Children's Book Pricing - 1st Book
shelleywebbart last edited by
New user here, I'm Shelley, 34, mum of 2, wife of 1 poor husband, and dog mama to 3 from the UK. I've been working on my art fundamentals for around a year and a half now and I've had someone contact me in regards to illustrating their children's book.
I've read the transcript and divided the text up so it reads nicely. It'll need 5 character designs, around 47 drawings of the characters for inside the book, 3 settings, and a cover page, pattern page too.
I have literally no idea how to price for this. Her budget is $500-600 which I'm sure given the amount of work probably isn't enough to be asking for - but, this will be my first book attempt and a learning curve for both of us. She isn't from an agency, I'm not signed or even have a portfolio together to send out, so we'll be doing it ourselves.
Any advice? Should I decline the job? Do it for the experience? Ask for more? Is what I've been offered a good price for a first book?
I'm really feeling a bit lost - I've been wanting to illustrate a book for so long, but now the opportunity is here all the horrible business things and logistics have to come and spoil it for me but I want to do it right from the beginning.
Any help or advice would be much appreciated!!
@shelleywebbart While it can be ok in some circumstances to take a lower offer to get your foot in the door, you also don't want to be taken advantage of. This isn't a budget, it's pocket change. It's like $12 per drawing! You'll be working months on this.
Truth is, you don't need this author to pay you peanuts in order to make a book and gain experience. Nothing prevents you from picking any fairy tale or story in the public domain (or writing your own) and make a book by yourself. You don't need her and her insulting budget. A normal average for a 32-page book is between 8k and 12k by the way.
This also doesn't sound like it would be such a great opportunity to gain experience, since she doesn't know what she's doing either. You won't have an experienced art director to show you the ropes. What is it that you can gain here that you wouldn't be able to Google to find out by yourself?
This is just my 2 cents but I think you deserve better than this. There are no shortage of wannabe authors unwilling to even save up for more than a month for their supposed "dream project". They're not worth the time...
KathrynAdebayo last edited by
Good advice from @NessIllustration
Katie Kordesh last edited by
Hi Shelley! I agree with Ness on every point.
I worked on a self-published book in college and I would have been better served to focus on my projects and ideas. None of those pieces made it into my portfolio and I didn't mention it when querying agents.
Melissa_Bailey last edited by Melissa_Bailey
@shelleywebbart welcome to the forum!
As someone who accepted $300 for their first children's book job, I can say that you would probably regret taking that job later on. Looking back, I regret not valuing my work and time enough to ask for the going rate. Granted, I didn't know what the going rate was back then, I didn't know what I was doing, was desperate for work, and it was a smaller job (10 or so small illustrations). But that's on me for not educating myself beforehand or doing the math to actually figure out what I'd be making per hour.
Why do I regret it?
- It devalued my work -- both in my client's eyes, and my own. It took a long time to gain the confidence to ask for prices that are within the going rate for illustrators in my region, prices I should have been asking for all along.
- It took a long time to work up to the going rate -- because my prices started off low and I was finding work through a site where everyone could see what I'd been paid for previous jobs, I couldn't just raise my prices to what they should be. (That's kind of another story, working through sites like that [Upwork, Fiverr, etc.]. You need money, you're getting a ton of low-paying jobs that keep you busy, so not enough money is coming in but you don't have time to look for higher-paying clients... you can get caught in a vicious cycle.)
- It didn't give me the experience I really needed. Again, I didn't know what I was doing. The client didn't know what they were doing. What resulted was work that didn't make it into my portfolio and now (looking back) is cringeworthy. As @NessIllustration said, there are other ways of getting experience. (SVSLearn is a great place to get some of that experience!)
To be fair, there could be reasons why you're interested in this job, other than gaining experience: for instance, have you fallen in love with the story? In this case, you could tactfully counter with a price you feel would be fair enough that you'd be willing to take on the project for. Though I now always decline a super low budget, there have been times where I've been interested in a project and have come back to the client with a price that is well above their budget (sometimes 2x or 3x more), and explain why I'm quoting that price. Usually, a newbie who's never worked with an illustrator or published a book before has no clue the amount of work that goes into children's book illustration. They may think that they're offering a fair price. But when you break it down for them -- being transparent with the amount of work that is entailed, how long each illustration takes, and what that would amount to hourly -- most of the time they'll see how fair the price you're quoting actually is. (Hint: most children's books can take 150 to 300+ hours to illustrate, depending on the size of the job. If it takes you 5 hours for each of the 47 character drawings for the interior, that's 235 hours of work, not even counting character design, 3 settings, a pattern page, and a cover page. Not saying that that's the time it would take, just guesstimating to use as an example.)
My advice? Write down how long it takes you to complete an illustration, start to finish -- spot, half page, full page, spread, etc. Work in time for preliminary work like character design, storyboard, book dummy. Don't forget to count the time it takes to scan, edit, and/or compose the illustrations. This is your "billable time" -- multiply that by your target hourly rate to come up with a fair price for you. Oh, and don't forget to factor in what supplies you'll need to buy to complete the project.
To estimate how long the project will take to complete, multiply the number of hours you think it'll take by 2 or 3 and then divide that by how many hours you realistically think you'll work on that project per week -- you'll have a number to give to your client (expect it to be months, not weeks, to complete the project). Why double or triple the timing estimate? There will be time that you'll spend on the project that isn't illustrating -- answering emails, communicating with your client, waiting for your client to get back to you, etc. Figuring out timing for a project doesn't just depend on how long it takes you to do the work -- this is a team effort and your client will also need time to review and/or ask for revisions.
Of course, this is just one person's experience and viewpoint. You know your circumstances and what works best for you. Wishing you all the best!
RachelArmington last edited by
When you say "we'll be doing it ourselves," do you mean self-publishing or that she plans to submit it to traditional publishers after you've illustrated it (which is a common beginner mistake). Either way raises red flags.
Even if she is only asking for b&w drawings for a chapter book (which I suspect because of the number of drawings you are considering), that price is way under.
Lisa Clark last edited by
Definitely listen to this podcast!
It will give you a lot more information on how publishing works and help you make an educated decision.
I illustrated a book a couple years ago that my Dad wrote 30 years ago when I was three years old. I really wish I hadn't done it. It took a lot of time that I could have been using to take classes and improve my skills and I got close to no money out of it. It can feel good to have someone want you to illustrate your book in the beginning, believe me it was that way for me, but I wish I hadn't.
Lisa Clark last edited by
I looked you up on Instagram. You are incredibly talented. You need to charge more money!! I honestly don't know a ton on the subject but there are a lot of threads on this forum about how to price your art & time.
shelleywebbart last edited by
Such amazing and valuable advice, thank you all so much for taking the time to get back to me!
It's not a story I've fallen in love with, I think it needs quite a bit of work and there are some big holes in it, so for me, I was only considering it on the value of having experience and actually creating a book, but I think you're right when you say I'd be better spending the time making my own project to use in a portfolio etc. The ultimate goal for me would be an agency as I really have a hard time negotiating and justifying my worth, I'd be better off putting my time into getting representation and working on my skills.
I think I will certainly lay out what needs doing in a quote as a reply to the time involved. I know before I really started learning about the industry that children's books seemed like a very simple job - how wrong I was! I find simplifying harder than realism, it's been a huge learning curve but I absolutely love it and without a doubt want this to be what I do for the rest of my life.
Again thank you all for taking the time to respond. I'm making my way through SVS courses bit by bit, not even attempted to think about the money side yet so I really had no idea of the going rate, but I know roughly how much work it will take and that's why red flags were waving over the budget. If it would take me a week to do, start to finish then fine, but I don't think that's going to be possible.
So glad I've found such a lovely, welcoming and helpful forum! I have yet to make any arty friends so it's wonderful to find like minded people here!