Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Hiring an Illustrator

Artist at work
Over the last year I have had a large increase in the number of people asking me to illustrate their children's books. To help save me some time in responding to so many requests (most of which  I never hear another peep about), I'm posting some basic things to think about and what to expect from an illustrator.

I hope this will be helpful to both the authors seeking to hire an illustrator and illustrators working with self-published authors. It is a finely tuned dance between the two and in order to create the best book possible it requires a lot of work on both sides. Hiring an illustrator is a BIG step and there are many things you need to consider and have in mind before approaching an illustrator.

Things to consider when looking for an outstanding illustrator

Questions, Queries, Posers:
Before an illustrator can quote a price and gauge their interest in your project, there are several questions I have found most needed and helpful to get the project started:

• How did you find me or my company, Imagine That! Design? (This can help me to know what work you have seen and what style of art with which you might be most interested.)

• Is this your first children’s book?

• Do you have a complete manuscript? Or are you still writing?

• Has your manuscript been professionally edited?

• How many pages will your book be? (Please include the cover, back cover, copyright page and title page in that number).

• What age range is your book intended for?

• Do you have a budget in mind for this artwork? Keep in mind that it takes several months to a year to complete the illustrations for a full book, and illustrators need to be reasonably compensated for that time.

• What rights are you interested in purchasing from me?

• Are you publishing traditional print or ebooks? Or are you going to try to sell your books to a publisher? (If you are looking for a publisher, you do not need to hire an illustrator. If your manuscript is acquired by a traditional publisher, they will choose the illustrator.)

• Do you have an estimated date that you would want the artwork completed by?
• Do you have a printer?

• What outlets will you be using to sell the book?

• How do you plan on publishing and marketing the book?

• Will you be hiring a designer as well, or will it be necessary for me to perform those duties? My partner is a designer and has designed several books. This would be a separate fee from the illustrations.

Remember, publishing is a business

Before we can agree to take on any project, we would need to review the manuscript of your story to gauge our interest in working on the book. You can send an NDA if you feel you need to. After years of working with clients in the publishing industry, these are the things we found most important to mention:

What we need to begin:
The final size, a template from your printer, how it will be printed, what kind of cover it has, and what text will be on each page or spread. All these things determine the price and the design of the text and art for an optimum reading experience.

Timing :
It will will take from four to eight months to complete the illustrations for a full book depending on the total amount of illustrations needed, the number of pages, the complexity and number of characters for each spread as well as our current work load.

Payments :
We break the payments into thirds: one third up front to get started with character development, one third upon delivery of final sketches, and the final third at delivery of the final art.
Kill fee: We also have a kill fee of 25%  in case the project is cancelled after we have invested much or our time.

Revision Limit:
We will provide one or two rounds of revisions on sketches and light revisions on finals. Any further revisions needed, we will an additional charge.

It is unlikely that you will need or ever use all rights to the art we create for your book. We will grant you the appropriate usage and terms needed to use the illustrations for 1st North American Print rights for an agreed upon timeframe. If you still wish to buy all copyrights, be prepared to pay an appropriate amount for them. This can add up.

Contracts...Yes :
There will be one. We use a simple contract outlining rights. We can use one of our own or you can provide one, but keep in mind that what we have outlined above must be clear.

Thank you for your interest.

If after reading this, you are still a go for bringing your story to life, please contact me with as much information as possible and we'll get the process started. I have not given any pricing here since there is so many variables. I will be happy to provide an estimate once we have as many as possible of the above questions answered and have established an interest in taking on the project.

I hope you have found this helpful. Please feel free to ask any questions, or share your experiences as an author or an illustrator in the comments below.


Live. Laugh. Learn.

Some helpful links from a few other illustrators who have posted on this subject:

Self-Published Authors: 10 Tips on How to Email an Illustrator 

by Kelley McMorris


10 Things to Know When Working With an Illustrator

Marlo Garnsworthy, Wordy Bird Studio


Illustrating Self-Published Books 

By Elizabeth O. Dulemba 

(As seen in the Nov./Dec. 2009 SCBWI Bulletin) 


For the self-publisher

by Wendy Martin


Exposure vs. Exploitation

Muddy Colors, A Fantasy Art Collective

 -By Greg Ruth


The Kindness of Strangers



  1. This should be earmarked for any picture book author who is considering self-publishing. Very good post, Tracy.

    1. Thank You so much, Mirka Breen. I'm glad you found this helpful.

  2. Thanks for the link to my FAQs! :D

    1. You're very welcome, Wendy. Your post is extremely helpful.

  3. Thank you so much Traci,for your insight and experience. I am Illustrating my first children's book of my own and I have been so hesitant over the years but reading everyone's experiences help me to get things together faster. Keep up your helpful hints.

    1. I'm so glad you found this helpful. Have fun illustrating your book. It is challenging but also very rewarding.