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Monday, June 4, 2012

Guest Post - Will Terry Talks about Step 7: Assemble the dummy

Will Terry grew up just outside the beltway of Washington DC in Beltsville Maryland. His plans to become a circus lion tamer were dashed when he found out he was allergic to lions – so he started drawing them instead! Later – someone lied to him and told him he could make lots of money drawing professionally – the beginning of the end. In 1992 after leaving the BYU illustration program he started showing his portfolio around and began getting work. His work has appeared in national advertisements for Sprint, Pizza Hut, M&M Mars, Pepsi, Fed Ex, Master Card and Citibank and Target and in such publications as Time, Money, Wall Street Journal, Mac World, Arizona Highways, Seventeen and Better Homes and Gardens. His work has also been accepted into The Society of Illustrators. He's illustrated board games for Hasbro and educational books for Leapfrog and in the last 10 years he's focused on illustrating over 25 children's books for Random House, Scholastic, Simon Schuster, Albert Whitman, Harcourt, Houghton Mifflin, and Dial.

When He's not teaching at UVU, working on children's books or illustrating iPad apps he might be working on his new company – FolioAcademy.com which sells online streaming art tutorial videos. Will enjoys snowboarding, hiking, and backpacking with his three boys in the Utah back country and a warm fire with his wife Laurel.

Wow – what an honor to be asked to guest blog! So much good information already posted by some very talented authors/illustrators – I hope I can add a few thoughts that might also be helpful.
Making book dummies has been very helpful in conveying my stories to editors over the years and while I think it's often a very important step I don't believe it's always necessary:

  1. I ALWAYS make a book dummy when I'm trying to sell my story with my illustrations to a publisher.

    I think it's obvious to most who will be reading this - but combining words and pictures is vital to convey your intentions to an editor. A picture is worth a thousand words and you're shooting yourself in the foot if you don't make an easy to follow representation of your project.
  2. I DON'T make book dummies for my commissioned book projects. To me it's an unnecessary step to go through the process of making a physical book dummy for manuscripts I've received from a publisher to illustrate. Instead, I make a PDF of my sketches with text so I can quickly click through to check pacing, redundancy, inconsistency, flow, and perception. This is a faster method for me and since my publishers only want to see finished sketches.
  3. I BELIEVE there are many ways to make a successful book dummy. I try to avoid getting caught up in “the right way” to do it. I know author/illustrators who have sold books with everything from extremely polished dummy books to simple PDF's. In the end you need to keep in mind that the goal of the dummy is to sell the book and no more. If you've attended writing conferences for any length of time you quickly realize that editors all have different requests for receiving and reviewing book projects. If you prepare your manuscript on the advice of one particular editor you might be creating a submission that's wrong for others. Confusing? Absolutely! The following is a list of do's and don'ts I use in my own submission process. It's not perfect but the following are either things I've learned from editors or things that make sense to me.

The Dos

  • Do - make a book dummy.
  • Do - make it clean and simple.
  • Do – integrate the text where you've designed it to go.
  • Do - make it 32 pages (or other multiples of 4 pages where appropriate)
  • Do – make it on your computer (if you can) so you can print multiple copies (for loss, damage, or multiple submissions – I use Photoshop but you can use a wide variety of programs – InDesign works well too).
  • Do – Include the cover in the dummy book on an extra piece of paper (in addition to the 32 pages).
  • Do – Include one or two color samples ( these could be integrated into the dummy or loose).
  • Do – bind it like a 32 page picture book (staple, glue, sew, etc. gathered in the middle).
  • Do – consider making a digital book dummy i.e. PDF (submission might be difficult if you don't have an editor willing to look at it).

The Don'ts

  • Don't - worry about making it actual size (Give editors some credit for imagination)
  • Don't – glue pages together to join front and back sketches (I believe that gluing paper together makes for a sloppy, heavy, hard to turn disaster for an editor to examine. Print your sketches on the front and back of each page just like an actual picture book. Your dummy book is a reflection of you. Put your best foot forward by sending a clean dummy).
  • Don't – include original sketches in your dummy. (It's the mark of an amateur – if the dummy gets damaged or lost you have no more dummy – show an editor your professionalism by thinking ahead).
  • Don't – hand color your dummy (shows you have way too much time on your hands and again becomes original work).
  • Don't – paste the text into your dummy (it's messy and detracts from the overall feel and look of the presentation)
  • Don't – use a crazy type font (Go with“Times” or something very simple – you won't sell your book based on a funky type face but you can certainly detract from it with the wrong one. Editors work with professional graphic designers. You're not going to impress them with your funky font choice so don't try.)
  • Don't – Include “C – copyright” anywhere in your dummy. (It's the mark of an amateur. Editors don't steal manuscripts. If they like it they'll buy it. Putting “copyright” on your dummy will get you tossed aside quickly – established authors/illustrators don't do it so you shouldn't either – you have a better chance of getting hit by lightning the second time than having your manuscript or idea stolen).
  • Don't – make an elaborate cover, binding, or sleeve for your dummy book. (You want to look like you know what you're doing – professionals don't waste time on superfluous additions that won't be re-created in the printed book but will only distract from your goal – getting your book looked at.
  • Don't - send a book dummy that you aren't proud of (if you know you can do better – do better – this has to be a labor of love – time and money take a back seat to the creation of art!)


  1. Excellent post, Will--thanks for the tips!

  2. Will Terry is an awesome artist!

  3. Great advice! You present useful and relevant tips on assembling a dummy. Thanks

  4. So helpful!!! ... and it came at just the right time for me. Thank you so much!

  5. Great do's and don'ts thanks for sharing. I always glean a little bit more info from people who have done this multiple times!

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  7. Great info! Is a book dummy colorless? Who ends up doing the final coloring/inking?

  8. Great post, and great website. Thanks for the information!
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