How to Find an Illustrator for a Children’s Book

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Illustrations and children’s books go hand-in-hand. From board books to middle-grade novels, illustrations are essential. Unless you’re aiming for a novelty hit like The Book with No Pictures, the importance of illustrations in your book can’t be overstated.

If you’ve written a children’s book but can’t draw, how do you find an illustrator who will bring your book to life, understand your vision, and fit your budget?

Visual Storytelling in Children’s Books

Illustrations enhance the storytelling experience for young readers. They capture imaginations and hold attention, making it easier for parents to read the stories. They encourage children to ask questions and engage with the story in a way that words alone can’t.

The best picture books aren’t just words with pictures. The images and text work together to create something magical, as seen in Ladybug Girl by David Soman and Jacky Davis. Imagine the page below without the words; it tells a different story. The same goes if you remove the picture. Only when they come together do we get the full story.

So, how do you find an illustrator who will enhance your words and create something magical?

Are You Looking to Traditionally Publish Your Book?

Before you get too excited about hiring an illustrator, ask yourself what your goal is for your book.

If you’re aiming for a traditional publishing deal, don’t hire an illustrator. You’ll need to secure an agent and a publishing deal based on your manuscript alone. The publisher will assign an illustrator to your book. Hiring one ahead of time can backfire if the agent or editor doesn’t like your illustrations, potentially causing them to pass on your book. So, if you’re seeking a traditional publishing deal, skip the illustrations.

There are exceptions. When I wrote the first Mr. Pants story, I had a talented friend illustrate it because the story needed visuals to work. This strategy worked because our editor loved R.H. Lazzell’s illustrations. However, this is not the norm, so proceed with caution.

If you’re planning to self-publish your children’s book, read on for some helpful tips.

Defining Your Vision

Start by visualizing your book. You don’t need to be rigid, but have a general sense of what you want. Are you aiming for whimsy, realism, fantasy, or humor? Do you want detailed illustrations or simplicity? Should the style be open to interpretation or very specific?

If you’re unsure what style to choose, visit a library, read as many children’s books as possible, and identify what you like and want to avoid.

Knowing the illustration style you want is crucial before you look for an illustrator. This allows you to communicate your vision clearly, increasing the chances you’ll be happy with the results.

Budget Considerations

“You get what you pay for” applies when hiring an illustrator. Iconic illustrators like Raúl Colón, Barbara Cooney, or Bryan Collier might be out of your price range. However, you can find the perfect illustrator with a unique style that fits your budget.

As a children’s book writer, illustrators often reach out to me on LinkedIn. I usually check out their work because I’m always looking for new talent. Often, the illustrations are generic, but occasionally, I find sparks of brilliance from up-and-coming illustrators.

 

What’s the Best Way to Pay an Illustrator?

When it comes to paying an illustrator, royalty-sharing is almost impossible due to how royalties are handled by companies like Amazon. Unlike the convenient royalty-sharing options available for authors and narrators through platforms like ACX, illustrators typically get paid a flat, upfront fee.

How Much Does It Cost to Hire an Illustrator?

The cost of hiring an illustrator varies widely. Do you only need a cover? That could set you back anywhere from $25 to $500 (or more). Investing in high-quality cover art might seem pricey, but considering how crucial it is for book sales, it could be the best $500 you ever spend.

Need a few black-and-white illustrations for each chapter of your middle-grade book? Or perhaps a fully illustrated, 32-page picture book? Prices for these services can range from $200 to over $2,000. It all depends on the illustrator’s experience. Are they new and eager to prove themselves, or established and in high demand?

Where your illustrator lives also affects cost. Someone in Europe may charge less than an American, and illustrators in the Middle East or Asia might charge even less.

It’s possible to find a talented artist to illustrate your picture book for $500 to $1,000. Patience and knowing where to look are key.

Where to Find Illustrators

If you don’t have any local artist contacts, here are some great places to search for illustrators:

Freelance Websites

Start by checking out freelance platforms like Upwork, Freelancer, and Fiverr. These sites host talented illustrators from around the world, often at affordable prices. The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) is another valuable resource.

On Fiverr, you can search for the service you need, browse through hundreds of artists’ work, and contact the one whose style you like best. Finding the perfect illustrator this way might take some time, but it’s worth the effort.

On Upwork and Freelancer, you post the service you need, including details and budget, and artists will contact you. This method is beneficial if you can clearly describe your desired style and project scope.

Online Illustration Communities

Online communities where illustrators showcase their work offer a wider range of styles than freelance sites. Consider exploring Behance and DeviantArt for potential collaborators.

Social Media Networks

Artists often reach out to me on LinkedIn, which is great, but typically I’m not actively seeking art at those times. However, searching for illustrators on LinkedIn or Instagram may help you find the perfect match. Check out Facebook groups like “Children’s Book Illustrators” for additional options.

Reddit is another fantastic resource. Communities like r/selfpublish allow you to connect with other authors for recommendations, while r/HungryArtists puts you directly in touch with illustrators.

Illustration Services

Illustration services like 1000 Story Books and GetYourBookIllustrations are worthy options. For example, 1000 Story Books offers a finished picture book for $1,000, which might be more or less affordable than hiring someone through Fiverr or Upwork. It’s worth exploring all your options.

Assessing and Hiring an Illustrator

After thorough searching, you’ll hopefully find an illustrator whose work resonates with you. Before hiring them, check customer reviews and their portfolio to ensure they’re legitimate and prolific. Don’t base your decision on just one drawing.

Negotiating and Contracts

Once you decide to hire an illustrator, it’s wise to draft and sign a contract to ensure mutual understanding. Key details to iron out include:

  • Payment terms (e.g., half upfront, the rest upon delivery)
  • Ownership of copyright
  • Deadlines
  • Revision policy
  • Deliverables (e.g., cover design, front, back, and spine for both paperback and hardcover, file types)

Will they receive credit for their work? Personally, I like crediting the artist, but that’s up to you.

What if they fail to deliver on time?

What if you are not satisfied?

Specify the terms of termination or cancellation.

Remember, communication throughout the entire process will be key to your satisfaction. Be as specific as possible so they know exactly what you want and what is expected from them. The more information you can give, the happier you’ll be.

Next Steps

Once your book is illustrated and the final artwork is ready, it’s not ready for publishing. Unless your artist has taken care of these services, your book will still need cover design and interior formatting. Luckily for you, BookFuel’s Children’s Book Self-Publishing Packages offer everything you need to get your book published and to market.

Happy writing!

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