Hiring a children’s book illustrator FAQ

Illustrators tend to be bombarded with the same questions over and over again from clients looking to hire them to bring their children’s book manuscript to life, and from publishers looking to have them work on a future project or their next release. With our illustrators being the pros they are, they tend to send a personal reply to every query that comes in regardless of whether they’ve answered the same question half a dozen times that week already.

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So, here are a list of questions you need to ask yourself before you hire an illustrator, and some answers to questions that clients commonly ask illustrators during the course of hiring one.

These questions were devised and answered by Ginger Nielson (illustrator of almost 40 children’s books), and edited and updated by Darren Di Lieto & Jane Di Lieto-Danes.

Should you hire an illustrator?

If you have a finished, edited, and great manuscript, by all means submit it to a publisher. If they decide it’s right for their line up and marketable, they will normally pay you an advance followed by royalties in exchange for the right to print and sell your book. They will also hire an illustrator, pay the production costs and help you market it. You do NOT need any illustrations to submit your manuscript to a publisher unless you are an author/illustrator yourself.

How do you find a publisher?

To find out who might be the best publisher for your book, get a copy of the Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market or the Children’s Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook. They list publishers, their contacts, their terms, and what they are looking for. It also includes international markets, magazines, contests, agents and wonderful articles from artists and authors as well as publishers and editors.

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What to do if you’re self publishing?

You need to be very sure of your own work and you need to be ready to invest your own time and money in making your book a success. You will be choosing your own illustrator and paying for the artwork and license or rights to use it; for the book printing; to have it proofread; for distribution; for all your own advertising… and you’ll be doing your own sales. Your local indie bookstore may be happy to host a signing. You might be able to market your books at a local craft fair or market, or at any event with the right setting and clientele. Some schools have book nights where you can sell your books too. Self publishing is often sold as the easy (and cheap) way to get your book published, but don’t let all the hype fool you. The more work and money you can invest in your book, regardless of how good it might be, the more chance it has of being a success.

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How much does a children’s illustrator cost?

When you hire an illustrator remember that you are hiring a professional. You need to be prepared to pay a fair market price. Depending upon the length of time it will take to illustrate your book, the amount of research needed, and any unusual requests, the cost could be a few thousand pounds/dollars or many thousands of pounds/dollars.

OK, so how much will it cost?

Most illustrator’s rates are only shared with a potential client after they have seen a finished manuscript or at least a detailed outline of the work. The illustrator also needs to decide if their skill and style is right for the story and that they’re a good fit for the client. Some illustrators also do the design and layout for children’s publications, so will provide a print ready PDF on completion. If this is not the case, the client will also need to hire a designer who’ll turn the artwork and manuscript into a ready to print product. The illustrator may be able to recommend someone for the design/layout part if they’ve worked with self publishers in the past and do not do the design themselves. Working with a separate designer will increase the overall costs, but you will benefit from the skills a well trained graphic designer brings to the table and you’ll probably find you’ll have a quicker turn-around time too.

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Really, how much does it cost?

The GAG (2013) says a colour 32 page children’s book will cost you between $3000-$60,000 USD + 3-5% royalties while the AOI (2008) says it’ll cost between £3000-£5000 GBP for the advance plus royalties. It really does depend on who you want to work with, the type of style you’re after and the experience of the illustrator. You may find a really talented young illustrator fresh out of university, but as with fine wines that get better with age, all illustrators get better as they hone their skills and gain experience.

How long does it take?

A contract is issued with payment dates, artwork dates, and copyright restrictions for both the author and the illustrator. Work will normally take from 3 to 6 months to complete, give or take a month depending on the illustrator. Payments will normally be made at different stages throughout the project as work is completed and approved. There will normally always be an upfront percentage to pay before work is started too. This upfront fee will normally not be refundable as it’ll also be the kill fee if the client decides to scrap the project or work with an alternative illustrator after work has begun.

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What about changes and artwork revision?

Any artwork that has been finished and approved by the author/client is final. However, if changes are requested after the final approval a fee per hour for any changes may apply. Revisions after approval will also be subject to an illustrator’s availability.


If you’d like more advice on hiring an illustrator for your children’s book, check out Dani Jones’ blog or Randy Gallegos’ PDF Guide For Publishers via the links below. And obviously if you’re ready to hire an illustrator have a look though our children’s illustrators or submit a job request and we’ll help you find one.

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Dani Jones’ blog…
Part One: How to find an illustrator for your picture book
Part Two: How to find an illustrator for self-publishing

Randy Gallegos’ Guide For Publishers…
PDF Guide For Publishers: Learning How to Commission Illustration

Image Credits…
1. The Waif by Peter George
2. Caterpillar for Target by Lee Cosgrove
3. Tiger Character by Marcus Cutler
4. Dogolate by Michael Slack
5. The Butterflies and Millie by Corey R. Tabor
6. Happy-go-lucky Unicorn by Sophie Burrows

Elise Martinson’s Winter Wonderland

A while ago when we asked Elise Martinson if she would create a new background for hai we were super excited when she said yes. Have you seen the work Elise did for the Perth Mint? It’s absolutely gorgeous.

The process when creating a background is pretty much the same each time and this one was no exception. We make sure the artists understand the dimensions and how the background would work with the site, but apart from that we give them free rein to come up with something unique that reflects their style and look. Another thing we also give them is no deadline; I never know if this is a good or a bad thing, but I guess it depends on the illustrator really.

Last October Elise got in contact to show us some very cool sketches. I personally love checking out the sketches and pencil work. We had talked about a Christmas background, but I think it was decided it should be less specific to any particular event.

This was one of the rejected ideas.

This one got rejected, but was still an interesting idea.

I think it was a little bit too “environmentalist”… (It was penguins chasing colourful pegs and other plastic junk that look like schools of fish). Above is a super rough draft. I realised it was quite a negative theme even though my intention was to render it so that you have to look twice to realise the plastic. – Elise Martinson

Pencil sketch with the site overlaid. Idea two.

Pencil sketch with the site overlaid. Idea two.

After seeing the lovely sketches above, we asked Elise to proceed as the direction was exactly what we were looking for… Heaps of snow-camouflaged animals!

The sketches were then followed in January 2014 with a coloured version of the sketch with the website overlaid to show how it would work.

Idea two in colour.

Idea two in colour.

A close up of the coloured sketch.

A close up of the coloured sketch.

From there Elise went ahead and started cleaning up the sketches. As you can see they look great!

This is the one we went with.  :)

This is the one we went with. 🙂

Close up one.

Close up one.

Close up two.

Close up two.

After the sketch was approved, it was time for Elise to do her thing and here is the progress in chronological order with incremental changes and adjustments.

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First colour rendering.

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Did you notice the detail added to the snow and the addition of some birds?

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Big changes with lots of refinements. Some elements are gone and a couple have been added.

This is the final image and we absolutely love it!

This is the final image and we absolutely love it! You probably can’t see it in these images, but comparing this to the last one, there’s so much more detail.

Close up of the final.

Close up of the final.

Close up of the final.

Close up of the final.

Elise Martinson was a pleasure to work with. She was very quick to understand what we wanted and stayed in constant communication with updates and roughs. Then, when it came to the final image she was able to produce the exact files I needed for inserting into the site. I wouldn’t hesitate to work with Elise again in the future. You can check out Elise Martinson’s Winter Wonderland live on the site and see more of her work via her hai portfolio or personal website.

http://www.hireanillustrator.com/i/portfolio/elise-martinson/

Gunther the Underwater Elephant

We’ve got lots of books that we’ve been meaning to post about for ages, but this one is especially overdue (sorry Ginger)! Written and illustrated by the very lovely Ginger Nielson, Gunther the Underwater Elephant is a charming story about a baby elephant (Gunther) who gets lost while swimming in the river with his family. He ends up having an adventure where he meets a surprising new friend who helps him to find his way home again, just in time to become the hero in a dramatic rescue! Colourfully illustrated throughout, this book would appeal to any animal-loving youngster and be a lovely book to share at story-times.

Gunther the Underwater Elephant is available to buy on Amazon.

Title: Gunther the Underwater Elephant
Author: Ginger Nielson
Illustrator: Ginger Nielson
Publisher: 4RV Publishing (2011)
ISBN: 978-0983274025
Pages: 27

Welcome to Monster Isle (Raar!)

Well, it’s about time we started reviewing the books we have listed on the bookshelf. We’re kicking off with Welcome to Monster Isle, illustrated by Jeff Miracola and written by Oliver Chin. This is a fully illustrated children’s picture book and we have chosen it because a) we love Jeff Miracola’s artwork, b) it’s fun and c) Jeff is a good example of an artist with a very distinctive (and sometimes rather surreal) style who has successfully applied it to a number different markets.

Many people will be familiar with Jeff’s work, especially pieces such as ‘Asian Walker‘ and he has received recognition through features in numerous creative magazines, as well as working with a number of high profile clients. Jeff has created artwork for a wide range of markets, from Magic: the Gathering game cards to conceptual designs for Hasbro; from video game graphics (EA) to editorial illustration.

Welcome to Monster Isle is Jeff’s first children’s book and is aimed at the 4 to 8 year age range. It is a story of a family who find themselves facing a hoard of monsters on a deserted island and Jeff has applied his unique style and character design skills to every page of the book.

The page layouts utilize different perspectives and colours that should appeal to both parents and children and there are some nice little details to look out for in each illustration, too. Above all else, the pictures tell the story on their own, so a child looking through the book on his or her own could pretty much follow the tale based on the pictures alone, without being able to read the text.

All in all, this is a lovely little book to own and enjoy as a fan of Jeff’s work, and you’ll appreciate it even more if you have a small person to share it with!

Publishing info –
Title: Welcome to Monster Isle
Author: Oliver Chin
Illustrator: Jeff Miracola
Publisher: Immedium, Inc. (2008)
ISBN: 978-1597020169

Look out for Jeff’s second children’s book due out in early 2011!

See more about the book on Jeff’s website: www.jeffmiracola.com