Hiring an Illustrator
from Book Cover Cafe
Enlisting the skills of an illustrator is one of the tasks many self publishing authors face when publishing their book. For some genres such as children’s picture books, the illustrations play a huge role in bringing the manuscript to life.
So how does an emerging self published author find a suitable illustrator and what other considerations should be made?
Let’s take a children’s picture book for example, as it’s the most obvious genre that heavily relies on visuals for the book to work.
Know what you need
How many: To begin with, you’ll need to breakdown how many illustrations you need created for your book. Will you want full page spreads for your children’s book or a couple of smaller illustrations per page? Do you want a half page or full page illustration per chapter for your young adult novel? Be sure to factor in an additional image for the cover, or whether you will re-purpose an interior illustration for the cover instead. A recent client of mine did the latter to save a little money.
What style: You’ll want to decide what style of illustration will best suit your story. This could be a very cartoony style, or a more realistic, painterly look. Having a good idea what style you’d like, will help when narrowing down a selection of illustrators.
What time-frame: Decide when your deadline is for receiving all the finished illustrations. Be sure to plan back from the date in which you need to hand them over to your typesetter to insert into your book layout.
Your budget: Know what budget you can allow for, even illustrators have electricity bills. Your illustration budget should be allocated up front in your overall publishing budget and is something you’ll want to save for or find funding in advance.
Let’s talk budget
When you’re looking to hire an illustrator, you must acknowledge that you’ll need to set aside a budget. I’ll get this out the way now, if you are not prepared to invest in quality illustrations, stop any work you’re doing until you have a budget. Or, publish a novel instead.
I’ve seen writers go looking for the free illustrator with little education as to the importance of working with the right professional. From my experience, what you get for free is; lack of quality, unfinished pieces, missed deadlines, lack of communication and unrealistic expectations from both the author and the illustrator. It can get messy.
This leads to an unexceptable quality product that quite frankly, won’t entice anyone aside from your parents to buy.
As a consultant who helps authors in the selection process of an illustrator and having illustrated books myself, I know first hand that more often than not, you get what you pay for when it comes to professional illustrators.
To receive illustrations of a commercial standard you’re looking upwards of two thousand dollars. The price will be based on an individual quote for your specific book’s needs, so that’s a ballpark starting point. The quote considers such factors as; how many illustrations need to be created, what size they are and the time frame in which you need them by.
Let’s look at an example of a professional mid-range illustrator. One A5 sized colour illustration might take about four hours to create. An hourly rate might be about forty dollars and let’s say there’s twenty illustrations to be created.
• That’s 4 x $40 = $160 per illustration
• $160 x 20 = $3200 for the completion of your book’s illustrations
This is just an example. Remember, when you contact the illustrator you will give them your notes on what you need and they’ll return a quote for you. They work out the value of their time and expertise in a similar way to the example I have provided above.
For this investment, what should you expect? It’s quite different to the ‘free illustrator’ picture I painted earlier.
• You’ll form a pleasant, professional relationship with the illustrator
• They will be receptive of your ideas and discuss what you’d like to see in each
• Clear communication
• They will finish what is required for your project in a publishable quality
• You’ll get the completed illustrations you’ve paid for by the deadline required
This leads to a quality product people would be willing to buy and lets face it, the purpose here is to sell the books.
Where to find illustrators
Some good places to start are SCBWI: The Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators and ChildrensIllustrators.com. There are many illustrators out there and as social media becomes more common place, it will be worth while asking friends, family and colleagues for contacts of illustrators they might know or recommend.
So, now that you’ve established a budget and know what is required to complete your book, you’ll set off in search for the right match in an illustrator for your manuscript. Upon deciding on an illustrator you’ll then have a project agreement created between you as the author and your contracted illustrator that details the responsibilities and expectations of you both for the completion of the project.