Sunday, February 27, 2011

“Hey! I have a great idea for a children’s book!” Part 7: Hiring Your Illustrator

This is Part 7 of my blog series on publishing a children's book.  If you missed the first articles, read
“Hey! I have a great idea for a children’s book!”: Part 1!
Part 2: Know your Publishers!
Part 3: Two Ways to Self-Publish
Part 4: Self-publishing Author’s First Step

Part 5: Choosing Your Self-publishing Company
Part 6: Meet Your Illustrator!

You wrote and edited your book, researched publishers, and perused illustrator portfolios. You know what you want your illustrations to look like and who you'd like to create them. Here's your next step:

Make contact: When you find the illustrator you’d like to hire, you should contact and inquire if they have the time or interest in your project. Briefly explain the time table for the project as well as the number of illustrations you will most likely need. Give the illustrator a basic overview of your needs and if possible provide a synopsis or manuscript for the illustrator to read.

(At this point, I recommend that if you are concerned about having your work “stolen” you should have already copyrighted your manuscript through the U.S. copyright office. I assure you this is not something to be overly concerned about, but protecting yourself and your project is always smart.)

If the person is interested in your project, follow-up with more information:
• Provide the most accurate information about your project as possible so you can both decide if this person is right for the project.
• Explain what your plans are for publishing now and/or future publishing options (if you plan to shop the book around to publishers later).
• Provide your project time-table and deadlines.
• Give them the specs and what you have in mind for materials. 
• Ask what the illustrator’s rates are or ask if they can provide a quote for your project.

Which reminds me... YES, you ARE going to have to PAY your illustrator.

If right now you are thinking you might be able to get a student or freelancer to do this for free or cheap, stop. Just stop. Illustrating a children’s book is a huge amount of work and time requiring specialized skills (if you want it done well, which I’m sure you do). You can’t expect someone to do this for “experience”, “exposure”, or for small royalty based on your sales. None of these will remotely compensate a person for the time and effort they will spend on your project. You will be taking advantage of someone, whether they are an experienced professional or novice.

Remember, paying your illustrator’s fees is no different than paying for any other expense tied into publishing your children’s book, expect for one thing: it’s the MOST IMPORTANT piece. You’ll pay your printer, shipper, retailer. etc. Of all of these people, including you, your illustrator will be investing the most labor and time in this project. Treat them accordingly. Remember that your reputation as an ethical business person is reflected in how you treat the people who work with and for you throughout this process and may effect your dealings with people in your future projects.

Fees & Compensation: There is a wide range of fees which depend on who the illustrator’s level of experience, demand, and the scope of the project, but generally for a full-color 32-page book, you should be paying a minimum of about $3500. And that would be a huge bargain. You can easily triple or quadruple that for a more experienced professional.

Many free-lancers want to be paid outright for their work with no tie-in to your sales. This is the easiest type of contract for all parties involved since you as the author do not have to deal with future sales reporting and sending out royalty checks, the author likewise is happy to be paid a satisfactory amount for services rendered.

The reality is that self-published books typically sell much less volume than traditional, so if you are intending to offer a royalty (% of book sales) as compensation, that will most likely not come close to what the artist’s time was worth.

An advance is non-refundable and paid for services regardless of how well the book sells. Typically, royalties are paid after a specified amount equalling the advance is sold, if ever. If you are offering royalties, it would be appropriate to give the illustrator an advance, or again they will most likely not make enough from sales to be considered fairly compensated.

Also, with a royalty contract, you will need to be responsible for reporting to the illustrator quarterly regarding sales and writing checks to that person for as long as your contract states or the book sells. That can be time consuming for self-publishers. And, you don’t get to blow this off if, for example, you only sold a couple copies, or none, this quarter. You are contractually obligated to follow through.

Now, a signed document with all of the agreements regarding the illustrator’s fees, work expectations and rights is VERY IMPORTANT for both parties. In my next post, I’ll run down those basics for you. Don’t skip this step!!

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