FAQs – Hiring an illustrator for your book

I just wrote a picture book, will you illustrate it?

This is a two-part answer.

1. If you plan to pursue traditional publishing routes you do not need an illustrated manuscript. Publishers will choose an illustrator whom they feel will add to the story. Don’t hire me, your neighbor’s son or the college kid down the block. Not only will you be wasting their time and your money, sending illustrations with your manuscript will mark you as an amateur. It will also be a strike against your book making it out of the slush pile into editorial review.

2. If you plan to self-publish or publish through a vanity press (one you pay to have your book ‘published’) and plan on hiring an illustrator, please be aware that I illustrate for a living. In order for me to do a good job for you, I need time and money. Typical books take me 6-9 months to complete. If I am going to commit to spending the better part of a year working on your book, I will need to be adequately compensated. Even a minimum wage worker would receive several thousand dollars over the 6-9 month period. It is unfair and unreasonable to expect an illustrator to accept less.

Do you have a price list?

No. Book illustration is not purchased like a pound of butter or a dining room table. Illustration is something that is closer to renting a car or a hotel room. Costs depend on what you plan to use the illustration for, how long and in what parts of the world. It also has to do with the number of books (or magazines) being printed.

To further the analogy, when you rent a car, you have use of the car for a set period of time, within a specific geographical area, for an agreed upon number of miles. If for any reason you use the car outside of the contract terms, you are expected to pay additional fees. A luxury vehicle will cost more than the compact.

Illustration rates are based on the rights (copyrights) you agree to purchase, for how long and in which geographical areas. A contract is drawn up saying how much the rights you are requesting will cost, how the artist will be compensated and other terms. The more rights you request, the higher the cost of use of the art. You do not own the art, only the right to use it as agreed upon. If you use it outside of the terms of the agreement you will have to pay additional fees.

Expect to pay several thousand dollars for basic usage rights in a picture book when hiring an illustrator. (typically 32 pages)

I’ve decided to self-publish my children’s book. What do you need from me?

First, let me congratulate you on having created a book. That’s huge accomplishment!

Before I can decide whether to illustrate your book, I will need to see a professionally edited and formatted manuscript. You did hire an editor to make sure your book baby is ready for prime-time didn’t you? If I like your story, and feel I can create art in keeping with its tone and style, and have an opening in my schedule, I will agree to talk to you about being your illustrator.

You should have a budget in mind when hiring an illustrator. Remember, it takes me, on average, 5-9 months to create professional quality illustrations for a 32 page picture book. Please have a dollar amount in mind that is reasonable in terms of compensation for that time period.

You should also know who will be printing the book, what the final dimensions of the book are (trim size) and whether your printer can provide me with their template guide. You should have decided on a hard or soft cover, because they are produced differently and require different art from me. It is also very helpful if I can talk (or email directly with the printer.) I strongly suggest finding a printer that specializes in picture books since they have their own idiosyncrasies and require extra care to produce a high quality product.

It would be helpful if you know what text will go on what pages. This is called “page breaks” and will help me illustrate the book to the best of my ability.

Picture books are 32 pages. Some of those pages are reserved for copyright information, title pages and if applicable your author notes, glossary or any other back matter. Usually 3-5 pages are reserved for these items. That leaves 27-29 pages with art. My style is to paint pages by spreads. Spreads are the two pages that show together when a book is opened in front of the reader. That means I will be providing you with 14 to 15 final paintings. Please keep this in mind when developing your page breaks in your text.

I cannot begin your book until I know the final size, have a template from your printer, how it will be printed, what kind of cover it has, and what text will be on each page or spread. All these things determine how I design the art for an optimum reading experience.

When we agree on a price and delivery date, I will send you a contract to sign and request a non-refundable 50% retainer to begin work on your book. The contract will include what I will provide for you in terms of art and copyrights.

Use the convenient contact form below or call (314) 403-2075 and leave a message. Thank you.


I have a book I want you to illustrate. Can you copy Artist X’s style?

I have samples of the style of art I work in on my web site. I have spent a life-time perfecting a style that is recognizable as my own. This is the style of art I will provide. When Hiring an illustrator look for samples in the artist’s portfolio that match the style you’d like for you book.

If you like Artist X’s style, find their website, contact them and ask if they would be willing to illustrate your children’s book.

If Artist X is no longer accepting commissions, for whatever reason, there are probably a lot of artists working in a style similar to theirs. Google is your friend when hiring an illustrator. There are any number of portfolio sites showcasing hundreds of artists for you to choose from.

Back to my car analogy: If you go into a Ford dealership wanting to buy a Toyota, the dealer won’t be able to help you.

Will you draw me sample art if I send you a picture?

I often have requests from aspiring book authors to send them illustration samples of their daughter, niece or neighbor’s child, depending on whom they wrote their book about.

I illustrate for a living. I do not, nor can I afford to work for free.

A commission of a specific child’s likeness will be considered a portrait.  The same goes for pets.

Portraits can be commissioned for $1000. All commissions will require a signed contract and a retainer. This common practice when hiring an illustrator.

Do you  have a “real” job?

I am a full-time illustrator. Creating art is my “real” job and has been since 1985.

I work a regular 8 hour day, 5 days a week. I keep regular office hours. I am in my studio, working, Monday through Friday, from 7:30 AM until 4:00 PM every day except some holidays.

I often work over time, evenings and weekends when I have a deadline approaching or a rush job comes in.

I spend weekends with my family, running errands and relaxing just like anyone else who works for a living.

If I send you my story, what guarantee do I have you won’t steal it?

In business, both parties need to place trust in each other to get the job done. You’ll just have to trust the artist you hire. And the editor and the printer and the distributor. That’s part of doing business.

Many new authors are sure they have such a unique and glorious idea that someone else will snatch up and run with if they don’t safeguard it.

This just isn’t so. Over the years, I have seen a great many manuscripts. Rarely is one so unique and glorious that I say to myself, “gee, I wish that were my idea.” If the story is about a family member or a friend’s child, a death or illness of a loved one or how you adopted your delightful family pet, I’ve already seen dozens along the same lines.

I have a backlog of 4 dozen personal story ideas of I haven’t had time to get to yet. Honestly, I just don’t need any more ideas.

I want to buy all rights to your art for my book.

It is unlikely that you will need or ever use all rights to the art I create for your book. I will grant you the appropriate usage and terms needed to use the illustrations for book rights.

If you still insist on buying all copyrights, be prepared to pay an appropriate amount for them. This can be anywhere from $10,000 and up.

Can you send me a copy of one of your books?

I have to pay for the books like anyone else. No author or illustrator receives an unlimited number of books to hand out to anyone who asks.

The publisher sends out review copies to a select few. I can suggest names, but have no control over who will receive the review books.

If you are short on funds, go to your local library and ask them to add the book to their collection. If they can’t for any reason, ask if they can arrange to get a copy from another library. I do this all the time at my local library through inter-library exchange. It costs me nothing but a little patience.

I’m a student writing a paper. Will you answer a few questions for me?

The typical email I receive with this question has between 6 to a dozen questions. Even if I could answer each question in less than five minutes (I can’t) I would be spending a lot of time replying to emails like this. Most questions are so general, a quick search on the internet will be adequate research for any paper.

I keep office hours like any other business. I have a list of projects with deadlines and due dates. I have to spend my working time – well, working. After my work hours, I have family and personal obligations. I also need to eat and sleep. And somewhere in all that, I also need to relax and unwind.

I’m sorry, but I just don’t have time.

I am happy to answer SPECIFIC questions about my work or my books. I try to reply to every fan letter I receive even if it’s only to say thanks.

I just wrote a picture book. Will you tell me who to send it to?

There are a great many reference books and web sites available with this information. Please use your search engine, visit your local library or book store to find them. Amazon, Barnes & Noble and your local library or independent book seller are your best bet for finding printed resources.

I want to write/illustrate children’s books. Do you have any advice?

The best thing I ever did was to join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. The membership fee is reasonably affordable. Members receive many benefits and advice.

If you want to write children’s books, you need to read them. Go to the book store, to the library, join GoodReads and use their book exchange program. I read hundreds of books a year. A majority of them are picture books and middle-grade fiction. I spend hours visiting other children’s book illustrators’ web sites.

There are dozens of books on writing in general, and many on writing for children in particular.

There are dozens of web sites and blogs about writing and illustrating for children. The Purple Crayon, Verla Kay’s Blue Boards and Yellapalooza are some good ones. Visit them, read all the information there, become involved in the kid lit community.


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