Friday, May 6, 2011

On the Illusory World of the Illustrator

When I first thought of publishing a Children's book, my biggest fear was not having it illustrated the way I could see it in my head.  I mean, who else could truly understand what an eel-ephant looks like?

I was weary of publishers, for they pair your story up with one of their illustrators, and once the story is sold, it is creatively out of your hands.  That freaks me out!  Writing is my art, and just like the clothes and jewelry that I create, I have a deep personal investment in each individual piece.  Anything that I produce and actually present to the rest of the world must bring with it of that one-of-a-kind effect. 

I am, by no means, an illustrator, but I try.  I try because I must stay true to myself.  However, I do realize that in order to make print worthy images appear on the pages of my story about Eli, the eel-ephant, I'm going to have to seek out some professional assistance. 

Yet finding the right person for the task has proven to be quite difficult.  Most prolific artists step right up to the plate when I ask for their help.   Maybe it is because they truly love what they do, or maybe it is because I offer to split the profit right down the middle with them once it is self published.  Considering my views on artistic license, self publishing is clearly the way I am leaning.  However, after the initial excitement of exchanging emails, picture texts, and inspiring ideas subsides, the artist seems to fade away. 

I'm not sure where they go, because they are still reachable, but somewhere inside the illusory world of the illustrator, there is a mind erasing machine that makes them forget about my Eli. 

I'm sure that not all illustrators are like this, but they are most likely also the ones who are getting paid to work.  I wonder how much they make?

On a forum at:,
a post by Vin states, "I did a spot illustration for a book [small maybe 4x6] I could get $200." 
Wow!  That is way out of my budget considering that one children's book with 30 or so 8 1/2 x 10" pages - you are looking at a cool $12,000!!!  In that case, Vin better stand for Da Vinci!

Another artist in the forum discussion, bRyaN, has a starting rate of, "about 15 dollars an hour, plus art materials."  Yet, how do we know if bYanN is prolific enough to bust out 30+ images in a week, or if he is going to milk the hourly for every red cent?

Pricing is a tricky topic in the illustrator's world.  I understand that an artist may feel solace through being commissioned to do a project.  There is virtually no risk.  They get promised a set amount up front and they can expect to receive it upon completion.  Voila!  But working with a budget is a reality in the self publishing world and I must spend my money wisely. 

As I am still in the beginning stage of my publishing journey, I plan to story board my picture book to the best of my ability, which I will most likely blog about in the near future as well.  With this valuable tool, I can more soundly approach illustrators with a sense of preparedness.

I must also write a synopsis of my story and a bit about myself, the author.  These will prove very important communication tools, so I plan to choose every word deliberately. 

With both of these "tools" readily available, I hope to unite forces with just the right illustrator and make my dreams of self publishing a reality on the road to success! 

If you have any experiences or suggestions for how to find an illustrator when self publishing, please comment below!  Any advice is greatly appreciated.

Happy trails to you, until we meet again :)


  1. It is true, the cost of an illustrator is no joke. It's understandable, they need their money upfront. They are no different than any other working stiff in the world today. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I self-publish my own series of children's book, and I admit I was lucky--I have a friend who is a working artist, and she worked with me on pricing. You might consider contacting your local Art Society, or even (yes, I'm suggesting this) posting on Craig's List. Heck, get creative: contact the arts program at your local high school or junior college and stage a contest to select your illustrator, with your 50/50 split as the prize. You might be surprised at the quality of illustrations you'll get. Good luck!

  3. Thanks Kristi and Billie for your comments! Lots of creative suggestions here :)
    I will definitely consider all my options and do whatever it takes to make sure my work is top quality!
    Have a great weekend!