New possible CB client

  • Hey everyone, I need some helpful thoughts/ a bit of backbone!

    I'm meeting an author on Friday who wants me to work on his children's book that he plans to self publish. He has said in his emails he's been through several people attempting to illustrate his book, but none have worked out... not sure why exactly.

    "My book is pretty long, maybe up to 40 or so illustrations and that is what I am worried about, I am not sure if it will be worth it. have had several artists try, but so far it hasn't worked out, but I do like some of the character drawings they came up with. My book is not only pretty long, I think it needs a lot of detail and is a bit complex, but maybe you know all the tricks to make it work out."

    Forgive me for sharing his words if that is inappropriate, but I wanted to share my concerns. He doesn't know much about publishing and nothing about the business of illustration. He may even want me to use the ideas from another artist! Ugh!

    I would tell him my concerns about illustrator hopping and bring up a contract. I'm feeling very edgy about working with him. The project would be good practice... maybe. If not the practice of meeting someone and educating them on how this business works would boost my self confidence.

    Please help me with your experience and thoughts!

  • SVS OG

    @bharris Hmmmm, I don't have much experience, sounds like it has a fair chance of turning into a nightmare project. Hopefully the meeting on Friday will help you decide. Good luck!

  • @shinjifujioka Thanks! I didn't know if I was over sensitive or if he just doesn't know soooo much.

  • Hmmm when an author says they've gone through multiple illustrators, that's a huge red flag for me. One - okay, understandable, benefit of the doubt situation. But when there's multiple that didn't work out, that leads me to believe the common denominator is perhaps this author is hard to work with.

    I'd suggest still doing the meeting with him, but asking all the questions you can beforehand. And if you do decide to go ahead, make sure to have a contract in place that includes how many revisions/additional fees if the scope becomes bloated, etc.

    Then you just have to decide how much 'art direction' you're willing to take from him or how you'll go about educating/putting your foot down otherwise.

    Best of luck! Let us know how it goes.

  • Hey Brittany,
    I feel ya. I was also, briefly, working with a self publishing writer. This writer had 'many people' want to illustrate his works but according to him they 'never worked out'. I read his stuff, picked a story and worked up some character sketches as well as a quick book layout. (Which was a chunk of my time but I chocked it up to learning.) We met at a library and went over my stuff. I also told him what prices and contracts were like for a newbie illustrator in a big publishing firm. (5K to 10K for 3-5 mths of work.) My quote to him was much lower. Also...I told him that since I was quoting a fairly low price that I wanted free reign as far as art direction. He seemed excited but I haven't heard from him and it's been 2 weeks now. I did not let him keep my sketches or layout but I might just finish a few images for my portfolio.

    I'm glad I put myself out there and I did learn from going through the process. But my take away is don't put a bunch of effort into it before getting a contract.

  • SVS OG

    My thoughts are this definitely sounds like a client that you need to clarify there will only be two changes, after that they cost extra. It sounds like code for being pickier than hell, which may be why he's gone through several artists. I would also tell him no on using another artists ideas. You need to have it clear in your mind what you will do and what you will not do. I would take some examples of your work, and if it isn't to his tastes, thank him for considering you and move on. I think Shinji nailed it, could be a nightmare! Could also be just fine. I would ask why the other artists haven't worked out.

    Good luck! Please keep us posted, i would love to know how it turns out 😃

  • @DanetteDraws I agree with it being a possible red flag, but like you said benefit of the doubt. Do you know a good place to look through different contracts? Thanks for your input!

  • SVS Team SVS OG

    I agree with @Lynn-Larson if you are going to work with him you will need some sort of contract that states if the edits are more then two rounds it will cost extra. I worked with someone who was self publishing and had all these ideas of how everything should be and how it should look. I tried to give my advice but it became a nightmare. I was very excited that it was going to be my first childrens book. I gave a price and she accepted it. In the end I was not happy with the illustrations I did, the story was not well written. There was way more back and forth and changes that I wanted to do and I explained to her that it was going to start to cost more if she keeps changing her mind on pages. I was sent multiple drafts of the story and when I would work on one i was later told it was the wrong draft. In the end I was paid and I know now if I was to work with her again the price will be much more then the first time.

    Will actually has a video on how to price the project. it may be helpful for you as it was for me.

    Best of luck and I look forward to hearing how it goes!

  • @bharris I can tell that his books can be a bit expensive to print especially on hardcover (not talking about print on demand like Createspace which they don't offer hardcover). My self-publish book with around 36 pages on CreateSpace is set to a minimum prize at 11 dollar each print with paperback, and I think it's kind of expensive with paperback, size and color matter as well. Of course when CreateSpace put it on amazon they also lower the price in a dollars or so to make it looks good for whatever market reason. My book is on hold because of that reason and I might have to redo some illustration and consider everything (that for him to consider and I think he might have done some research as well)

    He might sounds like a difficult client but we never know till you really talk to him, and see for yourself why those previous illustrators he had worked with did not work. I wish you the best of luck! Let us know!

  • @katrinafowler I will be reading the story beforehand, but is it better to come to a meeting with my ideas or wait and get a sense of what he is looking for? I thought I would give him the option of more spot illustrations to keep his costs a little lower. I guess I don't know what to quote him without knowing how in depth he wants this to be....

    Sorry you haven't heard from your author, but it sounds like the experience was good.

  • @Lynn-Larson Thanks for your feedback. You're right, even though being new makes me feel like I ought to be flexible, I should know what I'm not willing to compromise on.

    I will defiantly let you know!

  • SVS Team SVS Instructor Pro SVS OG

    I highly recommend avoiding self publishing authors. They rarely work out for a number of reasons.

    1. They aren't trained as an art director and have no idea how to work with an artist
    2. They pay way below industry rates in exchange for "more money once it's selling"
    3. The stories haven't been vetted and typically aren't professional quality
    4. They don't understand how the business works and have little to no plan of distribution
    5. They don't understand all the costs involved. More on that:

    Typically there are quite a few parts to being a self published author. The EASY part is getting the book made. The hard part is selling the book. This requires an actual business and marketing plan. Most authors tend to over value their work and think as long as it gets made, it will do well (cause, you know, it's awesome!). But, it doesn't typically work that way. Most self publishing projects rarely see the light of day, and the ones that do die on the vine due to no plan for distribution.

    So IF you must work with an author. Demand a LARGE upfront payment, royalties on the back end, and ask to see the business plan for sales and distribution.

    If you are wondering what a "large upfront payment" (advance) would be, I'd start here:

    If you, the artist, are unpublished: $7500-$12000
    If you have 1- 5 books: $12,000-$20,000
    If you have over 5 books: $25,000+

    Hope that helps. : )

  • @bharris said:

    he's been through several people attempting to illustrate his book, but none have worked out

    "My book is pretty long, maybe up to 40 or so illustrations ... I think it needs a lot of detail and is a bit complex,


    Run screaming.

    Seriously though, so many red flags. He has no idea even the basics of processes involved in publishing a children's book (I'm not considering this a moral failing on his part but that doesn't mean you want to sink with him). There are many, many, MANY opportunities to work with self-publishing artists--probably most are bad but if that is how you want to get your feet wet then I'd try going with someone else.

    That said...

    Maybe you could educate him and he'll revise his (completely awesome?) story to a more standard 32 page spread and maybe he will be really reasonable to work with and end up selling millions. But, like @lee-white suggested: get a lot of money up front. And: get. a. contract.

    Good luck!

  • Pro SVS OG

    I stay clear of self-pub authors too. Typically not worth the time, money or headache.

    Every party I go to there is almost always someone who wants me to illustrate their book (that is "not written yet" or it is a "modern day classic") because you know "writing children's books is so easy" and they want to team up with me and have access to my "contacts in the biz."

    I don't even know what to say to that except thank you, but I'm still building my few "contacts" and value them while trying to get my own work published, publishers want to pick their own illustrator for each project and if you want to write ... great, join SCBWI and learn more.

    @Lee-White or @Will-Terry: How do you guys handle these conversations/request without losing your mind and offending anyone.

  • SVS OG

    Honestly, the few times anyone has been really persistent about wanting me to illustrate a book for them, I quote them a price I think is fair and they just shut up. (I'm in the fortunate position of NOT needing to get any work I can at any price, and can turn down bad projects guilt-free, but I can see how doing that would be hard for others in a more difficult situation.) Most self publishing people don't really have any concept of how much time they are asking you to invest in their project and therefore aren't ready to give you a half decent fee.

  • SVS OG

    @Lee-White Great advice! I second all of this. I have not worked on nearly as many published books as Lee, but have done a couple and done a lot of freelance work. I'd also recommend not being shy about the price point you are comfortable working for (I usually state a range, or hourly if it's that type of job). Anyone serious about paying you fairly for your work won't be scared off by this, and if they are it's usually for the better.

  • Pro SVS OG

    I've had a client like this one once. It was a great experience... However - never again! He didn't know much about the business, but also was a really stubborn person. It turned out into a nightmare project, as shinji said. I'm kinda glad for the experience, because now I know - do not take the job, if you're not sure about the client.
    However, the meeting could help a bunch.

  • SVS Team SVS Instructor Pro SVS OG

    Couple of answers to questions comments:

    • I don't generally recommend ever giving an hourly fee. The reason for this is that you are actually penalized as you get better (unless your rate dramatically increases). For example, when I graduated from school, it took me about 3-4 days to finish an illustration. It takes me about 4 hours now. So I would actually make less now (even with a big rate) than I did 10 years ago.

    • The way to answer these people is to be very nice. Don't ever be snappy towards any of them. Just state everything as facts. It's one of the areas I go into in the business class. Because we are so intertwined with art, the business side of things seems like it's harder than it actually is. If you had a product (for example: a new energy drink) and someone wanted to sell that energy drink, you would just say "it costs $x dollars to buy the product, etc". If the store didn't like it, it would be no big deal. They do that kind of interaction daily. But for artists it becomes "what if they think I'm mean" or "arrogant" or whatever. Just be business like and courteous.

  • Pro SVS OG

    @Lee-White It does feel like you are crushing their dream the way they look at you when you politely say thanks, but no and lead them in a different direction. I keep it together and try to encourage SCBWI etc but it is funny and frustrating the public perception of this field. That somehow it is easy. And you absolutely right, keep it business- like because once they start hearing numbers and fees they usually quickly lose interest. I never snap because you never know where one contact may lead and I'm not out to hurt people's feelings or discourage their dream. Looking forward to your business class, it could not come at a better time for me! 😃

  • Most of it has been said already...I created this video to send to them...then realized it was overkill and it actually probably offends more than helps...

    Right now I just say:

    "I'm very flattered that you would think of me for your book. Right now I'm only working with large publishers for many reasons. I'm booked for the next few years (lie - but also truthful as my own projects are keeping me more than busy) right now and hope to continue this trend. Good luck with your book!


    If they have the nerve to try to convince me I send them the video I made...I never hear after that but often find another "dislike" on the video 🙂

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