A few years ago I wrote an article for the Christian Small Publishers Association Newsletter about what self-publishing authors should expect when contracting with a professional illustrator. The article was a walk through the process: initial consultation, fees, preliminary sketches, final art, ownership, and all the business particulars.
With self-publishing becoming bigger than ever, more authors are calling on professional artists to illustrate their books. Understandably there is a bit of sticker shock when the subject of fees come up.
The disparity between the two children’s book Christmas images is meant to be humorous and obvious. On the left, I played extreme novice, and on the right, seasoned professional. There might be a place for the primitive image in your book, but generally most authors prefer the one on the right.
There is also a disparity in fees. These two images vary considerably in how much they cost.
Fees involve the amount of time that goes into creating art, the value it will add to your writing, and whether readers will enjoy your book or regard it as amateurish. Fees will vary according to rights purchased, usage, and other legal considerations. That will all be discussed during consultation, but there should be a realistic consideration that professional work incurs professional rates.
I encourage aspiring authors to go pro when it comes to art. If you have confidence in your writing, please have confidence in professional artists. They will do everything in their ability to make your work a delight for the eyes. Self-publishing is a considerable investment, and only you know what you can afford. I believe the prospects of recouping your investment, much less making a profit, will be jeopardized by skimping on artwork.
I’m writing primarily as a children’s book illustrator and to authors writing for that market. My advice is to visit childrensillustrators.com to review a wide range of excellent portfolios showcasing a large pool of great illustrators. Of course I’m on there, and I hope you call me, but look over all of us and find that special artist you believe will make your words shine. I wish you a beautiful book and great success!
Manger Scenes ©2017 Ed Koehler
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Nice post Ed! I’m glad to have seen your profile on the SCWI page. I self published my first children’s book on Psalm 23 and could tell how beautiful the pro illustrations helped my book. Thinking on my 2nd book on budget but yes, it is worth giving another go on pro illustration! Might be in touch soon.
Ed great post that all aspiring writers should read! Thanks. Arthur
Thank you, Arthur! I could tell from the moment I met you that you valued art, whimsy, and the contribution all art makes to human flourishing. I appreciate you reading my blog. Take care. Ed
Eddie, I think this is an excellent post and valid argument. When I published my last book in 2004, I had the privilege of it being illustrated by a well-known Christian watercolorist who actually painted original art work to accompany my essays. My publisher paid the fees, but of course, I was not self-publishing. But I will tell you, that while I do believe the book is literarily driven, her exquisite paintings made all the difference in interesting readers in the first place. Just the cover alone was breathtakingly gorgeous. Anything less would have jeopardized the book. And while I didn’t personally pay her fees, I realize that to acquire someone of her caliber, were I to self-publish, would be considerable. But it would be worth it. A worker is worth his wage. Why shouldn’t he be? And it’s he who should set those fees. Similarly, I find this difficulty frequently with my writing, almost as if people presume I do it just for the fun of it. Writing is time-consuming hard work, and authors need proper compensation. This is a timely subject, and you handled it fairly and adroitly. And just gotta ask: Did you do the drawing on the left now, just to show the difference, or did you actually dig into your kiddie archives from your youth? Just wondered.
Thank you, Lynni!
I appreciate your thoughts and affirmation. Yes, I drew the scene on the left today, right before posting. I don’t have too many kiddie archives, a few pieces from eighth grade and some high school art. Apparently I never drew like that as a child. My parents told me I started drawing when I was three, and never drew stick figures. I’ll take their word for it. Thanks for reading, Lynni! Ed