How Does A Light Novel Get An Illustrator?

I promise this isn’t just filler, it’s a question that’s been bothering me and this seemed like the best place to reach for an answer.

Just how did VOFAN get attached to Bakemonogatari?

How does an illustrator get attached to a light novel? Do writers go to an artist before they try to get published, or do they meet artists through the publisher? Does the author pay the illustrator before publication, or do both the author and illustrator get paid by the publisher? And if the author does pay the illustrator beforehand, then does the illustrator make any money off of the publication? Is it usually a “professional” illustrator that works on a light novel, or someone the author found on pixiv and launched into stardom with the publication?

Besides my interest as a light novel fan, I’m also interested in this as a writer. I would really love to do some of my works in the style of light novels, so I want to know just how I should go about attaching an illustrator to my works.

11 thoughts on “How Does A Light Novel Get An Illustrator?

  1. I would think most of the time these connections happen at the publisher level; the publisher sees the manuscript and tries to pair up the author with an available illustrator whose style will suit the work. If the author has some clout, they may be able to put forward names of illustrators they’d like to work with, but most of what I’ve read (especially in postscripts and such) suggests that LN authors and illustrators tend to work separately, exchanging ideas from time to time. In almost all cases, the rights to both the story and the illustrations belong to the publisher, not to the author (which is why there tends to be drama whenever authors move from one publisher to another).

    So yeah, this is by no means a “professional opinion” or anything (just casual observations over the years), but it appears to be mostly driven by the publisher’s arrangements for the franchise. But in your case, it probably won’t be easy to find a publisher experienced with light novels works and who’d have the connections with artists… so you’d probably be better off trying to make the connections yourself… I guess…

  2. While I don’t work in the Japanese light novel industry, I do work in American young adult publishing so I can make some educated guesses.

    There are multiple ways a project between author and illustrator can come to fruition. The most common way is that the publisher buys a manuscript and then goes about finding an illustrator. Typically, publishers like to pair a new writer with a seasoned illustrator or a new illustrator with a seasoned writer.

    The writer can make suggestions, but that is all at the discretion of their editor, the art director, and their contract.

    The writer COULD pay an illustrator beforehand, but in my opinion that would probably be foolish if they aren’t a big name because the publisher may not like their choice.

    Coming in as a team, would be a different scenario. But in order to do this the work would probably need to be much more polished before pitching it to a publisher.

    The publisher pays both writer and illustrator an up front fee. As for royalties on the book, that is dependent on the contract, but typically no royalty is given to newbies. I know in Japan writers and illustrators have a lot more control over the ownership of their works than in America though.

    Hope this helps a little.


  3. That’s why Walter Moers is my favourite writer of all time, because he is able to write and draw all his ideas on his own XD

    Okay, that was random, but it’s true the publisher decides who will illustrate the novel.

      • You can try to find some people on DeviantArt. It takes a lot of time, but aside from all the trolls you meet there it’s worth your effort. I heard you visit an art school at the moment, what about this ? I am sure there must be someone who will support you with some nice artwork =)

        Oh, and you should avoid the Rio anime this season XD I mean, the girl is very cute but there is no substance to it ^_-

  4. Hello, what a surprise to find these posts fitting to my current situation! I have created a nice story for a light novel, but although I draw Manga, I am not good enough, I am better at writing. In this case I am planning a Team of three, two mangafans, one of them is a friend of mine and also a second friend. These two fellows take responsibility for the Art and we will certainly do it and exchange ideas. After teamwork er will introduce our work to a publisher. You have said you need an Illustrator, so we could probably cooperate? I mean I ask them if they could illustrate for you. I could also try my best! How des it sound?

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