Getting Published: My “tail” by James Horvath

“Will Terry’s video series played a key role in helping me get my first book ready to submit to a publisher”

I wrote to Will Terry thanking him for his video series How to Illustrate Children’s Books. His video series played a key role in helping me get my first book ready to submit to a publisher. The course outlined everything I needed to know about creating and submitting my book, and his real-world experience and knowledge gave me the confidence to finally go for it.

Dig, Dogs, Dig available at


“How did an unknown author/illustrator sign a 3-book contract in under a week?”

I’ve often been asked, “How did an unknown author/illustrator get a book dummy to a major publisher, have them actually look at it, and sign a 3-book contract in under a week?” Good question.

I realize my success is fairly rare, like finding a cache of pirate gold buried in your back yard, or getting quick and friendly service at the DMV, but, it’s not impossible to do what I did. And I am not someone who has a brother or a sister-in-law working in the publishing industry. What I am, is someone who did his “homework”.

So unless you actually have friends, relatives or somebody high up in the publishing world, you’ll need to do your homework too. And the videos and tutorials on are a great place to start.

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I created the image above for my digital painting class this semester as an example of what I want my students to do for our “circle straight edge” assignment.

The rules:

  • Create an image in Photoshop.
  • Perfect your drawing.
  • Use only the circle selection tool and the lasso for straight edges.
  • Painting: use the paint bucket and airbrush tools.
  • Concept: Visually explain why the Abominable Snowman is grumpy.

I don’t think everyone is happy with this assignment. The limitations are frustrating some of them (yay!) and locking them into a style they aren’t excited about.

My philosophy: Mastery in any discipline such as science or sports – arithmetic or art is gained in small steps.

You have to learn algebra before calculus – physics before string theory and lay ups before alley oop dunks. By taking away options I’m allowing students to focus on the basic elements of design and visual communication. If you can’t develop a solid composition and execute good rendering under these restrictions how can you hope to succeed given unlimited brushes, selection tools, textures, healing brushes, filters, adjustments, mixing and blending tools, etc?

Imagine the following experiment: You are given the best brushes and pallet knives money can buy for oil painting -fine linens, mediums, easel, pallet, etc. Your set up is perfect. Then give someone like Caravaggio a pocket knife, an old tree branch, some cheap oil paints, and a crappy canvas board. Set up a still life. Do you think you could out paint him? I know I couldn’t.

It’s not just about the tools – it’s about your understanding of mediums, surfaces, tools, design, light & shadow, edges, color, value, texture, line, space, shape, etc. What you do with the tools is personal to your understanding and vision.

Try limiting your choices…wax on – wax off.

In addition: From the mouth of Kazu – the artist who just completed the new Harry Potter covers: “Anything else about your process as you went about it that artists should know?”

I tried to work on a single layer in Photoshop. I used very few effects. All of the illustrations for the most part I didn’t separate elements. I tried to keep it pure as if I was working on a canvas. I forced myself into a limitation despite having all of these tools at my disposal. (from CBS)

New Ways To Market Your Illustration

There is still plenty of freelance illustration work out there.

In the video below I took the time to explain the changes I’ve seen happen in illustration markets over the past 20 years and what I think artists should do to take advantage of emerging markets. Yes there still is plenty of freelance illustration work out there but there are more illustrators competing for it and budgets have either remained the same or gone down.

You and I can find success in many different places.

The good news is that there are so many new possibilities for artists that unless you refuse to be open minded, you and I can find success in many different places.I give quite a few detailed examples in this video – it’s long so put it on while you work – I hope you enjoy it!
New Ways to Market Your Illustration, video by Will Terry


I must think so or this would be a really short post right?

First let me just say that I’m like a lot of you – “NOT ANOTHER SOCIAL MEDIA SITE!!!” I know I know – but trust me – Pinterest is worth it…and you can get in and out quickly!

I will show you how to find out what people think of your work.

For starters lets deal with that title – what if I told you that there is a way to see how your art stacks up against your competition? What if you could be that fly on the wall in the office of an editor, art director, agent, or fellow artist? What if you could know what people really think of your work? I’ll show you a very simple way to use Pinterest to do just this.

1. Make your own Pinterest account

BUT do it by logging in from Facebook or choose the setting so that every time you make a “PIN” it updates facebook.
Why? So people see your pins, visit your board, and re’pin your pins.

2. Type a Key word in the “search bar”.

In the “search” bar at the top of the Pinterest page after you’re logged in – type in something like “illustration” or “Children’s illustration” or “characters” and hit enter.

3. Click on “boards”

4. Click on a piece of art that interests you.

You might want to scroll a little – pick a goody! Ok – now pick five images to “re-pin” AND – pin them to your illustration board.  (I figured all this stuff out so if I can do it a snail can do it – I mean a snail with a high school educations. Sorry snails :( …make sure you REALLY like the images you’re re-pinning. These need to be images that you really admire and perhaps wish you’d created so be picky!  Also – if you don’t pin really good stuff people will ignore your board and that will kill this whole experiment.

5. pin one of your own images.

Now pin one of your own images and then throughout the next year or so, repeat this ratio – a handful of other artist’s images to one of your own.  I suggest you pin from your website or blog so that if people click on them they come back to your portal – but that’s not what this post is about. (You should still do it for marketing reasons.) There’s a way to download some thing-a-ma-jig to your browser so you can “pin” from any site – I don’t remember how I got it to work, you could ask a snail. I think I googled “how to pin with Pinterest” or something like that. I need one of those snails to do that stuff for me.

6. Below is a look at my illustration board on Pinterest. If you go there or zoom in, you can see how many times each image was “re-pinned”, or not re-pinned. – and here in lies the magic! You get to see how many votes or “pins” each image gets including your own. In a way people are casting their votes in an impartial way – self serving! They see something they like and they re-pin it for themselves. This is more valuable than a critique from friends in some ways because it’s a rather large sample size and it’s honest. The people pinning don’t really know or care that you’re looking at the data this way -they’re just grabbing images for future consumption on their own boards.

link to Will Terry's Pinterest boards

So how can Pinterest help you improve your art? You can learn a lot by seeing what people like and don’t like. If you’re work isn’t getting re-pinned as much as the other work you pin you have some work to do – but not in the blind – because you can see exactly what images people respond to the most. You might want to make a list of the things the popular images have in common – then compare to your work. However, this could also be a little dangerous if you follow it too closely and copy what is getting votes – you could become a follower- you still have to innovate but in order to create great art you have to consume great art!

Pinterest is in my opinion a very valuable tool for inspiration, strategy, and marketing – I’m starting to get emails and messages from customers who are finding me on Pinterest – and I hear it’s the fastest growing social network! so get pinning!

Now Serving Artists in 40 Countries

Thank You All of out Wonderful Customers and Contributors

“We’ve now sold our videos in about 40 countries and counting. Never in my wildest dreams did I think this would happen when we uploaded our first video a year and a half ago!” Says artist, Will Terry, of Folioacademy, Art instructor at UVU and professional children’s book illustrator.

This is just a little shout out. We are so happy to be able to bring our “Art Lesson Videos” to so many people in so many parts of the world. Since there are probably a few million countries in the world, (exaggeration intended) being in just forty of them probably wouldn’t be that big of a deal to the average business men. But we are not “average businessmen”, we are a couple of bone heads and we know it. We are artists and we love our peeps and we are tickled pink, “phthalo pink”, to be teaching in FORTY Countries.

Folio Academy in 40 Countries


“I’m just glad to be a part of it” Says Wayne Andreason, Artist and instructor at FolioAcademy, Utah resident and class of ’80 high school graduate of the not so prestigious Weber High School, BYU Alumnus and father of eight.


Chalese sketching

I um, like folio academy because it’s um. . . the best SITE EVER!


“Portfolio Academy has awesome tutorials for awesome prices by awesome teachers!! Awesomeness overload!!!”   ~Amber




Folio Academy Student, James Horvath, Gets an Art Gig

It all started with Will Terry’s first art lesson video course

How to Illustrat Children's books

 Words can’t begin to describe thfeelings I’ve had over the past few years since making my first video tutorial: “How To Illustrate Children’s Books”. I’ve received hundreds of letters, emails, Facebook messages, etc thanking me for making that video and the subsequent videos I made afterwards. I get to chat with people everyday about their enthusiasm and renewed energy for working on their art projects. I find myself wanting to produce more and more video courses for my students around the world.

More Courses by Artist, Will Terry

James Horvath shared a wonderful thank you letter and a short success story.

With permission from James Horvath I’m sharing his letter because it really touched me yesterday – I’m glad I was home alone so my kids didn’t see me get all mushy. My emotions come from the leftover feelings I have growing up in the shadow of academic over achievers in my family and thinking that I would never be able to do anything important with my life. There really isn’t anything better in life than knowing you make a difference – so I thank all of you for the kind words you’ve sent me in the past few years! ~Will Terry


Hey Will


 It’s been a while since I downloaded and watched your video series, “How to Illustrate Children’s Books“. I just wanted to write to you and let you know how well your course has worked for me. 
I’ve been a freelance children’s illustrator for many years. I worked primarily in the education market doing work for Scholastic, Pearson, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and a few others. And while I’ve enjoyed some modest success, I always wanted to write and illustrate my own children’s picture books.
About a year and a half ago I decided to get off my butt and actually do it, instead of just dreaming about it. I found your video course online and decided to spring for the $29.99.
I developed my story, worked on some sketches and sample art, basically, followed your process and submitted my dummy (an email with a PDF) to one publisher. A test run so to speak. I braced myself for the almost inevitable rejection that I was sure would soon follow. 
Instead, within 24 hours, I received a response with a very enthusiastic reply. That was on a Tuesday. By the end of the week I had a 3-book deal with HarperCollins Publishers. My first book comes out on April 30th. And is up for pre-orders at practically all major on-line retailers.
I just wanted to send you this note and say, “Thanks”. I really do credit you and your course with outlining a path for my success. I would, and often do, highly recommend your video series to anyone looking to break into the children’s book market.
Thanks again!
James Horvath

Check out his work.

Congratulations James

– I can’t wait to buy your books when they come out and to brag that I might have played a tiny part in their creation. It’s been a crazy ride with our Folio Academy project. 

Painting with Cool and Warm Colors

Warm Light, Cool Shadows add to a beautiful Contrast

a Will Terry Digital Painting of House type Castle

I painted this as a demo for my digital painting class this semester at UVU. I really wanted to play around with a dramatic lighting situation.

Photograph of Red Rock cliffs with Harsh Light and Shadow.

Get inspiration from the real world.

One of the reasons I’m a big advocate of getting out there and seeing the world with your own eyes is the feeling you get and the inspiration to find a place for it in your work. I woke up to this last year in Utah’s Goblin Valley last year Needless to say, I was inspired.  – my tent was about 5 feet to the right.

Rough Sketch of House/Castle on iPad

So this is how I begin my sketches on my iPad.

I call this the ugly stage. I’m basically making a “map” for me to trace and perfect on another layer. At this point I don’t care about detail – just the raw elements and proportions. It’s sketchy and loose but it will serve as my guide.

Pic of ProCreate Logo

Use “Procreate” for a larger file size, plus you can rotate your “paper”

I’m using “Procreate” now because I can have a much larger file size then “Brushes”  – AND – I can rotate the “paper”. That’s a huge improvement. Down side: (why is there always a downside?) It’s much slower than brushes. I’ll be making an update video for my “Painting on the iPad” video tutorial that demonstrates how you can use Procreate for your workflow.

drawing of House/Castle

And this is the perfected sketch. I probably used about three more layers to get to this point reducing the brush size and increasing the value of my lines.

House/castle digital painting in process

I think it’s really neat to look at this part of the painting because it looks so dark and different than the part in the sunlight…similar to the photo I took. I added the color in Photoshop CS5.

digital paining of House/Castle in process

I love light and shadow.

You really can’t have one without the other can you? I really like exploring with cool colors vs warm colors to see what interesting blends happen and the mood it creates.