Getting paid for drawing a children's book
February 21, 2017 11:20 AM   Subscribe

A friend is requesting to pay for art I've created. Not sure how much to ask for or if I should?

A former co-worker and I got laid off from our job a couple of months ago. Before we did, she expressed interest in publishing a children's book she wrote. She asked me if I'd be interested in drawing it. She was aware of my art abilities and was the first person she asked. She would rather ask a friend than hire a random artist. We began working on the project and recently completed it. Throughout the planning/production stages - she insisted occasionally on paying me. I honestly hadn't thought about getting paid as I found this project to be a great stepping stone and opportunity for me and I enjoyed it immensely.

I'm not sure what to ask for. I've sold work before but this is my first long term project. The thing that makes it complicated is that she's a friend and she's still currently unemployed. As am I. I also found the experience rewarding because I got a lot of it.

The work included sketching thumbnails for the pages+cover, brainstorming the design/logo/layout for each page with her, and finally drawing and coloring the whole book digitally. Overall 5 months, I worked 5 hours a day for 5 days straight a week.

Basically I want to ask for amount that's reasonable for the work I did yet at the same time not surprising her with an extravagant amount.

I would appreciate some insight. Thank you very much.
posted by morning_television to Media & Arts (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You probably need to sit down with her and hammer out what rights she believes she's purchasing and what she intends to use the artwork for. If this is finalized art that she intends to publish, that's different than basic storyboarding. If this is a personal project where she is planning on printing up a few dozen copies for friends that's different than if she's planning on shopping it to publishers, etc.

There's no real way to answer the question without knowing all the details.

This all said, you should really get this stuff down prior to starting. It protect both of you.
posted by cjorgensen at 11:26 AM on February 21, 2017 [4 favorites]

First of all, I think you should absolutely request payment.

I'm not an artist so I won't give specific figures, but chances are it will be higher than what your friend is willing or able to pay all at once. I would keep the price, though, and allow her to pay it slowly in installments.
posted by delight at 11:35 AM on February 21, 2017

You should be paid for your work. It sounds like you worked hard, did good work, and deserve to be paid. Sure, she is unemployed, but your work has value (art has value!) and she recognizes that and has all along planned to pay you.

I'm not an artist and can't give you any dollar figures, but I have some questions that I think will help you get closer to an answer. Will you be listed as the illustrator of the book? Will you receive any royalties from future sales, if there are any, or is this a payment in exchange for all your rights? Do you want some sliding scale in which the amount of the payment depends on whether she is able to sell the book or a fixed amount? Are you retaining the right to make derivative works based on this artwork? Are you giving her the right to make derivative works based on this artwork?
posted by Alluring Mouthbreather at 11:46 AM on February 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

If she plans to get the book published, you could agree to split the advance/royalties in a way that reflects your respective contributions to the work.
posted by milk white peacock at 12:00 PM on February 21, 2017 [4 favorites]

If your work is college-level or better, charge by the hour, about $80-120 an hour.
If you work is not quite college level, then charge by the page, at least $50-$100 per page.
posted by cmcmcm at 12:07 PM on February 21, 2017

The best answer I ever heard for side hustle jobs; get paid enough that if you were doing it full time, you could quit your day job with ease. No sense in takin any less. But in a situation like this, splitting the advance or any proceeds seems legit
posted by furnace.heart at 12:58 PM on February 21, 2017

You don't say whether she's working with a contract or not. Sounds like not. What age level is the project pitched to? If it's a picture book, any publisher she submits the MS to will want to choose their own illustrator. (And it bodes ill for the project that she doesn't know that.) You might have more luck with a graphic novel; the path to publication and to recognition as an illustrator in that world seems a little less conventional. I would not base payment on any idea of collecting future royalties.

It sounds as if you worked very hard on this. If you're interested in pursuing illustration professionally in the future, I might regard this whole thing as an exercise in portfolio development. You can ask her for some minimal amount that won't break her bank and you can stay friends.
posted by nohattip at 2:41 PM on February 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm a writer, not an artist, but one of the challenges of any creative career is figuring out when you should work for free, when you should work for starvation wages, and when you should demand enough money to live on.

If there is any universal rule for this, I certainly haven't figured it out. But broadly speaking, the four questions I would ask myself are:

• What non-monetary value am I getting out of this? ( improving my skills; generating samples that I can use to get paying work later; the fun of collaborating with somebody I like; etc)

• How much money is this project generating for other people?

• What rights does this person want? (Do they want the copyright on my work for all eternity? Just right of first publication? No rights at all, but if a publisher is interested, I will negotiate with the publisher directly in good faith?)

• How much leverage do I have?

In this case, just based on the information you've provided, I think you shouldn't expect any real payment:

• You've gotten a lot of non-monetary value.

• The odds of this generating any money for anybody are, sadly, low. As nohattip points out, if this is a picture book, your friend has already misunderstood the market by hiring an illustrator on her own. I don't know much about the graphic novel world but if it's like the rest of the book market, it's really hard to sell anything, especially for first timers. I know even less about the self-publishing world, but I do know that none of my friends who have tried it have made any money at it.

• Presumably your friend isn't expecting to own any rights to your work.

• You don't have a lot of leverage, since you've already devoted (it sounds like) hundreds of hours of your life to it. (Next time you will know to work out the details in advance, even if you're working with a friend! Fortunately, this sounds like a pretty painless way to learn that lesson, since you've enjoyed the process and gotten a lot out of it.)

In conclusion, I would suggest one of two paths. Both of them protect you in case this turns out to be the rare project that does generate money, but neither requires you to accept money upfront from an unemployed friend:

If your friend plans on shopping the work to traditional publishers, write up an agreement saying you retain all rights to your illustrations; she retains all rights to her text; and if a publisher is interested, you will each negotiate directly with the publisher in good faith.

If your friend plans on self-publishing the work, write up an agreement saying that you grant her the non-exclusive right to publish your art, on the condition that you and she split any profit left over after payment of reasonable publishing and marketing expenses. Also, specify that you retain all other rights not explicitly granted by the agreement.

In either case, you might want to put a procedure for canceling the agreement so you aren't bound to it for all eternity.

Please note that I am not a lawyer and if a lawyer looked at my suggested agreements, they'd probably find a million loopholes and omissions. For that reason, if this project gets to the point where it seems likely to generate real money, then it is probably worth hiring an actual lawyer to make an agreement for you. I'm acting on the assumption that this is basically a fun project between friends and probably won't go beyond that.
posted by yankeefog at 4:20 AM on February 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

You should check out SCBWI

Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators

They have chapters(ha!) pretty much everywhere, and are very well regarded. It's the easiest way to get actual authors/artists currently making books to answer your questions. I'm not a member, but have friends who have joined.

Personally, don't do work for an amount that will make you resent spending the time on the project, or time you could be spending on your own projects/watching netflix. ;)

Additionally, I've used HarvestApp to record hours and send invoices for illustration, editing and web freelance clients. I found it makes even work with friends much easier by treating every project as a professional one.

Lastly, make sure you define who owns the artwork.
posted by dreamling at 9:06 AM on February 24, 2017

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