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I'm writing a novel. I also have good drawing skills. I would like to add illustrations of the setting, locations and characters. I may include 8 or 10 illustrations (the novel is approximately 200 pages long). I have never seen a novel with illustrations. I wonder if readers will feel like they are reading a children's storybook if I include them?

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Can you give some more details about what kind of a novel it is going to be? It's really going to depend on its subject, field and tone to determine whether it's fitting or not. –  Pekka 웃 Apr 24 '11 at 19:30
    
@ekka a creepy but informative night in an art museum. –  Alexandro Chen Apr 25 '11 at 4:23
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With graphic novels becoming more of a mainstream, "adult" thing, I suspect many of today's readers will be open to something like this. However, it may depend heavily on your audience. –  sjohnston Apr 25 '11 at 14:37
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I would expect the style of the art to make a big difference (cartoony vs representational, amount of detail, etc). –  Monica Cellio Mar 23 '12 at 14:47
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Adding the examples of warren below -- what about Sidney Paget illustrations of Sherlock Holmes. The illustrations pretty much defined the character in my opinion. If you manage to include them in a way that it feels "classy" (suits the overall theme), why not? –  Daniel Wessel Mar 23 '12 at 16:35

9 Answers 9

up vote 10 down vote accepted

I don't think you need to worry about "seeming like a kid's book," I think you need to worry about making a professional submission. On two points:

  • Why do you think your novel should have illustrations, when most don't? Do they add anything more to your story than similar illustrations would to other books in your genre? If not, then whatever considerations apply to illustrations in most books, probably apply to yours as well.
  • While "good drawing skills" are great to have, even if a publisher is persuaded he does want to include illustrations, that by no means implies that he wants yours specifically. Illustrations will be a huge element of book design and presentation, and it's generally very important to the publisher that he keep complete control over that.

If you're self-publishing, then neither of the above apply, and I see no reason why illustrations shouldn't be a colorful addition to your work. But the same considerations the publisher might have should still be considered: you want to make sure your illustrations are really appealing and look professional enough to include in your book, and that they're inserted well into the overall design and layout. If not-so-great artwork is inserted in a careless manner, that might make the whole book seem very shoddy.

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No. Case in point: K. Vonnegut - Breakfast of champions.

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I can see that, in the context of a night in an art museam, pictures of items or interest would be useful and informative. If they help and enhance the story, then use them. If not, then don't - use your artistic skills in other books.

The biggest danger is using illustrations because you can, rather than because they help. If they are a positive part of the novel, then use them - it makes it slightly unusual, but in apositive way, and not a childish way.

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Jurassic Park, Flatland, Cryptonomicon, Dead or Alive, and The Last Oracle (at least) all have illustrations in them that do not detract from the story - and in many ways may enhance it.

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I read it long time ago, but weren't illustrations in Jurrasic Park in fact graphical representations of chaos-theory mathematical model? –  Lukas Stejskal Apr 11 '12 at 11:06
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@Lukas Stejskal - there are representations of the fractal / chaos stuff (labeled ominously with things similar to "iteration 7 - errors are impossible to recover from").. there were other illustrations / diagrams as I recall, though, too ... but it's a been a long time since I last opened a copy of that particular book :) –  warren Apr 11 '12 at 18:32

Have you read The Little Prince?

The book is in the public domain in Canada and you can read it here -- it lots of hand drawn pictures and is considered to be among the top 100 books of the 20th century.

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Note, though, that while The Little Prince has depth that appeals to adults, it is often treated primarily as a children's book. –  Monica Cellio Mar 23 '12 at 14:46

I love it when a book I'm reading has illustrations, but I'd trust my publisher on this.

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No, people won't feel like its a children's book. As other people said, it is relatively common in adult literature. But know that it is unlikely to actually happen unless you are well-established. It increases the cost of printing tremendously, since images have a much higher printing quality necessary to "look good" than words do. Typically only with "guaranteed successes" like Brandon Sanderson's The Way of Kings do publishers take the risk of including decent illustrations.

If it is not possible, an alternative is posting them in full glory on your web page as an extra, and referencing the page in the book. Invested fans will seek out that material.

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They do exist, although they are a rarity. You need to ask yourself if the illustrations serve a purpose beyond that of letting you use your artistic skills. Will they distract or add?

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I've seen novels with illustrations. But I wouldn't care too much about it, because I'm sure your publisher will tell you, if he thinks it is a good idea.

If you want to self-publish, I would include them. I see no harm and you can use it as unique selling proposition. ;)

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