Need Help with a price quote for a book deal

  • An author just offered me $3000 for 29 full page illustrations and I am trying to figure out if that is a good price. This is my first real "book deal" type work and they said they could stretch their budget a little, but I feel like the work could be a whole lot more than I bargained for. Should I ask for details about each image up front before accepting? Is there a certain time frame I should ask to be given?

    This isn't through a lawyer or agency or anything, just getting this deal through the author. I have worked with her before and she paid and worked with me well, but I didn't have rights to sell prints of the artwork at cons or anything when I worked with her before, that was the only thing I was slightly unhappy with. The contract is open for negotiation still, so I'm wondering if I should try and negotiate that somehow. That's a lot of time spent working on pieces I won't be able to profit from. Maybe I should ask for a royalty percentage if she won't give me rights to sell the art at cons?

    Any other general advice before I start communicating with her?

  • @kasey-snow 29 illustrations is ... for me roughly 220 hours? Give or take? In your shoes I would offer maybe 2 full color spreads, and 20 black and white spot illustrations and a color cover for $3000. $3000 is around 1 month's worth of expenses for me, breaking roughly even. Bear in mind that taxes on freelance income is around 38%. I would also make sure the deadlines are well in your favor, or super flexible, and everything is written into a contract. Stipulate the number of revisions allowed per illustration, as well.

    I like to let them know I'm doing them a bit of a favor when reducing rates. Saying something like "I would normally charge X amount for this but because you have a tight budget, I can offer 2 full color spreads, a color cover, and 20 black and white spot illustrations for that rate. I would need the deadline to be by X or flexible based on progress. The color illustrations would resemble [insert a piece you're comfortable with here] and the black and whites would resemble [insert black and white illustration here]."

    So... go with your gut. Offer what you're willing to do, and if they refuse, well... it's not the job for you.

    I vaguely remember @Lee-White saying beginner children's books can roughly pay around $8000 through a publisher. I could be mis-remembering.

    That's my 2 cents.

  • @withlinesofink Thanks for the advice! They are wanting 29 full color illustrations for that price though, something along the lines of this piece I did for them a while ago:

    Maybe I should do like you say and respond with something like "normally I'd charge $5000 for that but because you have a tight budget I can offer you $4500" or something? The problem is I was still figuring out prices when I charged them for the above piece and definitely undercharged, so I'm not quite sure how to ask for more. Maybe I should start with something about how I've revamped my pricing structure recently or something?

    On the one hand I feel like this might be a great opportunity for me to really beef up my illustration portfolio and get some industry experience, but on the other I definitely want to be fairly compensated for my work and time and make sure I'm not underselling myself.

  • Pro SVS OG

    I think we all know that this is too little for the amount of work and relinquishing all rights - even taking it as pure labor (which is normally not the case for art, but it does happen frequently enough) with planning, sketching and execution, this would reasonably take around 10-12 weeks (this is 3 illustrations per week - you must know whether this is something you can do, day in, day out, for 10 weeks in a row). Also, do not think this is "industry experience". Industry experience is when you work with an art director. It is experience, certainly, and it teaches a lot about working on a large project.
    So it all boils down to what Will Terry says in his video about pricing art: how much do you want to do this job and what is your bottom-line price - the lowest price you are prepared to do it for. And then you give your quote (which should be higher than your lowest-limit price, but that is your call).
    You do not have to justify your quote. If she says something along the lines of "you were cheaper before", you can tell her that every project is different and this is your assessment for this project. By all means specify the number and nature of revisions she is allowed to do and at which stage (sketches vs final).
    Above all, if you want to have any leverage, you need to be ready to walk away. This is the most important wisdom that Will Terry gives in that video (which was extremely enlightening for me). If you are not prepared to turn your back on a project and be glad about it, you have no negotiating power whatsoever.
    And, if you quote reasonably for your time and effort, many people will not hire you - that is a fact I can confirm from personal experience. So you really have to know what you are or arenΒ΄t prepared to do...

  • $3000 is crazy for that amount of work. Its the bottom of the range for this sort of work and there is risk involved in that it's not an established publisher commissioning you. I'm biased though, I had some bad experience with an "author" many years ago and got stiffed on any compensation for the work I did. If I could offer any advice it would be to get paid upfront and make sure you retain all the rights to your artwork in writing.

  • For me, I think there is two big back outside of the pay. The first one is loosing the rights to your images, and really I don't understand why she asks that. But, at least you would be able to use the images for your portfolio.

    The second one is that, from what I understand, she self publishes... So as @smceccarelli said, it's not industry experience.

    I have worked on 3 projects with an author from Malta recently. It's a tiny island and they don't have a big budget to pay illustrators. The first 2 books I did for free - they are being distributed in schools ; and the 3rd for 1200 $ (all 16 pages books, not 32 pages). BUT, they where all being published through publishing houses (small publishing houses, but still publishing houses) so I had the experience of working with 2 different publisher and editor. PLUS, I kept all the rights on my images and even obtained the permission to self publish the books in French/English in Canada if I want to.

    HOWEVER, another point to consider is that even if it's not "industry experience", it is still illustration practice. For me, doing these books (and I am still working on the last one) forced me to produce a lot of art within a deadline. And I feel like my illustrations have improved a LOT in the process, just because I was painting a lot every day. I work a full time day job as well, and I am sure that without these project I wouldn't have made half this number of illustration is this last year. But you have to see if the illustration you would make for that book would be portfolio material and interesting for you!

    Anyway, I hope this helps! For sure money is important, but there's other things to consider πŸ™‚

  • @smceccarelli Yes, I watched the video you're talking about and you're totally right. I think the lowest I'd be willing to work on this project for would be $4500/$5000, though maybe I'm still underselling myself? I would like to do the job, it's a fun premise and would give me more work to put in my portfolio, but I also don't want to feel like I'm getting intern pay to do professional work that will consume my life until it's done.

    @Christine-Garner Absolutely. I learned the hard way many years ago to never start work on something you haven't been paid for. With this I would ask for payment up front or at the very least half up front and the other half once I have completed a few pieces.

    @NoWayMe Yes, the rights thing bothers me too. How do I ask for some rights insofar as being able to sell prints at a con? I know her concern is that she wants to be able to use all images/character designs for merchandise down the road, but I don't think she understands what is typically done with artists being able to at least sell prints of their work. I was thinking of offering to put her business cards with the prints that sell or something so that people will be redirected to her book site if they buy a print, but I don't know how to work that out. She has a lawyer and I do not, and the lawyer friends that I did ask didn't have any experience with this stuff so didn't see anything unusual about what she was asking.

  • @kasey-snow

    Perhaps you can negotiate to license just the rights the author needs for the publishing of the book and also the specific rights if she wants to sell merchandise without assigning all rights to the artwork (when I used to be a member of the Association of Illustrators they said never assign all rights if at all possible- if the book is a success you will be annoyed, and if it isn't you can't make any money on any of the work you did for yourself in the future).

    Not sure if any of these links will be useful to you but here's some on licensing and related to this:

  • @christine-garner Thanks so much, those links are incredibly helpful! I will have to go through them later today. And yeah, I definitely messed up with the first piece I did for her, I am proud of it but I can't make revenue from it and who knows if she will ever even use it. πŸ˜• But perhaps the contract can still be negotiated.

  • I feel ya! I recently had a past client ask me to do a cover for his second (self-published) novel. My original price for the first novel was ridiculously low (my fault, not his... he even paid me extra when I was done!) I'm trying to decide what to do since my original price was so absurd.

    But in your case, I think you're right to ask for more money, especially if you're essentially forfeiting your rights to the artwork.

  • @missmarck Hindsight is so very sadly 20/20. I knew I didn't want her to have full rights to the work but I didn't know how to ask for anything else. πŸ˜• I am thinking of asking to work under a new contract that allows me to sell prints of the work I do. 30 pieces is a lot of time and effort to never get to use again.

    I wonder if it would be weird to give her two options: 1) Pay me more and keep the rights or 2) I'll work for less if you give me rights to sell prints of what I draw. Is that strange, I wonder?

  • @kasey-snow sorry if this is a stupid question, but have you already agreed to do work for a contract that gives her all the rights or is this still to be negotiated or discussed as a future job?

    The options thing- might be a good idea to see what she wants, but you still have to make sure you don't punish yourself on the price aspect, especially for all that work, only offer something you are comfortable with doing.

  • I worked under a contract with the piece I already showed here--so that one is off the table as far as me being able to do anything with it other than sharing it online as an example of my work. The original contract had an addendum section where we could adjust the stipulations of each batch of work I do for her, so I will see if that can be something we add to the contract moving forward. Not sure about how all of that works though.

    She is asking me for a quote for this batch order of 29 pieces and I am probably going to tell her that if we do it under the same contract it will be more expensive. If we can write up a new contract (essentially the same one as before except a clause stating I can sell prints of the work I make for her book) then I will give her a cheaper (though still fair) quote for the order.

  • I think that sounds fair to her and you πŸ™‚ I hope it goes well for you, all the best.

  • @kasey-snow I think offering the two options is a clear but non-aggressive way to explain how this kind of project really affects an artist: either a decent sum upfront, or guaranteed income over time. Also, if you're still worried about how little you charged originally, what I have told clients (IF they argue or question my increase) is "My freelance time is at a higher premium now, due to shifts in workload and availability." Most people are understanding... if they aren't, it's a red flag that they might be more trouble than they're worth πŸ˜‰

  • @kasey-snow That is exactly how I would have approached this! Hope it works out πŸ™‚

  • I appreciate the input and confirmation about what I plan to ask. She has not responded yet, but hopefully I'll hear back soon. Thanks everyone!

  • Just wanted to post an update to say a big THANK YOU to everyone who responded and gave input to this thread. Because of your advice I was able to successfully negotiate a new contract in which I have rights to my artwork, and adjust the payment for the project to $6000, double what she originally offered me. I would not have had the direction to achieve that without your help, I am most grateful to you all. ❀

  • SVS Team SVS OG

    @kasey-snow That is fantastic news! Congrats!

  • That sounds much better ,I hope it is very successful for you Congrats!

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