Crash Course in Children’s Publishing: Illustrators Edition

June 1 - July 27, 2022


This Program is Full, but you are welcome to join the waitlist here in case anyone has to cancel.

Multi-Week Online Course

Join lead faculty Pat Cummings and Harold Underdown for this special Illustrators edition of our Crash Course in Children’s Publishing. At the end of the course, you will understand how the children’s book publishing industry works for illustrators and author/illustrators, including ways to build your portfolio and engage with art-directors.

  • 8 weeks of live programming; one week holiday hiatus
  • Live Lectures take place on Wednesdays, 8pm – 9pm Eastern (June 1, 8, 15, 22, 29, and July 13, 20, 27)
  • Additional recorded programming will be released to supplement some live lectures
  • Optional Live Office Hours beginning on Friday, June 3 at 11am
  • Ongoing discussion threads with engaged faculty responses
  • Two hands-on sessions that will help build your portfolio
  • Post-course 1:1 mentorship session included to discuss a work-in-progress and/or publishing related questions
  • Closed captions available at all live sessions, and in recordings
  • 25 participants max


  • Informal Q & A sessions held at all live programming.
  • Post-course consultation/mentorship session with a publishing mentor to discuss work-in-progress and/or publishing-related questions.


Are you a serious beginner, ready to learn more about the publishing industry? At the end of this course, you will understand how the children’s book publishing industry works, especially in your role as an illustrator or author/illustrator. Other topics include the editorial process, publishing, marketing a book for children, teens, or young adults, and how to build a portfolio that grabs the attention of agents and editors.

You will have a variety of opportunities to engage with faculty, guests, and creative peers, including live lectures, office hours, our virtual platform’s discussion board, and more.

This course includes a 1:1 written critique and consultation. You will be matched with a mentor for the 1:1 in a field that aligns with your needs as an aspiring children’s book illustrator. This mentor match and submission for the 1:1 will take place following the live sessions of this course.

During this course, you will:

  • Explore genres of books, types of publishers, types of markets; fiction vs. nonfiction, flat fee vs. royalties, schools and libraries, etc.
  • Find best practices for starting out as a professional illustrator in the children’s market.
  • Discover equipment, software, organizations, and services to help get you started.
  • Look at stages and underlying concepts involved in creating illustrations for kids.
  • Understand submissions rules and practices, including which mistakes to avoid, along with portfolio basics.
  • Learn about pitching to, and working with, an art director.
  • Learn about how publishers sign up manuscripts and how to make sense of contracts.
  • Discover the illustration process for picture books, illustrations, book jackets, and more.


  • You want to illustrate for children but don’t know how to get started. Our goal is to demystify children’s publishing and answer ALL of your questions about the process.
  • You’ve written and/or illustrated a story for children but have no idea how to submit it to publishers. This course will give you best practices for revising and submitting your work.
  • You are a trained illustrator or fine artist, and want to expand your skill set to include illustrating books for children. We’ll give you a behind-the-scenes look at all that goes on, from submission to publication.
  • You are a serious beginner. Tired of exhaustive online searches, hard-to-sift-through information, or lack of practical advice? This course is a great way to get a jump start on your goals.
  • You’re ready to devote some time to learn and practice. This course offers long-term support over 8 weeks, and allows you to learn at your own pace.


This course runs for 8 weeks (plus a one week holiday hiatus) with live sessions held on Wednesdays at 8pm Eastern (specific dates are noted in the agenda below.) There are also weekly live Zoom Office Hours with faculty. These are optional but encouraged.

*Note: Your 1:1 consultation with a carefully selected mentor is scheduled after the final session of the course, at a mutually convenient time to you and your mentor.

The course is divided into 8 sessions, each with a different topic.

Week One:
Opening Session: Introductions & Course Overview
Wednesday, June 1 at 8pm Eastern (Live)

  • Brief introductions
  • Overview of course curriculum
  • Tour of course platform

An Introduction to Children’s Books and Publishers (Session presented as recorded segments)

  • Types of books (picture books, easy readers, chapter books, jackets and interior illustrations for older books, nonfiction opportunities, graphic novels)
  • Types of publishers and who’s who
  • Today’s children’s book market (broad differences between trade, library, textbook, and mass market publishers)

Additional Content Released in the Virtual Classroom:

  • The Highlights Foundation’s staff book talks: concept books – graphic novels
  • Resource pages and websites

Friday, June 3 at 11am Eastern: Optional Live Office Hour


Week Two:
Getting Started: Best Practices and Key Resources
Wednesday, June 8 at 8pm Eastern (Live)

  • Equipment, software, and skills
  • Organizations and community (critique groups and more)
  • Social media as a tool for illustrators

Additional Content Released in the Virtual Classroom:

  • Financial and personal considerations on insurance, taxes for freelancers, working with an accountant, retirement plans, and more
  • Keeping your audience at heart: Child development, child psychology, and authentic representation in children’s books

Friday, June 10 at 11am Eastern: Optional Live Office Hour


Week Three:
Portfolios, Portfolio Pieces, and First Hands-on Assignment
Wednesday, June 15 at 8pm Eastern (Live)

  • Stages of Illustration
  • Underlying concepts involved in creating illustrations
  • Hands-on assignment: creating a picture book dummy (mocked up book) or portfolio piece

Additional Content Released in the Virtual Classroom:

  • Resource list and websites
  • Handouts to help with dummies (mocked up picture books) and portfolio pieces

Friday, June 17 at 11am Eastern: Optional Live Office Hour


Week Four:
Researching Publishers and Art Reps
Wednesday, June 22 at 8pm Eastern (Live)

  • Researching publishers, agents, and art reps (and what they do)
  • How to promote yourself with printed and online materials
  • Considerations for illustrators, and author/illustrators

Additional Content Released in the Virtual Classroom:

  • Art Director in conversation

Friday, June 24 at 11am Eastern: Optional Live Office Hour


Week Five:
Portfolio Part II and Promotional Pieces: Second Hands-on Session
Wednesday, June 29 at 8pm Eastern (Live)

  • Creating a digital portfolio vs. traditional portfolio
  • What to do when one concept is requested to “dummy out” as a book
  • Feedback on hands-on portfolio work with Pat Cummings

Additional Content Released in the Virtual Classroom:

  • Resource list and websites
  • Portfolio checklist

Friday, July 1 at 11am Eastern: Optional Live Office Hour


Holiday Hiatus
July 3 – 10: Review Missed Materials & Work on Dummy


Week Six:
Submissions, Getting the Deal, and Contracts
Wednesday, July 13 at 8pm Eastern (Live)

  • Submissions
  • Being offered a project
  • The contract– basic terms and obligations
  • A brief look at special markets

Additional Content Released in the Virtual Classroom:

  • Resource list and websites
  • Video recordings of graphic novel creative on differences between graphic novels and other illustrated works

Friday, July 15 at 11am Eastern: Optional Live Office Hour


Week Seven:
Art Directors and the Illustration Process
Wednesday, July 20 at 8pm Eastern (Live)

  • Conversation with an Art Director
  • Processes for different projects at a publisher

The Rest of the Publishing Process– Session presented as recorded segments including:

  • What editors, copy-editors, production managers, and other professionals do
  • What goes on before, around, and after your illustration work

Additional Content Released in the Virtual Classroom:

  • Interview with Daria Peoples
  • Working freelance with an indie author

Friday, July 22 at 11am Eastern: Final Optional Live Office Hour


Week Eight:
Bringing it all together!
Wednesday, July 27 at 8pm Eastern (Live)

  • Sharing portfolio pieces and pitches
  • Closing comments
  • Q & A

Additional Content Released in the Virtual Classroom:

  • Survey: Your Goals in Working with an Illustration Mentor
  • You will be paired with a mentor for 1:1 feedback and consultation, you will be asked to complete a survey assessing your publishing goals and needs. You will work with your mentor to select a time to meet and materials to exchange.

A note about workshop agendas and how they change and evolve.


If your schedule does not allow you to attend live sessions, that’s OK! You’ll have access to the recordings. They’re posted the day after the session, and they’ll be available through August 31, 2022. Closed captions will be available on all live sessions, and recordings from live sessions.

The course also includes hands-on exercises, community interaction, and goal setting. To maximize your investment in the course, take advantage of these.

Trying to figure out how this course fits into your schedule? Read some ideas about planning for the right level of commitment.


Illustrated stories help kids develop language, build the power of imagination, understand their world and value their lives as they see themselves reflected within. This course educates and encourages creators as they bring their voices to this important work.

Why do we mention this? Learn about the Highlights Foundation mission.


#HFGather: Shadra Strickland and Pat Cummings Talk Color, Light and Process
Crafting a Picture Book Dummy
How to Write a Picture Book (When You’re An Illustrator)
Illustrator Inspiration from Shadra Strickland & Kelly Light (video)
Breaking Through Those Creative Blocks, Anna Raff
#HFGather: Steve Light Pen & Ink Drawing Demo
True Confessions of a Picture Book Illustrator, Part 1, Elizabeth Rose Stanton
True Confessions of a Picture Book Illustrator, Part 2, Elizabeth Rose Stanton


About Pat Cummings:
“Pat Cummings was, well, her amazing self.”

“Pat was fabulously funny but also touched on a number of important points.”

“Pat Cummings was a extra special gift. Funny, smart, knowledgeable and full of energy. I just loved listening to her teach.”

“And Pat Cummings… holy woly. Experience, knowledge, great stories, and funny as all get-out.”

About Harold Underdown and the Crash Course in Children’s Publishing:
“I loved getting deep insight into the children’s book world today and also a better understanding of the business of the publishing world and how to navigate it. It was a comprehensive overview – and the instructors were positive and supportive.”

“I can’t say enough about the instructors. The knowledge they shared was incredible and very non-threatening to one who is just trying to get started. I found encouragement in the midst of the reality of the hard work and time requirements.”

“I am thrilled with this experience. So many of my questions have been answered and I learned a great deal. Harold is wonderful and I enjoyed listening to him.”


Harold Underdown

Harold is an executive editor at Kane Press. He is also the author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Children’s…
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Pat Cummings

Special Guest Pat Cummings is the author and/or illustrator of over 40 books for young readers. Along with teaching children’s…
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