What are your thoughts on lowball offers?



  • So it seems that my postcards, or at least 1, have been delivered which is good news and I already got a response from a small publisher which is even greater news. The publisher seems to be an imprint of one of those on my mailing list (one from the children's illustrator market book) and they were interested in having me illustrate on of their books. They want to have around 32 illustrations, however (this is the bad news), their budget is $35 per illustration. This seems really low to me and not something I would have expected from a publisher no matter how small. I would really like to have my name on something, but my time could definitely be spent better elsewhere. I was wondered whether to ask if they were offering $350 per illustration, but I just responded by saying that my painting require a large investment of time that wouldn't be covered by the budget they currently have, but if they have projects in the future that would be suitable then to get in touch.

    Has anyone else been in such a situation where they were offered such as price by a publisher? What was your response to such offers? Also is it usual that smaller publishers offer book deals that are for $x for x illustrations or are most offers for the entire book? I would be very interested in hearing your responses



  • $35 per illustration? Ouch! Even for a fun project I would have turned that down as well. I can't tell you from experience, but what I've heard is its more common to get an advance for the entire book, rather than a price per illustration. And then royalties once you earn out the advance of course ;-). Maybe one of our more experienced friends would have more insight than me though.



  • 35$ isn't just a lowball. It's insulting.

    What's a little scary is that their tactic of 'lowballing' a new artist has probably worked some time in the past...



  • Please forgive me for piggybacking onto this, but I was just contacted by a small publisher today. They asked what I charge per illustration. This would be my first paying job, how do you know what to charge? I agree with you @Gary-Wilkinson , I want to work but I don't want to lowball myself.



  • @rhirsch

    That's awesome news! Good for you.

    I bought the graphic artist's guild handbook of pricing and ethical guidelines. It's a great source for base pricing.

    Or you could do it the old fashioned way and figure out a cost by timing an illustration then charging a certain amount per hour (whatever you think you're worth).



  • Before you do anything try to find other stuff they have published because they may be very amateurish and trying to make quick cash, that said you can't produce your style of fully rendered images for that money but as you may have watched Will Terry's video on pricing he doesn't recommend pricing guides because you need to decide for yourself if the fee they offer is right, send back a counter offer and see what they say.



  • Some thoughts on this 16 years into a full time illustration career:

    $35 per illustration is unusually low. Even for educational illustration which is where the lowest flat fees (also typically purchased as Work For Hire) are found. Is there some factor to this job that you didn't mention? Are these incredibly simple images? Like maybe single object black and white images? Anything more involved (and that actually utilized your considerable talent) and this licensing fee is one that you were justified in rejecting.

    It is not usual to receive offers like this from trade book publishers. No matter what their size. In that case you would negotiate a licensing fee for an entire book.

    As I mentioned earlier, you might get a price per illustration offer from an educational publisher. But even then I would expect the offer to be higher. (Note: I am not a fan of educational publishing for a long term career. It is one of the more abusive niches of children's publishing)



  • @rhirsch
    Two of these kinds of book publishing "price per image" offers in the same thread? That is odd. I'd be interested to know who these publishers are, and if this is a new trend of some sort.

    If you don't know what to charge then you need to take advantage of the resources available to you. Asking a peer group (like this) is a great way to go! Referencing the Graphic Artist Guild Pricing and Ethical Guidelines is one of my standard go to resources. It is required reading for anyone starting out in this industry. Not just for price ranges but also for the vast amount of industry and professional practices information that most illustrators didn't even know, they didn't know!

    In order to determine a licensing fee I would want to know the following information:

    • Scope of the project. How many illustrations? How many full spread, half spreads, half page, quarter page, spots? How many in color? Black and white? Cover art? Is the cover art wraparound?
    • How many copies will be printed in the first print run?
    • What will the cover price for the book be?
    • What rights does the publisher intend to license?


  • @davidhohn Yes, I am going to pick up the pricing guide. I should've done that already, actually, because I knew of it. I also just rewatched parts of Lee's How To Make Money in Illustration because I remembered he spoke about the issue. And I was making a list of questions I had for the publisher and see some of mine match with some of your suggestions, so I'm on the right track. Thanks, I just freaked out for a moment there.



  • I`m only freelancing since about 18 months, so my experience is limited, but this sounds very dodgy to me. Usually, only educational publishers offer flat fees, and these books don’t go to shops and don’t necessarily promote your name. I’ve worked for educational for low fees, as their budgets are very low - but still much more than what you’ve been offered!
    Trade publishers normally give you an advance on royalties. Very small publishers can give very small advances, or no advances at all - that´s your judgement call whether you trust the sales will cover your effort or not.

    In general, since I started marketing myself I’ve received a lot of what I now call „junk offers“. It seems to be part of freelancing as illustrator. They have some recognizeable characteristics that I’ve started to make a list of....ridiculously low budgets is one of them 😉
    Another one is asking „what are your rates for x“ - as if illustration was a fixed-fee service, like dry-cleaning. Those generally disappear and never respond when you answer with some ballpark figures (even if they are at the lowest end of the spectrum).

    Your work is very good, and good clients will most certainly come to you. Quoting my midwife (she was talking about labor contractions vs „fake“ contractions) „don’t worry, you’ll recognize them when they come!“ 🙂



  • Well... hum... Nothing stops you from spending only 10 seconds on each illustration. I believe just a couple of stick characters can be done in 10 seconds. $35 for 10 seconds of work is not a bad deal!

    Jokes apart... That will be $1120 for 32 illustrations. If you spend at least 4 months in this project, this is less than 300/month. If you only spend 1 month in this project (I don't think that is possible), you can imagine the quality of the art you will be able to produce. Do you see any value in having your name in a publication coming out of this? I think Instagram and ArtStation are doing you a better favor in showing off your work.

    Also... did you check their track record? What books have published, how well are they doing?

    Your work is good and even 350/illustration is too little.



  • I think everyone agrees this is pretty terrible,especially with the quality of your work being so high.I was offered this recently for a character render (which only takes about 1 hour) and I did not think it was a very good rate.Strangely enough the low paid jobs can be the most picky and annoying and keep getting you to change things it does not seem worth the time and frustration.Good luck😀



  • Hard pass. Your work is too good to be getting $35 per image.



  • I want to add that I don’t believe that you should only work for good paying jobs per principle. I very much agree with Will Terry that it is a case-by-case judgement, and that there is value sometimes in accepting a low-paying job, or even in working for free. I have had a couple of very good experiences that led directly to bigger and better opportunities. I think the more you know the business the better you can judge wether something is worth getting involved with.



  • Thank you for everyone's replies. I did check out what other books they have published and although I don't want to insult the illustrators who made them they do seem to be of quite low quality (thought i'm not surprised considering they were probably only offered $35).

    @rcartwright Will's video about pricing was really useful to watch (already seen it twice) and I agree that pricing should be adjusted to the project you are doing. I did reply to publisher to mention as politely as I could that I would be interested in working together for a more reasonable price but I doubt I will hear back from them, although I am wondering if I should reply again and ask if they missed a 0 of the end...

    @davidhohn Thank you for your advice. In the email they just said that they had a book that would fit my style and considering my style isn't a 5 minute simple line drawing I am presuming it wouldn't be a quick job.

    Thank you for the recommendation of the Graphic Guild book, I have heard it mentioned a lot and I will be sure to order a copy! In terms of the scope of a project would you expect the publisher to have an idea of how many full spreads, spot illustrations etc they would want in the book? I thought that would be left more to the illustrator to decide. Also in your experience do publishers usually give out a quote first and then you would be left to dig deeper into the details of the project to come back with a counter offer/accept/reject their offer?

    @smceccarelli It did sound dodgy to me too, on the bright side at least I know my postcards were delivered successfully. I just thought that publishers listed in the illustrator's market would have been more reputable in a sense, but I will be sure to dig deeper into a company before moving in on any offer. I also agree with you about not just thinking about the price of a project and to think of the bigger picture (as long as I can still pay the bills and keep the wife happy) Also, thank you for your compliments on my work, I always appreciate your help and guidance to make me a better artist 🙂

    @Diego_BioSteam $35 for 10 seconds would be a dream salary, I just need an extra 10 sets of arms. After looking at the company, although they have a few books available at independent stores it seems that their business model is more geared towards authors paying a fee to have the company help get their books on the shelf without taking a royalty themselves, which I can't agree with at all.



  • @gary-wilkinson Your questions about a publisher knowing how much art for a project: In typical trade picture book publishing, no. That is left largely to the illustrator. For educational publishing, yes. All that will have been worked out before you are even contacted for the job and there is little room for any adjustments along the way. For illustrated chapters books, yes and no. Often a publisher will tell you they want "X" number of pieces of art. And it's up to you to decide if those pieces are full spreads, half spreads, spots, etc. Sometimes the publisher will tell you they want "X" number of pieces of art and that this many need to be 1/2 page, this many spots, this many full page etc. But, along the way they are open to your suggestions on exactly which scenes are illustrated and how big or small those images are -- as long as they roughly equal the original "X" number of images.

    My experience with publishers giving you an price first vs asking you to quote the project first is mixed. Sometimes they put out the number first, sometimes they want you to put out the number. In both cases I do my due diligence and research the client as thoroughly as possible and then offer a range of quotes (with the price usually varying on the scope of the copyright being licensed)



  • I was approached by a publisher who had quite a few books on the market. However the illustrations were not what I would consider professional quality with the exception of the last two books. It seemed from looking at their catalog that they were upgrading illustrators as their budget allowed which made sense I suppose however she wanted work for hire pricing. I was very upfront with her that I wasn't sure it would be worth it for her at my pricing but she wanted a ball park figure. I gave her an estimate for a standard 32 page illustrated book with licensing vs one for work for hire and was not surprised it was out of her budget. I agree with smceccarelli about the signs on these "tire kickers" as I like to call them. I used to do a full estimate but now I send my form for them to fill out and most go away when required to do so and those who actually do I do a ballpark no longer a full estimate and not one in "writing" until they prove to be serious. Otherwise it's a waste of time. Just saw Davidhohns response as well spot on it's just like pricing out a web design job which I have done for years so it was easier for me to make the shift but you have to have details not the least of which licensing/copyright.