Information on how to price illustrating a book for a self-publishing author, and other contract stuff



  • Hey gang,
    I have an author who is contemplating self-publishing her book and interested in hiring me on as an illustrator. Initially she had thought I would just do the work unpaid and go halves with her for profits.......but I told her I can’t work for free.
    She is now considering hiring me and now wants cost estimate for a book. When I brought up copyright, she wants to have copyright. I know I need a contract and everything spelled out so I’m wondering a good resource for that kind of thing.
    I know I’ve seen this stuff in the forums before but whatever I read hasn’t remained in my aging brain!
    Any advice or places I can go to find this information? Thanks in advance!

    EDIT; am looking through scbwi’ s “The Book” and it has some info , though not pricing or contract details. Will look up that graphic illustrators guild handbook next


  • SVS OG

    @Coley i don’t want to be the bringer of bad news but given the fact that she initially wanted you to work for free gives me the impression that she plans on paying you as low as possible. I feel you’re wasting your time negotiating with her but I could definitely be wrong. Procede with caution



  • @Nyrryl-Cadiz yes, I will for sure! I’m not doing anything without proper compensation. I’m too old and busy to go down that road haha. 😆🤣I thought I was putting her off by talking contracts and being paid before publishing lol. Personally I get the feeling she just doesn’t understand how the industry works yet.
    Thanks 😊


  • SVS OG

    @Coley it's good you're educating her.



  • @Nyrryl-Cadiz I've pointed her to scbwi. I think us illustrators need a form letter to attach as a reply to these kinds of requests 😜 I'm only half joking


  • Pro

    @Coley It doesn't sound good 😕 If you want to take the time to educate her, start with the fact that she doesn't need exclusive copyrights and even big publishers do not buy exclusive copyrights because they know they don't need them and that they're too expensive. Explain that buying exclusive copyrights means that she is buying the potential future income of those illustrations for all of your life, so it's worth in the tens of thousands of dollars. Try to explain that she would not need exclusive copyrights if for instance she only intends to sell the book in one country, or for just a few years and then move on to other things, etc. You can offer her a license that limits the time she's allowed to use your illustrations and the territories she can use them in, or the amount of copies she allowed to print/sell. Try to explain that if you sell one illustration to a small company in Sweden 10 years from now, how would this affect her book in any way?

    Next, pricing... Tell her making a book will take you about 3-4 months MINIMUM of full-time work. Most authors do not realize the amount of work they're asking. As the full-time endeavor of months, the industry minimum average for a 32-page book is $8,000 - $12,000 depending on complexity. I bet that's where she'll bow right out - if she had planned to pay you nothing, I doubt she has a cool $10k she can just pull out of nowhere! But her plan is extremely naive. Self-published books are dime a dozen these days. I bet she doesn't have any sort of marketing plan and just expects to put it out on Amazon KDP and watch the sales roll in. I would be extremely surprised if she makes more than $100 back for this book, so offering you half the profits is really laughable...



  • @NessIllustration thanks for breaking it down. I agree it's very naive. She's probably a decent person just ... people don't understand. It's great to have some more info. Even for myself in terms of how to explain things. I'm getting to be completely ok with being blunt/honest. Gee whiz, I was completely clueless myself when I first started in children's illustration and I thought this was going to be a lot easier than it has been! I guess we all start out naive. Thanks for pointing out the facts and I will share them. I love how up front you are 😁
    . Imma not working for free or nothing 👊


  • Pro

    @Coley I definitely started out naive too haha! It's a steep learning curve and I had to make lots of mistakes to gain every little piece of knowledge I have now ^^''''


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