illustration by Sarah McIntyre

By Sarah Lynne Reul

Have you ever come across a picture book and found it difficult to determine who created the illustrations?   Most of the time, the illustrator’s name is on the cover, right up there with the writer, as a co-creator of the book.  But occasionally, illustrator names are left off the cover and sometimes they may go even go unmentioned when books are up for review or awards. In addition, illustrator attributions are often left off of individual images posted online, as well as many cover reveals for MG & YA books. 

After noticing that illustrators in the UK were often left off of picture book covers, bestseller lists and awards, illustrator/author Sarah McIntyre teamed up with other book creators to raise awareness and help create positive change.

Some basics from the main #PicturesMeanBusiness page:

What does it mean if you support #PicturesMeanBusiness?
1. It means you believe illustration (and cover design) contributes to people’s decisions to buy books.
2. It means you respect the profession of illustration as a proper skilled profession and not some cute little hobby.
3. It means you think top-quality illustrators should be able to make a living from their work.
4. It means you feel upset when you see a review of a much-loved picture book and it only mentions the writer’s name.
5. It means you believe illustrators should be listed on databases with the books they’ve created, just like writers, in ways that their books and sales can be tracked. (If business can’t see illustrators’ contribution to business, they will assume illustration doesn’t contribute.)

So, what can you do to help illustrators get the credit they deserve?  

  • Be sure to mention illustrators when talking about books online (use the #PicturesMeanBusiness hashtag to help get the word out!)
  • If you’re promoting a cover reveal, include the illustrator’s name (and the designer’s name, if you can find it!)
  • Talk about the pictures in a book with children as you read out loud – what are the illustrations adding to the story?  When my daughter was in kindergarten, she learned about picture-walking: a way to “read” the book; to observe what was going on and try to guess what was going to happen on the next page. It’s a great activity for pre-readers as well as kids who are able to read on their own!
  • When reading books out loud, don’t forget to read the names of all the people who have created the books. At our house, it has helped us be more aware of writers and illustrators and has lead us to make many happy discoveries while browsing bookshelves at the library and local bookstores.

If you’re looking to do more, there are some excellent challenges on Sarah’s website, as well as some great ideas in this BookTrust article: Pictures Mean Business: 7 Ways You Can Support Illustrators.  The main page for Pictures Mean Business has lots more information on the campaign, and goes into some of the data-related complications behind the issue, as does this excellent article: Digging Deep: The Real Reason Illustrators Keep Getting Overlooked.

How have you noticed this issue? What else do you think can be done about it?

Sarah Lynne Reul is an illustrator, writer and award-winning 2D animator who likes science, bright colors and figuring out how things work. Learn more at reuler.com.


  1. Thank-you! I have been trying to get people to realize this is a serious issue for ages. My blog always lists the illustrators and links to their websites unless I can’t find the information…and really, that should NEVER HAPPEN! As you say, illustrators are co-creators. I would like to see Amazon get on board with thos. They are very inconsistent with crediting children’s book illustrators. Sometimes you can view the cover or copyright page but sometimes they leave off that info completely. Thank-you truly. We’ll be looking into the hashtag further.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post. I agree, and I probably don’t do this well enough, though I have a series in which I spotlight illustrators as well as authors. I will do better from now on. It is often the illustrations which attract us to a picture book in the first place, unless we are looking for books by a particular author.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post! The hashtag will definitely help prod the industry and consumers to want and expect equal recognition for all the parties involved in the creation of a book.

    Liked by 1 person

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