An often-debated question among authors, is whether to put illustration notes in a manuscript or not. The most common advice is to use them sparingly and only when they are necessary for the editor/agent to understand the story.
You would not specify the color of a character’s clothing unless it matter to the story. For example, in a work-in-progress, Chicken Little’s Grade-A Idea, I included two illustration notes. The first (show billboards) indicates what Chicken Little is pointing to as he suggests something they could do to get people to drink more milk. The other was (Cows Lose Their Jobs), referring to what the headline of the newspaper Chicken Little reads should say.
Normally I add very few illustrator notes. First, I hope my words evoke the images and secondly, I trust an illustrator to bring the words to life by adding their vision. But there was one time I should have added a note.
When I submitted No More Noisy Nights to Shari Dash Greenspan at Flashlight Press, her initial decision to reject it was because she was picturing Jackson as an adult. As you see in this email excerpt.
I say I was picturing Jackson as an animal. This is a way children can explore adult behavior by using animals as main characters. But sure, I’ll rewrite. So, I rewrite it with Jackson helping his grandma move.
But, she doesn’t like it. And she begins seeing Jackson not as a person, but a mole and a matter of a few minutes the tide turns and Jackson is closer to finding a home at Flashlight Press!
So, lesson learned. If I’d specified that it was an animal, not a human, maybe a mole we might have saved time. EXCEPT, there was value in my rewrite as each thing we write improves our writing. It also gave Shari a chance to see my ability to take editorial comments and work with them.