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Artwork copyright © Wilson Williams, Jr.


With the growth in popularity of the e-book many authors are seeing a glimmer of hope and realizing that they can get their work out there without having to break into the velvet roped publishing house exclusive party. This means that you will begin to get even more solicitations from those authors looking for artists to bring visuals to their words.

If you have a website or have done any degree of online advertising of your artwork, you have probably gotten an e-mail with a similar message as the title. If not, you will at some point. It's best to be prepared now. For those who have gotten it, nine times out of ten you aren’t sure how to respond to it, what should you ask, how do you respond?

I was tired of retyping essentially the same letter over and over again.  I finally saved a template of the letter I use in this situation and I’d like to share it with you. This letter is set up to not only gauge the potential project but to also get a measure of the knowledge of the person I would be working with.  For a person who has no knowledge of  what it takes to produce a book, this letter is quite intimidating. That's the point. You only want serious prospects when it comes to these types of projects, otherwise the jobs end up being more of a burden than a benefit.

Please take the letter and alter it to fit your needs. Within it you should find all the integral questions you should be asking anyone approaching you with a job of this nature. The more you know the better a position you’ll be in to decide whether or not the project is worth your consideration.



You can download the file in Word and as a PDF on the original blogpost here.

So why those 10 questions you ask? See below!

1. Is this your first Children’s Book?
If it is then you may have to not only be the Illustrator but the teacher as well. In most instances very few have taken the proper steps to educate themselves about the process and kind of work that goes into making a children’s book.

Many pick up a children’s book, read it and say to themselves that they could do this and seek out an Illustrator skipping all the information gathering that they need to do. It's also very likely that they won’t know how to answer the majority of the rest of the questions.

If the  answer is no, then you can ask for titles and do some online research to see what their other products look like and how successful they have been.

2. I would like to see the script for your story. You can send a NDA (Non-disclosure agreement) pre-emptively if you feel compelled to do so.

You need to read the book before you decide to draw it.  For one, you may not like it. I've gotten some pretty out there inappropriate stories from authors.

You also need to see how complicated the images may be to determine how much you should be charging.

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

This is integral to coming up with a price since it will let you know about how many illustrations you may be doing.

4. What age range is your book intended for?

If the writer tells you the book is for 4-7 year olds and then sends you a 5000 word script, you know there is a problem. The age range should give you an idea of how simple, complex and bright your images should be considering the age range. The younger the audience the simpler and brighter the images should probably be.

5. Do you have a budget in mind for this artwork?

I rarely  get the answer to this question. But it never hurts to ask. If they do answer truthfully you may save yourself the trouble of reading the script if what they are budgeting is too low. I recently  got a letter asking for 35 illustrations for $5 each. In the trash.

6. Do you have an estimated date that you would want the artwork completed by?

This is necessary to determine if their scheduling  is realistic and will fit within your schedule.

7. How do you plan on publishing and marketing the book?


Do they have a publisher already?

If so, is it a vanity press or a smaller publisher or a larger one.  Be sure to research them online to see who you may be dealing with.  Larger publishers don’t generally have the writer select an illustrator.

If not, are they just trying to put something together to shop their story to a publisher? This is a no no as well. Publishers don’t want book submissions from authors and illustrators who are not the same person. They want the ability to select the artist for particular stories themselves.  If submitting a script all they need is to prepare it to the submission guidelines of that  particular publisher and submit it. Illustrations aren't necessary.

8. What outlets will you be using to sell the book?

Where do they intend to sell the books; Bookstores, Online, Amazon, Barnes and Nobles?  Again this is to help you gauge their research and planning. What steps are they considering to make sure the book will be a success.

9. What rights are you interested in purchasing from me?

The rights sold by most publishers are usually limited to what they specifically need to reproduce the book alone, first time publishing rights. This may include e-book rights but not always. For example, if the publisher decided to create plush toys, a video game or a cartoon based on your creations they would need to renegotiate your contract and your financial compensation since they are creating something beyond the specific published book you created.

The artist generally retains the copyright of the artwork they create in these situations. Don’t be surprised if the person soliciting you asks to buy all rights, which means they own the artwork copyright and everything and can essentially do whatever they like with or without your permission. If you sell those rights at the very least make sure that you are financially compensated for it.

10. Will you be hiring a designer as well, or will it be necessary for me to perform those duties?

Illustrators don’t typically do the layout, type or book design. If you are expected to do it then you should charge more.

If you are new to this you will learn quickly that there is a lot to learn about what we do. You need to keep up on all the business side of things that may seem cumbersome to learn but are essential to your survival as a professional. We'll do our best to provide knowledge and tools based on our experiences here at OnceUponASketch.  Take advantage and let us know if you see anything that can be added or improved.


- Wilson W, Jr.
Have you gotten a request from an author for you to draw their Children's Book? Did you know the proper questions to ask before you gave them an estimate or said, "Yes!" to their project? This article provides you with a great tool to use when you are approached. Make sure that the author is giving you all the information you need to make the best decision for yourself.
Add a Comment:
 
:icontyori:
Tyori Featured By Owner Mar 28, 2014   Traditional Artist
I knew the general ideas here so I wasn't intimidated by the questions, (used to be unpublished writer) but I definitely learned more about the process so thank you very much for posting this for hopefuls!
I'm trying to put together a colouring book so I thought I'd peek at this because in a sense it's like a children's book. My aim will be more toward teens, but I'm making sure my content stays strictly E-PG so anyone can buy it and I'm not uploading any of my pages for obvious reasons.
I'm worried I'm not professional quality, but I'm sure many artists worry this at first so I just gotta give it a try! *pumped*

Any advice for a newbie like me, despite it being a slightly different type of book?
(other than that I probably shouldn't be doing things for free, eheh)
Reply
:iconmomerath74:
momerath74 Featured By Owner Sep 9, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Excellent advice! I have definitely learned something new today. Thank you so much for sharing this information. :)
Reply
:iconvalkeus:
Valkeus Featured By Owner Aug 23, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thanks so much for putting together this list!
Reply
:iconthesugarcanevampire:
theSugarCaneVampire Featured By Owner Jul 23, 2013
Hello there :)  I love this post thank you so much for posting. I have a question for you (or anyone who wants to answer) when you make your own childrens book website what can you do to prevent others from taking your story and images?  Ive decided to make a website of my own but sense I am new to all this idk just how to start this all off yet.. Any ideas guys?!?! :D 
Reply
:iconwilsonwjr:
WilsonWJr Featured By Owner Jul 28, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
Hello!

You can watermark your images but there is always a chance that someone will take or steal them. Unfortunately that's part of the risk. I would suggest limiting the size and resolution of your images as well. Always 72 dpi and no bigger than the size you need to display on your website.

What exactly are you trying to do with your story and images? What goals do you have? If you tell us a bit more I'm sure we can help you even better!

-Wilson W, Jr.
Reply
:icontc3939:
tc3939 Featured By Owner Jun 16, 2013
Thanks for sharing!
Reply
:iconwilsonwjr:
WilsonWJr Featured By Owner Jun 18, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
You're welcome!
Reply
:iconred-gold-sparks:
red-gold-sparks Featured By Owner Feb 22, 2013  Professional Traditional Artist
Excellent advice, thank you!
Reply
:iconwilsonwjr:
WilsonWJr Featured By Owner Feb 22, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
You're welcome! :)
Reply
:iconteafoxkaris:
TeaFoxKaris Featured By Owner Nov 26, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
Thanks for the advice and an informative read. I hadn't thought of some of those!
Reply
:iconwilsonwjr:
WilsonWJr Featured By Owner Nov 26, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
Glad to be of help!! Enjoy!
Reply
:iconramelia-images:
Ramelia-Images Featured By Owner Nov 22, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
What a great journal :) I'm not an illustrator, but it was very informative & interesting reading all the same. I had never really considered the work behind it, which now seems rather foolish. Just one of those everyday things that normal people overlook I guess! Thank you
Reply
:iconwilsonwjr:
WilsonWJr Featured By Owner Nov 22, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
I'm glad it offered some insight and helped inform you! :)
Reply
:iconlelpel:
Lelpel Featured By Owner Nov 19, 2012  Professional General Artist
Thanks so much for this - I use a few of those questions myself but there are some on yours I haven't considered (will add them now) :)
Reply
:iconwilsonwjr:
WilsonWJr Featured By Owner Nov 19, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
Awesome! Enjoy!
Reply
:iconbagasuit091:
bagasuit091 Featured By Owner Nov 19, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Thanks a bunch for this!
Reply
:iconwilsonwjr:
WilsonWJr Featured By Owner Nov 19, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
You are welcome!
Reply
:iconisynia-artessa:
Isynia-Artessa Featured By Owner Nov 19, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
Brilliant :) Good job, Wilson :) That is a perfect list and a great resource for anyone starting out!
Reply
:iconwilsonwjr:
WilsonWJr Featured By Owner Nov 19, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
Thanks so much Jennifer! That mean a lot coming from you! I feel like I now have my final stamp of approval!! ;)
Reply
:iconcristalreza:
cristalreza Featured By Owner Nov 18, 2012
Great article, is really dissapointing to get emails as you say about 5 $ illustration, or that ones you "should" made a first illustration without charge to say if author like your work.
thanks for the tips
Reply
:iconwilsonwjr:
WilsonWJr Featured By Owner Nov 18, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
Ah the spec work demon! "Draw this for me and if you're good enough we MIGHT hire you!" Bullcrap!! Uggghhh!!!!
Reply
:iconchristine-e:
Christine-E Featured By Owner Nov 22, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
When I told a start up company of children's e-books that I charge the sample illustration as it requires time, skill and research, they told me, "if you can't do it for free it's ok, we can find plenty of artists in deviantart who can" and I'm not changing a word! I still have the message. This confirmed to me they don't respect their product at all, why would they respect me?.
Reply
:iconwilsonwjr:
WilsonWJr Featured By Owner Nov 22, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
Agreed. It takes two to tango though. How many of us would turn down something free if offered? So I kinda don't fault them for getting it if they can. But while they have no respect for the artist sadly the artists also don't have any respect for themselves. I know how much of a struggle it is to get that first job. I know how desperate that can make you. But free should never be an option. Artists who do it for free unfortunately are the ones who allow practices like this to continue.
Reply
:iconchristine-e:
Christine-E Featured By Owner Nov 23, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
Totally agree, this is why I wanted to point out that they don't work with respect. The artist may think this is a common practice of every company and take it lightly, maybe the new artist hasn't thought that if they show this behavior in the beginning, chances are they will try to mess up with your payment later as well.
Reply
:iconwilsonwjr:
WilsonWJr Featured By Owner Nov 23, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
Very true! Hopefully this will educate more folks about the fact that free(spec) work isn't professional and shouldn't be tolerated.
Reply
:iconrinian:
Rinian Featured By Owner Nov 18, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
I really hate this part of the whole book illustrating process, so this article is like GOLD to me. Thank you so much for sharing!
Reply
:iconwilsonwjr:
WilsonWJr Featured By Owner Nov 18, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
You're welcome!! ;)
Reply
:icongoldendruid:
GoldenDruid Featured By Owner Nov 17, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
Thank you for posting this :heart:
Reply
:iconwilsonwjr:
WilsonWJr Featured By Owner Nov 17, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
You're welcome!
Reply
:iconunita-n:
Unita-N Featured By Owner Nov 17, 2012  Professional General Artist
Oh, thank you very much for this letter, now I hope I wouldn't be so dull in this things.)
Reply
:iconwilsonwjr:
WilsonWJr Featured By Owner Nov 17, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
Never dull always informed! Best of luck!
Reply
:iconkauthar-sharbini:
Kauthar-Sharbini Featured By Owner Nov 17, 2012
That's amazing thank you very much !!
I hope any children author would request me someday to draw their story .
Reply
:iconwilsonwjr:
WilsonWJr Featured By Owner Nov 17, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
You're welcome! I hope you do too!
Reply
:iconinkyoketch:
inkyoketch Featured By Owner Nov 16, 2012  Student Filmographer
Thank you very informative
Reply
:iconwilsonwjr:
WilsonWJr Featured By Owner Nov 16, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
You're welcome!
Reply
:iconjeremyyoung:
JeremyYoung Featured By Owner Nov 16, 2012  Student Digital Artist
This is very helpful, but I'd still love to know how much generally you would charge per illustration and book
Reply
:iconwilsonwjr:
WilsonWJr Featured By Owner Nov 16, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
For traditional publishers you are looking at anything from 3,000 to 40,000 or more depending on the popularity of the artist and the breadth of publication. (meaning the distribution level of the book.) Winning awards and whatnot helps a lot in upping the price. Another factor is the market the book is in. There are many different types of Children's Books; Board books, picture books and Picture Story Books, YA Adult Books, Graphic Novels, etc. With some of these books not much will change from genre to genre as far as the Illustrations are concerned. But the books intended for younger audiences will generally have decidedly less complicated images and brighter colors. Board Books would be a good example of that. Since these images are simpler and the books are shorter, it stands to reason that it would cost less to commission an Illustrator to do one.

Check my blog here [link] for an article on a book that lists current prices for books and includes sample contracts that artists can use.

If you decide to pick it up, I would love for you to buy it through our Library!! [link] Let me know if you have any other questions.
Reply
:iconjeremyyoung:
JeremyYoung Featured By Owner Nov 17, 2012  Student Digital Artist
Thanks for such an in depth reply. It has been most helpful! :)
Reply
:iconwilsonwjr:
WilsonWJr Featured By Owner Nov 17, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
You're welcome! ;)
Reply
:iconstarlit-sorceress:
Starlit-Sorceress Featured By Owner Nov 16, 2012  Professional Artisan Crafter
This isn't just useful for illustrators. It's helpful for prospective writers, anyone who thinks selling art is easy, and anyone who's ever angrily paged through a children's book and grumbled that they could write a better story, and why aren't they getting paid tons of money.
Reply
:iconwilsonwjr:
WilsonWJr Featured By Owner Nov 16, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
Very true! The secret to kids books is that they make it look so easy. Writing Children's Books is very difficult. You have to tell a story with less pages, less words and an audience with a limited comprehension. It takes a master to craft a great children's book. Mad respect to truly great authors who work hard to do a great job!
Reply
:iconretkikosmos:
RetkiKosmos Featured By Owner Nov 16, 2012  Professional General Artist
This was very helpful, I was recently asked to illustrate a children's book by someone I know personally, so it's easier for me to ask questions, some of these I didn't think about like marketing and budget, thank you for the information!
Reply
:iconwilsonwjr:
WilsonWJr Featured By Owner Nov 16, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
You're welcome!!
Reply
:iconebonypen:
ebonypen Featured By Owner Nov 16, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Great, eye-opening article! I'm not an illustrator myself, but I've got a friend who is looking to start that sort of thing soon, and since she's actually underway with a job illustrating for a kid's smart-phone game, I shared this with her. I've no doubt any commissioning artist could learn a thing or two from these precautions.

Thanks!
Reply
:iconwilsonwjr:
WilsonWJr Featured By Owner Nov 16, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
You're welcome!
Reply
:iconpajamaanna:
PajamaAnna Featured By Owner Nov 16, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you so much for your information! My father recently took on a project to do programming and artwork for a gaming app! He, however, handed all the artwork work to me! I am not sure what exactly this person is thinking (she has some pretty wacko ideas). I will make sure to ask these questions on the next project I work on so I don't have to run into these certain problems we have been going through and guarantee success! ^^
Reply
:iconwilsonwjr:
WilsonWJr Featured By Owner Nov 16, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
Awesome! I'm glad it will be helpful!!
Reply
:iconcolorful--melody:
Colorful--Melody Featured By Owner Nov 16, 2012  Student Traditional Artist
this is going to help me alot.
i never got an offer from anyone but
i get asked frequently about if im going to make one
or i should do it.
and im not really good at dealing with business and stuff
and some of them might be just a scam or something.
thank you for sharing such an awesome info!!
i think you helped hundreds of artist including me
with this blogpost!
Reply
:iconwilsonwjr:
WilsonWJr Featured By Owner Nov 16, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
You're welcome!
Reply
:iconbloodmoonequinox:
BloodMoonEquinox Featured By Owner Nov 16, 2012  Student General Artist
This is so helpful! :happybounce: Thank you so much for the tips!
Reply
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