The Creation of a Picture Book – Tania McCartney & Tina Snerling


Tania McCartney and Tina Snerling have successfully collaborated on the energetic An Aussie Year, and have just released their second picture book together … Tottie & Dot.

Yep, these two are the perfect pair to give My Book Corner an insider’s look at the creative process behind a successful picture book as part of their Blog Blast to celebrate their latest launch. (Scroll down for more details).

Okay, we’ll admit it. Working together on a picture book is SO much fun! And we are extra lucky because we get to do everything from initial concept through to print-ready files. It’s a lot of work but it’s hugely rewarding.

Here’s an insider peek at the various parts that comprise its creation.

Logistics — with Tania

Tina lives in Brisbane and Tania lives in Canberra, Australia, so putting together a book is all done online.

I (Tania) write all the text without any input from Tina, but this text doesn’t end up as the be-all and end-all of the work. There has been many a time the text has changed to fit Tina’s wonderful creative ideas or images—and this is the fantastic thing about working so collaboratively. I truly believe it adds depth and greater creativity to the book proper.

Once the text is ready to go, the first thing we do is set up a Google spreadsheet and whack all the book’s text in it. We divide it into page divisions and make illustration notes in the columns, along with new ideas and concepts.

We pretty much use this spreadsheet as a ‘conversation’ because we can have everything at a glance, in one space, without having to worry about emails going back and forth. We can also chat live (texting) in Google docs, if need be.

As Tina produces the images, we tick off page production as we go along. Each page is created in its entirety and is then sent to our publisher/editor Anouska, who goes over everything with a fine tooth comb.

Once it’s approved—Tina converts the pages to print-ready PDF, and voilà—it’s off to the printer!

Five Picture Book Facts, a creator’s guide  — with Tina

1. Most picture books have 32 pages!

2. There needs to be bleed lines on each page to allow for trimming of the pages. If an illustration is created to go off the edge of the page, you need to extend the image to allow for this cut-off.

3. An endpaper is the page that is literally glued or connected to the front cover of the book and is the first page you see. This is where an illustrator gets to have fun and be creative!

4. All images need to be converted to CMYK (a required colour format) and all text needs to be converted to curves before it is sent to the printer. This essentially means the text is converted to an image, so it can’t ‘move’.

5. A book is usually taken into InDesign for be sent to the printer. All the files need to be linked and imported into the InDesign program.

A Creative Peek — with Tania and Tina

What did you want to be when you grew up?

Tania: An author and an actress. Later in life, I wanted to be a graphic designer and illustrator and I’ve only just reconnected with this dream now!

Tina: A fashion designer! Funny enough I achieved this goal when I become a children’s clothing designer, before I realised illustration and graphic design was my true passion.

Name one of your favourite pieces of work, ever.

Tina: Honestly, my favourite pictures have been all of Tottie and Dot—the speckled egg page. I don’t know why, I just love this image.

Tania: Kids often ask me what my favourite book is (of my own) and I have to say, like most authors, it’s always the one I’ve just finished working on/about to release. So of course, it’s Tottie and Dot! I also have a current manuscript I truly love because it’s about my mum. It’s called When I Was Little.

Dream job?

Tania: I’m so fortunate to be doing what I love, and even more fortunate that EK Books allow me to be so heavily involved in book production, because that is also a great love of mine.

Tina: I am living it! I always wanted to illustrate children’s book. I also dream of one of my books to became a cartoon—that would be amazing!

Do you have any creative rituals?

Tina: Generally I let my pen guide me. I might start out with an idea, but it usually morphs into something unexpected!

Tania: I’m like Tina—I almost channel my work. I sit and let it flow and it comes to me miraculously and sometimes by surprise. I need complete silence when I write and a nice coffee is usually in the mix somewhere.

Something about you readers may not know?

Tania: I have quite the illustration obsession, and have been harbouring a secret dream to reconnect with illustrating after a 25 year+ hiatus. A big goal is so illustrate some of my own books, but that doesn’t mean I won’t continue to work with Tina! In fact, we are right now working on a book series …

Tina: I originally started my working career in accounts studying Accounts/Law. This was when I let others convince me that being an artist was not a stable career. Then I came to my senses and went with my heart!

What would you love to work on if money and time were no object?

Tina: More children’s books!!!

Tania: More children’s books!!!

Tottie and Dot

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