For the self-publisher

for the self publisherYou’ve written a children’s book. It’s been revised, edited, spell-checked within an inch of its life. Now you’re ready to get it ready for publication. You’ve decided against getting a traditional publisher for any number of reasons and looked into becoming a self-publisher. Now you need an illustrator. This is a big step. What do you need to know to hire an illustrator? What will the illustrator need from you? It is my hope that you will find all the information you’re looking for below. Once you’ve crossed your tees and dotted your eyes, decided my style suits your story, I look forward to hearing from you.

Things to consider when looking for an outstanding illustrator.

What do I need to know before hiring an illustrator?

  • Know what you’re looking for: every artist has their own style. Look at their portfolio and decide if what you see there suits the story and flavor of your book.
  • Determine your book’s style: Many artist are versatile, but no one can do every style of art well. Choose an artist who has artwork on display that fits your needs.
  • Know your reader: How old are they, what gender, what kinds of things do they like, what kinds of things do they dislike, where do they live, how can you market to them. Saying your book is for everyone isn’t helpful. No book is for everyone. Be specific. The more you know about your potential customer, the better your illustrator will be able to provide art suited to your market.
  • What other books are available in the same genre/topic as yours: Knowing your competition will help you make your book stand out in a sea of material. It will help you pin-point where your book stands out from the crowd. Knowing how your book is unique to others of its kind will help allow it to shine. Knowing this information is helpful to your illustrator when designing cover art. Readers determine whether they will even pick up your book, let alone purchase it based on your cover art. Yes, in the book biz, people really DO judge a book by the over.
  • Visit a lot of artists’ web sites: Do they specialize in the type of art appropriate for your book? Does their color choice appeal to you? Do they have samples of the kind of people or animals in your book? Do they have a variety of age groups, perspectives and settings in their sample art? Is what’s in their portfolio suited to what your book is about? With so much hinging on the artwork, take your time on this step. The illustrations can make or break your story.
  • Does the illustrator have book experience: There are a huge number of very talented illustrators and artist. Some of them may even want to illustrate a children’s book. Book illustration is a very specialized field. An inexperienced artist may not know about things that are absolutely vital for printing a reproduction in book format. Check their client list. Have they worked with any clients whose names you recognize? Have they illustrated the type of book you have? Is their work of a consistent high quality in their portfolio display? Google their name and see if they come up in any search results.
  • You get what you pay for: Some artist charge more than others. Hiring a student or your next door neighbor’s sister’s kid, no matter how talented, because they cost far less than a professional will just garner you student quality work. Plus, what do they know about working with a printer, preparing files for reproduction and what to do in terms of mechanical and layout while creating the snazzy art? There is a host of things an illustrator needs to be aware of beyond making a pretty picture.

What your illustrator might ask before agreeing to work on your project

  • The details of your book: Before an illustrator can discuss a book project, they will need to know details about that project. Be prepared to describe the story, the audience or provide a copy of the manuscript for the illustrator to review. A professional illustrator gets a lot of queries from prospective clients, the more details you can provide, the more likely they are to take your request seriously.
  • What will the artwork be used for: Illustrators earn their living by selling the rights (copyrights) to their work. Whether you are asking them to create a new character for your book, or you’ve seen something in their portfolio you’d like to use, the artist needs to know where, how and for how long you plan to use the art. The answers to these questions help to determine which rights you need and how much those rights will cost.
  • What the project and artwork will consist of: How many illustrations? What size? What orientation? Where will the art be seen? What is your budget? What is your deadline? Who is your printer? What is the name of the contact person at your printer?
  • What is your contact information: Your name, your email, snail mail address, phone number. When is the best time to reach you? What is the best method to reach you by?
  • Are you the only person working on this project: Will there be more than one person reviewing art? Who is the main contact person? Who makes the final decisions regarding art? How is the best way to contact the decision maker?
  • What is your budget: Creating  book art is a labor intensive occupation. Some artists work faster than others, but in all likelihood, a professional illustrator will need to make a livable wage. Be prepared to pay accordingly. If your book will take several months to illustrate, expecting the artist to accept less than several thousand dollars is unreasonable. Remember — you get what you pay for. Low budget wages will equal cut-rate art. Isn’t your book worth the best art you can afford?
  • Contract and deposits: A professional illustrator will have a contract outlining what you can expect in terms of final deliverables, what rights are purchased and a timeline outlining when to expect to see progress on your project. The contract may also include things like deposits, taxes and expenses related to shipping or model photo shoots. Most artists will not begin work until a contract has been signed and a deposit received. There may be a kill fee clause outlining what happens if the project is cancelled.

As you can see there is a lot of information needed to find the right illustrator for your project. Taking your time before hiring an illustrator will help ensure that the process is enjoyable for both you and the illustrator. Working with an illustrator should be a fun and exciting experience. Finding someone you work well with will help the creative process. A smooth client – artist relationship will be a creative melding of the minds – culminating in a book you will be proud to show off.