I get asked this question a lot by many lovely and well-meaning people. In fact, I’ve answered it so many times that I’ve thought about having a boilerplate answer. Unless your name is Arthur Yorinks or Daniel Pinkwater, here it is:
Dear Friend/Cousin/Hairdresser/Friend’s cousin’s hairdresser,
Thanks for thinking of me to illustrate your manuscript. Unfortunately, I have to reserve all my unpaid time for my own speculative and personal projects.*
You actually don’t need to find your own illustrator, anyway! Children’s book editors prefer to make these matches themselves.**
In short, I will have to say
Warm regards from your friendly neighborhood illustrator,
*Entirely true, and a polite way of encompassing some less-polite reasons, including but not limited to:
- This is your first attempt at a manuscript?
- Unfortunately, I haven’t read very many good self-published picture books. (I’m looking, though.)
- Hmm, I don’t think my whimsical style would work so well for your dark historical fiction.
***Yeah, I have footnotes in my blog posts. That’s just how I roll.