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The Nonfiction Book Market

Published on 02/08/2023

The Nonfiction Book Market
Interview with Will Drayson, Senior Sales Agent, Advocate Art

Today we talk with Will Drayson, senior sales agent at Advocate Art about trends in the nonfiction book market and what illustrators can do to improve their nonfiction portfolios.

Hey, I’m Will Drayson, a Senior Illustration Agent at Advocate Art. Based in London and originally from Yorkshire, I have a background in illustration and animation, having completed a degree at Kingston University. One of my passions is collaborating with illustrators and clients on illustrated nonfiction books. I’d love to share my insights on this topic with you, so please read on for my answers to the questions below!

1.  What Types of Nonfiction Books Do Illustrators Get Hired to Illustrate?
Illustrators are hired for a wide range of nonfiction topics, from exploring the natural world and historical events to depicting important figures from the past, science and technology, engineering and transport, mindfulness, cultural groups, space and universe, and more.

2. When Did the Nonfiction Market Become So Popular?
For me, the first time the nonfiction genre became cool was with the publication of Anamalium in 2014, followed by Botanicum. These books, illustrated by the talented Katie Scott and written by Jenny Broom, were reminiscent of classic botanical illustrations by artists like Ernyst Haeckel. I recall working in the Art Department of St. Paul’s School, where the kids were fascinated by these books. Later, Flying Eye Books used Owen Davey’s graphic style to further popularize nonfiction titles. Today, publishers like Nosy Crow, Neon Squid, Wide Eyed Editions, and Quarto continue to push super trendy nonfiction books.

3. What Are Some Nonfiction Books That Advocate Art Has Illustrated?
Advocate Art has been fortunate to work on some exciting nonfiction titles. One of our most notable projects is the Little People Big Dreams series, written by the fantastic Isabel Sanchez Vegara and published by Quarto. I have had the pleasure of working with some of the titles, including Einstein illustrated by Hannah Abbo, Pablo Picasso illustrated by Teresa Bellon, Anna Pavlova illustrated by Sue Downing, Dwayne Johnson (The Rock) illustrated by Lirios Bou, and more to follow! We also worked on a very exciting title with British astronaut Tim Peake, The Cosmic Diary of Our Incredible Universe, illustrated by our very own Max Rambaldi. Another fun one was 50 Times Football Changed the World: The Perfect World Cup, written by Gary Linkekar and Ivor Baddiel and published by Puffin Books.

4. Where Is the Nonfiction Market Heading in the Future?
In the future, the nonfiction market will continue to cover current topics like climate change and issues surrounding wildlife, which unfortunately, children will inherit and need to address. I also anticipate books on future technology, such as the emergence of AI, given that children are increasingly learning more in this area. As we embark on a reignition of space travel with figures like Elon Musk and Jeoff Bezos pushing travel to further planets in our galaxy, I foresee these being exciting topics to be covered while we explore more of our universe. Of course, dinosaur books will always be popular!

5. What Should an Illustrator Include in Their Portfolio to Land Nonfiction Jobs?
Publishers are always looking for illustrators who can depict a variety of subjects, which will change with current trending topics. However, some portfolio must-haves include a few good dino scenes, famous historical characters in their relevant scenes, animal scenes with the right balance between style and accuracy, plants, trees, flowers, rewilding, and mindfulness. With the decline in wildlife and pollinating insects, rewilding makes nature more accessible to urban environments. As mindfulness techniques become more popular and are taught in schools, illustrations that educate children and adults on how to tackle stress will also be in demand.


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