When a product contains illustrations, graphs, and other visuals, a separate file containing them and their related instructions is sent with the manuscript. This separate Figures Manuscript can then be shuttled along to the art and production departments to do their magic.
Figures might be technical art like a graph, an illustration, or a photo (from a stock agency or original source). The terms figure and visual are often used interchangeably. For each visual in the product, there will be a separate entry in the figures manuscript. Each entry will contain this information:
- a code for the visual
- a description of the content
- a description of the style — photo, tech art, or illustration as well as tone (e.g., cartoon or a realism)
- the approximate size of the finished visual
- a sketch or sample of the visual
What’s in the Code
This unique code helps everyone involved keep track of the many visuals in production. The code should be unique among all projects. One way of doing that is to include the name of the project in the code, in acronym form. The Science 4 book for North Carolina might then get a code that starts with Sci4NC.
Some production departments like to add a designation to this code that identifies the visual as art, tech art, or photo (a, t, or p). Other production departments create a separate figures manuscript for each type of visual so that they can send separate packages to the artist and photographer.
Then, add a number to the code to identify the individual visual. These can simply be assigned in sequence, or divided by chapter: C12.01, for the first visual in chapter 12.
In the end, a code could look like this: Sci4NC-a-C12.01.
What’s in the Rest
The sample art is the most important content here. Editors need to remember that they are communicating with a visual person, not a word person. The artists will follow the sample more closely than the written description.
Include the size of the finished art to avoid getting a full page of detail when there is only room for a quarter-page image, or getting a photo with only enough resolution for a thumbnail.
Be specific about the content, especially if you’re making an effort to have a balance of genders and ethnicities represented in the book, or if technical precision of the content is important to support the narrative.
Include a sample off at least the key components to be sure the artist understand the description. They are not expected to be a content expert. They may not know the difference between a plastic and fiberglass kayak, or between a server/waitress and a computer server. Help them by showing what you want.
Sample Figures Manuscript
The Really Big Book, by Adrienne Montgomerie
Figure RBB01.a.01 — illustration of a black woman about 40, with business attire, typing on her laptop in front of servers. ¼ page. Sample provided.