienced readers can understand words without accompanying illustrations doesn’t mean that they aren’t helpful.

Even for adults, illustrations can help you process text more thoroughly. When you see a picture on a page, you automatically pause and take it in. You have to figure out how it plays into the text you’re reading, which can give you a deeper understanding of the book’s content.

With informational books, illustrations can help dissect the written data. When explaining a concept, words might not completely get the point across, so a diagram, chart, or picture can help.

Some individuals find that they can remember more from a visual image than they can from text, so using illustrations can help your work stick with your readers. They’ll be more likely to remember your book and recommend it to others, which will boost your sales!

Adding illustrations to your book also helps pull readers in. They might be intrigued by the artfulness that’s added to the overall book. They will spend more time on the illustrated pages, soaking in the pictures and using them to fill in the gaps of what they were already imagining from the text alone.

Illustrations not only make your book look appealing, but they also make it more engaging. When illustrations are included in your book, the reader will take more time on each page, drawn into a world of new information that they can visualize and fully understand, now that they can explain with both words and art.

Illustrations Across Genres

People often think illustrations are just used for children’s books, but they can also be used in nonfiction books, how-to guides, self-help books, and more! Using illustrations in books can engage and inspire someone to pick up your book and spend some time looking through it.

Book illustrations

Fiction

Most people think of children’s picture books when they think of illustrations, but adult fiction books can also benefit from images. Pictures help people emotionally connect to the stories, and can elevate your book to a work of art.

Illustrations are eye-catching, so having some in your book will make people stop as they’re flipping through it, even if they’re using the “look inside” feature on Amazon. They will be curious about how the image fits in with the text and will spend that much longer with your book.

Short story collections and adult fiction books can benefit from having illustrated design elements on the pages, even if a specific scene is not shown. Fantasy books can draw major benefits from a character or scene being illustrated, because readers will be pulled into the visual accompanying the story.

Informational

Nonfiction and informational books have been illustrated for children for years, with pictures and drawings helping kids learn information in a different way. It’s good to note, however, that this method is also effective for adult readers.

Remember that book illustrations don’t have to be childlike. They’re merely a visual way to explain the text. They can be used to show examples of what was written, which can help the text become easier to understand for your readers.

Using illustrations in books can also help your work be more visually appealing by breaking up the pages so the reader doesn’t feel intimidated by a wall of text. In some cases, it can even help you use less text because the picture can better explain a concept than written words would.

Imagine reading a how-to book that was text only! It would be hard to know exactly how you’re meant to complete certain tasks. Illustrations can help show readers what steps need to be done more efficiently than words.

You can’t depend completely on illustrations though! A visual with no explanation can be just as confusing as text with no pictures, so you need to make sure you balance the two in your book.

Self-Help

self help illustrations

Illustrations in fiction help readers connect with the story on an emotional level, but they help in other ways when used in nonfiction. Using illustrations of yoga poses or exercise moves in a healthy living book will help your readers get the most out of your knowledge. More than that, they might not remember the exact words for the routine, but being able to envision the illustration can help them do it correctly.

Illustrations in hobby books can help readers see how to complete each project. Even using illustrations in recipe books can give readers ideas about the ingredients and finished product. Personally, I’m about ten times more likely to try out a recipe (or buy a recipe book) if the food looks delicious!

And in self-help books, images can really bring your point home because the readers will be able to visualize the pictures, even if they forget the specific steps you wrote out.

Finding an Illustrator

On one hand, one of the best things about self-publishing a book is you have complete creative control. You get to make all of the executive decisions and only have to answer to yourself!

On the other hand, you’re on your own. If you were traditionally publishing a book, the publisher would be the one finding an illustrator for your book. But since you’re the one in control, that task falls to you.

Illustrations

Some people use this as an opportunity to draw their own book illustrations. If this is you, wonderful! But I know that some people (like myself) don’t have an artistic bone in their bodies. So if you’re like me and can’t illustrate your books yourself, how can you find an illustrator who will do your book justice?

Luckily, with today’s technology, it doesn’t have to be difficult. Many authors find artists they like online, by searching for illustrators’ websites or scrolling through social media feeds. You can reach out to artists by contacting them with your idea. You can commission a piece as a trial, or order a few sample pages to see if your styles match.

How you move forward with illustrations depends on the artist. You can give them your manuscript to read and let them interpret their own art for the book, or you can give them notes on what illustrations you want.

This process will be different for each genre of writing. If you only need charts and illustrations for a self-help book, you can give the artist the relevant information. If you’re asking for character designs for a fiction book, you might want to be more involved in the process.

Knowing what an illustrator needs can help you get the most out of your partnership. Once you find an illustrator you like, you might consider working with them consistently so your images will all have the same look. This can help you create brand recognition with your books.

If you don’t have the time or expertise to hire an independent artist through a freelancing site, then you can find a publishing company that provides illustrations through their service. You’ll know you’re working with experienced artists if you go this route.

You can also use ghostwriting services for your entire project. They will often offer bundles that can include outline creation, manuscript writing, editing, and cover design, along with illustrations added in to complete your book.

Final Thoughts

Whether you want images of entire scenes for your fiction book, or images of informational steps for your how-to book, you’ll love how illustrations can turn your book into a work of art.

Now that you know how using illustrations in books can take your project to the next level, go forth and find the perfect artist to bring your ideas to life!

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