Business advise needed😳, reg estimate to illustrate

  • Moderator

    I received an email today from a small publisher. I was a little skeptical at first because the email is very short and non descriptive. I thought that if it was the real deal that there would be more communicative writing. Is this normal?

    Like your illustrations!
    Want to get estimate to illustrate a 55 page children's book (ages 8 to 10).
    Thank you,"
    [I left out the names]

    I checked them out and they've been around a while. So, after doing some research I have come up with a price list for illustrations from full wraparound cover down to spots. But my prices are just subtotals for the illustrations and do not include a full dummy, character designs or value/color scripts.

    My questions are;

    1. Should I pad the price per illustration to cover the necessary work to provide the dummy, character designs , etc Or should I price them out separately?

    2. Should I even give the publisher my price breakdown or a TOTAL project cost since they are asking for a book estimate? And if this is the case I need to know some more information from them which they might not have at this point like how many spreads vs page or spot illos.
      I feel like it would be appropriate for me to ask those questions before I give an estimate, am I right in thinking that?

    55 pages seems like a huge project and if I price this wrong and I get it I may end up being a very unhappy burned out camper at the end of it, so I want to do this as close to the right way as possible, which is why I'm turning to my art friends. Help, art friends! =)x

  • @burvantill Sorry I don't have any knowledge in the picture book industry but I would definitely ask more questions before giving any estimate. Maybe you can let them know that price can varied a lot depending of the specs of the project and you'd love to have more infos in order to quote accordingly. And then list a few points that look essential to you.
    I believe communication is key for a good work relationship. 🙂

  • @burvantill I would ask for more details to the illustrations, so I can do the pricing, would do nothing before that

  • @burvantill I agree with @MichaelaH,
    What you can do is create a list of questions you have for them. You need answers to these questions before you can calculate a fitting price. Important questions that come to mind are:

    • Are there any particular illustrations in your portfolio that they’re drawn to?
    • Is there a medium they prefer you to use (in case there are several media you normally use like water colors, digital, etc).
    • What size will the illustrations be?
    • How much detail is involved? (Which kind of illustrations are they looking for as far as the content goes? Small spot illustrations will be less work for you than full spreads).
    • Is there a particular deadline involved? When will they need the illustrations?

    You can probably even add more questions.
    If they cannot answer your questions, you do not have a guideline for the pricing. I guess then it’s up to you to decide how serious they are. Like you said; it’s a lot of work. You want to be certain you have all of the information beforehand. Not only to calculate the price, but to consider if the project is worth your time.

    I hope it will be a great project :)!

  • @nadyart hit it is on the head. You really can't provide a estimate without more information. Responding with questions will make you seem more professional as well. Nobody would give an estimate without more information.

    Another questions you might add is: How many characters are there in the book?

  • I think from their initial email I would have had the same reservevations you had.

    I had a similar offer not from a publisher but from a self publishing writing couple, it was a 70 page childrens book and they wanted a price per page, I told them that doesn't really make sense as it totally leaves out the development process.

    I hit them with a range of questions after their initial request for a quote (oh and the y didn't share the manuscript so they were asking me to pull prices out of the air)

    here's a section from my email response

    ** You mentioned it's 60 - 70 pages, are these all illustrated?
    Do you know how many are full page, 1/4 page, 1/2 page illustrations?
    Will all illustration require background or will some be spot illustrations i.e floating no background?
    The images that you attached could you describe what elements you like about them, this will be easier for me to produce illustrations in my style that you will like?
    Do you have a budget and timeline in mind for this project?
    What is the physical size/dimension of the book being produced.

    It is hard for me to give you a price per page as there would be a number of factors I would have to consider, for instance one being the agreed turnaround time, another being the agreed rendering of the illustration and complexity of them. **

    Maybe some of the above questions may help you, they also wanted me to sign over copyright of images. So maybe you could ask what will the usage rights be, are there royalties? Also I would suggest doing a sample spread but I recommend agreeing a price for the sample first before putting a pencil to paper. I did a sample for that Job and was careless and trusting, I managed to squeeze out $50 after which was laughable.

    This project didn't go ahead and I'm delighted it didn't but I wish you the best of luck with this one.

    Try get as much info as you can, and remember you can always give them an estimate and then if terms change later before you sign a contract, you can explain this and re evaluate your estimate.

    Hope this helps
    Best of luck

  • Moderator

    @marine @MichaelaH @nadyart @Phil-Cullen @theprairiefox
    Thankyou for all of the great advice. I am ready to respond to the editor. I will let you know how it goes. 🙂❤

  • Also, for a project that size a kill fee would not be unheard of.

    Buy a copy of the society of Illustrators Pricing Guidelines. That will give you pointers on what limitations are on the pricing (number of proofs, changes requested, ownership of original artwork, rights purchased, etc).

    Here is a link for the book

  • Everyone has made some excellent points already here, you have every right to ask as many questions as you need before coming up with some prices. I would definitely ask them what work they saw of yours that they liked and what they intend to do with the book.
    If they're not legit or worth your time, then they probably won't be able to answer these questions. If you do go ahead with them, I would definitely make sure you have a signed contract with them, a kill fee and maybe even an advance seeing as though it's a LOT of illustrations!

  • Moderator

    Just wanted to let everyone know, I considered everyone's advice (Thank you!) and sent out this email:

    "Good morning Ms. ********,

    Thank you for you consideration! This sounds likes a big project. I have some questions before I can give you an appropriate estimate.

    What are the size specifications for the book?
    Would you want all 55 pages to be full bleed?
    Would I be responsible for the graphic design and page turns?
    Would I be doing the cover as well?
    Can you give me some information on the story? How many main characters? What type of setting are they in, etc?
    Where did you see my art and which pieces were you drawn to?
    Do you have a budget and timeline for this project?
    What will the usage rights be?

    Looking forward to your response,
    Lisa Burvant"

    It's been 10 days and I haven't heard back. So now I'm thinking, Was I too pushy in my questions? Or, maybe the publisher was not really that interested. Either way, after I sent the email I stopped thinking about it. If it was meant to be then she would have responded, right?
    ....I hope I didn't do something wrong... NO! I didn't. I may not have asked all the right questions, but I had to ask. It was a professional thing to do... right? LOL 😳😂😜

  • @burvantill - hmm, perhaps it is just taking some time to get back. Sometimes emails get buried. You could just follow-up and let her know you were just checking-in and still interested in the project, see if there are any other questions that you could help to answer. If you're still interested, that is...

  • Moderator

    @djly good idea. 👍😃

  • @burvantill You were definitely not too pushy. If anything you were straight and to the point, all of those are very valid points you raised. Imagine getting half way through the project and then there was a miss-understanding about if you were to the graphic design. If it wasn't specifically stated in a contract that it was only illustration required that would be a mess, and to continue working on illustrations when the relationship with the client sours is soooooooooooooo painful, trust me. So you can look at all of these questions as a basis to form what will be in the agreement, it is just best practice. I would be weary about anyone who would have a problem with these questions.

    Not getting a response straight away can be various different reasons, but you are right, send it forget and about it. Don't let it take up any more of your creative head space, until you get more info.

    But don't doubt yourself, your response sounded spot on.

  • @burvantill

    If they don't want to answer those questions (or have you asking those questions) then you probably dodged a bullet.

    However, I've had a client that took a month to get back to me about sketches (and this was a time sensitive project and AFTER they'd paid me) so it may just be that they're working on a different timeline 🙂

    I don't think you did anything wrong.

  • Moderator

    @Phil-Cullen @Braden-Hallett Thanx guys. That makes me feel much better about this. 😃

  • I don't think you are too pushy. It's they responsible to give that information actually.
    But I totally understand your feelings, I also often feel that way after I answered emails like that:smiling_face_with_open_mouth_cold_sweat:

    what I realized later is that usually if the email didn't mention specific names, they usually send similar emails to some illustrators for checking the prices. I realized this because my sister is an illustrator as well so sometimes we get similar emails from the same sender😂

    but I wish you all the best!

  • Moderator

    @lenwen thank you 🙂

  • Moderator

    ...Four months later, I finally got a response. 😶 Here is the email I received this evening.

    “Thank you for your responses. I have finished all but the absolute final edit on my pre-teen book.
    Below are my responses to your questions.
    I truly hope that you have the bandwidth to take on the project.

    What are the size specifications for the book? 5.25 x 8

    Would you want all pages to be full bleed? 96 pages - No Bleed

    Would I be responsible for the graphic design and page turns? Yes for Graphic Design (No on Page Turns)

    Would I be doing the cover as well? Yes and 3 to 5 inner page illustrations in black and white

    Can you give me some information on the story? How many main characters? What type of setting are they in, etc? Story for 8 to 12 year olds. Focuses on two Fifth Grade rivals who are center stage during the school's talent show. Rosetta is the main character. She's a spunky 10 year old (think Pippi Longstocking spunk). See attached late draft.

    Where did you see my art and which pieces were you drawn to? Medium

    Do you have a budget and timeline for this project? Timeline is 1Q20. Budget is $750

    What will the usage rights be? Buy-out

    Thank you,”

    I am going to respond with several follow up questions but I wanted to run some questions by you all first.
    •Does anyone know what 1Q20 means in regards to a timeline?
    •Buy out means she want full rights, is that correct? Like work for hire?
    •From her response it seems she’s only asking for 5 page illustrations and a cover. Is that how you guys read it?
    •I’m still wondering which art pieces she saw. I have a couple different mediums that I use so🤔 .
    My take on this is, I want an illustration job, but for full rights on 5 images I think I would want to ask more than $750. Right?

  • Pro SVS OG

    I’m coming in very late on this discussion, though I think all the advice and process you followed is spot on.

    When a request comes in asking for a quote and with no details, my experience is that it rarely comes to anything. It’s already a good sign that they followed up, because normally as soon as you respond with all the questions that need to be answered before you can advance an estimate, they never respond.

    The wording on the response e-mail suggests that this is a self-publishing author. Even if your research revealed a small publisher, it’s likely that they only publish books by one author, who happens to be the founder 😉
    There are a few “publishers” like that - sometimes they actually have a small list and work with different illustrators or maybe two or three authors, but in general the setup here seems to be that of a self-publishing author.

    What is not clear from this e-mail is exactly how many illustrations she’s talking about (3 to 5 in total for a 100-page book seems very very weird) and wether she expects you to do the entire book layout? That’s not an illustrator’s job, it’s a book designer’s job. That’s a different skillset and profession, and needs to be priced separately. Or you make it clear that you’re only doing the illustrations and not the book design (which most self-publishing people don’t even realize they need...).

    Even after the responses there are still so many questions and red-flags, I would be careful about taking this on at this point, regardless of the budget (which is very low, especially if she expects you to do the book design - but that’s a different discussion...).

  • I don’t know if I can add much to this thread, but I’ve been told, from various sources, not to give away rights to an illustration. I’ve been given a template of a standard contract which is a five year licence only. I don’t know if anyone can elaborate on this but I’m assuming selling the rights completely would come at an absolute premium.

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