Author and Illustrator Comic Duos … or 32 Pages to be Schmidt and Andromedon by @joshfunkbooks plus a #Giveaway

If you write picture books, you’ll have the privilege of working with some of the finest artists in the world. You get the opportunity to guide these talented illustrators as they create a variety of fantastic images: glorious images, stunning scenery, pulchritudinous* characters. 32 fully-illustrated pages! How glorious?!?

But 32 can sometimes be a lot. It might not seem that way, especially when it shrinks down to 24-28 depending on how the end pages are used. I know it’s sometimes a struggle to fill those 32 pages with enough varied imagery to keep the book compelling for the reader.

I’ve written in the past about how I come up with ideas (here and here) – my go-to is “what do I want to see illustrated?” Well, I know what I don’t want to see illustrated: the same picture on every page (no matter how pulchritudinous** the characters look).

French toastWhen limiting your picture book manuscripts to 0 to 300 (to maybe 500) words, it’s important to ensure that what’s being shown changes pretty frequently. If you’ve got a scene in your picture book lasting 50-100 words, that’s likely too long. Either all of those words will have to be on the same spread with a single illustration … or … those 50-100 words will be spread across 2-4-6-8 pages … that all have basically the same illustration.

[Note: this may not apply if you’re writing an Elephant & Piggie-style dialogue-driven book – but unless you’re Mo Willems, your book is probably not entirely dialogue with little-to-no action – and even Mo Willems is no longer writing books like that]

Once you’ve given your illustrator enough variety of scenery – it’s time to let them run wild. In my experience, illustrators are some of the funniest, most creative, worst-spelling*** people in the world. I’ve said before that the illustrator is your partner. Like any great comedy duo, you’ve got to set up your partner to knock down those jokes.

pirasaursAnd you, the writer, are the straight man. The Abbott to his Costello. The Fey to her Poehler. The Schmidt to his Andromedon. Put the illustrator in the position to add as much humor as possible.

Throw in puns that could be illustrated should they so choose.
Use the page turns to surprise!
Let the reader expect one thing, but have the illustration show another.

And don’t be afraid to use illustration notes … very sparingly. If there’s a visual gag you’ve got, feel free to throw it in – but make sure only to say what not how.

dear dragon[Warning about illo notes: the illustrator is probably funnier than you are. It might be better to let them come up with the funny ideas to fill in your gaps and not suggest your lame ones]

So, make use of those full 32 pages with the potential for a variety of imagery. And consciously pay attention to the opportunities you’re giving your partner. A Spade plus Farley way is better than either one alone.


* You owe me $10, Tara Lazar – I told you I could get pulchritudinous published!

** Twice. (does that mean $20?)

*** It’s true. But I still love you all.


  • With so few words in today’s picture books, it’s important that what’s being shown changes frequently.
  • Put the illustrator in the position to add as much humor as possible
  • Let the reader expect one thing, but have the illustration show something entirely different


Josh Funk writes silly stories and somehow tricks people into publishing them as books like Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast, Pirasaurs!, Dear Dragon, and more. Josh, a board member of The Writers’ Loft and co-coordinator of the 2016 and 2017 NESCBWI Conferences, is a software engineer. When not writing Java code or Python scripts, he drinks Java coffee and writes picture book manuscripts. You can follow Josh at and visit his website at

If you are registered for Kidlit Summer School, you can download a worksheet of Josh’s writing exercise at our Exercise Book. This is a password-protected area — only members allowed! Please check your email for the password.

GIVEAWAY! Josh is kindly giving away one signed hardcover copy of each of his three picture books: Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast, Pirasaurs!, and Dear Dragon (one each to three lucky winners). If you are a registered Summer School student and would like a chance to win, please leave a comment on this post to be entered into the drawing.

Don’t miss your chance to get perfect attendance! Leave a comment on this post within the first 24 hours. Moderators have to approve first-time commenters, so your comment may not show up immediately.

192 comments on “Author and Illustrator Comic Duos … or 32 Pages to be Schmidt and Andromedon by @joshfunkbooks plus a #Giveaway

  1. writeknit says:

    Great post Josh. Thanks for the opportunity to win your books. I love Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast, can’t wait to read the other two.


  2. Becky Scharnhorst says:

    Great advice regarding scene length/word count! I’m going to go back and check the word count on each scene in my manuscripts to make sure I’m changing it up often. And I love it when the illustrations show something different than what is expected! Those are always my favorite books. Thanks for the excellent post!


  3. knittingbishop says:

    I just love this idea. Thanks Josh.


  4. Ashley says:

    Great post! Thank you!


  5. Natalie Lynn Tanner says:

    Writer and illustrator – partners in crime!


  6. Ramona says:

    I hope I wasn’t the only one who had to lok up the definition of pulchritudinous – now I know it I’ll have to use it )probably at my next book club meeting) – thanks Josh for your wise words!


  7. bucklessclass says:

    Great post! I loved your tips for helping the illustrator out. I especially loved your reminder that the illustrator is usually funnier!


  8. Aimee Haburjak says:

    Excellent post! Excellent books


  9. Congrats on winning your pulchritudinous bet. No easy task. And thanks for a fun post with good tips.


  10. Debbie Austin says:

    Thanks for the great ideas for making a manuscript illustration-ready.


  11. writersideup says:

    OK, who knew that in Summer School I’d learn a word I NEVER, in a million years, heard of! lol I’m SO curious about the conversation between you and Tara that led to that 🙂

    And it’s often so true that the humor in picture books is largely in the illustrations. When I write, it’s my illustrations that contain the funny parts (most of the time). Excellent points, Josh—-partners! 😀


  12. Kristen Browning says:

    Thanks for the helpful advice, especially about the illustration notes. I really like your “What do I want to see illustrated” strategy.


  13. angelcat2014 says:

    Thank you for the breakdown of word count and pages. I love that you were able to take a humorous and unique word and use it twice. 🙂


  14. Andi Osiek says:

    As a writer / illustrator it is nice to see advice encouraging writers to think like an illustrator – and vice versa! Great post!


  15. laurielyoung says:

    I’m always struggling with finding ways to vary the action. Thanks for reminding me to be the straight man.


  16. Andrea Mack says:

    These are great tips about how writing and illustrating interact. Thanks!


  17. Kate Giard says:

    Pulchritudinous insights for working with an illustrator! (Can I get in on the action?) Thank you!


  18. Kim Chaffee says:

    I learned a new word! Thanks for the great post!


  19. Marla says:

    Great advice! I’m an author/illustrator and find it even harder to let go when I think of the possibility that another illustrator might me chosen to illustrate my work even if I submit as an author/illustrator package.


  20. Susan Schade says:

    Good reminder about illustration notes. Thank you for the post!


  21. So funny because i just told my wife I was feeling very pulchritudinous this morning! So odd to see that twice in one day. (Does Tara owe me money now too?)
    Great post.

    Liked by 2 people

  22. Rachel Hamby says:

    Thanks! Look forward to the new books!


  23. So happy to read this post. I am a huge fan! There are many great reminders in this post. I need to always keep in mind that every page should have a different image. Thanks for taking the time to share these important tips.


  24. Wendy says:

    Realizing there is an illo note I need to go change–thank you, Josh!


  25. Lynn Alpert says:

    Gud post Josh! And us artest types kin speil just phine!

    Liked by 1 person

  26. The Abbott to their Costello? But . . . who’s on first??? (Sorry . . . that probably would have been funnier if I was an illustrator. Or if my sick kids hadn’t kept me from sleeping the last couple of nights. Or both.) Thanks for the great advice!


  27. Love this: “the illustrator is probably funnier than you are. It might be better to let them come up with the funny ideas to fill in your gaps and not suggest your lame ones” – and totally guilty!

    Totally had to look up pulchritudinous…”Even though it looks (and sounds) like it would describe a disease or a bad attitude, pulchritudinous actually describes a person of breathtaking, heartbreaking…beauty.” Even the definition ( has your energy and humor!

    Great post Josh!

    – Amanda Sincavage


  28. Mavis Penney says:

    Thanks for the reminders to leave things open for another POV… And someone else’s sense of humor.


  29. Angela says:

    Pulchritudinous, indeed. And plenty of substance to go with that pulchritude. Thanks.


  30. msvukidlit says:

    Thanks. Great tips for leaving room for the illustrator to do his/her work and make your book even funnier!


  31. Gayle says:

    Thanks for tips on keeping the story moving!

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Lotus Ivak says:

    This is great! Thank you so much Josh!

    Liked by 1 person

  33. phyllis chery says:

    It’s been more than 24 hours since your post, but I really wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed your comments about illustrators being responsibe for “funny”. I love it and hope my illustrations will help something be funny. Phyllis

    Liked by 1 person

  34. Sandi Lawson says:

    Great post! Love the advice.

    Liked by 1 person

  35. winemama says:

    Great post, thanks for the advice

    Liked by 1 person

  36. Oh my goodness, your dedication to GG in Pirasaurs!
    What a great way to brainstorm a PB, imagining what you want to see in the illustration. Then at the same time, shifting all the pressure of coming up with those illustrations to more capable shoulders. That would take a load off my mind. Thank you also for your generous give away.

    Liked by 1 person

  37. Leah Heilman Schanke says:

    This insightful post was very helpful. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  38. kathyhierholzer says:

    I never heard that word before.

    Liked by 1 person

  39. Lauri Meyers says:

    Great advice Josh!
    ****I was disappointed one of those asterisks wasn’t followed by a definition
    *****Tara Lazar is pulchritudinous inside and out:)

    Liked by 1 person

  40. laurazarrin says:

    Such good advice!

    Liked by 1 person

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