I've written 2 children's books, now I'm looking for an illustrator.
February 29, 2008 2:54 PM   Subscribe

I've written 2 children's books, now I'm looking for an illustrator.

I am an unpublished author of 2 children's books and I am now looking for an illustrator. I will probably publish using Lulu.com. Any suggestions on how to go about finding an illustrator?

I see this site for example. I've looked through the entire site and found a few that might work, e.g.
Fanterosa Lele
I'm not sure of the approach I should take when contacting these artists (or others) because I don't want to send the ms all over the internets.

Also, I have to consider how I would pay an illustrator. e.g. a flat fee, or a percentage of sales.

Any suggestions are appreciated.
posted by allelopath to Media & Arts (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Generally, when one publishers a picture book, the House selects an illustrator. They get an advance + royalties, just like the author does. However, since you want to self-publish, you'll probably have to commission each piece of work for the books.

No professional illustrator is likely to take a percentage of sales on a self-published piece.

For more information about writing (and illustrating) for children, check out the blue boards at Verla Kay's, or the SCBWI.
posted by headspace at 3:00 PM on February 29, 2008

One of my best friends is a children's book illustrator. She has an agent. That's who to contact, not the illustrator directly.
posted by clh at 3:37 PM on February 29, 2008

If the Lulu book is your intended final product, then you'll probably be looking to pay a flat fee per piece. Seeing as the site you link to above is called "amateurillustrator," it seems unlikely they have representation. So I suppose you could always contact them yourself, see if they're interested, then send the manuscript and ask for a quote for x number of illustrations with x qualities (dimensions, full color or B&W, etc). Some things you might look for in samples, beyond just a style that speaks to you, are similarities to your ms (i.e. if you have bear characters, they show cute bears in their samples), and the ability to show the same character in different poses (and it still looks like the same character).

If your hope is to self-publish toward the end of publishing with a traditional publisher, don't hire an illustrator. Submit your manuscript by itself to agents and/or publishers through traditional channels.

Also, see this blog post and its comments for the perspective of some pro illustrators (a couple very big names) on being approached for this kind of thing.
posted by lampoil at 4:34 PM on February 29, 2008

Two more things:

Don't be super discouraged by the chorus of pros scoffing at the amateurs. The truth is, if you're willing to pay, there are illustrators who will consider doing it.

The other is that it's always possible that an illustrator may prefer a royalty to a flat fee, but they'd almost surely want an advance on that royalty.
posted by lampoil at 4:41 PM on February 29, 2008

A few years ago a friend of mine in art school did a children's book commission. She was a very talented artist, but had no commercial experience so she was happy to have worked (for next to nothing) on a professional project that enhanced her portfolio. Sadly, she passed away at a young age but I'm sure she would have gone far in the illustration world.

I believe she got the job off her art-school job board. It might be worth considering, there are some ridiculously talented young people who would be clamouring to do a project like yours.
posted by rhinny at 5:27 PM on February 29, 2008

A self-published picture book is unlikely to return a profit. It's possible that it could be a breakout success, but that's so remote a chance that it would be unfair to approach an artist asking them to invest their efforts for a bet on the book's promise. On the net you could find many talented people - students or hobbyists or young professionals - who would be flattered to have someone approach them. But you're asking them to do a considerable amount of work if it's primarily a picture book (14 - 30 illustrations?). Depending on the style, this could take a few weeks to several months. A royalty payment would be something like 4-5% of the cover price. You'd need to sell a lot of books for them to see a fair return on their work. I never did much professional illustration, but several years ago I did work on a compilation of Canadian children's stories that paid flat rate. I think the pay then was $750 per illustration and $250 for spot (small, single character, no background) drawings. Those were fine for me, and I suppose the several other people who contributed illustration to the book, they'd probably be low but acceptable rates for those who were making their living as artists. If it's not worth it to you to pay outright a flat fee of a few thousand dollars - and it probably isn't for a book to be published using Lulu - then it might not be right to approach illustrators found on the net trying to interest them in your book. Unless your stories are uniquely fun and interesting, a young illustrator's time would be better spent working on their own projects.

If you do hire someone, remember that standard practice is that you're only paying for the rights to publish their illustrations for this one project. They retain ownership of the originals and all reuse rights.
posted by TimTypeZed at 5:40 PM on February 29, 2008

My sister is an illustrator, and has an agent. I personally think her work is miles better than anything else linked to here. But I'm biased.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 6:03 PM on February 29, 2008

My Dad self-published a book on coaching kids sports. He wanted an illustrator to put a few (12-15) drawings in the book and do the cover. He went to local colleges, and spoke to the art department, and eventually found a student whose work he liked. He paid him a flat fee.

I'll email Dad, and maybe he can add some more info.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 6:56 PM on February 29, 2008

As ObscureReferenceMan indicated, I self-published a book that needed several dozen illustrations. After speaking to the appropriate dean at the University of North Florida I was allowed to post a notice in the graphic arts department searching for a student who might be interested in providing the needed illustrations. Two students responded and I asked each of them to create two illustrations in accordance with a set of guidelines. It was sorrt of a "draw-off" competition.

I then selected the artist that I felt captured the essence of the book's subject matter. We negotiated a set price for the entire set of illustrations--approx $500 if I recall correctly. I listed the artist on the book's cover--"Illustrations by Chester Vilar"

It really worked out well for both the illustrator and me.

Good luck
posted by coachjerry at 7:56 PM on February 29, 2008

If I were looking for someone willing to illustrate on the cheap, I'd advertise on Craigslist in towns with a lot of art schools (or, as others have suggested, talk to art departments at universities). I have a few friends who went to art school and they definitely were always eager to supplement their starving little lives with an illustration commission. And I don't know any who don't have a blog or website where you can check out their work.
posted by crinklebat at 1:02 AM on March 1, 2008

i know three people personally who have experience being children's book illustrators--and they're all good to work with, as I've heard through my local grapevine:

Bridget Riversmith

Brian Barber

Chris Monroe
(She doesn't have a website, but here's an interview.)

i couldn't let this pass, since i'm all about getting more work for reliable and pleasant people.
posted by RedEmma at 1:38 PM on March 1, 2008

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