Posted by: Kathy Temean | August 30, 2021


The Magic of Graphic Novels by Mira Reisberg

Howdy kid’s book creative, if you’ve ever sat down with a high-quality Graphic Novel, you’ll know that they can be absolutely magical. And for the past few years and into the future as far as I can see, Graphic Novels are, and will most likely remain, incredibly popular. Part of the reason is that we currently live in a time of exceptional visual culture, and the combination of words and images is ideal for struggling or reluctant readers providing visual context for the words and extending their meaning with action and emotion. They are also aesthetically pleasing plus images convey information much faster than words.

Graphic novels are so much more than just superheroes or gag-a-day comic strips. They’re a full visual medium popular with all ages. They are a wonderful tool for early readers, as it helps keep them engaged while learning new words, and helps older children continue to read. Teens and adults also love them — it is truly a medium that’s loved by all generations.

Like picture books, fiction graphic novels are primarily image-driven using the same plot-driven writing techniques to build suspense and page turns. But unlike PBs, most of the text is told through dialogue with brief amounts of explanatory (or expositional) text and transitional (moving from one scene to another – e.g. THE NEXT DAY…) text, often in the top left corner of a panel. It’s a fascinating form of storytelling with an infinite way of breaking up information to make each spread really exciting and relay information in truly innovative ways through the use of panels, negative space, minimal text and just plain mixing it up.

The art can be black and white, or black and white with some color, or full color but the linework is usually a powerful part of the storytelling ranging from thick lines to thin lines or shaky lines, or textured lines, and sometimes even no line. With the beauty of programs like Procreate, even folks who don’t have fabulous drawing skills can draw graphic novel panels by roughly drawing a rectangle, square, triangle, or circle shape and holding down at the end to make a perfect shape, then copying and pasting multiple times transforming to get the shape for the size and configuration that you want. Then you’d draw the same character from multiple angles to reuse (copy and paste and resize) changing expressions and body language throughout while keeping your character consistent.

Did you know that there is no one right way to write a graphic novel script?  Or that there is also no one set way to format a submission package (although there ae helpful guidelines)? If you’re an illustrator or a writer/illustrator the answer is the same! There’s no one right way to format that packet! So what does one do when there are no clear answers? Web searching “graphic novel submission package” is a good way to get started.

The next thing you can search for is graphic novel agents. If you do an internet search be sure to just look at pages from the last year (agents often switch agencies or move on to other things). Other places you can look are: MSWL, Query Tracker, Publishers Weekly, and Publisher’s Marketplace. When you find some agents you like, write down their names and their guidelines. Make sure you have enough materials to cover all of these guidelines so you have it ready. This is just the first round of agents you’ll be querying!

Agents can easily be replaced with editors in the chart at the bottom of this post. When sending work out to either agents or editors keep in mind that they will likely want to see a lot more than what you send in your initial query.

This is just a start to what needs to be known before querying a graphic novel. To learn more, join the Picture Book Palooza on September 18 & 19. There are 6 panels on 6 different subjects, over 26 speakers, giveaways, worksheets, handouts, and submission opportunities! The Picture Book Palooza is a scholarship fundraiser for low-income and diverse students to join the Children’s Book Academy. You can sign up and find out more info here:

Agents and editors are on the lookout for the next big thing. The best thing to get started in graphic novels is to read a lot, write a lot, and if you draw, draw a lot. Here are a few wonderful writers and illustrators who read and create graphic novels and who will give you lots of insight and tips into how to make your own too! Hopefully, there will be two more editors but because of most of the NY publishing world shutting down for August, these are TBA as we’re still waiting on final confirmations. Meanwhile, meet….

Aron Nels Steinke is a Portland, OR cartoonist and elementary school teacher. In 2015 he and his wife Ariel Cohn won the Will Eisner Comics Industry Award for their book The Zoo Box (First Second Books), in the category of Best Publication for Early Readers. Mr. Wolf’s Class (Scholastic/Graphix) is his newest graphic novel series for kids, and follows the adventures of a class of anthropomorphs and their teacher who just so happens to be a wolf. The New York Times has called Mr. Wolf’s Class, “A vibrant, funny new series that charmingly captures the everyday antics of a fourth grade classroom.” These books have won numerous awards including the Oregon Spirit Honor Award, the Washington State Library Association OTTER Award, and Kid’s Comics Choice Award, the Beehive Award, and been nominated for several others including the Harvey Award. The fifth book in the series, SNOW DAY, publishes on February 1, 2022.

Aron and I will be co-teaching a Mastering Graphic Novels course next February that I’ve been working on for a long time, which is part of why I’m so excited that we’ll be having the GN panel in our September 18th and 19 Picture Book Palooza. During the Picture Book Palooza, Aron will be giving a wonderful presentation on writing and illustrating a graphic novel chapter book series.

Nikki Slaughter

I’m currently editing and art directing a fabulous graphic novel-style picture book, which is sooo much fun with Nikki Slaughter. Nikki works as a designer by day and illustrating a graphic novel-style picture book called Sasquatch Loves Bacon Day! written by Carole Marie Shelton and published by Clear Fork Publishing’s kidlit imprint Spork by night. Nikki is a recent graduate of the Children’s Book Academy where she made the connections she needed to get an illustration contract with Clear Fork! Nikki creates fun and loveable characters that are full of magic. She’ll will be sharing about graphic novel-style picture books. Below is her promo card from our recent course Golden Ticket contest where she received interest from 3 editors and agents. Nikki will be sharing some of the important elements of doing Graphic Novel style illustrations for picture books.

Larissa Marantz

Larissa Marantz Larissa Marantz is a former animation artist for Nickelodeon’s The Rugrats and Rocket Power and has illustrated almost a dozen books for Nickelodeon’s licensed properties, including Avatar The Last Airbender.

She has taught art and comics to folks at Cartoon Network and Google, as well as thousands of children, teens and adults all over the world through her educational company OC Art Studios. Her favorite color is purple and she loves doing yoga and eating brownies, but not at the same time.

​Larissa is the illustrator and co-creator of Clyde the Hippo Picture book series, published with Penguin Workshop and is currently illustrating a science fiction graphic novel to be published by HarperCollins about a young girl genius who must save the world from aliens. She’ll be sharing Graphic Novel illustration and art-making tips.

And now for a handy little template to copy and paste or make your own to track who you’d like to send to and then what you actually send.

I hope you’ve found some of this helpful. Just a quickie heads up that the 40% discounts for the Picture Book Palooza are ending tonight (August 30th) at midnight right here:

Dr. Mira Reisberg is a multi-published award-winning children’s book illustrator and author. Besides running the Children’s Book Academy, she is also an acquiring Editor and Art Director at Clear Fork Publishing’s children’s book imprint Spork. Mira’s students have now published or contracted over 688 books and won nearly every North American kidlit award. She is also a former children’s literary agent, and a university professor who taught kid lit writing and illustrating courses as well as teacher ed. Mira has a PhD in Education and Cultural Studies with a focus on children’s literature and truly loves helping children’s book writers and illustrators get published.

We really hope that you can find a way to join us and learn even more about children’s book writing and illustrating in just a few weeks.

Mira, thank you for providing this important information. I am sure it will help many writers and illustrators.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Great information! Thanks!


  2. Great post, very well-written. Thank you.


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