TABOO TOPIC 3 - The Taboo Topics about creating for Self Publish clients - Pt3

Or... How to scare away most potential clients in just a few minutes.

Or...The main differences between working for established Publishers and Self Publishing indie clients
and why that is important. Read Part 1 and Part 2 if you haven´t yet to understand the context.

Taboo Topic - The $20 "Professional" or the - cheap syndrome - in Self-Publishing.

Almost every other day, we get the same type of question on any given Facebook children book or illustration groups:
"How much does it cost for a book to be illustrated? " - Inevitably this gets all sorts of replies which inevitably are divided into 3 very different fields.

1. In one field we find the professional illustrators who state that depending on several factors a book can cost somewhere between 2K and 15K to be professionally illustrated, (
yes it varies that much and it´s also the reason I price my artwork like I do when it comes to Self Publishing clients. ).


2. In the second field we find the common amateur author who´s appalled that someone can charge that amount of money for drawings when everyone knows that places like Fiverr have - good artists - that can do the job sometimes for $5 per picture and therefore it´s insane to spend money on artwork hiring some - expensive - artists where you can get - the same results - much affordably (cheaper)...

3. And finally, in the third field, we find lots of artists replying mostly offering to do complete books as low as $15/$20 per illustration.

It all goes down to what a self publish client is looking for.

Is that potential client looking to create a professionally visually narrated book or just wants to have some pretty pictures in it, based on a personal taste matter?
What many authors don´t get is that there is more to being an illustrator than just drawing well. There´s so much to say on this that (like I already mentioned) I will need to create a new topic for it, but the reason so many amateur self-published books have no commercial chance despite having pretty pics in them is also because mostly by going cheap on illustration what they usually get is people that can draw, not professional illustrators.
And I mean professional illustrators by those artists that besides drawing well what they do best is structure your text into a visual narrative. What amateur clients don´t get is that they should be paying not just for the pics but above all for the skills an illustrator has to have in developing them. And once again I´m not talking about drawing with pretty colors, I´m talking about knowing how to visually tell a story from page to page to create that necessary "movie" in the reader´s minds.
The reason so many amateur self-published books based on low-cost artwork flop even before going to a sale is exactly because they are based on frozen, stalled images that may look nice on one page but have no flow or narrative connection to the next one or to the one before.



An amateur client can become a "professional" client too.

I do not discriminate between professional clients and amateur clients. To me, the work is essentially the same technically so once I started to also accept independent clients from the Print on Demand or Self Publish market I thought the best way to deal with the differences between both worlds was to treat everyone the same.

Therefore if I treat a regular person that just wants to put a book out there for friends and family in the same professional way I treat a publishing company I also expect the client to see me as a professional too. As I said, sometimes it´s not easy when it comes to clients that have some characteristics of the
TYPE 2 client I talked about in the other part of this article, but because experience allows me to now detect those pointless commissions a lot better than I used to when I started online, I now usually only have to deal with the type of clients I refer to as TYPE 1. 
The really good ones.
The professional amateur clients.
And what is that ?!

professional amateur clients are the ones that allow me to almost feel no difference between working for them or for a traditional established publishing company and this is the highest compliment I can give to a client.
It´s good to know that even regular people, attracted to the Self Publish market nowadays seem to start to recognize that there´s more to hire an illustrator than just getting someone to remote control their (sometimes really wrong) idea of how a book should be created.

And starting by getting really cheap artwork is not a good start.

$20 Professionals ?...

Every time I see someone out there offering to illustrate a book project for $20 a pic or many times even less; (I´ve seen people on Fiverr offering to create pics at $2.50 per illustration), I wonder how can they really be professionals at all.

Can anyone make a living illustrating complete children's books for $300 ?!! If we go 15 spreads X $20 per spread that is $300! That is nothing less than the absolute proof these artists do not work as professionals. A single children´s book project depending on the characteristics can take somewhere between a month and maybe three; sometimes a lot more to illustrate! Does anybody really believes that a professional illustrator can work sometimes 10 hours a day to create high res spread paintings for two or three months full time, for at the end get $300, charging $20 per picture ?!

And let´s not even count the extra design work sometimes is required to be done when working for amateur self publish authors too because people have no idea on how to even do the text layouts and therefore will need to go elsewhere to actually design the book after the illustrator has completed the pics.
Or revision time. Imagine, you are a professional illustrator that needs to pay the bills at the end of each month but you are only going to see $300 for a book that took you months to do...

So... If a person can offer those prices, we can make the assumption that illustrator is not a professional at all.

Therefore we can also assume that there´s not much experience in the field either, because no established professional publishing company will take a chance on someone who values itself so low.
Rule number one of newbie-illustrators: Don´t sell yourself short! Don´t be afraid to price your work professionally. If you charge low that will immediately give the professional world out there (away from the self-publishing amateur clients) the sign that you might be so insecure about your artwork that you are afraid to charge what you really think is worth with fear of failing to deliver a professional result and that is the worst calling card you can put out there.

Of course, everyone has to start somewhere and I´ve been there myself and made the same mistakes too, the difference is that when I was starting, there was no internet, much less Self-Publishing was even a concept and there was no way I could put my work out there in print to remain forever as a portfolio piece in the eyes of the world.
When I was starting if I made terrible work for a company, that work would never be printed and therefore no bad product would ever be associated with my name or artwork.
The problem with Self Publish nowadays is that professionally inexperienced artists like I was before, now can not only stain their name in the field ( if they have professional aspirations beyond illustrating for self publish ) but in the process, they can ruin plenty of clients projects too; simply because an author will go with anyone who prices artwork cheaply.


Professional clients needed.

So, professional clients needed. You can be a successful self-publish author and still be really professional.
Recognize the value of the artwork and do not treat it just like something secondary you use to embellish your story.
In Facebook pages, plenty of self-publish amateur clients are always complaining that their illustrators are not professional enough and I wonder if they are professional clients too.
Every time I see someone ditching on some illustrator´s work or professionalism I wonder, first of all, how much that author is paying that person to actually do the pics.
Because 9 out of 10 I can bet you that they have just hired (professionally) inexperienced $ 20-page illustrators that try their best to accommodate the client´s demands and really do a good job even for that money; but then get into the
TYPE 2 development hell that usually it´s attached to the same amateur (particularly first time) clients/authors who look for cheap artwork to be produced.

Illustrators don´t sell yourselves short. If you believe in your work, start showing that by charging professionally. And self-publish clients if you do really believe you have a great book in your hands, do you really want to go low budget ?!!

(To be continued) ...

TABOO TOPIC: Part 4” - DOs and DONTs...

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