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A friend of mine wants to hire me to illustrate his children's book (questions)

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First off, I'm new here and did try browsing around for some questions regarding my situation. I did find this thread useful: https://www.scbwi.org/boards/index.php?topic=65291.0

I'll try to keep it short, but I mainly got into art to work on my own online graphic novel (eventually will go to print). I've been doing it for a few years now, and has attracted some attention from people I know, who are now considering to hire me. I've never been published (yet), so in the publishing and business logistics arena, I'm quite novice.

A friend of mine is writing a children's book, currently going through drafts and editing. I've read it too. It's around 8 chapters (roughly 6000 words). He's also been published and paid on a few blogs in the past.  We discussed many things about the book, what the work would entail, etc. He DOES plan to pay me, but we haven't discussed the budget yet. This will be all out of his own pocket.

Here are my questions, and findings:

  • He's looking for roughly 2 small illustrations a chapter, black and white, with one full color cover. 14-16 illustrations.
  • I do not have an agent and am completely independent right now.
  • Do I need an agent to do this properly? If so, recommendations on how to get started?
  • He also mentioned that he may need a literary agent himself. If only one of us had an agent, would this project be troublesome to have us work together?
  • He aspires to have this book in book fairs / elementary schools, etc
  • He's still considering pre-approaching a publisher with the work and was wanting me to make the full color cover page to help "sell it" to them if possible. I suggested it may be better to make sure his script is fully edited and "locked" before I start any work, avoiding massive revisions.
  • Regarding payments, I imagined half up front, half upon delivery and completion. I'm weary about doing any "sketch some stuff for ideas" before receiving any form of payment or contract is signed.
  • We discussed the possibility of lower payment for work, with more royalty / sales percentages (is this feasible?)
  • I researched that minimum hired illustrators can start around $3K in children's books. With the proposed work above, is this anywhere reasonable? He's not exactly rich, yet I'd like to make this work (heck and even get published), but I don't want to rip him off, or rip myself off.
  • Is it better for both of us to work out a private contract, complete the book, then approach a publisher?

I may have more questions, but wanted to start here. Again, we're both new to this and would like to make it work.  My time is money though. If I'm pulled away from my graphic novel, I definitely need to be getting properly paid for the project. :P

- Jared
#1 - July 02, 2018, 02:23 PM

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Hi, Jared! Congrats--also commiseration--on the offer from your friend.

Your friend is hoping to publish traditionally? (That is, he's not planning to self publish?) You should know that the odds of that are very long. Doesn't mean it doesn't happen--it absolutely does--but you don't want to make business decisions based on odds that are about the same as breaking into professional sports.

Publishers typically want to assign their own artist to a project, so for him to query (that is, ask an agent to represent him) with artwork already in place is a misstep. If he's done his research on finding representation, he's probably discovered this--or will soon.

People usually write and query several books before they find representation, and many books that agents submit don't get published. You don't want to have half the artwork done when he realizes he should have queried with text alone (and maybe minimal art notes as needed).

He would need an agent to get the book in front of most publishers--certainly the bigger ones. A few are open to unagented submissions, but they typically pay lower advances, or none at all.

If he's planning to self publish, I'd make sure you have a contract. (It doesn't sound like it, though, since he'd like to be included in bookfairs.)

Hope this is of some help. And good luck with your illustrations and GN!  :goodluck

#2 - July 02, 2018, 04:12 PM
Learning to Swear in America (Bloomsbury, July 2016)
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Jared, I'm glad you found the thread you mentioned. I encourage you to read more threads on the illustrating board. There are many that deal with a similar situation. There's so much great advice on these threads.

dewsanddamps is right; agents know traditional publishers will want to choose their own illustrator so getting you to do a cover to help "sell" it to an agent will not work. This would really only work out if your friend intends to self publish. If I were you, I would not accept future royalties in exchange for upfront payment. Self published books rarely sell well enough for this to be lucrative.

Congrats on your online graphic novel! As you said, your friend's project will pull you away from your own work, so I'm glad you are considering this carefully. I hope you find advice here that rings true for you. :goodluck
#3 - July 02, 2018, 06:02 PM
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Just adding a third voice to say the same thing. If your friend wants to b traditionally published, he needs to continue to edit the book to make the text as strong as possible and then to submit to agents or small presses. His length puts him in the early chapter book range (ages 6-8). Many agents won't accept those because they are harder to sell unless they are parts of series, but traditional publishing is a long shot for everyone. In general those books do do better than self published works though.

Keep reading threads and look especially at some of the resource posts that are stickied at the top of each section. Good luck with your graphic novel.
#4 - July 02, 2018, 08:05 PM
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Hi Jared!
I'm just here to agree with the others, if he wishes to attract a commercial publisher, he needs to make sure his manuscript is Edited as well as possible, then start querying KidLit Agents. No Illustrations are needed to sub a query and few Agents interested in the Author, will automatically also rep the Illustrator.  So if that is what his hope is, traditional publishing, as an Illustrator I'd thank him for thinking of me but explain to him he's better off going it alone.

IF he decides to self publish, then you want to negotiate a flat fee for the art. SP books don't sell well enough typically for the Illustrator to be compensated for their time. And MOST times Illustrator's for chapter books do not get royalties from publisher's. That's usually just for Pic Books, where the input on the books success is 50/50.  You'll want to come up with a price for the b/w's that you're happy with and a sep price for the colour cover.
#5 - July 03, 2018, 02:28 AM
"Penelope and the Humongous Burp"
"Penelope and the Monsters"
"Penelope and the Preposterous Birthday Party"

Thank you all for the great responses! They're certainly helpful and have allowed me to get a clearer scope on what's in front of me. I'll keep looking at your suggestions, but all your info answers quite a lot! :D
#6 - July 04, 2018, 09:44 PM

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Jared, glad you asked/posted and that we could help. Any other questions that come up re: this project, don't hesitate to add them to this thread. What helps one, helps many:)
#7 - July 05, 2018, 03:28 AM
"Penelope and the Humongous Burp"
"Penelope and the Monsters"
"Penelope and the Preposterous Birthday Party"

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I just stumbled upon this video on YouTube and remembered your post:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZmjmZSbLMvA

Hope it brings a smile!!

 :dr

#8 - July 07, 2018, 04:56 PM

LOL what a video! I remember that meme, and Will Terry does some great work as well. :D
#9 - July 09, 2018, 02:17 PM

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