A contract question for published Illustrators

  • What are the stages and deliverables that you include in your contract? milestones to get paid
    also, is the illustrator responsible for the graphic design of the book?

  • SVS Instructor Pro

    Typically the illustrator submits:

    1. a rough sketch dummy
    2. a finished sketch dummy
    3. Finished art (either digital files and associated color-accurate proofs or physical original art)

    No the illustrator is not responsible for the graphic design of the book.
    That said, it is likely that the illustrator will be the one largely determining the general placement of the text, as text is an important compositional element on each spread. I include text placement at the rough sketch dummy stage.

    But the book designer will determine (most) typeface choice(s), font size, line breaks etc. as well as cover title treatment.

    I have found it is important to keep lines of communication open between myself and the book designer. I regularly ask the book designer to submit to me a dummy version of the book in which the type placement is (mostly) finalized at the finished sketch dummy stage. This allows me to adjust my the final art so the type and images work together seamlessly.

  • @davidhohn so you don't include: how big each illustration would be, how many of them there are, is the cover considered an illustration or is it a separate bullet? front and back of the book? also thumbnailing, rounds, revisions, character design, set design and props?
    do you send them an invoice after every stage or do you just email them?
    also if it's not too much to ask, can you point me to a good contract?

  • Are you a member of the Association of Illustrators by any chance? They have some great information on their website, including how to write contracts and dealing with clients etc. I'm not sure if that info is available if you're not a member, but it's worth having a look 🙂

  • SVS Instructor Pro

    @heidigfx Happy to get into the specifics. You ready‽ Let's dig in!

    Illustration Size: This really means the size of the book. That is determined by your editor and art director. In my experience illustrator has little to no input on this. (although I'm sure there are exceptions)

    Illustration Number: While the page count of the book is set by the publisher, typically the number of images is initially determined by the illustrator as they go through and create the rough dummy of the book. That number may increase or decrease through the editorial process as the illustrator along with the editor and art director decide (for example) to make a spread with two full page illustrations into a single full spread or break up an image into a series of sequential spots etc. (My own habit is to over illustrate in the rough sketch stage and then progressively eliminate images that are unnecessary or overly complicated)

    I should note that I am thinking of trade picture books here. If you are creating a book for the educational market the art direction tends to be more specific and heavy handed.

    Cover Illustration: (Again, thinking trade picture books) Cover is always included in the advance against royalty payment. The choice to make the cover illustration front cover only or a wrap around illustration is something determined in conjunction with the editor and art director.

    Thumbnailing: Do as many rounds as you need to make the project successful (i.e. TONS!!). Only show the "rough" dummy to the editor.

    Revisions: I incorporate editoral suggestions after submitting the rough dummy. I will incorporate editorial suggestions after submitting the finished sketch dummy. And that's it.

    Character, Set, Prop Designs: It is not uncommon to create a sample character design (usually of only the main character(s)) and even a full color sample illustration of what the illustrator imagines the book will look like at the very start of a project (after the contract has been signed -- I don't advocate working on "spec"). This gets everyone on the same page visually. Everything else can be approved or commented on when evaluating the rough dummy and the finished sketch dummy.

    Payment of advance against royalties: Broken up into thirds. 1/3 on signing the contract. 1/3 on submitting the finished sketch dummy. 1/3 on submitting the final art. I don't submit an invoice for trade picture books. Typically the editor triggers that payment within the publishing house. If needed I will e-mail a reminder. You certainly could submit an invoice if needed.

    Contracts: I heartily recommend that you familiarize yourself with book publishing contracts, but it is more likely that the publisher has their standard (also referred to as "boilerplate" contracts). These are (by their nature as contracts) negotiable, but it's unlikely that you'll be submitting your own book publishing contract. That said, SCBWI has a contract available:

    I like the one available in the Graphic Artist Guild's Pricing and Ethical Guidelines:

    I particularly like Tad Crawfords Business and Legal forms for Illustrators:
    as I find he does the best job of not only providing a contract but clearly breaking down what each clause of the contract means in plain english.

  • Moderator

    @davidhohn Thankyou for the specifics! I’m going to save this info for future use. I’m glad this question was asked. 🙂

  • @davidhohn wow that was super extensive with links and all! I couldn't be more grateful for your patience. I will need to re-read this several times to let it sink in. thank you so much 😃

  • Pro SVS OG

    @davidhohn Sorry to butt in, but I have a question: do you always send in a rough sketch dummy? I never did - I normally send in refined sketches as the first shipment and so far I've only had minimal revisions - so within a day from approval I'm ready to start final art.
    Maybe it's because my rough thumbnails are too rough to show anybody and the next step is already a final sketch for me (I can't compare, but Jake Parker has a similar process). The only exception where I put in an in-between step is for covers: I do something like "refined thumbnails", working very small.
    Could you possibly post an example of what is for you a "rough dummy" drawing vs a "finished sketch" drawing?

  • SVS Instructor Pro

    @smceccarelli Please jump in! Your experience highlights that there are no hard and fast rules to any of this. The process I outlined is based on my experience, and what has worked well for me in communicating with publishers. Here's an example of my process for a book:

    The goal of anything submitted prior to finished final art is:

    1. To make sure that how the illustrator imagines the finished book and how the art director and editor imagines the finished book line up.

    2. To manage those different expectations in a way that doesn't require too much additional work on the part of an illustrator.

    In theory the illustrator could go straight to finished art. But the problem with that is if there are any changes (and there will very likely be changes) then all that time spend on the finished art is wasted as a new illustration must now be created.

    The Rough Sketch --> Final Sketch --> Finished Art process allows the editor/art director two opportunities to comment on the book dummy, leaving the Finished Art stage to be a welcome, expected surprise.

    I've found it's easy for me to explore editorial suggestions at the rough sketch stage. I encourage big changes at this stage. While I have already spent a great deal of time working out different thumbnails, I've spent only a few minutes on the rough sketch included in the dummy. I'm not married to it yet. Maybe someone else on the team has a better idea. I want this book to be the best is can be! Exploring a few more is a great time investment value.

    Once the Rough Sketch is approved, I refine it up to a Final Sketch. This is more time intensive as I am getting photo reference, refining character designs and finalizing compositions etc. At this point any suggested changes would be much more minor. As the Final Sketch is clearly a more defined version of what was already approved.

    Once the Final Sketch is approved I'm on to Finished Art. Again, a time consuming process for me. Any changes at this stage from my editor would need to be really compelling, and would need to clearly make the book unarguably better.

    But just to reinforce that there are no hard and fast "rules" to this -- Im working on an illustrated bible right now. There's a LOT more text in this and I wanted to make sure that the editor and I were on the same page as to how that would be handled. So for this project at the very start (even before thumbnails) I created a bookmap. See the image below:


    Text is laid out (how I imagined it) and simple grey shapes indicating where art would go along with a line of text describing what I'm thinking of drawing in that grey box. The editor and I made a number of changes even at this stage, and discussed issues that might come up later in the process. Definitely time well spent!

    BUT because this is the 6th book I've done with them I dispensed with the Final Sketch stage. Instead going from Rough Sketch straight to Final Art.

  • Pro SVS OG

    @davidhohn Thank you so much!! This clarifies a lot. I think I don’t have experience of a serious editorial process. The majority of my jobs so far have been educational, where the art direction is very tight.
    My first trade book (coming out in April next year) was a bit unusual because they had a big restructuring at the publisher while I was working on the sketches, so I had no contact and no feedback for more than two months. I ended up doing lots of alternate spreads - 2 versions of the same page - and when I finally had an AD taking care of the book, she basically just chose which of the alternates she wanted and made only very minor revisions.
    I normally get into character design after thumbnailing and I do send in several character design options before starting to work on the illustrations. I also send in color comps just after sketch approval. So I do have other intermediate stages in my current process, but not two sketch stages. My refined/final sketches are done directly after thumbnails and take about 2-3 hours per page. I guess there is a lot of variability in the process!
    Now I know what to do if I get to work in a more collaborative ideation phase - I do hope my next job will be a trade book again, with a stable AD!

  • SVS Instructor Pro

    @smceccarelli If you have a moment please show us your process. It's so easy to think that there's "one way" to do this illustration thing. I like the idea of SVS members being able to compare and contrast.

    Also you bring up a great point of the difference between trade picture book and educational publishing. I've done both and your experience matches mine. Educational is much more specific in terms of art direction. Often with the educational publisher art director sending me thumbnails!

  • Pro SVS OG

    @davidhohn I don't think I can show stuff from my trade book just yet, but I can show a book I did last year for a super small imprint - I used the same process. The book launched this past August.

    • Honing on character design: this is one of several pages with variations covering all main characters (the characters were electronic components...):

    0_1541707669543_Screen Shot 2018-11-08 at 21.01.13.png

    • Sketch dummy sample (I don't keep the thumbnails or don't scan them: I generally do them on paper - they are unreadable for everyone but me)
      0_1541707829751_Screen Shot 2018-11-08 at 21.03.26.png
      This spread went through a bunch of revisions, but nothing major.
    • Color comps. I send these because I found the major revisions at the final stage are on color (on the projects I work on as AD for corporate marketing), so I want to avoid that happening to me.


    • Final spread:

  • Moderator

    @smceccarelli I have a color comp question... are those just rough color pages, almost finished pages or just color scheme examples? Or am I way off?
    I’m so glad you guys are posting your process!

  • Pro SVS OG

    @burvantill They are super rough color studies and they are thumbnail-sized. If you zoom in you can see how sloppy they are. It takes me less than half a day to do them for a whole book - and saves a ton of work and headaches down the road!

    I realize my process is modelled on what I learnt in vis dev....they are called "color scripts" and are routinely done for animation.

  • Moderator

    @smceccarelli that is such a good idea. I can see how it would save time in the long run. Plus you the way you have them layed out here you can see that there is a nice color scheme throughout.

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