Contacted out of the blue to do a book - is this standard or not worth it?



  • I got contacted out of the blue by someone describing themselves as a new publisher. Long story short, they sent me a script and told me how much they usually pay (not much for a full book, but money's money).

    They've also asked me to send them one fully illustrated page from the script so they can decide whether I'm right for story. This bit's unpaid.

    So my question to you guys is: is this kind of exploratory illustration ever unpaid?

    Thanks 🙂


  • Pro

    @Braden-Hallett I'm still new at this, but no this isn't standard. They contacted you because they liked you art, but now they're saying they aren't sure. It's not consistent and makes them look bad. Plus, if they don't pay much they have to be more flexible than most, not less. Since they're a "new publisher", then I'd explain to them as politely as I can that's not how things are done in this industry. That the artist is chosen of the basis of his/her portfolio. If I'm feeling sassy I might add "Since you are new at this and still inexperienced at picking artists however, I would agree to create a test for you for x amount of money".



  • @NessIllustration that's kinda what I was thinking, too, but I had no idea if I was off-base. The wonders of inexperience in the industry 😅 Thank you 🙂


  • Moderator

    I would definitely ask for money for any art you do.



  • @NessIllustration said in Contacted out of the blue to do a book - is this standard or not worth it?:

    @Braden-Hallett I'm still new at this, but no this isn't standard. They contacted you because they liked you art, but now they're saying they aren't sure. It's not consistent and makes them look bad. Plus, if they don't pay much they have to be more flexible than most, not less. Since they're a "new publisher", then I'd explain to them as politely as I can that's not how things are done in this industry. That the artist is chosen of the basis of his/her portfolio. If I'm feeling sassy I might add "Since you are new at this and still inexperienced at picking artists however, I would agree to create a test for you for x amount of money".

    Yeah this is a great answer. Listen to Ness.

    If they start triggering any weird scam flags in your head:
    A bit of advice my instructors at the residency gave me was you can use the “my agent would sooo kill me if I did work for free” line. Maybe not verbatim but something where its like not your decision. Cause honestly this seems scammy. But thats just my weird paranoia m. You can also ask “whats the name of the publishing house? who can my agent contact in regards to the contract for this job? Whats the deadline?”


  • Pro

    @Aleksey That's a good one, the "my agent would kill me" one! I'll use that one hahaha



  • Just throwing this out there. . .can't remember which course it was here, but it was with Guy Francis, showing his illustration process with Clark the Shark. If I remember correctly, he mentioned how a publisher asked several artists to do an art test for an upcoming book, so they could decide who to go with for the project. Each artist got paid a good amount just for the art test. So I guess this kind of thing does happen, but sounds like you get paid for it!



  • @NessIllustration haha yes

    You can also just be honest and say you’re hesitant to do new work, especially a complete illustration with no contract or pay in place. And if they get pushy you keep standing your ground without getting argumentative nor upset just saying over and over again” i dont feel completely comfortable giving you a free completed illustration, perhaps you can offer me something more in the contract like bigger royalties or more rights (character rights etc idk).

    Cause they are essentially asking you to do more for less beyond the normal thing that a publisher would want (drawings for a book). So you can ask for something in return.



  • @TessaW yeah i remember that! He got paid a good amount too just for that! Mainly that’s because they were creating a character for the publishers. And the publishers clearly had a plan to make this a long term, several book, series. So giving someone a few hundred bucks for a sample was no problem.



  • From what I've heard with proper on the level publishers they will ask for a sample piece of artwork, sometimes finished so they get an idea of how it will look. But this should always be paid for. But if you get the gig this would be included in the advance. For Irish and UK publishers I've heard anything from 150 to 250.

    Can't stress enough always look for payment for sample work. If a publisher commissions 5 illustrator to do test/sample work those 5 pieces are valuable to the publisher to make an informed decision on choosing the illustrator.

    Side not and someone to maybe steer clear of (client was called IMA world) I recently applied to a job post on Artstation and the guy wanted me to do up a whole storyboard for a chapter in his graphic novel and a full colour finished page, all for free as a test just to see if he wanted to go with me, this to me is a scam. If he got artists to do each chapter he would have his whole book roughed for free. Pure exploitation.



  • @Braden-Hallett They like Your style but want fully illustrated page for free? No go, if they like Your style, you have enough on Your site that they can know it You fit or no and if they want the example page, than they should pay for it. Here in Germany I would answer, that I would do the example Illustration for this amount and if You get the contract for the full book, the price will be include in the offer. I ususally say about 150€-200€ for the sample illustration.


  • SVS OG

    @Braden-Hallett hi, Braden! I say no. We can understand if they have a small budget for the book. However, it is common practice to pay for the test illustration. If they don’t have much to spare, you can offer making a sketch at a lower price and see if thye’ll take it. If not, you can refer them to your portfolio and let them imagine how their book with look like given your current work. If they do like the work that you do, they’ll hire you with or without a test. I hope this is helpful.



  • I'm just going to leave this here and hope it's helpful to you or someone else. Good luck with your decision.

    http://www.nospec.com/



  • Don't do it. They're counting illustrators wanting 'exposure'. A publisher like that isn't going to get far with that payment model.



  • So many red flags with this one. You only need one to say no in my book. Avoid them like the plague.



  • @Braden-Hallett If they want a sample of your work ,that is why you have a portfolio,which is very nice by the way .Everyone wants something for nothing these days. You would not ask a decorator to paint one room for free to see if you liked it . Good luck!



  • I have faced this situation both in unpaid and paid terms.
    For the unpaid, at that time I accepted because I didn't have work and the style they wanted was quite simple (just flat rendering and they already have the characters). But they ended up accepting me so after all the test illustration is not wasted.
    The paid one, I ended up didn't get chosen.

    For me personally, I will accept it as long as:

    • They have a website and it looks pretty serious
    • I don't have any project and I quite need money
    • The script is not complicated and requires very detail illustration
    • The deadline is reasonable
    • if possible, I will offer only sketch instead of finish illustration
    • Make sure the test illustration will be part of the book and not wasted

    But I think everyone has different concern and requirements. I also agree the real legit publisher should have offered a fee for the test illustration. After all, I wish you luck and I hope it helps a bit! 😀


  • SVS OG

    @lenwen well, said. If I also really need the money, I’d bite the bullet but also only if they agree to my terms like reasonable deadline, etc.



  • Thanks again everyone 😃 What everyone's saying is pretty much backing up what my gut feeling was telling me.

    I'll politely decline and let them know I do not do sample illustrations for free as a matter of course.



  • If your gut is telling you, then it's usually on the right course. We are so untrusting of our intuition at times.

    In any case, other opportunities will arise for you, so when something like this comes up and you say no, it's not the end of the world. Broke or not.


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