I started my book journey with my 10-year-old niece in mind, so naturally it was targeted at girls around ages 8-10. I set out for it to be a chapter book.  I thought the story was one they would really enjoy, but did it need illustrations? When I let McKenzie first test the book, I used clip art as placeholders (yep, she got a real rough draft). When she finished reading she told me it was just fine without pictures. She even went so far as saying “Kids need to learn how to use their imaginations!” But even with her feedback, I was still on the fence about including illustrations.

Since I’m not a writer or publisher by profession, I really didn’t know what would be best. I knew it would be easier NOT to include pictures. I could get the story edited and move on in my process. Illustrating would mean finding another person to work with…and more money. But the marketer in me knew a little research would help me make the right decision. So for weeks I was a regular in the children’s section of local libraries and bookstores. I often laughed when getting side eyes from strangers in the airport as I read children’s books. I became more and more familiar with the types of books on the market and which ones seem to sell the best. I read a bunch of articles on children’s publishing.  I also regularly read book reviews and book samples on Amazon. I totally immersed myself in the children’s book market.

After a few months of reading several children’s books, and at the urging of my husband, I decided to move forward with illustrations. From what I researched, books targeted at this age group didn’t necessarily have to have illustrations. But if they did, there were usually a limited amount.  The illustrations were also usually in black and white instead of color because of the older audience. Most of the books I read that were similar to Meet McKenzie Mason in content and format did have illustrations. Therefore, I decided that I would include 1-2 pictures per chapter. Now I needed an illustrator. But where would I find one?

If you know me, you know I’m a control freak. I like things done my way on my time. I admit it. So finding someone to share this journey with me, let alone trusting them to capture my vision would be a challenge. After doing some looking on my own, I got nowhere. Someone in another country had done the original mockup of McKenzie Mason. But I wanted someone closer to home and my community to do the actual illustrations. Finally, I said, “Chauncey, just ask for help!”

One morning I posted a Facebook status asking for recommendations on illustrators/graphic artists. To my delight I was met with several suggestions and I looked into them all. One in particular had samples of his work on his page, and I was impressed. I reached out to him, and the rest is history. He made my words come to life through imagery. And I’m sure I got on his nerves several times obsessing over every detail. The funny thing is, we still have never met in person. But I can’t wait to share his work with everyone. Thanks Christopher Windfield.

This whole book journey taught me many lessons. But when it came to my decision to illustrate the book, it definitely reinforced the following:

  1. Do your research. No matter what you’re doing (especially if it’s a new venture), learn everything you can about it. Don’t make uniformed decisions or think you know it all.
  2. Don’t take the easy way out. It might take more time or even more money, but do it right.
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. It doesn’t make you weak or any less effective. As the old saying goes, “work smarter, not harder.”

I now had a cover and illustrations. My book was almost ready to be revealed…