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  • Illustrating A Book Contract?

    Posted by rafiwashere on May 6, 2023 at 5:52 pm

    @Serenity-art asked: Does anyone know….I have a poet friend who wants me to illustrate some poems in a future poetry book she will write. Can you suggest anything about how to create a business arrangement for how id get paid for my illustrations? I have no idea how that would work.

    Although I think @coreyartus would be better at answering this question, I’ll give you my limited experience. First I would figure out how many pages I would be illustrating, how detailed, how large, and the timeline. Then I would figure out a price based per illustration. I would also charge a design fee for the overall scope of the project. I would treat the cover separately because it would probably be a little more elaborate, thus cost more. I would also have a limit to how many times the person can ask me to alter my design (without it costing them.) So, Design fee + Number of illustrations + cover + additional alterations to the design. At the end of the day, HOW MUCH? is up to you.

    coreyartus replied 3 weeks, 3 days ago 3 Members · 5 Replies
  • 5 Replies
  • Serenity-art

    May 6, 2023 at 6:40 pm

    Thank you so much !

  • coreyartus

    May 7, 2023 at 3:39 pm

    Some notes:

    Most contracts available for free online are written from the author’s perspective. They very often call for complete control of the illustrations–owing them outright in perpetuity. But be wary of those contracts. As an illustrator, you should be granting them a license only, not handing over your copyright. If they ask for that (and usually they don’t understand what they’re asking for) you should ask for more money. If they ask for it, you will lose the legal right to use it in your portfolio, display example works from it on your website, etc. Most of them will believe very forthrightly that it’s the industry norm but it’s not. Large corporations that work with commercial artists may ask for it, but most traditional publishers only ever license art from their illustrators. It’s a red flag indicating inexperience if they want full rights, so you need to make them pay for it. Usually, that means 5-10x the licensing fee. They’ll get everything they want simply by licensing it from you–and they don’t realize that– but you’ll retain copyright.

    There are some resources that you can find/purchase regarding contracts. The Graphic Artist’s Guild Handbook, and Business and Legal Forms for Illustrators are good books. Also, here are a few links:
    –Danielle has an example contract she’s made as a PDF, but you’d need to do a lot of copy-pasting to make it your own.
    –A great series of vids for authors who are trying to figure out where they fit into the world of children’s books. It’s also good for illustrators to watch.

    The hands-down best course on illustrating children’s books:

    Fees range all over the place. But most folks who hire people are thinking they can do it for around $500, which is INSANE. Think about it. A 32-page children’s book requires at least illustrations to fill those pages, right? And full, double-page spreads aren’t counted as a “single illustration”…So let’s start with 32. That’s literally $15.62 per illustrations… That’s nuts. And those are the prices found on Fiverr, so that’s what you’re competing with… <sigh>

    32 illustrations at 6 hours each (not counting time spend on revisions and such) is 192 hours. At 40 hours a week, that’s almost 5 weeks. Then factor in time to make adjustments–maybe 2 weeks total for those. Then the cover image… Can you draw consistently 8 hours a day? Do you need to work on other things, too?

    Most pro illustrators can do only 3–maybe 4–books a year, squeezed in between other projects. So price ranges from $2500-8000 are not unheard of for beginning illustrators.

    And that’s a HUGE amount to the eyes of the self-publishing author… They’ll likely choke. And turn to Fiverr. And will never know the difference. And their books will suck and they’ll never know why.

    Big-name illustrators with a very strongly proven track record of success make $25-50,000 per book, though! So it’s easy to see why traditional publishers have gatekeepers (agents) to pre-screen committed illustrators, why they don’t take risks, and why they work with those with proven track records of success. They need books to make hundreds of thousand of dollars in sales to make a profit.

    Your fee will depend on how quickly you work, how they understand the revision process works, how much time you have carved out to commit to it, and how quickly the turn-around is. Those are factors I don’t know in your situation. But don’t shortchange yourself because of their zeal. You will be doing a crap-ton of work, and they don’t understand that otherwise they’d do it themselves. It takes 10 years to learn how to do an illustration in 10 minutes. Your speed is not their budget device.

    Just some thoughts. Let me know if you need anything else and I can share more. 🙂

  • coreyartus

    May 7, 2023 at 3:48 pm

    I know this is children’s book-centric advice, but the principles are the same. Whether it’s a spot illustration framing the text, or it’s a full on full-page picture, the drawing process doesn’t change. And it still takes time to draw decorative florals like it does children in a classroom. The mode doesn’t change–it’s still book illustration.

  • coreyartus

    May 7, 2023 at 6:27 pm

    One other thing: Don’t fall for “payment through royalties.” Royalties mean very very little to an illustrator.

    Will Terry talks about this in his video series, but in essence self-publishing authors who factor in royalties as part of the payment for their illustrators are forcing the illustrator to buy into the author’s reach and salesmanship. And that’s a no-win situation.

    Most self-publishers can’t be authors and entire marketing teams at the same time and do both well, especially if they’re inexperienced doing so. If you only get paid through royalties, there’s a strong probability you will get paid pennies. For weeks of work.

    Always get paid a fee. Waive any potential royalties if you have to to convince them to pay you a flat fee–how can you know they actually know how to keep track of their sales fairly, anyway?

    Just an FYI.