HOW I WORK - Children´s Books for independent authors”

Every question you didn´t even though about it answered in a really big article. ( sorry about that...) ;)


Or ..."What are your rates per illustration" ?
It´s unavoidable as this is always the first question everyone asks when searching for an illustrator nowadays. Particularly private clients or people who are brand new to this field and just want to put a self-published book out there.
Well, my answer is always NOTHING.

I don´t charge per pic.
For children, books I charge per PROJECT.

If you´re a private client, you probably arrived here looking for an illustrator for your children's book. So to better understand why I do not charge per pic, keep on reading this "little" article of mine. I promise it contains answers to all the questions you usually have on why you should hire an illustrator like me; how to do it and what to expect when you do.

So... I charge per project and not per pic. Because...

Charging per pic if the end objective is to create an illustrated book ends up not being the most efficient, or fair way to charge someone. For a simple reason, a client would be charged the same if an image would take 2 or 20 hours to do. Not all illustrations have the same requirements and in most books scenes change dramatically from one required painting to the other.
Sometimes from page to page the specifications and level of detail change so much that two things can happen.
Either the freelance artist risks end up overcharging the client which is not a proper way to go about, OR ... the freelance artist ends up not getting the real value for each specific drawing.

Particularly when it comes to time spent on each image; and time (and schedule/deadlines) is money to an independent artist.

I´ve been a professional illustrator since 1992, long before the Internet became what it is today and opened doors for artists like me when it comes to working all over the world.
People don´t realize but there´s a before and an after. Not related to the Internet itself but to what came in in recent years because the web exists. A magic term called "Self Publish".
And that changed a lot of things for independent illustrators.

Before Self Publish - or - POD (Print on Demand) things were simple for freelancers like me. Private commissions were scarce and few in between, it was almost impossible for a regular person to even think of printing a book, much alone hire a graphic artist or illustrator to create one from scratch and so artists tended to work more directly with companies ( traditional trade publishers or others like advertisement agencies, illustration agencies, etc).

So there were recurrent generic rates for professional work with commercial objectives. That is to say that when a freelance illustrator did something for a company that meant he knew his work would be helping that company to make money and therefore all rates and negotiations were done based on that assumption.
And once again, therefore illustrators could charge fair (higher) payments because, for example, a publisher would recover the investment made in hiring an artist in no time after a book was released. Something that nowadays won´t happen with a regular self-published amateur/independent author.

Because of that, the arrival of Self-Publish / POD , created a big problem for independent freelance illustrators like myself.

I cannot charge the same amount of money for a project made for a self publish client ( sometimes a granny out there which only wants to create a book for her family ) that I charge for, let´s say an indie-publisher or a trade publishing company which not only have larger budgets but also larger commercial objectives that go way beyond a simple book to be distributed locally.

The problem is that from my creative standpoint, in terms of the actual amount of work needed for a project, many times it does not make any difference if I´m doing a book for Aunt Emma out there or for an established publishing company.

Remember; for the same amount of time that I´m doing "Aunt Emma´s" 15 spread page book for an X amount of money I could be doing the same exact type of work with the same requirements and needing the same days to do for an established company out there for five times more money; getting payed the real commercial value for the project.

So, why even do it ?!
Why not just work for trade companies instead of self publish ?
Why not just work for self publish private clients instead of trade companies ?...

How to do it ?...

Well, speaking only for myself, as a freelance illustrator it would be a bit illogical and maybe even a bit snobbish to ignore that nowadays these two different markets exist.

I have illustrator friends who find it really below their worth to even bother to look at independent authors/self-publish and they only accept commissions from "real" publishing companies.

Therefore it´s also true that many of them are not full-time illustrators anymore too. And you can read my words here as you want.

Well, I´m a full time illustrator. I´ve been an illustrator since I was 22 years old back in 1992, ( in between graphic design ) and I´ve been a full time illustrator for about 12 years now since about 2008 or so... I´ve lost count... It must be my old age...

I was here when Self Publish did not existed, ( nor the web ) and I´ve seen the changes in the freelance market happening all around me. Particularly since 2010; although in my opinion things really started to change only about two years ago.

Since 2018 I´ve noticed an incredible exponential amount of (new) available work coming from the self-publish crowd, maybe because technology ( and printing cheaply in China ) made possible for many independent authors to even start real indie-publishing companies out of their success in the self publishing market or maybe because now it´s easier for "Aunt Emma" to showcase her work and reach an audience through online publicity without the need to be dependent on a "real" traditional trade-publishing company.

And so, charging per project instead of charging per pic allows me to go through each project as its own thing and determine not only the amount of time each one will require for me to do it, but also base the costs in several factors. Those factors being:

- How many pages / Spread page or Single page.
- The visual style required / Children Book cartoon style or something closer to a classic illustration like the style I use for my concept art paintings.
- Level of detail / Backgrounds / Scenery needed ?...
- How many characters per page / single heroes/groups (?).

- Color or Black and White / Sepia ?
- Cover design needed ?...

Among many other variables that would take too long now to detail in specifics.

For example, one thing that many independent/self-publish newbie authors don´t realize is that when they sometimes also need - spot pictures - ( to begin a chapter for example ), that does not necessarily mean that commissioning an illustration will cost less than a "full pic". From a creative perspective sometimes if a Spot-pic needs detail, it really does not matter on which size it will be printed because the illustrator will have to paint it in a "regular" large size anyway as if it was just another "big/regular" pic inside the book.

People tend to think that because an illustration is going to be printed small it does not take much time to create it but that is not the case. It´s true, simple "spot" pics can be printed too, but we are talking something more like clipart type of artwork that many times does not fit in into the actual style of the rest of the book.
So to an illustrator many times it does not matter if the client is going to print a picture small or large. When it comes to the time it takes to create a really good painting, the actual pic is just another illustration, and therefore it needs to have the cost of any other in the project.

This is also part of the reason only independent/self-publish clients ask that first question: "How much do you charge per illustration"; and also why companies work on a project basis instead. It´s easier to control costs and a lot fairer to everyone involved if a project is not budgeted simply based on a pic-by-pic window shopping but on the actual full requirements; time, detail level, etc.

At least on my experience, companies come to me with a budget already in place based on all those factors I mentioned and I cannot even recall right now the last time a publisher asked me how much I charged per pic...
Because I´m very comfortable with this system to budget the projects I accept, some years ago I started to adapt this method of working professionally with companies to working with this brand new type of client that "was invented" about ten years ago and going strong from 2018; the self-publish client.
Probably you. ;)

The Self-publish market has become so strong lately that nowadays at least 60% of what I do comes from really interesting indie-authors.
I never take a project that I don´t believe in and I always let people know that I think they would be wasting their money if they try to put a book out there that in my professional opinion might not be ready.
But I´ve come across some really good indie-projects, particularly since 2017 onward and that is also the reason I do love to work for independent authors and I always try to find a good common ground between a person can afford to spend on illustration and what I can do for that budget.
Charging per project is what allows me to be this flexible and it´s the ultimate reason I do it this way too. Nothing is set in stone.

Because of this a book project for an independent self publish indie-author can start as low as $1750 ( negotiable ) and go to a maximum of $4500 depending on the characteristics of the work while a project for an established company usually starts at $4500 and can go up to wherever it goes ( $35.000 + ) depending on the level of detail, commercial scope etc.

Each project has it´s own things that need to be taken into account, copyrights are included and I have no hidden fees, although I lose a bunch of money in conversions when working in $ as my currency is the € instead.
So, companies already know how "we work" but for all, you indie authors out there don´t worry and if you have a project for me let me know and I´m sure we´ll find a good middle ground between your budget and what I need to make to at least cover my time. Because if you have a really cool story I want to hear about it for sure. Learn more about what I can do for you in Part 2 of this article. Includes... free stuff too. Yes. For real. :)


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