Guest post, Z.R. Southcombe

Guest post – Working with an Illustrator

TZR Southombe Profile Photooday I have the lovely Z.R. Southcombe posting on the blog, with her experiences and advice on working with an illustrator. Take it away Zee!

I have the fortune of working with an illustrator who is also a good friend of mine, but we still do things by the books. We settled on a fair price, drew up a contract and set a time frame we were both happy with. In addition to all of that, we talked about future production schedules, so we’d be on the same page going forward.

As an author-publisher, I hold that the story is very much my own, and I am the one most invested – in every sense of the word – in my books. However, illustrations give a unique mood and flavour to the work. It is so important that illustrators are valued and respected for their talents.

My first book, What Stars Are Made Of was self-illustrated, and my next two books, The Caretaker of Imagination and Lucy’s Story (both chapter books) were both illustrated by fine artist, Jane Thorne.


I utilised the internet and found a few illustrator-publisher templates. One in particular was almost exactly what we needed, and all I had to do was tweak the numbers. Contact me if you would like a template copy.

The most important parts for us were making sure that she retained the rights, but that I was able to use them freely for book-related stuff. I also wanted to ensure that if anything happened to me, her rights were covered.

I’ve made this contract to cover all the books illustrated in 2015. Next year, we will draw up a new contract, bringing our first year’s experiences into consideration.

Price and payment

This was the most difficult. Jane hadn’t illustrated in a paid capacity before, and I had illustrated my previous book myself, so we weren’t entirely sure where to start. We both did some research, and settled on a price that was pretty much standard for spot illustrations – around $50 per drawing. (If this was a picture book the rate would be considerably higher). I give a 50% deposit at the start of the project, and the balance upon completion.

This price takes into account that Jane keeps the rights to the works (so they can be resold as prints) and she also keeps the original drawings. So, in addition to what I pay her, she can potentially earn more on her own. I have the licence to use the illustration in my books, and for promotional activities / merchandising directly related to the books.

We also introduced a royalty rate of 20% on profits for the standard books, and 50% on profits from the Illustrator’s Edition. It is my intention to scrap this going forward in 2016, and pay a higher rate instead – just because it’s extra paperwork!

Time frame

For the first and second books Jane illustrated, we were both on time. For the second book, I guess after the practice of the first one, Jane managed to get the illustrations to me a month early! This has turned out to be rather fortunate, as the book I’m on now is over a month late to her – and Jane still reckons she can churn it out on time.

Having said all of that, we only set the first timeline in stone, and had ‘ish’ timelines for the other books, keeping in mind that life might bring other things to the table. I set the timelines myself first, then asked Jane to look over them and see what changes needed to be made.

Creative freedom

I chose Jane not just because she’s a friend, but because I thought her deep characterisation, delicate handling and slight creepiness (uh, her paintings, not her!) would be perfect for my books. I gave her a LOT of creative freedom.

Both The Caretaker of Imagination and Lucy’s Story followed a similar process.

First, Jane reads the story, then comes up with 10-ish concept sketches. We go through these together, and make changes as necessary. For Lucy’s Story, there were almost no changes at all! For workflow, I requested that Jane did the cover art first, so I’d be able to send it to my cover designer to put together – this was something we’d learnt from doing the first book.

After that, Jane does the drawings, and usually updates me as she goes (mostly cause she’s a perfectionist and is nervous about them). In Lucy’s Story, there was only one illustration that required tweaks after it was completed.

Cover_LucyIllustrator’s Edition

All in all, my priority is to have a situation that respects both myself and the illustrator, and allows for some flexibility. I’ve made it a priority to ensure Jane is treated well throughout the project, and as part of that we have a super special Illustrator’s Edition.

This is a large, hardback edition of the book that is printed on 100% recycled paper, and features a foreword from Jane. It’s limited to 50 copies, and hand-numbered ‘x of 50’. It’s signed by both Jane and myself.

We had been leaning towards using the oak tree as the cover, but after consideration realised that the pirate, ship and chocolate cake would be a better reflection of the story and genre. Jane was really disappointed that her lovely oak tree wouldn’t make it to the cover, so we came up with a creative solution. We’re continuing to do this for the rest of the trilogy.

So the takeaway here? Choose an artist who works in a style you already love, and treat them well!

Z.R. Southcombe (Zee) is a writer and artist. Her books are written for children, but with their wild sense of imagination, rich vocabulary and emotional resonance they are loved by readers of all ages. Her paintings are surrealist and focus on the emotive self.

A true creative, Zee usually has a few creative projects on the go, but no matter what project she is currently working on – and is usually accompanied by a cup of tea.

Zee’s latest release is Lucy’s Story: The End of the World, a chapter book for 9-13yrs (ish) about young Lucy, who accidentally destroys the world… you can grab it off Amazon, iBooks & Kobo, or get a signed print book direct from the author herself at

publishing, writing

Guest post @ Writing Down Daydreams

Yesterday I guest posted over at the lovely Darian Smith‘s  blog about taking the plunge into self publishing. It was neat to be able to reflect on the things I’ve learned from the process, so why not head on over and give it a read?


Guest post, New Zealand, self publishing, writing

Writing a Book set in New Zealand

As a proud kiwi author, I love having the opportunity to share the space on my blog with other local writers. Today, Catherine Mede is stopping by to talk a bit about writing a book set in New Zealand. Her debut novel, Cursed Love, is releasing on the 30th of November, so we’re almost release day buddies! I’ve known Catherine for years now, and it’s really exciting that we’re getting to this point in our writing lives at the same time. Not only that, but we’re both releasing work set in our beautiful Aotearoa.

So without further ado… I’ll hand pass you over into Catherine’s capable hands.

Writing a Book set in New Zealand.

Writing a book based in New Zealand is considered by most to be a suicide mission.  Comments like ‘nobody will read a book set in NZ,’ have often been said to me, however I have watched from the side lines, with interest, a New Zealand author who has had some success with a series of romances set in Wellington.

It has often been reported that if you want a book to be popular, you must set it in the United States, because that is where the majority of the readers are and they only read books set in the US.

I beg to differ.

Readers come from all over the world, not just the United States.  What about England, Europe, Asia?  Surely they have readers too.

Recent articles have reported that the majority of readers, especially of romance, are looking for books that are set in exotic locations, and to some, New Zealand is exotic.  How can it not be, with all the natural native bush, the clear blue lakes, the active volcano’s and the tropical weather (well, maybe in the winterless North.)  More and more readers are picking up books set in New Zealand, Australia and even the islands as a means to escape reality, and enjoy a moment in a bright clean atmosphere.

When I first started writing Cursed Love, I wanted to set it in Nelson, because that is where I worked as an insurance assessor.  The setting of the office is pretty much where I worked, although the name has been changed, along with the brokerage – authors are allowed some poetic licence.  Nelson is a place that is close to my heart, having lived there for many years.  I know the places that my characters visit, or attend.  The view overlooking Nelson harbour, although the office set on the port is ficitious, because you are no longer allowed on the wharf unless you work for the Port Authorities, but my father used to work in a watchtower that had a great view over the chip tower and Roll-on Roll-off ferry berth.  The office block and the ferry berth no longer exist, both being removed some years ago.

Golden Bay and the Abel Tasman National Park are also favourite places I go and I have ideas for books that are yet to be written, to be set in these beautiful places.

Nelson as the setting for a romance seems a little out there, but romance happens everywhere, not just in Wellington or Auckland.  Small towns have opportunities to have love too, and with having the Maori aspect to my story, adds to the reading experience, while educating the reader a little bit about the vast and rich history of New Zealand.  We might be a small country, but our history is still relatively new.  We only have two hundred plus years, while cities in the US have three to four hundred years of history, compared to thousands of years in the UK, Europe and Asia.

I think New Zealand has a lot to offer as a setting for stories.  There are the All Blacks, the setting for a book written by an American author (Just this Once by Rosalind James), Wellington and its vistas over the harbour (Wicked in Wellington series by Kris Pearson), the rich history of the early settlers (The Runaway Settlers and A Canoe in the Mist by Elsie Locke), marble mountain caves (Maurice Gee’s The Halfmen of O series).

Maori culture has a lot to offer the story world too.  It has a beautiful language, and a unique perspective on the world, where they don’t actually own the land, but protect it for the future generations.  The more I read and understand the Maori culture, the more I understand their opposition to a lot of the local bylaws and laws that the Government have made and still continue to make.

But this isn’t a political rant.

I love New Zealand, I love what it has to offer, and I can think of no better way of showcasing its beauty and naturalness than by using it as a background for my stories.

Who is Catherine Mede?

Catherine Mede lives in a rural village in the South Island of New Zealand with her husband, son and two cats.  She works when she can, doing whatever is available – within reason!  When not writing, Catherine likes to read, draw and work in her garden.

Having developed a love for writing when she was at High School, it wasn’t until she was in her thirties she decided to really get down and dirty with the words in her head.

Romance and Speculative Fiction are what Catherine likes to write about because she understands the need to get lost in a love that sometimes seems mythical.  And adding Fantasy elements just fulfills her needs to be creative fanciful worlds.

When she was younger, she wrote to escape reality, now she writes it to allow others to enter a world where love has a happily ever after.

Catherine has a short story published in a Masters of Horror Anthology and attends writing seminars and groups in her area.

When she is rich and famous, Catherine intends to have a large library which will double as her writing space and own an Aston Martin Vanquish.  (Dreams are Free)

You can contact Catherine Mede through her website and facebooktwitter and pinterest  or email her – she loves to have contact with her fans.


Today you’ll find me…

Over at Amy Rose Davis’ blog with a guest post. Check it out! Other than a couple of interviews, I think this is my first proper guest post. Hope you enjoy it 🙂

I’d also like to say that YAY I tentatively finished my new structure/outline for MN WOOOOOO. I’m so excited about the shape of it now and am really looking forward to writing the new scenes and putting it all together.

Why on earth did I never do notes on the wall before? I’m applying it to the short stories I have been struggling with and it’s helping with those too! Hopefully this will result in a lot less floundering around 🙂

Have an awesome weekend everyone!