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Advice needed about fees and starting out

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bringiton

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Hi all, I was wondering if anyone could share some words of wisdom with me...

I have been promoting myself as an artist this year and joined several sites to get my name out there. I have been getting a lot of great feedback on my work and have several projects planned for next year. One of these artists sites runs in conjunction with a story site for professional and non professional authors.

To cut a long story short I have agreed to illustrate 2 books next year but am doing what all you pros will scream at me for doing, Im doing it for the love of it and not asking for any money. My dream is to share my work with others so I am more than happy to illustrate these and just take the payment when the books are published and royalties earned. Both will be published and the authors already have publishers lined up. I love the fact that my work has had such a positive response on people and just want to share it as much as I possibly can, if I make some money as well then great but to be honest just having the challenges of producing different types of work and seeing the joy they bring is enough for me at the moment. Im adding to my portfolio and practicing my skills at the same time so Im sure it will all help for me to reach my goals eventually

Has any of you done this kind of thing before, I know you are all professionals but you must have started somewhere? I haven't got a clue what I'm talking about and just want to sound like I'm a little clued up when the issue of payment comes up. Would some kind of contract need to be signed before the publishing date and if so who would do that? Any advice would greatly be appreciated or if you could steer me in the right direction :)

Thanks
Corrina
#1 - December 22, 2010, 09:02 AM
« Last Edit: December 22, 2010, 09:38 AM by corrinas creations »

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The same advice on pricing was just answered here: http://www.verlakay.com/boards/index.php?topic=52569.0

The reason we "scream" not to do what you are doing is because of 2 things. 1 is 99% of self published books never make a dime, so you won't see a penny. In traditional publishing the publisher picks and PAYS the illustrator. 2 is by you working for free, the entire industry (other illustrators) work's value is diminished.

Yes you need a contract.
#2 - December 22, 2010, 09:17 AM
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Hm...I see this kind of question sometimes and I wonder that maybe art school doesn't have much of a focus on children's book illustration in general. ?? Because there is a "normal" way illustration contracts are handled in the professional publishing world, and yet new illustrators often seem to get caught in this sort of situation, wanting to get their name out there, but not having much background knowledge in the industry.

In traditional publishing, editors buy picture book texts from authors. Art directors collect samples from prospective illustrators. The publisher (NOT the author) pairs up the already-purchased text with an illustrator they feel would be the best match. Maybe the author is new and the illustrator has a track record, so people would be more likely to take a chance on a new author and buy the book because they already know the illustration style. Maybe the author has a track record and can help carry a new illustrator into the world. Maybe both are new but the pairing is just amazing and the publisher feels pretty sure it will sell well. But the main point here is, the author does not hire the illustrator. The publisher does. And both sign contracts and the royalties/advance are split between them (sometimes evenly, sometimes not).

Illustrating a full picture book is a very large investment of time and supplies, and my suggestion would be to always sign a clear contract before embarking on the work. Perhaps too late in this scenario, but for future reference, yes. (Or on second thought--perhaps you would like to research the publisher in this case before signing anything...)

Without any more specifics than you've given, I can't tell what kind of publisher this is that you will be working with. However, it doesn't sound like "regular" publishing. Is it POD? Self publishing? Fully illustrating a 32 page picture book for self-publishing purposes might be educational in your illustration development, but I would not expect much in the royalty department. PBs are expensive to produce. Traditional publishers have the means to produce en masse at a lower production cost, but POD or self publishing production costs are generally higher, which means that the price for buyers is generally higher than normal, and it is less likely that the average person will want to shell out that much extra money--especially as POD and self publishing have much more limited distribution. (Just because it's available "on the internet") doesn't mean that strangers will know where to find it.)

If they want you to pay any money for the book to be published--RUN.

I'm not trying to be discouraging--it may well turn out to be a good venture. But I do want you to go into this with open eyes on how the industry works in general so you can make the kinds of decisions you will be happy about in the long run.

Generally speaking, if you want to "get your name out there" and get illustration projects, keep developing your portfolio, and send postcard samples to the art departments of publishers who do the kind of books you'd like to do. I suggest joining SCBWI (the Society of Children's Writers and Illustrators) and checking out this site: http://yellapalooza.com/ (for specific illustrator information). Also, check out any publishers first at places like here, absolutewrite.com, or Preditors and Editors (http://pred-ed.com/). Good luck!
#3 - December 22, 2010, 09:31 AM

bringiton

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Thanks for the feedback, was certainly an eye opener! There is obviously a great deal I don't know about the industry and my apologies for sounding so naive.

The first book was a collection of short stories for teens and would have been published via the site and then available via amazon, it did sound more like self publishing. The 2nd, the author said she had a publisher that she has published with before, will ask for the name. This would have been a children's book. I know the chance of making money are very slight, but I want to start somewhere and it would be great to add to the portfolio even if nothing comes of it.

Once I have done a few then I will contact the publishers as suggested and see if there is an interest out there. I'm not trying to devalue what you do, I'm just trying to get started. I'm fed up of people telling me I'm wasting myself, I know I can do this I just need to get my foot in the door :)
#4 - December 22, 2010, 09:59 AM

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SYoon may disagree with me. She's entitled to her opinion.

However, design and illustration done on speculation (what you are entering into) is not recommended by many industry organizations and leaders. Here is a link to the AIGA take on working for free http://www.aiga.org/content.cfm/position-spec-work. Here is another article from Escape from Illustration Island http://escapefromillustrationisland.com/2010/02/27/spec-work-confessional/ and http://escapefromillustrationisland.com/2010/01/21/how-spec-work-hurts-your-business/. There is even a web site focused totaly on the topic of spec work http://www.no-spec.com/.There are numerous other articles if you do a google search.

Working fro free while hoping you may get paid, or that you can use the resulting art in your portfolio rarely works out well for the artist. I am not saying never, I do know some people who have been successful and happy doing what you propose. However they are rare and very much the exception.

If you want portfolio pieces, create your own projects where you can control the final outcome, where you can be sure the final piece is color correct and printed to its best advantage. If you want to illustrate children's literature start small, by submitting your sample work to magazines and newsletters. These legitimate markets will often pay you and can be added as clients to your resume.

When working with a self publisher or vanity press author, there are a great many pitfalls because of the lack of experience on their part. They do not know the market, what will sell or how to work as an art director to make your art the best it can be. They often have ideas of their own about the art and will micro manage your illustrations to the point where you want to tear you hair out in frustration.

It is in the end, your choice, and maybe you will be lucky to find one of the rare good situations. If you decide to continue to pursue this, I wish you the best of luck.
#5 - December 22, 2010, 12:50 PM
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Has any of you done this kind of thing before, I know you are all professionals but you must have started somewhere? I haven't got a clue what I'm talking about and just want to sound like I'm a little clued up when the issue of payment comes up. Would some kind of contract need to be signed before the publishing date and if so who would do that? Any advice would greatly be appreciated or if you could steer me in the right direction :)

I have to chime in with Lyon on this - this does devalue what the rest of us are doing- and so does not being educated about the "right" way to pursue an illustration career- it is not rocket science -every Childrens Writers and Illustrators Market guide, Artist and Graphic  Designer's guide and about a hundred blogs and web articles will give you the basics and declare red flags on the course you are considering - there are no short cuts in this industry- and that is what you are wanting to go on and asking us if it is okay-  a picture book is 6 mths of you life- and do you really want to invest that time in a pursuit what is very unlikely to pay off- or spend that time educating yourself- Holli Conger's blog the whole month is a mini lesson  on freelance illustrating- developing a website portfolio, networking with professional illustrators and ADs and marketing yourself- because that is what professional illustrators do- and there are industry standards for fees and contracts- what we are willing to do to get a head does effect other freelance illustrators- in my opinion.
#6 - December 22, 2010, 01:56 PM

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Olmue, Lyon, JuliaK and SYoon have made some great points here already, but I'll just add one more. Please check into who the people/companies are that you will be doing the artwork for very carefully. In this day of internet searches, you want to be sure that you are not going to regret seeing work out there with your name on it years from now. Check their sites and look at the quality of the books they have produced and compare them to books by traditional publishers. If you'd never buy one of their books yourself, that's not a good sign. Sometimes being published badly can be worse than not being published at all when you are ready to start pursuing this professionally.

If you want to build a portfolio or improve your skills, one common trick is to take an older story that is in the public domain (you can do a quick search that will give you a list of these stories) and illustrate it, you don't have to do the whole 32 pages of illustrations, but 6-8 illustrations from the story will let an AD know that you can carry illustrations through a story.

And people on these boards are some of the most supportive and encouraging you'll find anywhere, if you keep coming here you will learn a lot!!

Good luck with whatever you decide to do.

 :goodluck

ETA: I didn't mean that the illustrations of a public domain story would be all you should have in your portfolio, but it's a way to show the same character in different types of scenes with different emotions.
#7 - December 22, 2010, 04:19 PM
« Last Edit: December 22, 2010, 04:29 PM by Artemesia »
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It has been covered very well here. Sometimes, when people hear you are trying to illustrate and write children's books . . . for me personally, they seem to block out the "writing" part and offer their latest story of which I will have the honor of illustrating. While I may appreciate the generosity of offering my time/materials/etc for their short text, I gently have to decline. I've got a few requests on my site along the same vein . . . and one even saying they were a publisher seeking illustrators. With the latter, I copied and pasted the email to my crit group and was directed to a thread here where someone referenced the same sort of email. It's always best to investigate before agreeing on anything. An entire picture book is a lot of work to build portfolio material. For one, you may not be able to use it in it's entirety on your site based on the agreement, and for another, you want a variety showing the different characters you can master/ animals/human/aquatic/ and the different situations/scenes you place your characters in. One Picture Book generally does not give that blanket coverage of your abilities for your children's book portfolio.

There are online resources for illustrators to serve as inspiration and to motivate such as Illustration Friday. Our SCBWI Region is offering challenges for our illustrators and we have a traveling art display for our participants. The current challenge is to take a specific story from the two that we've selected with human MC's and render them as anthropomorphic. These sort of things help to inspire, challenge, and build a portfolio. As Artemesia said, taking a story that is in public domain and making a picture book dummy  is perfect for showing your abilities to pace, change viewpoints, and show consistency of character.

You've come to a great place for input . . . Happy Creating!
#8 - December 22, 2010, 05:15 PM
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bringiton

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Thanks all so much for the great feedback and my apologies to those that are offended, I probably didn't word things as best as I should. I do appreciate the time you have taken out to reply to this and will take everything on board. There is some valuable information here which I am very grateful for. I am fully aware these are not professional jobs and just see them as experience but the whole being badly published affecting a possible career... well thats certainly given me food for thought.

Wishing you all a merry Christmas and will do more research if I post anything on here again
#9 - December 23, 2010, 12:17 AM

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If you want to create a picture book dummy and are on Twitter, We @kidlitart will be hosting a picture book dummy challenge. #pbdummy is the hash tag to follow along.

The challenge kicks off on Jan. 6 (@kidlitart's 1 year anniversary) Visit http://kidlitart.blogspot.com/ to learn more.

The challenge is to create a dummy package ready to submit to traditional publishers by mid year. We have lots of chats planned to help both new comer and support seasoned pro in making a stellar dummy from blank page to submission each step of the way. :cheerleader
#10 - December 23, 2010, 07:01 AM
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Don't feel bad, Corrina! This is actually a question I see a LOT (like, almost word for word) from people just starting out. It makes me think that maybe book illustration get skipped over a bit in art school... And even books about writing picture books usually focus on the writer, assuming they know nothing about illustration, and urging them not to worry about that part. So the fact that you are here asking questions and trying to go about things in the best way is a GOOD thing.  :yup

Best of luck in all your artistic endeavors!
#11 - December 23, 2010, 07:25 AM

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What Olmue said!! We welcome people new to the industry, and people here are happy to answer questions and share knowledge to help those just starting out!  :yoda
#12 - December 23, 2010, 09:00 AM
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