"I'm writing a children's book, will you illustrate it?"



  • I've been getting a lot of messages from family and acquaintances and friends of friends wanting to know if I would be willing to do there book they are writing. Don't get me wrong, I am deeply flattered because I know they are showing appreciation for my art. But most of them don't have a real idea of what they are asking for me.

    What do you tell people usually? Quote them a high price? Try and educate them? Send them @Will-Terry video "Why I won't illustrate your children's book"?

    I am a people pleaser but I have limited time to create (with 15month twin girls) I have to be smart with my time.



  • @stringfellowart I had a few friends ask me to do that as well. I basically just said sure I can do it but I would have to charge you for my time. Usually when they see I want to get paid then I never hear back from them on it. If it goes further then that, then i would treat them like any other client. They need to realize we don't work for free. Best of luck!



  • @stringfellowart I usually attempt to educate people, in as diplomatic a way as possible while firmly saying "no". This usually results in dead silence from them, which leads me to believe they didn't take it so well. Actually - I did receive one response from my cousin. After a lengthy Facebook message from me explaining things to her, all she responded with was the thumbs up sticker. haha Oh well - I know I was as nice as possible, so I can't beat myself up about how they'll receive it.
    Good luck to you!



  • I think "I have limited time to create (with 15month twin girls) I have to be smart with my time." is a fabulous answer!
    In my case, I've had a few people ask me to draw comics for them. My response is always "I have a couple of personal projects that are really important to me, and I'm only willing to take time away from those for professional (PAYING) jobs." Make it clear that you're not in a position to give time to someone else's personal project
    If you need to make the point clearer (without being a jerk), ask them about their plans to publish (not just self-print) and market the book. If they don't have a business plan, consider it a personal project that isn't worth your time.

    If you simply make it clear that you have a plan, and it doesn't include their project, I think they'll understand.



  • I was recently asked by a friend to illustrate a book that he wants to give his mother as a present and although the price per illustration isn't at all sustainable, I would really like the experience and help develop a workflow. So far we have agreed on a fee per image and that if the book is to be published then I would receive a larger amount/ royalties from the book.

    Most of my work is doing realistic caricatures and portraits, so having some finished illustration work for my portfolio is worth a lot. And I remember @Will-Terry talking about how much to charge based on how much you want to do the project (or something along those lines).

    In the future though I would not do work for friends without them been fully aware of the cost and work that is involved (hopefully I will be a world famous artist by then and won't have to worry about money....... yeah sure :P )



  • My standard response is: "Thanks for your enquiry and your appreciation of my work. Unfortunately I do not have enough capacity at the moment to take on this project", or some variation of this sentence. I think a key part of the art of saying "no" is to remember that you do not have to explain it. Unless it is a close friend or a person you normally have a connection with, there is no need to explain why you are declining to do something. I know there is some urge to educate people about the absurdity of their requests and the value of creative work sometime - I feel it as well. But you really have no obligation or mandate to explain anything to a random stranger or aquantaince. Simply saying "I have no time for this" or "I do not wish to do this" should be more than enough.
    In my experience, a mail or message asking you for illustration work falls into three categories:

    • Professional enquiries from publishers and/or other legit customers: can be spotted immediately from the wording and/or details included already in the first contact message. These messages clearly show an understanding of professional illustration and how it works (they may talk about deadlines and budget, for example)
    • Mails that look like they come from somebody who understands the business of illustration but maybe not completely. These are the ones that may grant some more interaction or explanation work to see if there is a common ground.
    • Messages or mails that clearly indicate ignorance or disrespect for illustration as a profession. Some common wordings "We have no money, but our web-magazine has high visibility..."; "I am writing a book and I need an illustrator"; "How much do you charge per illustration?" "I am looking for a collaborator on a great creative project"...There is a lot of gray zones, of course - but the majority can really just be answered with a "no, thank you".


  • Great advice @smceccarelli

    I don't have experience in this particular topic, but here are my thoughts nonetheless. :P

    I have been a people pleaser for much of my life, so I know the struggle. If you are trying to break out of being a people pleaser, sometimes the tendency is to overcompensate with being more aggressive and overly defending your position. Unless you feel it's a mission to educate people on the realities and etiquette of children's publishing, I would do as @smceccarelli advised and keep it simple and polite. Thank them for their inquiry, politely decline, wish them well in their project. This approach helps everyone move along their merry way instead of getting mentally sucked into some kind of weird argument. Some people enjoy that kind of debate and confrontation, and it has it's place, so it's up to you which way to go.

    Another approach might be to just have a standard pricing sheet, based on the nature and quantity of the work with your payment requirements. If you feel you might be open to self published projects for the right price, send the pricing sheet right along. I think Will Terry and Tyrus Goshay talk about this briefly in the "Should illustrators create self published books?" video.



  • @smceccarelli Thank you for the reminder. You are right, I feel bad about telling people no, and so I want to explain myself, which stresses me out even more. There are some people who asks for future projects, like Hey someday I'm going to write a children's book based on my experiences [fill in the blank], would you illustrate it for me?" Actually, I still could say, "well, I have a lot on my plate, so I probably won't be able to... but feel free to ask me again when you are done writing" would work too.



  • @stringfellowart Ahah! I know that one! I normally answer "Yes, sure!"
    I know dozens of people who say "they want to write a book someday" (I work with copywriters and journalists, so maybe there is a professional bias), but very few people who actually wrote a book - and they are not the same people. So the chance of these brightly intentioned people to actually come back to you some day with a ready-to-illustrate manuscript is so small that you can safely treat it as small talk.
    But your answer is a good one too - more honest.

    This video circulated in the design community a while ago. It applies more to the designers world (RFPs and spec are typical means by which big companies screen designers and agencies), but I think it drives the point that no other profession in the world would be handled as the creative professionals sometimes are...

    Spec Work



  • I usually say I would love to help them out. Often they offer a cut in the profits if ever it gets published. I explain kindly that they need to understand my level of commitment to their project would mean not accepting work where I will definitely get paid. So really i need to enter into a contract with them.

    I am a story teller/writer, and know how stories work. So it does help to be able to see stories that don't work as I can quickly decide whether or not it's a good fit. I guess if an awesome story came along I would cave and do it.



  • One thing, I 've found, that a lot of people don't know is that if they are interested in publishing the book that the publisher will find the illustrator and they don't need to even worry about that part-unless they want to self-publish, that is.

    I had a college teacher that gave my name to a coupel of people as she knew I was doing some projects. I asked her not to give out my name anymore. One wanted to have me illustrate a book for her. I informed her that I had not yet developed the skills needed to illustrate a book like hers. She had also sent me a copy of the story which was a cute idea but it had so many visual descriptions already that it was quite overwhelming! She had self-published before and wanted me to do it for FREE! and then give me royalties or whatever. Not happening. I did my first book free for a friend because it was something we both wanted to try and she paid to have it published through a publishing company (vanity publisher, I guess it would be). It was after that experience I decided to try one on my own. It was fun. I learned a lot and I self-published it but, it sure would be nice to at least break even ;-) Our time and talent is of value and that is what we need to remember. We pay in time and frustration and effort and it isn't an easy job. My tendancy is to make things and just give them away! More recently, I don't want to do it for nothing or for very little. There are others way more talented than I am but I work hard and long to make progress and I don't feel like doing it for nothing anymore. I appreciate those people that like my work and encourage me though. They are a real blessing!



  • Ok, on a related note: I asked one of the people who contacted me recently if she had written her story yet. She said no, that she just joined a writing group run by a "publisher" and that publisher advised her to get a logo and trademark (and start her social media account--which I agree) FIRST before writing her book. Um....what? Am I wrong for thinking this is complete BS advice?



  • @stringfellowart I would consider that pretty much BS. Sure, you can build your personal brand, but frankly, if you don't have a product to share, then your brand won't really mean much. I mean... if you haven't created anything, what are you even going to put on social media?



  • @stringfellowart That sounds super odd. First off, I've never heard of a publisher running a writer's critique group (with absolute newbies, no less) - not that it couldn't be a thing, but my hunch is that this so-called "publisher" is perhaps a vanity press who's hoping to make money off these writers one day. You don't need a trademark. Writer's don't even necessarily need a logo to get started - sure, you want to create a consistent, professional brand once you get yourself out there, but this advice is really putting the cart before the horse. What's most important about being a writer (or illustrator)? The WRITING (or ILLUSTRATING). Work on the craft.
    It's amazing to me that this person ("writer") contacted you to illustrate her book when she hasn't even written it yet!!!
    Face palm. I seriously wonder sometimes if common sense has seriously gone out the window with some people.



  • @danettedraws Yes, this is exactly what I thought. I asked which publishing company she worked with, but didn't get an answer, so I suspect the validity of that.


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