So you want to self-publish a children’s book. You have done your research, picked a profitable category and niche, figured out your keywords, and you just sent your manuscript off to the editor. Now it’s time to think about illustrations. There are many misconceptions about illustrations and illustrators. Today I’m going to enlighten you about what you should know about children’s book illustrations.
What You Should Know About Children’s Book Illustrations.
It always amazes me about what people either don’t know or what people think the standard is. I follow an amazing author named Jonathan Green who was recently talking about publishing a children’s book. He didn’t know how much pictures for a book cost or how to find a good illustrator. Is this his fault? Absolutely not. He just hadn’t had the time to do much research yet and asked members of his ‘tribe’ about it. Those of us in his group were able to give him some feedback which was great.
Then today on Quora, which is a question and answer forum, a professional illustrator told someone that they should expect to pay around $5,000 for the pictures in their book. This person also preceded to answer that there are other illustrators out there that will charge less because they are desperate for work and you get what you pay for. I about choked on my coffee. That is insane. I don’t know how she has any work. I’m self-published and I could never afford illustrations at that price. Rest assured my fellow writers, it doesn’t have to be this way. You can find a great illustrator without spending your life savings. Here is what you need to know about children’s book illustrations.
How to Find an Illustrator, Questions to Ask, etc.
Finding a good illustrator-You can do an online search for illustrators and you will come up with loads and loads of answers. You can hire one direct, through a society, or on a platform like Fiverr or Upwork. Personally, it drives me crazy when people dis on people who are on platforms like Fiverr. Everyone has to start somewhere. Not everyone on there is crap. Granted, you have to do your research and choose the best option for you, but don’t let this totally scare you. I believe that if you look hard enough, you will find the diamonds in the rough. A friend of mine recently had her illustrations done by a guy on Fiverr. He did a good job and she was happy with it.
There are a few places you can look for illustrators:
*Hire someone directly from their web site
*Facebook Groups (think Author and Illustrator groups)
*Book Expos and Events
*Other local authors in your area
Questions to Ask.
There are many questions you will want to ask your illustrator. Things like:
How long have you been doing illustrations?
Did you have an formal training in how to draw?
What is your process?
How long have you been illustrating?
How much do you charge? (Some illustrators charge so much for x amount of pictures in a package while others charge by the illustration. Also keep in mind that black & white pictures are less expensive than color.)
How many revisions do I get?
You can read my interview with Jeanine Henning, who did the covers and illustrations for my children’s books, Don’t Eat Your Boogers (You’ll Turn Green) and Brock’s Bad Temper (And The Time Machine) for more questions to ask your illustrator. If you like her style and would like to find out more you can visit her web site here.
Matching Your Vision with Theirs.
When Jeanine and I start a project, she sends me a spec sheet I have to fill out. I tell her how many characters, what each character should look like, how many scenes, what each scene should look like and various other details. From there she does a sketch of my main character and sends it over.
Once I approve, she adds inks and sends it over. Once I approve again, she sends over the final illustration. This way, if changes need to be made they can be done along the way. She does the same thing when she creates my covers. She is absolutely amazing to work with and we always seem to be on the same page. 🙂
I lucked out by finding someone who is so much fun, easy to work with, and who draws in the exact style I wanted. Make sure you know exactly what you want, pick someone whose style you love and you should be good. If you’re not happy, have the illustrator revise it. If it still isn’t what you want, you may have to cut your losses and start over with some new talent.
A Word On Cost.
I’m not going to sugar coat it, publishing a children’s book does not come cheap. However, as I mentioned above, you don’t have to put your life savings on the line either. My first book cost me under a grand and my second cost me a little over a grand for cover/illustrations. Sure this is a chunk, but it’s a far cry from the $5000 mentioned above. Keep in mind that sometimes illustrators offer packages of pictures for so much and that black and white illustrations cost way less. So there are ways to save money here and there. However, I’m not suggesting going for black and white when you truly want color. You have to do what is true to you and your project.
Despite the cost, children’s books are a lot of fun to do. Don’t let the financial aspect scare you away, there are lots of options out there and you are guaranteed to find a great illustrator that meets your needs and budget. There is nothing more exciting than to watch your characters come to life via someone else’s talent. It’s kind of like having a child via book form. What will they look like? For me, once I get the first sketch it’s usually love at first sight. With a great story, awesome illustrations and a solid marketing plan, you are bound to publish an amazing book.