Pitch Pick # 5 AND Oh Susanna: How Do You FInd And Pay For Illustrators?

Happy Monday Morning Everyone!

In case you need a little cuteness to start your week (or maybe spark a story) here is some cute overload for you 🙂

cute overload piglet 🙂

Doesn’t your day feel brighter and happier now?  Really, how could it not in the face of that extreme cuteness?! 🙂

I have about 30 things I want to share with you today, but that would really take too long, so I’m going to keep it down to 2.  (Very restrained of me, don’t you think?)

First, the December/January Pitch Pick.  Because of the holidays, we only had 2 pitches in December, so they’ve been added into January’s for the vote.

Here is your quick pitch pick refresher:  (try saying “quick pitch pick” three times fast, especially on Monday morning :))

#1 Christie 1

Working Title:  Draggin’ My Tail
Age/Genre: PB
The Pitch:  Orville the dragon loves to fly, but when he quits breathing fire, his wings fail him.  Orville has to figure out how to get his fire back so he can lift off again.
#2  Vicki
Working Title:  Finding Sophie
Age/Genre:  YA
The Pitch:  When Sophie is forced backward in time to 1895 Paris, she takes the identity of a missing Jewish girl and falls for a young Zionist. As the window home closes, Sophie must decide whether to unlock a mysterious heirloom’s secrets and return to her own life of a potential prima ballerina, or live as someone else in the past and lose herself forever.

#3  Abby
Working Title:  What If?
Age/Genre:  Early Picture Book (ages 2-5)
The Pitch:  Little Lucy has a vivid imagination which shines through all of the “what if” questions she asks about the world around her.  With her creative perspective on things, the world holds limitless possibilities for both her and the reader.

#4  Jane
Working Title:  Nana, I Miss You
Age/Genre:  Picture Book
The Pitch:  Jamie, who wants to spend time with his nana, is upset because she becomes seriously ill.  But her thoughtful gift, when she finally goes into a hospice, reveals her love and gives him a new interest.

#5  Margaret

Working Title:  Home Is Where The Bird Is
Age/Genre:  Picture Book
The Pitch:  Bird thought he found his perfect birdhouse – until he encountered the mouse living inside.  After a feather-raising experience house hunting on his own, Bird asks Mouse for help.  Mouse leads Bird on a hilarious tour of unconventional housing options.  As winter looms, will Bird accept anything but his perfect birdhouse?


#6  Christie 2

Working Title:  Solomon’s Raisin Farm
Age/Genre:  PB
The Pitch:  Last year, Solomon was finally old enough to help with the harvesting of the raisins, but it rained. This year, he prays for no rain so the crops won’t get ruined and the family can make money at the festival. Will the rain hold off this year so Solomon can finally prove to his family that he really is old enough to help out?

OY!  What a tough choice!  But please vote for your favorite below.

<a href=”http://polldaddy.com/poll/5889704/”>Pitch Pick #5</a>

The poll will be open until, oh, let’s say Wednesday Feb. 1 at 11:59 PM EST.  I think I can squeeze announcing the winner in with Friday’s Perfect Picture Book 🙂

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for, our very first installment of Oh Susanna!  Wouldn’t you know the very first question to come in was a REALLY hard one!  One might even call it a doozy!  But I am too much of a play-by-the-rules type to skip it and start with an easier one 🙂 so here it is…

Joanna asks:

I have a manuscript that I have written for uTales (eBooks), and am struggling to find an illustrator as they are either too busy or don’t want to do the 50/50 standard uTales collaboration, but want money up front, which I do understand. I am not sure I want to go this route, but have been wondering where to go to find out how much one would pay an illustrator independently for a typical length PB? and what sort of contract would be drawn up? i.e. Who then owns the book etc?

Well, Joanna, you have asked a question that is out of the realm of my experience.  But here’s what I think:


I’m guessing the answer to this may be on a person-by-person basis.  Different people are going to feel comfortable with different arrangements.  I can understand why an illustrator would want to be paid up front – doing the illustrations would be a big investment of time and energy – but if that isn’t workable or comfortable for you perhaps it’s a question of finding an illustrator who is willing to work “on spec” so to speak.  Right in our own 12X12 group there are any number of talented illustrators.  Many more on LinkedIn.  Perhaps you can post (in Linked In groups, 12X12, Children’s Book Hub, etc.) that you’re looking for an illustrator willing to work on spec.  An illustrator who is looking to break into picture books might be more willing to wait for the pay off because of the opportunity for a publishing credit.  Even if the project doesn’t end up selling, the illustrator would  own the illustrations and could use them as part of his/her portfolio and will be able to show future interested parties that they are capable of producing a picture book length work.  If you’re up front about what you want, hopefully you’ll get responses from people who are interested in doing it that way.

As for the standard fee, I’d be very interested to know the answer to that too!  My experience to date has been with publishers who choose and pay for the illustrators, so I have not been involved in paying illustrators.  In traditional publishing, the deal is 50/50 – the author and the illustrator usually get the same amount (so I’m told :))  They get paid an advance and an agreed upon percentage of royalties.  The publisher keeps the percentage until the advance has earned out.  After that, the author and illustrator receive the royalties, usually twice a year.  (For clarity’s sake, if you get an advance of $1000 and a 5% royalty on a book that retails for $16.95, you’ll earn .85 for each book sold, so you have to sell about 1177 books to earn out your advance.  After that, you get .85 for every book sold delivered in a royalty check twice a year.)

For uTales it looks as though you must submit a completed ms along with illustrations, but that doesn’t guarantee uTales will accept your project.  Is that correct?  If they accept it, then you and the illustrator would each get 50%.  The problem, if I’m understanding, is if they don’t accept.  Then you have both put in a lot of time and effort for no publishing contract.  I’m guessing that is where your question about who owns what comes in.  I would think a fairly simple contract would suffice – you own the story and they own the illustrations.  However, if you have to pay for the illustrations up front for a project that doesn’t sell, than you have technically bought the illustrations and should own them.  Or if you pay up front for a project that does sell, you should get all the proceeds until your expense has ben covered.  Any deal is workable as long as you’re very clear about the parameters and both parties are happy with the arrangement.  If you reach the point of having a completed book that didn’t sell, however, nowadays you have the option of self-publishing.  There are many possibilities here, and if you and the illustrator agree to split proceeds 50/50 this could be another way the illustrator could end up getting compensation for his/her work. 

But Joanna and I would now both love to hear from all of you!!!  Have you hired an illustrator?  How did you handle the rights and payment?  Have you done a project for uTales or a similar entity?  How did you manage it?  Are you an illustrator?  What is your standard fee (or what have you heard is the going rate?)  Please share your knowledge and experience!  Joanna and I (and I’m guessing a lot of our readers, because this is a very interesting question!) will be eagerly awaiting your input!



52 thoughts on “Pitch Pick # 5 AND Oh Susanna: How Do You FInd And Pay For Illustrators?

  1. Joanna Marple says:

    CUTE piglet. My jan MS for 12×12 is about a piglet!

    Thanks so much for answering my question, Susanna. I am indeed part of a collaborative project for uTales that a bunch of us are doing for free, to raise money for Pencils of Promise. Yes, the normal deal with uTales is that there is a 50/50 split, but that is assuming the writer does not pay the illustrator anything up front, which is the route I am opting for. The main reason for this is that uTales is a startup and we are still seeing if it will really be an income earner, though I think it is a fabulous project. I am fairly certain that with some editing, my manuscript would be accepted. I think with perseverance I shall find an illustrator, especially as through this collaboration I am getting to know some wonderful illustrators in uTales. I love the Linkedin and 12×12 suggestion and will definitely try these. It is a winter story so I kind of wanted to get going on it now! Looking forward to other people's experiences as, though at this point I want to go the traditional publishing route, who knows about the future?

  2. Cathy Mealey says:

    Oh Susanna! That is a real cutting edge question. I learned a lot from your response and I want to wish Joanna the best in her quest for an illustrator.

    Voted on my fav pitch too!

  3. Catherine Johnson says:

    That was really hard to choose Susanna. I hope the others go on to submit they sound so good.

    Interesting question about on spec illustrators. It's very brave to do it yourself. I hope Joanna finds one soon.

  4. Susanna Leonard Hill says:

    I think uTales is fabulous too. I got invited to take part in a beta project awhile back and I had no idea what to was and didn't follow through – I wish I had! – but I'm very interested in exploring uTales now. I hope we'll get some input form some of those illustrators out there. I'm going to post the link to this post in 12X12 and keep my fingers crossed 🙂

  5. Joanna Marple says:

    There is a very interesting thread on this happening on Linkedin today! I see that unless you are fresh out of school, illustrators truly understandably won't work on spec. but it is giving me a great idea of how much they charge!

  6. Miranda Paul says:

    Awesome pitches…tough, but I made my choice! As for the illustrator question – While I am not an illustrator, as a book editor and author who has many stories published as digital apps, I do know a bit about the illustration process. Please note, I have never paid for illustrations (I actually get paid to write stories and have never self-published anything)…but several of my clients have hired illustrators. The going rates vary drastically. I've witnessed artists do illustrations for as low as $20 per page and as high as $300 per page in the digital realm. I don't know any that worked on spec, sorry – I know the client/publisher paid them up front, usually 1/2 in advance and 1/2 when all the illustrations were finalized and approved.

  7. Stacy S. Jensen says:

    I'm glad Miranda shared some rates. My first local SCWBI meeting involved more illustrators than writers. Several lamented about spec work. I hope some self-published writers will chime into the discussion about their rates paid for self-published picture books. There are some crowd source sites — where you throw out a price and people fight for the work — that might have people wanting work. Good luck.

  8. Niki Leonidou says:

    I happen to be an illustrator who has worked for more than ten years freelance and I would definitely go for a project that I would not be paid unless published, if it was an interesting one! But if I was to be looking for an illustrator, I would approach individually the ones I liked from organizations like The AOI and such… These organizations exist in several countries, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Germany and they have a lot of interesting artists together. I am always very happy to receive an email from an author who liked my work and has a proposition for me!! The only trouble with this kind of work is that if I have work from my agent or a publisher, I have to give priority to that… That is what pays the bills… I guess a lot of illustrators work like that. I hope that helps…

  9. Vicki Tremper says:

    My ebook publisher is actually dealing with this right now. It's a start-up company without prior illustration contacts. We found a great illustrator who did a beautiful watercolor sample for my chapter book, but she wants $150 per illustration and that's currently out of the realm of possibility for my publisher (since we'd need 7 illustrations).

    Anyway, thanks Susanna for the pitch opportunity!

    (Vicki/Brooke)

  10. Susanna Leonard Hill says:

    There are so many different things happening now that I think this is a very timely discussion. A lot of us who write but don't illustrate are interested in finding possible avenues for publishing in non-traditional ways. You're most welcome for the pitch – thank YOU for being brave enough to put it out there – and good luck! 🙂

  11. Renee LaTulippe says:

    I'm not an illustrator, but I am a freelancer, as is my graphic artist/illustrator brother. You would be amazed at how many people think “freelancer” means you work for free! I know that's not Joanna's case, of course, but I can tell you that no professional illustrator (or any other freelancer/artist) will work on spec — in fact, most of us won't even provide free mock-ups or sample edits. As for price, illustrators are very expensive, though cost will obviously vary based on experience, “fame,” demand, and so on. The best bet in Joanna's case is to find an aspiring illustrator (maybe a student or, as Susanna said, someone like one of us in 12×12) who perhaps wants to challenge herself. Since it's very likely that the illustrator isn't going to see a return on her work, such a project really does come down to an exercise in personal growth, honing skills, building a portfolio, etc.

    If you want to ensure that you get the best best best illustrations for your PB, though, it may very well be worth shelling out to pay for them up front. You might even be able to get them as “work for hire,” which means you will own them outright, no royalties involved. Good ol' Wikipedia explains it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Work_for_hire

    Susanna's advice about contracts is good — you can organize the project in many different ways, as long as everything is spelled out and everyone understands it. Hope that helps a bit!

  12. Susanna Leonard Hill says:

    Thanks for all this info and advice, Renee! You are a wealth of information. I hope everyone finds it helpful. I think the hard part is that, as the author that wrote the story, you've worked “on spec.” You put in tons of work, blood, sweat and tears to produce your ms with no guarantee that it will go anywhere. So I think it's natural to presume that there may be illustrators out there who are willing to do that too, for the chance to produce something that might be wonderful, because they may bot be able to write, so they may beed a story as a vehicle for their art. Sure, it's a gamble. But it always is.

  13. Leigh Covington says:

    That little piglet is SO cute I just want to snuggle it up forever! Awww – totally precious!

    And WOW – so much about illustration that I didn't know. I think I need to read it a few times just to absorb it all. This is great advice though. Another helpful tip to learn. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  14. Clarike Bowman-Jahn says:

    I already had a contract with my publisher when they actually gave me the go ahead to find and pay for my own illustrator. The contract they gave me gave me more royalties to use in this. I went to SCBWI to find out the going rates. The initial fee was exhorbitant and if you want specifics you can email me at Clarikebowmanjahn at yahoo dot com. I can go into fees there. However I also told my illustrator that I would split my royalties with her. So I lost my edge. Now I have to pay cash as well as royalties. A big mistake. AS it is she says she lost money on me because it took her longer than she thought it would to do all the art. I am happy with it and think she did a fantastic job but am glad I had a contract ahead of time. Especially now because there are problems out of the scope of this comment. I'll let all of you know about it in a blog post sometime in the future. But really Joanna, if you are interested in fees that I paid, email me and I'll be happy to go into it.
    Clar

  15. Susanna Leonard Hill says:

    This seems to be an issue that's cropping up – publishers who expect authors to find and pay for their own illustrators. Such a difference from traditional publishing! On the one hand it gives you much more creative control, but on the other hand it may lead to unexpected headaches…!

  16. Kelly McDonald says:

    I am a writer/illustrator, and have done work for private clients, and do have cover art published (digital) but not as yet published mainstream, and am currently working on a series for a writer, without pay. I would not normally, but the story and theme is my 'field' and is fun, and so i get to her images when i want to just play for a while. If it gets published, we will go half and half. The author has an agent(as do I), and i have no time frame to finish any of her work…. I have to make a living also, and the author knows that I complete her images in my spare time. I charge a reasonable fee for cover art, and it varies depending on if i am using my own stock, art or purchasing any. I have received as little as $200, and much more depending on what was asked for. I work closely with the author to get what 'they' are looking for also. I don't work often for free.. but I think if it is something that excites you.. and you want to be part of it, well, then, I may look at doing that.

  17. Beth Stilborn says:

    Re the O Susanna question: I have no experience here (and I haven't read the other comments) but I think if one was going to enter into a contract with someone, it would be wise to hire a contract attorney or entertainment attorney who knows the ins and outs of these things, rather than just drawing up an agreement on one's own, which may or may not hold up in a court of law (we'd hope it wouldn't come to that, of course). Especially if people in different countries were involved, I would advise this.

  18. Angela Brown says:

    Susanna, the piglet had me at Squee. Too cute.

    You're a good one to take on a topic that is a pretty tough one. Got to love it that you take it straight on per your word. I knew I had lots of reasons to like you, besides your great PB books, of course 🙂

  19. Joanna Marple says:

    Kelly, it is nice to know that on spec work does just very occasionally happen, if it is something that inspires the illustrator!

  20. Joanna Marple says:

    Niki, very helpful suggestions about the organizations. I sure understand that paid work would have to come first!

  21. Joanna Marple says:

    Renee, lots of helpful information here, thank you. There may be some profit in this, but I think it will take some time for uTales to become really well established. I think most of us are doing it because we like the group and their goals and we see it as a way to start getting out work out there.

  22. Susanna Leonard Hill says:

    Thank you, Angela! You are so sweet 🙂 I know you write for an older audience so illustrators probably aren't as crucial to your process, but in case you ever need a book cover… 🙂 (And I know – that piglet is just off the cuteness charts :))

  23. Peggy Eddleman says:

    Oh my gosh– that piglet is ADORABLE! (And for the record, my nickname in grade school was piglet. Mostly because I was the littlest. Not because I was that freaking adorable.) And I loved the pitches! Those were some really great ones.

  24. Brenda Harris says:

    As an artist/illustrator and writer I have read the comments with great interest. I would like to mention that the price an illustrator charges not only depends on his/her “fame”, but also on what medium is used and how comprehensive the illustrations are. It is not uncommon for an illustrator to take a week to do each page (and sometimes longer). Illustrators grapple with how detailed the illustration will be. Sometimes, characters are drawn with little or no background. At other times, the details in the illustration are drop dead gorgeous.

    I am a selfpublished ebook author/illustrator. I have epublished my first storybook. It has 13 illustrations. Each illustration took between 20 and 40 hours (depending on the complexity). For some of the illustrations I had to get background information. I had to study plants that grow in Texas and pick ones that were appropriate for the setting and mood. All this takes time. My illustrations were in pencil and ink. Hatching takes time. Color choice takes time, because it is so important. The colors must flow beautifully throughout the book.

    I would be interested in reading your manuscript. If it excites me, I would be willing to talk to you about illustrating your book. If you are interested, check out my illustrations at http://www.drawacircle.net, SBCWI website under illustrators, and Amazon (book title: Adolfo and Athena). For me, it is important that the writer of a selfpublished book like the style of the illustrator.

    It seems that some writers are shocked at the price some illustrators are charging. I would like to say that very few artists make a decent living at this profession. The desire to produce art work comes from the heart. If it did not, you would have a difficult time finding artists.

    Joanna, I wish you the best. I know how important it was for me to get my chapterbook published. So, I think I know how you must feel. I am currently working on a picture book. It will also be done in pencil and ink. But my third picture book will either be oil on canvas or pure graphics (we'll see). 🙂 Brenda A. Harris

  25. Susanna Leonard Hill says:

    Brenda, thank you so much for your very thoughtful and thorough reply. I'm sure Joanna will find it helpful – I know I do! I know from the author side of things that it usually takes an illustrator 5 months to a year to draw/paint a picture book, so I knew there was A LOT of work involved, but it's interesting to hear more detail. Like you said, I think it's very important both that the author like the illustrator's style and feel it fulfills their vision for the story and that the illustrator be excited and inspired by the story. But money always is an issue. We all love our art, but we all also have to try to make at least a bit of a living 🙂

  26. Joanna Marple says:

    Brenda somehow I missed this fabulous reply. Thank you so much for offering all these thoughts. I am not shocked at artist's prices when you consider how long it can take to illustrate a page! I shall most definitely check out your work. Good luck with your projects, Brenda!

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