by Keith Klein
(Hollywood, California U.S.A.)
A Unique & Uncommon Children’s Book Illustrator
The world of self-publishing has certainly changed the landscape of the publishing world in recent years. Freed from having to go through traditional publishers, authors now have total control over the content and look of their book. But this also means that there are many more books being published every day and the competition is tough. An author has to find a way to stand apart from the din to be noticed by potential buyers.
Nothing does that more certainly than choosing the right illustrator for your project.
In an ocean of books, the image on the cover is the only thing most buyers are going to see. It has to grab them, immediately, and make them want to stop, pick up your book and see what it’s about. They are never going to read a single word you’ve written, unless the cover illustration makes them curious.
Then you’ve got to carry that interest past the first page and throughout the rest of the book, as well, with uniquely drawn characters and memorable scenes that capture the feeling of the words you’ve written, so that what they’ve seen sticks in their mind, even after they have set the book down.
Often times, people think they need to fill their book with highly-detailed, full page illustrations to capture their reader's attention and there is definitely a place for that approach. But that kind of work takes a lot of time to create and tends to weigh heavily on a self-publishing author’s budget.
When I think back on the books that stick in my mind from childhood, books like Shel Silverstein’s, Where The Sidewalk Ends and Dr Seuss’, The Cat In The Hat, the art isn’t overly rendered or even drawn traditionally, especially considering what else was on the market at the time those books came out. They are simple, unique and uncommon, without being overly complicated… and very memorable.
My background is in advertising. I developed my particular style over the last 30 years out of a need for two things: Simplicity and cost. Simplicity, because my work had to be able to grab the viewer’s attention and convey the intended message in less than a second. And cost, because there are a lot more jobs doing pen and ink cartoon illustrations splashed with color, than there were jobs painting realistically rendered kittens, automobiles or Budweiser bottles. I am also a fine artist and my paintings have been in many shows and galleries, but I have yet to meet a self-publishing author who can afford a fully hand-painted children’s book, so I stick with my staple cartoon style, hand-drawn and digitally colored in Photoshop.
Creating a simple image, sometimes, can be more difficult and complex than jamming an image full of as much as possible, including the kitchen sink. Simple is the art of reduction. Taking something down to its most basic meaning. Less is more… and tends to be more affordable, too. The less clutter on the page, the more striking the image. My work looks like it walked right out of an animated movie or comic strip and I pride myself on my technical proficiency, in both traditional and digital art mediums.
Although you can tell my style right away, nothing I’ve done looks exactly like anything else I’ve done. I approach each project anew and look for story ideas that will allow me to show the breadth and depth of my abilities and, thus, expand my portfolio.
I tend to gravitate towards the offbeat, the somewhat sarcastic and the slightly heavier children's book material. I think part of the job of children's books, or one thing that that they can be used for, is preparing young minds for this sometimes difficult and, often, scary world, which fuzzy bunnies and pastel fairy tales avoid. That's not an indictment of such material, it's just an admission of my preference of theme and the kind of books/work I'm likely to accept as a job. Think; Lemony Snicket meets Shel Silverstein with a dash of Tim Burton.
For self-publishing authors, I offer the ability to make installment payments as we go. I require a retainer up front to get started, based on the cost of each stage of the work. I only work with a contract drawn up and agreed upon by both parties before any money is exchanged and work begins, so our goals, responsibilities and expectations are clearly outlined. My rates are comparable to other professional children's book illustrators doing similar work and I think the results are well worth it, maybe even a little more so… which some people call "a bargain".
If my experience, professional manner and work samples impress, contact me at the email address below. I look forward to hearing from you, hearing your enthusiasm for your story and seeing if we can make something magical and memorable happen, together.
My name is Keith Klein.
You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.