Time Frames & Prices for Book Illustrations?



  • Hi everyone,

    I'm bidding on a project to produce 20 illustrations on a children's book, but I have two questions:

    1. How long would you say is reasonable to quote to do 20 illustrations? I'm so slow, so I'm worried about this part. I'd like to know what the average is for everyone. This is where I'm at a disadvantage because I don't do digital...

    2. The person's budget is $200. That seems incredibly low to me, but I've seen other really good artists have done work for him at that price. I've never ever done a book illustration, so I thought I'd do it just to get the experience...What do you all think? Would you do that? Or is $200 for 20 illustrations normal?



  • $200 for 20 illustrations is a ridiculously low price - so low you're basically doing it for free. I would never volunteer for that job at that price...you've got to think about how long that would take you, taking into consideration that you've got a (demanding?) client who will need roughs, then amends afterwards - all that needs to be factored into your 'hourly rate' that you'll get afterwards...if you factor all of that in, x 20...your $200 will be nearly nothing as an hourly rate.

    I just wouldn't touch it. Anyone who's asking for such a low price is being utterly cheeky and is going to be more trouble than they're worth (even if they up their price). You'd be better off spending that same amount time doing your own projects, that showcase your work better, and could then lead to landing a better, more professional client later.

    I actually don't have so much practice at quoting for projects, since I work for myself...but I'd say don't sell yourself short. There are many ways of making money out of art, you don't have to go for the lowest bidding price just to 'get practice' and to feel like you're professional just because someone's paying you (a cheap price like that is not proper paying).

    Sorry any negative vibes from this post, they're not meant to be directed at you - of course if you really want to do a project, and it appeals to you, and you have the time, then you should...but some people are just taking the 'p' with their offers.



  • @Dulcie No no no! It's not negative - I really appreciate the feedback! Thank you - That's exactly the kind of thing I need to hear/know. I'm completely new to the illustration world, so I have no idea what to expect (or demand) from a job or client...I have to say that I'm so glad to hear you say that though, because I was really starting to get a bit down, thinking that that's what was to be expected - 20 illustrations due in 7 weeks for $200. :( I'm looking on some of the freelancer sites and it seems like ALL of the job posters are paying around that - and they have like 50 artists bidding on their jobs (and some of the artists are really good!). In fairness, it looks like a lot of the artists are in countries outside of the U.S. and Europe, so their economies may be different, but still - it makes me a bit upset to know that good artists are being so devalued :( ...



  • Ridiculously low. I have read different sites were it is about $50-$450 per full "single" color illustration.



  • @amberwingart I agree with @Dulcie - at that price tag you are better off working for your portfolio. If you want to get experience doing book illustration, grab a book and do illustrations for it. If you take an IP-free property (like a book written before 1940), you can even publish it as an e-book and earn money from it that way.
    I am perfectly aware of the sad reality of online freelance portal - I use them myself fairly regularly for design work and other stuff. My general experience is that good quality work still comes only if you pay reasonable prices - let's say 10 USD/hour for an artist/designer based in India or Asia, and at least 30-40 USD/hour for a US-based or European-based artist. People may use the rates that people seem to bid on online portals as a way to down-bid you, but the truth is that quality work in a reasonably smooth working relationship still has "normal" costs, even on freelance portals.
    If you have a copy of the Graphic Artist Guild guidelines, you can see what are considered to be "normal" prices for illustration there - and rest assured that these prices get paid by art buyers - both from my personal experience as art director as well as from my contacts in the film industry (storyboarding, etc...).



  • if he doesn't want full color/full page illustrations and/or you can do at least (2) per hour then I'd jump at it. Starting off at $20/hr is decent. You won't get rich doing that but you have to start somewhere.

    Now that said, I doubt that is exactly the case. He probably wants full color and the kind of stuff I've seen you do--well, I would be amazed if those pieces didn't take several hours.

    I really like @smceccarelli 's idea to take a old IP and illustrate it. That's really, really smart and I could see your style really bringing a 1930s (for example) story to life.



  • @mattramsey I agree, I love @smceccarelli 's idea - I had never thought of that! But what is an ip-free book? Is that copyright free?

    It's funny you said my work would be good for a 1930's book, Matt - I'm a vintage collector and passionate history buff and the 30's is 'my' era! So that was awesome to hear :).



  • @smceccarelli Thank you so much for the great idea - I'm going to hop on that and find an old book to illustrate. I'm so excited about this - I didn't even think to do it! And I'll have to pick up the guide - I don't have a copy of it... Thank you as usual for the great advice. I was really feeling discouraged when I saw those prices, but I guess as with any job, people and companies will pay as little as they can get away with...



  • @amberwingart IP-free books are books for which the copyright is expired and the material is then in the public domain. The copyright lenght varies from country to country - there is a wiki article about it:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries'_copyright_lengths

    Here is a list I found online:

    Copyright expired books

    The Project Gutemberg website also has mostly IP-expired titles, but not exclusively, so one hast to look a bit deeper.
    If you choose a book to illustrate and publish, I would definitely research that particular title to make sure that you are free to operate with commercial gain.
    This suggestion, by the way, was advanced by one of our faculty here at SVS in one of their videos - I think it was Jake Parker in the video "You need a product, not a project".



  • I did a book about a year ago for an independent author. It was a 32 full color book which she then published on blurb. I really wanted the job so I quoted her $2000. $500 for sketches/roughs... $500 for inked... and then $1000 when colored. This way at each stage of the process i was getting paid. But she was somewhat difficult and picking cause she wanted it her way and the pages stopped flowing well. Then I added her story into it and it really was not good. I do not share it cause I am not proud of what it became. She was extremely proud of it and loves it, but lesson learned I should have charged more.

    With that I am working on my own personal book that my son wrote the story. It has been about a year in the making, and hope to finish by years end.



  • @smceccarelli Awesome - thank you for the links! Hopefully I can find a good fantasy fiction to illustrate.

    I was horrified when I went on the freelance site again today and someone actually posted a job asking for "a Photoshop and Illustrator expert" with great work ethic to work 2 hours per day and get paid $25 usd PER MONTH. You read that right - they even went on to say, "that's not per hour, it's per month." It's for a game designer and the artist would be working with a team of 7 other people who'd be renderingng the artwork in 3D. That's 40 hours of work per month (assuming the artist stuck precisely to the 2 hours per day, 5 days a week) for $25. How can these people live with themselves?? And how could ANY artist apply for that?? (10 artists applied!). It's maddening.



  • @Chip-Valecek Wow. Hearing from you all is really giving me a different perspective and it's making me feel a lot better. These people on the freelance sites want 30 pages of illustrations for $100-$200 and they want them done within a month. And some really good artists are actually doing it! Ugh.



  • I did ink illustrations for a ya nonfiction for about $450. The one before that was $100 for 9 illustrations. The first book I illustrated was free, then I did my own project and self-published it . I still have a LOT of copies left (fortunately I did get only 300 printed though). I am not a book seller. I still am learning. Needless to say, I'm pretty much in the hole when it comes to making money from art :-)



  • @amberwingart said in Time Frames & Prices for Book Illustrations?:

    @smceccarelli Awesome - thank you for the links! Hopefully I can find a good fantasy fiction to illustrate.

    I was horrified when I went on the freelance site again today and someone actually posted a job asking for "a Photoshop and Illustrator expert" with great work ethic to work 2 hours per day and get paid $25 usd PER MONTH. You read that right - they even went on to say, "that's not per hour, it's per month." It's for a game designer and the artist would be working with a team of 7 other people who'd be renderingng the artwork in 3D. That's 40 hours of work per month (assuming the artist stuck precisely to the 2 hours per day, 5 days a week) for $25. How can these people live with themselves?? And how could ANY artist apply for that?? (10 artists applied!). It's maddening.

    I would imagine that the people applying for that kind of job are : 1. living in a "poor" country where just over $.50 US an hour isn't bad for sitting around painting or 2. not necessarily doing it for the money but rather, the experience or prestige (hey I worked on a game!) or 3. not really understanding what they are getting into.



  • @amberwingart I would say that neither the people posting the job nor the people applying for the job have any notion of what they are doing. I work with freelance portals since many years for my day job - I have never had any half-way professional person apply for less than 15 USD/hour - regardless of where they live. I agree with @mattramsey that these are probably people that are just finding the idea of working on a game cool in itself - and I mean both sides of this transaction.



  • I'm with everyone else way, way, way too low....My price for one spread is more than twice what they are offering for the whole book. These people just have no idea of the time it takes and the amount of work. Plus I always let self publishers know before I start the work that they will more than likely never make the money back that they put into the book if they are hiring out a designer and illustrator. Typical self published children's book makes less than $500.00 so they are better off if they think their manuscript is good enough trying to an agent.



  • Things like this still make me mad, even after experiencing it myself and hearing about it over and over again. For me it is not about prices that much, because my freelance activity is so small as to be nearly non-existent (this is hopefully going to change next year). However I get a lot of "we need an animation so and so, and it would be nice if it could also include something we have seen here, and we are still working on the script, and we need a couple of awesome images at the end....and can we please have it by the end of the week?"......and even though now I am pretty used to this, I always think - "What the.......Even if you do not have any idea of how this work is done (and in a visual day and age like this one, I find this already disturbing), a cursory moment of reflection should make anybody older than 4 realize that there is probably quite some work involved.... I mean, offering 200 USD for 20 illustrations means that you seriously believe that it takes less than one hour to come up with an idea or two, make some sketches, show them to you, get one chosen and finish an illustration. I don't understand this, it is like a mental blind spot that so many people seem to have....
    Sorry for the rant - to me these kind of offers are an offense to the whole creative community and I believe we should find a way to make the customers understand this.



  • @smceccarelli I wonder if "speed paints" on Youtube contribute to people's ignorance.

    I know I spend a couple hours (at least) just brainstorming and gathering reference materials before I even start to sketch.



  • My first chilrens book I illustrated was very low, but $200 is ridiculous I would not do this.



  • @amberwingart Oof, I get this question alot.

    1. Always see when the client wants the deadline by and make sure it is something you can reach because deadlines are incredibly important in the freelance industry. If you don't do digital, try doing a test piece from start to finish and time yourself to see how long it takes you to complete it. That is something that I have found crucial in my freelance career.

    2. That is ridiculous. I'm sorry. That's 10 USD per page and I wouldn't take something that is a full illustration for that. No way. Plus being traditional, and this is something I have found that not alot of artists take into account is the cost of your materials and your time. Time is worth a price. So no, don't take that. It is underselling and pushing it for even a digital artist. I myself do professional work for 20-30/hr depending on the client's needs.


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