New Project, need your help :)


  • SVS OG

    A warm hello to you!

    I have been approached to do a children's book comprising of 30 - 35 illustrations ( approx. 15 spread, 15 spot ), for a 32 page book, in my painterly style as seen here:

    The intimidating White Canvas

    It's a 'work for hire' project and while that's not ideal, it's a project that will allow me to design creatures which should be fun : )

    Couple of queries:

    1. How much would you charge for a painterly style similar to the one I have shared in the link?
    2. The budget mentioned is 2-3k. What would be an ideal quote? The project needs to be done in 2 months. The Graphics Arts Guild book says flat fees could be anything between 2k - 20k & I remember @Will-Terry mention an estimate of 5 -12k for a 32 page color book (if starting out), on the podcast.
    3. Is designing characters (monsters) for the book usually charged separately from the book illustrations, or is that considered to be part of the illustration cost? How much would character design costs be, approximately?
    4. Is the front cover & back cover charged higher than the interior illustrations? (Which would add on to the total number of illustrations. by +2? )
    5. How many iterations is the norm? I usually provide 2 iterations.

    Looking forward to your insights! 😃



  • I haven't done or plan to yet books, but i did work as a freelance artist.
    The only thing i feel that is important to you in terms of revenue is that-
    if you feel this project can get big acclaim or can be a hit, you should try and get percentage as well.
    i see alot of successful kids books and i'm pretty sure they didn't get percentage from the sales. and that's a shame because it can be worth a whole lot more than 2K or 5K in the long run. which can be substantial in tough times.

    the front and back cover depends on how much quality of color are you investing in the pages themselves, alot of times that is the same drawings from the pages in the book. but if he wants a special front and back, that can cost.

    in the end, you can lose this job if you won't "feel" how much the client can go with rewarding you for the work. I would say if i would do this I would do:

    1. figure out how much time i work on research and sketching.
    2. how many illustrations are there in total.(front page can be extra)
    3. can i meet his expectations? did he go by a style he liked already with my illustrations? that can make life easier. but if not it would mean a lot of back and forth approval of the style he likes the most. which again, can cost you exatra time and work-and to him.
    4. take all that, amount of illustrations, how much color, how many characters. how many hours you estimate.
      then you can see your own budget, and compare, and see how much you are willing to go through with it to him.

    about iterations, I feel that both you and the client should come out of the experience, happy and satisfied. so iterations are amount of research you are willing to explore for him. and how well he communicates with you on his vision. if he has any. its alot about communication at first to get the right world/colors/ character designs/style of illustration, etc... and how much he has patience to go with your iterations. some clients just don't have patience and want results without even giving you reasons what needs to be corrected.


  • SVS OG

    Thanks @arielg !

    I have mentioned the art style required in the link titled 'The intimidating White Canvas '

    Would a percentage from the sales apply in this case if the form of payment is a flat fee?


  • SVS OG

    Hi @Darian! I'm sorry I'm responding just now, I've been very busy with Inktober and work. I'm no expert. I haven't done much book negotiating but hopefully this will help. My comments here are all based on what I would do if I were in your situation. Here are my thoughts:

    @Darian said in New Project, need your help 🙂:

    How much would you charge for a painterly style similar to the one I have shared in the link?

    It depends. How much do you charge for your more simple style? If this painterly style takes longer, charge a higher fee.

    The budget mentioned is 2-3k. What would be an ideal quote? The project needs to be done in 2 months. The Graphics Arts Guild book says flat fees could be anything between 2k - 20k & I remember @Will-Terry mention an estimate of 5 -12k for a 32 page color book (if starting out), on the podcast.

    2-3k is actually a good budget. it's on the lower end but it is still fair enough. Is this your first trade book? if yes and you really want to do this book, I'd say take it. Charge no less than 3k.

    If you feel that they have a higher budget and you don't want to under sell yourself, you can say:

    "3k is a good price but is there a way we can increase it to 4k (new amount depends on you)? If not, I'm always open to negotiations. Perhaps, we can discuss royalties."

    Is designing characters (monsters) for the book usually charged separately from the book illustrations, or is that considered to be part of the illustration cost? How much would character design costs be, approximately?

    If the designs are for a sample/trial, charge them separately. Don't work for free. However, if they've already hired you, it is my understanding that the flat fee that you quoted already includes the character design fees.

    Is the front cover & back cover charged higher than the interior illustrations? (Which would add on to the total number of illustrations. by +2? )

    Yes, they would.

    How many iterations is the norm? I usually provide 2 iterations.

    I assume you mean revisions? Yes, 2 revisions sounds fair.



  • @Darian
    it depends if you can push it also, if they can't raise your budget, its a good leverage if you aren't satisfied with the 2k or the 3k, which might be all they have, or not.
    but what i would recommend the first thing is estimate how long the whole thing is gonna take, work hours. that way you have better confidence in the amount of effort you are contributing, and your legitimacy to demand what's coming to you.

    X hours=confidence=reasonable demand from you.


  • SVS OG

    Thank you @Nyrryl-Cadiz for your thoughts! I appreciate it.
    Could you share a ball park of how would you charge for the style I shared? Either way, appreciate the time taken to answer my queries as much as possible 😃

    @arielg Alright! Thank you for your inputs 😃


  • Pro

    @Darian While 2-3k is quite low for the amount of work involved, for a first book I admit it could be worse and this could be a good opportunity for your career. Nowadays I wouldn't take a book that paid any less than 8k (but min 10k is even better), but I did my first book for 1.5k so I acknowledge that there is a ladder here to climb and I'm not one to try to make artists feel bad when they take a project with a lower budget while attempting to start their career. I think that would be ignoring the realities on the field when you're trying to get your start. It's a tough place to be and I think you should be able to do whatever you feel you want to do get your start, without an annoying pro telling you "Anything under 50k is TERRIBLE, I wouldn't even CONSIDER such AWFUL companies!!" ... That's so not helpful ^^'''

    That being said, I'm more concerned with the work for hire part and especially, the TIME FRAME. It seems these people have a tiny budget yet they want it all: they want high quality, a time consuming painterly style, they want it FAST and they want all the copyrights. That's like if I have $2.50 in my bank account but I want an AAA steak cooked by a chef, and I want it in 2 minutes. I think 2 months is not enough for this amount of illustrations in this style. Let's say it's 30 illustrations total, that means you would have to character design, thumb, sketch, tone and color test, and finish painting 1 illustration every 2 days. On top of that 3k is likely not enough money for you to live on for 2 months, so you may have to do some other work at the same time to eat and pay rent. In terms of hours it just doesn't add up. You'd be signing yourself up for one hell of a burnout, if you even manage to hit your deadline.

    My suggestion would be to tell them "Look the industry average budget for a 32 page book is 8k to 12k. But this is my first book and I'm willing to do it for 3k. BUT I made calculations (explain to them what I said in the previous paragraph) so in order to be able to create this amount of work in the style you requested and at the quality level you're expecting to see from me, I would need at least 4 months."

    Do try to negotiate the budget up a bit. Even if you get it up to 3.5k that would still be an improvement 🙂

    Lastly please try to negotiate the copyrights. It is NOT normal NOR industry standard to demand exclusive copyrights for a book. Try to explain it to them. If giant publishers like Simon and Schuster or Penguin don't need exclusive rights, why do they think they need them? And these copyrights are EXPENSIVE. If they do actually need them for a legit reason (like making merch to make more money) they why do they think they do not have to pay additional for this extra, non industry standard thing they're asking for? They may not budge on this, and I'm not saying you should absolutely refuse the project if that's the case. Do what you feel comfortable with. At the beginning of my career I accepted work for hire contracts and I couldn't care less about it because I had bills to pay and I did what I had to do. However it's worth discussing with them. 99% of authors or small/newish publishers think they need all copyrights (for some reason) when really, they don't. They don't realize that it's not the norm. And in my experience, informing them that this is not industry standard and that none of the successful publishers do it is the biggest argument for them to reconsider it. They're like "Oh, it's not? Oh, pros don't do it? Well.. like I'm a pro too, so I guess maybe I don't want to seem like I'm not as informed as I thought I was...." Best case scenario, you might change their mind! Worst case scenario they don't budge, but at least you tried.

    Good luck and do keep us updated!


  • SVS OG

    @NessIllustration This is awesome Ness! Thank you for the nuggets of wisdom! I appreciate the time you put in sharing your views.

    I am going to negotiate and see how it goes. Thank you for your advice! 😃


  • SVS OG

    @NessIllustration what rights would you suggest I should permit, for a budget of 12k & 3k respectively?


  • Pro

    @Darian It really depends on what their needs are - it's different for every project. I find it's best to first tell them a ridiculous number like "industry average for exclusive copyrights is 50k and up, which is why it's not customary for publishers, small or large, to ever get exclusive rights simply for a book." From there, it opens up a discussion about what they ACTUALLY need vs. what they think they need. emphasize the point that it's smart to start out small with just the rights they think they'll need - and if the book blows up and they want to widen the scope of the project to capitalize on that, that's awesome and you'll be more than willing to renegotiate the licensing agreement then to match their growing needs (at which point if the book is successful they'll have the money to pay you so it won't be so much of a gamble as paying for ALL rights up front.

    Ask questions to figure out what they plan to do with the project. Do they only want to publish it in one country, in one language? Well then, that's a much different story! Exclusive rights for India is a much different prospect than exclusive rights for the world. Next ask them how long they plan to keep re-printing the book. My guess is, not until the end of time. Do they need it for 10 years? 5 years? At some point they'll want to move on to newer projects and won't be re-printing this book anymore. Why keep paying for those rights after that point? Lastly, how many copies they plan to print in their first run. A lot of publishers use the first run to assess how well the book is doing (if they sell out quick, they want to print more). Therefore after the first printing runs out would be a good time to re-evaluate the project and renew the licensing agreement with you. What about royalties? Are they willing to discuss offering your a percentage, rather than budging on the budget or copyrights?

    It's important to note that you don't need to restrict every single one of the points I mentioned in your contract. As I said every project is different, some will call for leaning more into a point than the others. Here are some examples of what your licensing contract could be:

    • 3k for the book, but they only get to sell the book in India for 5 years and it's non-exclusive (that's about all the rights 3k should buy them, since it won't even pay fairly for your time)
    • 12k for the book and exclusive rights in India
    • 5k for non exclusive worldwide rights, and exclusive India rights for 5 years
    • 3k for worldwide non-exclusive rights to sell only 1000 copies, every additional 1000 copies after that will be an additional 1k every time
    • 3k for worldwide non-exclusive rights, but it's paid as an advance on 5% royalty
    • Etc.

    Those are just examples with random numbers, certainly do not take this as the official guidelines for what each of those rights are actually worth! But it's meant to give you an idea as to what should be priced less and what should be priced more. Non-exclusive are always priced less, for instance, and 3k should only get them the bare minimum rights they'll need to sell their book very restrictedly. Sometimes when the illustrations are very specific and you think your chances of licensing them again to another company in the future are slim to none, it could make sense to try to push to get more money for exclusive rights (since you might not be able to sell them again anyway). But in a lot of cases (including this one, monsters are very marketable!) keeping your copyrights almost always pays off in the long run. If they are worried about you selling a book with your illustrations that would compete with their book, you can also alleviate their concerns with a non-competition clause that says, for instance, that you will not sell the illustrations in children's book form but reserve the right to sell them in other forms.

    Hope this helped! This is a complicated subject that I'm still learning about myself.


  • SVS OG

    @NessIllustration This is just brilliant. Thank you Ness! 😃 💛

    The client is based in the US.

    I was looking for a ballpark range like an estimate you just shared, for me to understand it better. It definitely helps!


  • SVS OG

    Update: Had a video call and I have to admit, we got on very well.

    It's the client's first time doing something like this and he was very understanding & open to ideas.

    I shared my thoughts on the short timelines for the scope of work & how 4-6 months is a decent time frame. He understood & agreed that he didn't want to rush anything but didn't want it to take forever as well. Quality is more important than quality. So that's good.

    I also mentioned that budget was on the low end of the spectrum & 15k was industry norm and that work for hire is an expensive affair and unnecessary, as he is planning to print 1000 - 2000 books in the first run. Other questions like how many languages & countries is yet to be decided. I offered a licensing situation which he's open to look into. I'll have to share a couple of options in that regard that works best for both of us. The budget is around 3k though.

    Understanding the low budget but fun project situation, we have agreed to I sending in a sample sketch of one of the character & a creature, which will be paid for, if the project doesn't work out. It will be included in the total illustration cost if project does move forward.

    What is the normal cost for a line sketch of a kid character & a creature? How does 50$ sound?


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