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An Interview with Mike Motz, Children’s Book Illustrator

Reviewer LK Gardner-Griffie recently came across Lulu author P.J. Cowan’s Storefront and instantly fell in love with her children’s book collection and each books’ amazing illustrations which were provided by artist Mike Motz. After a visit to Mike’s website, we discovered he’s illustrated quite a few Lulu books and a big part of his work is helping authors bring their books to life.  We decided to contact Mike and ask him a few questions about his work and the support he provides for authors.

1. First, tell us a little about who you are and how you became an artist.

I think that most professional artists will tell you that the talent that they have is inborn, and unless they fight their natural inclinations they end up doing what they were always meant to do. That’s the way it was with me, and, through additional schooling in high school and college, I fine-tuned my artistic abilities to the point where I could make a living by creating artwork professionally. I spent a long time in the field of advertising, but in the last 6 years I’ve gotten back to what I’ve always loved to do, and that’s illustrate children’s books. When I’m not illustrating, I enjoy spending my time with my wife and our two young children. My kids have been quite instrumental in a number of ways to whatever success that I’ve had illustrating children’s books. When they were younger I read children’s picture books to them every night before bed, which exposed me to the work of other illustrators. They’ve also acted as character models in some of the books that I’ve illustrated, and through day-to-day experience they allow me to see first hand into the mind of a child, which is the group that I’m creating children’s books for in the first place.

2. Tell us about the services you offer for authors.

I supply authors with illustrations for their children’s stories. These illustrations are created specifically for their story and are based not only upon the words in the story, but direct input from the author as to what the author had envisioned the illustrations to look like. The end result is that the author has illustrations for their story that are exactly what they had envisioned or, in the author’s own words, even better.

3. Do you have a one time service fee the author pays up front or do you expect to collect royalties over time? What does your fee entail?

All illustrations are created on a work-for-hire basis and are priced on a set price per illustration. Once all the illustrations have been completed and approved by the author, they are mailed to the author on CD. The author then takes this CD of illustrations and packages it along with their book manuscript and mails it to their chosen publisher. There is a section on my website that describes the different publishing methods available to the author so that they can choose the method that would work best for them.

4. How many books have you illustrated? Do you work on other projects as well or just books?

I’ve personally illustrated over 25 children’s books and have overseen the artwork production of over 80 additional children’s books by the illustrators that work for me. The complete list of all the books is on the “Children’s Books” page of my website, with all the books being created by self-publishing authors like your readers. Also, over the years I’ve illustrated for advertising campaigns/products that have required children’s book style illustrations.

5. Your website has an excellent sample page of the different styles of artwork you offer. Describe some of those to us and what types of books use the different styles.

There isn’t really a “type” of book that uses any particular style. The selection of an illustration style is usually based upon an author’s style preference for their story. Some authors prefer an airbrushed style, some prefer a charcoal style, some prefer a very simplified cartoon style, while others prefer a realistic style. In my opinion, I offer illustration styles to suit just about every author’s taste.

6. Although different stories have different needs for illustrations, is there a more favored selection of illustration type among those that you offer?

Most authors that I work with prefer a cartoon (for lack of a better word) style, that is why the majority of styles on my website are in that vein.

7. How many illustrators work with you?

Currently, I have 16 wonderful illustrators that I work with. Being an illustrator myself (I’m style #9 on my website) allows me to be the perfect liaison between authors and my illustrators. I understand the “language” that both sides speak.

8. What is the best selling children’s book that has been illustrated by MikeMotz.com? Do you have a favorite book, or series of books that have been illustrated?

I don’t keep track of sales numbers for books unless an author decides to send me those numbers. As someone that works-for-hire those sales numbers don’t really effect me, and let’s not forget that while most people that I speak to believe that a book’s illustrations is the most important factor in the success of a children’s book, that’s simply not true. The book illustrations are very important but no more so than the way a book is promoted. You can have a beautifully illustrated children’s book, but if it’s not properly promoted then no one will ever learn of it, which would result in poor sales for the book. Since there might be a client or two of mine reading this interview, I’d have to say that my personal favorite of the books that I’ve illustrated is the one that I just finished as a gift for my daughter’s tenth birthday, in which she stars as Alice in Wonderland.

9. Do you offer layout advice for the placement of the words for the print ready artwork?

A big part of creating an illustration is designing where the text will be placed either in or around an illustration. For instance, if the author would like to have one or more full-bleed double page spreads (one illustration that “spreads” across two facing pages of the book right to the very edge of the page) in their book then the text has to fall on top of the illustration, which now makes it a very important element in the design of that illustration. In these situations I supply direction to the individual that is creating the print-ready artwork to let them know where to place the text.

10. Any tips or suggestions for authors who might be considering you for an upcoming project?

Please read the “Publishing Methods” and “Project Steps” sections of my website (www.mikemotz.com). The Publishing Methods section has been written in simple layperson’s terms explaining the publishing methods that are available to the self-publishing author. The Project Steps section describes the step-by-step process of how the illustrations are created for your book. Most of my clients are first-time authors, so I have a lot of experience answering questions, but the more questions that I can have answered on my website the better. Authors that contact me after reviewing the information on my website find that they are less intimidated because they have some education to the process of getting their book produced. In fact, once the illustrations for their book begin they quickly forget that they were ever intimidated at all because they’re having too much fun watching the illustrations come to life and seeing their dream become a reality.

One Response to “An Interview with Mike Motz, Children’s Book Illustrator”

  1. [...] few interviews of our own with Smashwords CEO Mark Coker to celebrate Read an E-book Week, and with Mike Motz, children’s book [...]

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