The trade has welcomed a debate over the lack of recognition for illustrators, but Nielsen — the global measurement company that supplies the charts to The Bookseller — has warned that the issue of gathering data is not clear-cut.
Its comments came after illustrators such as Sarah McIntyre (see blog here) and Axel Scheffler (pictured) complained of a lack of credit for their work from award organisers and the media, pointing to the fact that their names are often omitted from Nielsen BookScan’s listings.
Andre Breedt, director of Nielsen’s UK book research arm, said he would love to be able to create an illustrators’ chart but added that the industry needed to agree on when and how illustrators should be credited. Currently, this is a manual process. By crediting the top 100 titles in Nielsen’s Picture Book category with identifiable illustrators, The Bookseller has ranked the top 10 picture book illustrators of the year so far.
Breedt added: “Often the author is also the illustrator, so if you are compiling a chart, do you exclude the author/illustrator and just take data from the illustrator category? Also do you look at just the primary illustrator? There are often multiple illustrators—there is a different illustrator for the front cover compared to the inside of the book,”
He also pointed out that with brands, there are multiple illustrators and they are not really putting their stamp on the work because they are illustrating a branded product they are contracted to illustrate in the style of the brand.
He added: “It would be good for the industry to have a debate about this because there is a lot more complexity to it than people realise. We would like to work with the industry to create a chart of illustrators or illustrated titles.”
Most publishers—including Penguin, Egmont, Nosy Crow and Little Tiger Press—were keen to stress that they always credit illustrators, especially when it comes to picture books, and many input data about illustrators into a software programme (Penguin uses Biblio, for example) which feeds into Nielsen. However, unless an illustrator is listed in the author field, the record may not show on BookScan.
Jude Evans, publisher at Little Tiger, said a great picture book can only be achieved with “the right combination of art and words . . . Each element may have qualities that are striking, but it’s when they interact that they make a book that is really special and memorable”.
However, some publishers argued that it is not always immediately apparent when illustrators should be credited and when they should not. Liz Cross, publisher at Oxford University Press Children’s, said the publisher enters an illustrator name to a title’s listing if their illustrations are an integral part of the book but “not if there are no illustrations beyond a cover and possibly beyond minimal chapter headings”.
She added: “For illustrated fiction I think it’s quite difficult to know exactly where the parameters should be. I wonder if it would be helpful or appropriate for illustrators to be recognised as co-authors [in cases] where the illustration feels like an integral part of the book.”
However, Dom Kingston, head of publicity at Nosy Crow, disagreed: “We think there is a strong argument for identifying the author as the author and the illustrator as the illustrator . . . an illustrator is an illustrator, not, usually, a co-author”.
A spokesperson for Macmillan Children’s Books said: “The collaboration between writer and illustrator is a valued creative partnership for us and we endeavour to ensure that each is credited on our systems, as well as on all of our promotional and sales material.”