How to choose an illustrator and get your book finished.
Step one: Choosing the right illustrator.
For professional children’s book illustrators, I suggest: The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators organization’s website SCBWI.org. You can search for the style and media you prefer as well as illustrators living in a certain area. I would strongly suggest you join the SCBWI. It offers valuable resources to anyone in the children’s publishing fields. Another good resource: Childrensillustrators.com. Over 700 professional illustrators are listed.
“Remember the illustrations tell one-half of the story in a picture book. You want to present your book to the world in the best possible way. An inexperienced illustrator can make your excellently written picture book appear amateurish and awkward. Most people buy a book based on its cover.”
A budget source for illustrations: You always hear about Fiverr for cheap illustrations. https://www.fiverr.com. Illustrations can be purchased for as little as $5 each. Now, don’t get too excited, you won’t get much for $5, but you might find someone to work with you on a tight budget. Be very careful you and your illustrator understand exactly what you require. I would suggest using someone who speaks your preferred language. Automated translations can mess up precise communications. I would also suggest having the illustrator sign a non-disclosure when they read your manuscript. The NDA may not be binding in a third world country, but you will have some reassurance they will at least know you are watching carefully if they are thinking about stealing your book manuscript or passing it to someone else.
Step two: Before an illustrator can give you a price on illustrating your book, they must see your professionally edited and formatted manuscript. If they feel your story will fit their style of illustration and they can create suitable illustrations that will best develop your story for you. They will agree to talk to you about your plans for the book. Picture books are traditionally 32 or 40 pages because of economical printing practices. That means your illustrator will be illustrating at least 14-16 full spread illustrations or 28 to 30 single pieces of artwork. That’s a lot of work, it usually takes 4-8 months. This is how professional illustrators make their living, it is a full-time job. Please set aside a reasonable budget so your book can be professionally illustrated to show off your wonderful story to its best advantage.
This is my process:
Step three: When I work with a children’s book author, one-third of the total illustration fee is expected before I start. My fee for illustrating picture books usually runs between $6,000 and $15,000 depending on complexity.
I read your manuscript over and over until I am very familiar with the characters and can see them clearly in my mind. I also might want to add a pet or other background interest to add to the story. I design character sketches for your approval. We also discuss illustration style and colors. We work together on these until you are pleased.
Step four: I then do rough “thumbnails” of all the pages in the book to see how the action flows from page to page. This is very important if I skip this step, the illustrations, while nice, will not flow from page to page visually. The illustrations will still be rough at this stage but you will already know what the characters look like (step two). I will need your approval at this stage and the second 1/3 of the total fee.
Step five: Now, I do full-size roughs of all the pages and work on refining the backgrounds. The interior and exterior details in backgrounds will now come into place. At this stage, you should know exactly what the book will look like minus color. I will need your approval again at this stage.
Now I start final linework and the color. I will send you updates as I go along to make sure I’m going in the right direction and you are pleased. At this stage, changes become time-consuming and disruptive. Minor changes can be made, but major changes will require quite a bit of work and I will have to charge an extra hourly fee to make them.
I work on all the pages at pretty much the same time. Colors must match from page to page and the style must be consistent. I scan in my drawings and do the painting on my computer. I use Adobe Photoshop with custom brushes that replicate, watercolor, pastel, oil, gouache or acrylic paint. I sometimes use textures to add interest. When all illustrations are complete and you are satisfied, it’s time to put it all together.
Step seven: Digital packaging. If you choose me to do this stage, I can package and format the book so it is ready for your printer. I do this for you by designing a custom font that works with the illustration for the front cover and the back cover. I set the text for the inside of the book, doing custom fonts and type treatments where needed.
I then format the digital file to the exact specifications your printer needs. I am always available to work with your printer to make sure everything prints correctly. When all my work is approved and ready to send to the printer or directly to you, I ask for the final 1/3 of my fee.
How long it takes:
If we are able to communicate very quickly when I need feedback and we work smoothly together, The shortest time, start to finish is usually 5 to 6 months. If there are complications or time laspes between steps and approvals, it can take much longer. The shortest time a picture has ever taken me to illustrate, design and package was 5 months, the longest 3 years (the author would disappear for months). It usually takes 6 to 8 months with 8 months being the safest to plan for publication date.
I hope this blog helps you to make the right choices for your picture book.
I would be happy to talk with you about illustrating your book. I can also help you make the right decisions about printing your book and the business side of publishing.