Time frame to make a book ?

  • Hello there !
    I'm just wondering... I'm from Quebec, Canada and I do children's book illustration. This line of work is not really well paid here... in general... (let's be real and talk real numbers). For an average children's book, you get paid something around 2000$ in advance with 5% in royalties (sorry if it's not the exact terms, I'm french... ). SO... when I hear people say they took a year to illustrate a book... how on earth could they make a living out of it... they still must make a lot of books in a year... right?! What's the average numbers in your country. Let's say for a 20-30 pages, children's book.

    (I'm also a graphic designer so I do both to make a decent salary)

    Thanks !


  • I'm probably not the best example, especially since I have a day job to do as well, but typically my turnaround time for a book, from sketches to finalized files is about 3-3.5 months. But I work with a self-publishing local author. From what I hear from Jake, Lee, and Will, I'm guessing that's a really quick turnaround time and could probably be longer.

  • Pro

    @ValD Hi Val, I'm from Quebec too! 🙂

    The rates in Quebec are smaller than most, because it is such a small market. The good news is you don't have to work locally, you can query publishers from anywhere in the world. In the US or UK, the rates are much better. The average for a 32 page children's book by a real publisher is $8,000 - $12,000. Even that won't sustain someone for a whole year, but illustrators who work with top 10 publishers (Penguin, Simon and Schuster, etc) or are really well-known can get much more than this average.

    I imagine the illustrators who take a year to do a book are either getting paid a lot to do it, or they're not getting paid a lot but they have a different full-time job to pay the bills (in this case, the length of time it takes them could also be due to having little free time to work on the book).

    Personally it takes me 2 months to do 12 pages, 3 months for 24 pages, and 4 months for 32 pages. More time would allow me to do more tests, studies, explore more, etc. I would never say no to more time hihi.. But I wouldn't take a rushed project for a shorter time frame than what I mentioned because I could not guarantee my highest level of quality.

  • @lpetiti - It takes me about the same time... 3 to 4 months... but sometimes, man I wish I had more time to explore, like u said @NessIllustration, I would certainly never say no to more time! 🙂

  • I did my first picture book (40pages) for my local publisher in Norway here for 2,5 months. It was not a good time frame to make good art and have a life. But the book worked out, and they came back for a second book. I asked for 6 months to do the book. It was no problem.

    I have another client in UK. I was given about 4,5 month to turn in a 32 pages picture book. After done the project, I see it was too little time as well (since often publishers take long time to give feedback).

    So my current strategy is always try to negotiate more than 6 months for a 32 page picture book. I do work on parallel with 2 projects going at the same time. It makes more sense to do it that way since there is often a long waiting period in between a book project, especially with larger publishing houses. Once I waited for 1,5 months to get feedback for my rough sketch, and I was still expected to deliver everything within the agreed deadline.

    My book advance does not cover the minimum income yet, especially my process is slow. Economy side of the art business is still a puzzle for me to solve. It is a balance among artistic freedom, money, and spending time with the family, and many other elements.

    Having a side business such as you do is probably very wise both for economic reasons and mental health reasons :-).

  • @ValD I illustrated 2 books for a psychologist and each took me about a year. Some styles are quicker to execute than others, but I seem to take a while. 🙂 I only charged her $1000 per book, as it was my first gig - luckily I’m also a tutor so I didn’t starve 🙂 great experience though. Definitely will charge more next time if possible- just need to improve.

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