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11.12.2014
If you have a website or have done any degree of online advertising of your artwork, you have probably gotten an e-mail with a similar message as the title.
I was tired of retyping essentially the same letter over and over again.  I finally saved a template of the letter I use in this situation and I’d like to share it with you. Many pick up a children’s book, read it and say to themselves that they could do this and seek out an Illustrator skipping all the information gathering that they need to do. If the  answer is no, then you can ask for titles and do some online research to see what their other products look like and how successful they have been. You also need to see how complicated the images may be to determine how much you should be charging. This is integral to coming up with a price since it will let you know about how many illustrations you may be doing.
If the writer tells you the book is for 4-7 year olds and then sends you a 5000 word script, you know there is a problem. This is necessary to determine if their scheduling  is realistic and will fit within your schedule. Where do they intend to sell the books; Bookstores, Online, Amazon, Barnes and Nobles?  Again this is to help you gauge their research and planning.
The rights sold by most publishers are usually limited to what they specifically need to reproduce the book alone, first time publishing rights. If you are new to this you will learn quickly that there is a lot to learn about what we do.
WilsonWJrNovember 14, 2012 - 2:59 AMExpect to see even more with the increased popularity of e-books.
WilsonWJrNovember 14, 2012 - 2:55 AMThat lets me know we were on the right track with this Tanja!! It’s a lot to take in, but I am happy for the experience and getting the opportunity to learn so that I can pass those things on to others.
WilsonWJrNovember 20, 2012 - 10:57 AMSonal-Most of that type of discussion comes after you decide to take on the assignment. But yes you are DEFINITELY right, be sure to include limited revisions and kill fees in your contract if you get to that part. Leahg cartoonistNovember 14, 2012 - 7:36 AMExcellent article and thank you so much for allowing use of the questions , very helpful. With the shift going towards e-books and the lack of big publishers to block the way of new writers I imagine we’ll be getting a LOT of these kind of requests. Dayne SislenNovember 14, 2012 - 11:32 AMThank you so much for this great way of handling requests for quotes.
I hope this somehow gets around to the world’s prospective authors as well, so it will prepare them for the long process that is illustrating a book. I once got an email from a Self-publisher (not the author, but the publisher herself), looking for an illustrator for an alphabet book – 26 illustrations. So if you can help me with your advice and experience I would really appreciate it, and also anyone who had a similar experience are welcome to comment. Known for art that celebrates the virtues of community, hard work, and living gently on the planet, Nikki McClure explores a topic close to her heart: the farmers market. Alternating between story and fact, this lovingly crafted picture book follows a mother and son to the weekly market.
As they check off items on their shopping list, the reader learns how each particular food was grown or produced, from its earliest stages to how it ended up at the market.
This means that you will begin to get even more solicitations from those authors looking for artists to bring visuals to their words.
This letter is set up to not only gauge the potential project but to also get a measure of the knowledge of the person I would be working with.  For a person who has no knowledge of  what it takes to produce a book, this letter is quite intimidating. Within it you should find all the integral questions you should be asking anyone approaching you with a job of this nature.


In most instances very few have taken the proper steps to educate themselves about the process and kind of work that goes into making a children’s book. It’s also very likely that they won’t know how to answer the majority of the rest of the questions. The age range should give you an idea of how simple, complex and bright your images should be considering the age range. Don’t be surprised if the person soliciting you asks to buy all rights, which means they own the artwork copyright and everything and can essentially do whatever they like with or without your permission. Will you be hiring a designer as well, or will it be necessary for me to perform those duties? You need to keep up on all the business side of things that may seem cumbersome to learn but are essential to your survival as a professional.
I used to be able to excuse the ignorance too, but if they are on a computer and can find us to ask us to draw their book, it’s not that much more difficult to google and find out what they need to do. I learned very quickly what kill fees were and non refundable half pay upfront before we do anything. Another problem sometimes dealing with new authors is that they don’t always know what they want and will keep you in revision hell. I know we all get art direction, but you made a strong case of the dangers of getting art direction from someone with no experience in the business. It’s well written, professional advice that anyone in the business of illustration can benefit from.
Of course, it would be easy to add some of this information on the contact page of your website, or a notice that you only work with publishers and agents. How many times have artists underestimated a job that spirals out of control time-wise with a hard to please customer. Let me know where you share it and be sure to include a link back to the original article please. The more you know the better a position you’ll be in to decide whether or not the project is worth your consideration. You can send a NDA (Non-disclosure agreement) pre-emptively if you feel compelled to do so.
If they do answer truthfully you may save yourself the trouble of reading the script if what they are budgeting is too low.
Publishers don’t want book submissions from authors and illustrators who are not the same person. For example, if the publisher decided to create plush toys, a video game or a cartoon based on your creations they would need to renegotiate your contract and your financial compensation since they are creating something beyond the specific published book you created. If you sell those rights at the very least make sure that you are financially compensated for it. Its very frustrating when folks do not want to pay what the artwork, licensing, and marketing knowledge is worth. As someone else pointed out there are a LOT of sites and whatnot that put all the info in one place.
If you have a limit to how much they can do that before you start charging more helps them to make up their minds quicker(believe me!). It’s important to take any visitor and potential client seriously, but they should certainly do the same.
I have been down this path so many times myself that I wish I had come up a standard response like you have. I always went about it the opposite way, telling the author what I would do for them and tip-toeing around the actual quote until I could get a feeling for the scope of the job and the person I would be working with.
This will be the time I find out how easy the author is to work with and time to work out the kinks. I have been approached by authors before and many times I find that that haven’t taken these things into consideration.


Please feel free to share a link back to the original article or let us know how we can better share this post with the larger community! For those who have gotten it, nine times out of ten you aren’t sure how to respond to it, what should you ask, how do you respond?
You only want serious prospects when it comes to these types of projects, otherwise the jobs end up being more of a burden than a benefit.
They want the ability to select the artist for particular stories themselves.  If submitting a script all they need is to prepare it to the submission guidelines of that  particular publisher and submit it. It was suggested and now I’m considering making a permanent page on my web site that deals with these kind of questions. People will ride free forever but get off the ride quick when a bill shows up for extra rides around the carousel. In my early years, I took on a lot of small business owners and they would put me through those crazy paces changing designs because fluorescent pink was their wife’s fav color (not that it meant anything to their brand or target audience!) I learned the hard way to sort those clients out or price the work so stratospherically high that it would either scare them off or compensate me for their antics.
Then people who are serious about things can still get in touch, knowing what is expected of them. I’m working on adding that to my web page and truthfully we all should probably do something similar. One absolutely huge problem that you mention under number 1 is being the educator to the process. Ive had folks offer what I make for “one” freelance illustration to do their entire book! I’m sure many Illustrators have done the same, so I need to research and find some good examples to follow!
So I try to set them on the right path even if it doesn’t end up pointing back to me. We all perceive people differently and what I think your husband looks like, will definitely not be what he looks like to you! This letter really helps you to know where you stand and make a decision if it’s worth you investing the time in. I have coached so many first time illustrators through this minefield with self-publishing authors (some even associated with fledgling publishing houses) that I need to start charging a fee for consulting work. Include kill fees and what rights are being sold explicitly laid out in the contract that must be signed and returned before you do anything!
I recently went to a book festival where myself and another author-illustrator were the ONLY ones out of about 50 vendors who had non self-published books. To say the least, so many scenarios I have witnessed and been asked to participate in, the unpolished quality of the project is truly wretched. Yet, people are so anxious to get their baby out there that they are willing to sacrifice common sense and good taste (artists and writers). When a potential client starts to whine about money it’s a signal for me to hit the road. Recently, in humoring a potential independent client, I did an impromptu conceptual sketch of a character for her story at her insistence. She instantly started whining about the design and started redrawing it with much revisionist commentary.
I just don’t want to have to school anyone, because I have a heart for people and I want to see folks succeed, I will take time and do it.




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