Test Illustrations for Publishers?
Nathalie Kranich last edited by
I once again get to navigate a yet-unfamiliar interaction with publishers, and would love to sound out the group again for similar experiences, opinions and advise.
I was approached by a German publisher about potentially doing a cover and some decorative vignettes for them. They said they loved almost everything about my illustration style, but they weren't a fan of the more stylistic faces I do - they're looking for something more realistic. I used to illustrate mostly in a semi-realistic style for more mature illustrations so I didn't feel cowed by that, and offered that I could do a quick test illustration to show them that I can make my children's book faces a lot more realistic.
The publisher requested I illustrate two characters from the actual book project for this test. (Sketches only). They liked the sketch for one of the characters, but were not yet happy with the other one. We'll discuss further tomorrow and I anticipate I'll be asked to make changes to the illustration.
Overall I don't mind doing this so it's not an issue anyway, but I am curious how people would generally handle this.
Here are my thoughts/questions:
would you ever do free test illustrations for a publisher before a project contract has been confirmed/offered?
How much time would you sink into these? I've spent maybe 2 1/2 - 3 hours on these so far.
I consider getting a character just right to be part of the actual project work. This is when I'd normally draw up multiple variations and tweak according to feedback so that the cover, which is ultimately just one instance of the character, looks as envisioned. At such a stage the variations would of course take me several hours. I guess I'm a little less sure whether a test illustration to demonstrate style should already accomplish what I thought should be accomplished in the project. Thoughts?
My "fear" here is of course that I will sink another two hours into test illustrations when I have other paying projects piling up, when there is a slight risk that even if I create the perfect character they might not ultimately go ahead with me - Whilst the time is maybe still negligible, I'm curious about best-practice.
Thank you guys!
Holumpa last edited by
@nathalie-kranich I did test illustrations before and depending on the project I can understand that it is asked for. But I think it should always be paid. I would then substract that amount from the project payment if I get the project.
How much time I would sink into that depends on how much they pay for the test work and how much I maybe want and love to do that illustration/sketch.
Larue last edited by
I was paid for a test illustration ($125 I think for 5 emoji characters) but we couldn't agree on a few contract points so they went with someone else( just as well my heart wasn't really in it. ) Point is ,yes, they should be willing to pay you for time to do this "pre-work" art.
Melissa_Bailey last edited by Melissa_Bailey
@nathalie-kranich yes, test illustration requests are common, and in my opinion, a good idea for both parties, as you can get an idea of what it will be like to work together before committing to a bigger project. Often, if a client doesn't request a test illustration, I suggest that we do one before either party commits to the main job.
Some thoughts on your questions:
Would I ever do a test illustration for free? Not anymore. I used to, and of all those times a client asked for a free test illustration, I never got the job. Plus, you're getting a client used to getting things for free from you right off the bat. In my experience, that can lead to your time not being respected or appreciated. So now, even though I'm happy and willing to do test illustrations, they are always paid.
How much time to spend on a test illustration? It all depends on what the client/publisher is willing to pay for a test illustration. If their budget is $100, I give them $100 worth of work ($100 divided by my hourly rate = the hours I'll spend). Of course, I plan accordingly and communicate clearly to the client what that $100 of test illustration will buy them. If it's only enough to do a sketch, not a completed illustration, I'll let them know so there are no surprises. If they want to see a full-color test illustration and their budget is $100, I'll let them know that that will get them a spot illustration, not a full page with background. Being up front and communicating clearly prevents a lot of potential problems!
So ... a lot of clients will ask for revisions in a test illustration, even if they're completely happy with the work. Why? This is a test run, so they want to see how an illustrator responds to revision requests. Is the illustrator going to be sensitive? Are they going to refuse? Are they going to be polite and accommodating? When I'm working out terms for the test illustration with a potential client/publisher, I clearly state how many revisions are included in that test illustration price. That lets the client know that I'm open to revisions. It also prevents scope creep or unlimited revision requests, which is a time suck.
To sum up: always charge for a test illustration. A test illustration will take a block of your working time, and that should be fairly compensated. It's also less risk for both parties, as they don't have to commit to a large project. Clearly state terms, price, and what the client will get. Also state ownership terms -- will you remain the owner of the test illustration? Will you retain your rights to the illustration or will the rights be transferred to the client? (I'd always retain rights, since they're only using this illustration to determine if they're going to hire you; it isn't going to be published so there is no reason why the client would need any rights to the illustration.)
Hope this helps and hope that this is a positive experience for you!