Shop Mobile More Submit  Join Login
A great question we get from readers who enjoyed our past post regarding, The Ten Questions you should ask before you Say "Yes" to illustrating someone's children's book is, "What resource can we direct them to if they aren't sure how to answer some of the ten questions?".

Luckily we found an AMAZING free resource that you can direct them to.  Randy Gallegos is dropping in to share this great resource that will inform any potential client of the information they need to come up with a price, understand what rights to ask for, and explains many aspects of the publishing and art creation process and how to approach an artist correctly.

So please download the free guide and enjoy Randy's post!

Artwork copyright Randy Gallegos

Some time ago, I wrote a post detailing how a collector might commission a unique painting for their collection.

However, the bulk of my year is spent producing artwork for clients, to be used as illustrations in various products. Typically, these are larger or more established companies. Increasingly, they are small publishers or even self-publishers ("indies").

In working with indies, often I find they just don't understand too much of what's involved in commissioning illustration, because there are no good primers out there that I know of, written for them. One can get great information from product distributors, app stores, e-publishers, and printers on how to handle those aspects of their project, but when it comes to illustration, there is far less. As a result, I know many illustrators who just won't work with indies, which is a shame because I've found that with knowledge, indies can be great project collaborators.

I've had very successful interactions with indies, and this has been because I have usually taken the time to educate them, so they get just what they want, without paying for more than they need. To that end, I've written a pamphlet for the indie publisher that lays out what commissioning illustration looks like, what terms you need to know, goes into copyright examples, and gives real-world scenarios to emphasize that when you understand all these, you can present your project to illustrators in a way that they'll be interested in working with you.

To that end, I have compiled and expanded this information into a free pamphlet for you to read. I hope it will benefit you whether you end up working with me, or any other illustrator. It will help you land a great illustrator, and it will save you headaches and probably money. It's an in-depth read, but it'll save you time and make your proposal much more attractive to illustrators.

Download the free pamphlet here!

If you're an illustrator reading this, please grab a copy, give it to your potential clients. Share it, blog it, whatever.

In fact, just last week, I received the following email from a prospective indie publisher. Consider this a cautionary tale:
Hi Randy

I have an urgent project. - its a book - I would like to hire you for the
illustration - scripts and everything sis (sic) ready. Please let me know

Now, at this point there are already so many red flags that I know many would simply not even bother responding (free tip: if you don't know what "Work For Hire" means, don't use the term; I suspect this person doesn't know what they are asking for). By beginning education, I am often able to help a potential client redirect their inquiry to where we can work together, and I've taken a few such clients to final project, successfully. But it's up to you to become knowledgeable. I sent the client a quick response, with a couple of clarifying questions, and suggested they read the pamphlet as it would be beneficial to them, whichever illustrator they ended up using.

I received a response that indicated they did not bother to read it. As it was still exhibiting a lack of understanding, I indicated that I would pass on their project. And so will many others for this person, unfortunately.

Don't let that be you!

Related past article

OnceUponASketch is a Children’s Market Blog.

Norman Grock
and Wilson Williams, Jr
have come together to give insight, education and news about the many
facets of the Children’s Illustration Market. From Children’s Books to
Character Design, Storyboarding, Toys and Lic. Products. Find articles,
interviews and resources to help fuel your education and growth. Jump on
to learn more about the varied industries and what it takes to become
successful and make it in them.

Do clients not understand what goes into commissioning an illustration? Need to give them something to explain it all? We found an amazing free resource to educate your clients and possibly yourself! Follow the link!
Add a Comment:
Justyne Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2012
Not sure I'd call it amazing. It sounds more like an angry artist ranting about bad clients and being condescending about the process. I know some people have unrealistic expectations, but this guide seems to suggest a client shouldn't have any at all. To me it's not very accessible and I wonder how many would find this completely off-putting.
WilsonWJr Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
I understand that opinion. I truly think he's trying to inform potential clients to the ins and outs and ramifications of what we do as artists. Many of his examples are intended to be a slap of reality to them about the value of what we contribute. I think he's being matter of fact about the things needed to be taken into consideration before you solicit an artist for work that many don't consider.

If it turns out to be off putting to individuals, I'm assuming it's the people who most likely expect everything but want to pay nothing or next to nothing for it. Which very well could have been his intention. I think for him and many artists it's a matter of, "only those who are serious need apply".

I'm sure this was written from a point of frustration on his part. A point of frustration that I and many artists share, which is why the tone of the document may not have been as readily apparent to me. I understand the frustration you've voiced and I'll re-examine it with your thoughts in mind.
Justyne Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2012
I feel your pain. I am a software engineer - so I am in the business of doing bespoke projects with clients. You get the freeloaders and the ones who have no idea how anything works but have a lot of unrealistic expectations in my line of work too. It think that is pretty much the same in any professional field where you are making a custom product for a client.

Sadly, my experience is that people who would need a guide like that won't be educated and the ones who take the time to research are often discouraged to even talk to you, thinking they are not professional/ good/ experienced enough.

It's best not to give the vocal minority of morons any more attention than they are getting already.

Unfortunately, a lot of illustrators (and other professionals) don't have enough of a backbone to sit out the financially tight times until a reasonable offer comes along. I sure have taken on jobs that I knew would be a world of pain simply because I needed the money. If it makes you feel any better, we get paid the same shitty rates as you guys. I've at times made less offering software solutions than minimum wage.
WilsonWJr Featured By Owner Dec 7, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
Agreed. Sadly there seems to be plenty of illustrators listening to the morons. Whole sites are dedicated to artists cutting each other of at the knees and against their own best interests to make as little money as possible and sell all ownership of their rights in the process.

It doesn't make me feel better. I hate to know that more of us are struggling with the same issues and crappy pay for professional work. I'm not sure what we do to help each other. But I hope educating other artists about how much they should value their own work helps in some way.

That post is just as much for artists as it is for potential clients. Truthfully, like you alluded to, if they stood for better, clients wouldn't have the ability to demand the crappy things they do. It's a rough road.
Justyne Featured By Owner Dec 7, 2012
I know, saying no is so hard. People will bring you their sob stories about how they can't afford more and suddenly you are in that mess.

As a hobby writer I can also say the following: In this day and age more and more people write and less and less people read. A lot of the writing produced, while no doubt personally fulfilling, isn't very good or interesting. Yet, hobby writers like to tell themselves that one day their work will lead to the big breakthrough. However, deep down these people know that isn't true. The stuff I have seen on the self-publishing sites features covers and book jackets with spelling mistakes on them. It just shows exactly how much effort is being put into these works.

So really, the advice one ought to give these people is to pay an art student or hobbyist. There is no way they would ever in a million years break even on an 1700$ illustration. Truth be told, the many of the self-published folks don't even earn enough to break even on a 300$ illustration. Some of the smaller publishers actually charge the writer to get their work printed and there is only a very, very small chance that any of their work will ever hit the shelves in a shop. It'll be bought by some friends and family and then... well boxes in the basement.

In short... they're just not illustration clients at all and often believe a 'cool' cover will get them sales, completely underestimating just how much more effort it is to market a book.

In short, book covers is probably a poisoned chalice for you guys. Lots of small stuff going around and fewer and fewer big, serious jobs. It's probably best to stay away from these things unless you want pocket money or something.
WilsonWJr Featured By Owner Dec 7, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
Yep, I always make sure to tell them that writing the book and getting the artwork done is the EASY part. 75-80 percent of their effort has to be in marketing and publicity if not more. If they have paid that little attention to how the book is written or how to get an illustrator commissioned then you know they have spent no time in researching how to market and sell their book. If they think we are expensive, I can't wait till they find out how much a professional editor costs!!! (Which in general, all of them need!!) I get so many 2000 word scripts intended for children under 2 that it's crazy! What kid under two can make it through 100 words let alone 2000! Ugghhhh!!!!

Saying no is a wonderful thing. I learned to do it after being paid correctly for a job and then having someone else come in wanting the same work for 1/10 of the price. Uh, "No!!!" Once these artists actually get paid what they should, you don't go back to begging for pennies. But many of them have to rise up to professional standards as well. So we all have to be honest with ourselves, writers and artists. Respect what we do and what the other does and demand professionalism in our craft. We all have to pay those dues!
Justyne Featured By Owner Dec 7, 2012
Have to completely agree with you. I collect private commissions as a hobby and generally give some work to high school and sometimes uni students. Every once in a blue moon I get a so-called 'professional' messaging me completely without any solicitation trying to tell me that all I need to be a happy, well-rounded human being is a commission by them. I've made the worst of experiences with those guys. If this is how some part of the professional scene behaves it's no wonder the clients think they can behave the way they sadly do in some cases.

I was really shocked that published illustrators would go around begging for 200 to 400 dollar jobs. One guy got so upset when I turned him down he linked me to somewhere showing all the illustration prizes he had won thinking that I'd be somehow more likely to buy into an art style that didn't appeal to me after seeing those. It took me several days to get rid of him on note. It's really the guys like that who do the whole of your profession a massive disservice.

And then of course there is the fakers. As someone who collects commissions I see a lot of portfolios and the amount of traced art, overpainted photos and extremely heavily references portfolio pieces I see is rather saddening as well. I don't necessarily think there is anything wrong with doing any of the things (in fact, studies are awesome) but trying to present them as if they were original work letting the client think that they as an artist can produce to that quality from imagination is disgraceful. I've talked with many an author who fell for an artist like that, who ended up being completely destroyed when their finished cover commission looked absolutely nothing like the pieces they were shown as part of the portfolio. Of course, I realize that not all work is up to portfolio standards, but seriously with some people it would floor you how huge the gap between the work they show and the work they do for you really is.

/ rant

I think I harped on for long enough now, right? I just always enjoy talking to you.
WilsonWJr Featured By Owner Dec 11, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
LOL!! Please ramble on as much as you like! I enjoy your conversations as well!! I think your final point about people tracing and faking stuff in their portfolio is why a lot of companies are testing artists more and more before hiring them. Some pay the artists for these tests and some don't. And then whatever you do for the test becomes their property. It's sad to see those folks actions contributing to the SPEC atmosphere and making the use your portfolio should serve pointless. Sigh.....

I wish I knew from the jump how much the business end is just as important as the art end. You would think it would be a logical conclusion, but it took me a while to understand that. Lessons learned! Hopefully i can get artists to study both aspects. Being a freelance artist is a business. You are starting a company! So learn how best to do so, it's worth it!
Add a Comment:

:iconwilsonwjr: More from WilsonWJr

Featured in Collections

Journals by SavageFrog

Journal by Metarex12

helpful things by tinylaughs

More from DeviantArt


Submitted on
December 5, 2012
Submitted with Writer


17 (who?)