How much to charge for self published PB?!

  • Does anyone have experience being hired to illustrate a self published picture book or illustrating for a small independent publisher?

    Last week I received two different messages on Instagram asking me to illustrate picture books. One was from an author who is planning on self publishing and the other was from a small independent picture book publisher. Being that I have never illustrated a picture book before...what is a reasonable amount to charge? (assume they are standard 32 page books with nothing fancy or crazy about them)

    Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

  • @j-sienkowski i have no experience in publishing books. But that doesnt matter. The only thing that matters is how much your time on earth is worth to you. Work out what your bills, holiday, mortgage, food etc costs you over a year. Break it down into weekly, daily and hourly amounts. Estimate how many weeks, hours, days the job will take. Then add ten percent for wriggle room and charge them that. It shouldnt matter to you how they are going to publish, your bills still need paying regardless. If they cant afford that, then the likelihood its going to be a flop and you can put the time to better use.

    Unless... You want the job for some other reason, you want 'experience' or you just like the project and are happy to work for peanuts. Then do that. Its your call what you charge, no one can tell you a right or wrong amount.

  • When I have worked with an author to self publish, their firm has paid be 2500-3000 depending on the book (the second project I worked on was more complex). This was based on research the author and I did about reasonable pay for beginning professional illustrators.

    For me, it's always been a bit difficult for me to gauge prices because this is not my primary source of income (I'm a teacher who illustrates on the side). After discussions and research, the amount she paid me seemed fair to me. I agree that it depends partly on what your time is worth. You don't want to earn so little that you can't live on.

  • @gavpartridge Thanks for the advice. It made me realize I do want the experience, but I also greatly value my time...and that's my dilemma. Thanks again for the help. I greatly appreciate it.

  • @lpetiti I'm in a similar situation. I have a graphic design job and can only illustrate at night after everyone else has gone to sleep or a little on the weekends. Luckily I don't need the money to pay my mortgage or buy groceries, but I also want to get paid a fair amount for my work. You mention doing research. Can I ask what that was? I've been searching online, but am finding very little quality/trustworthy information. I really appreciate you sharing your experience. It has been very helpful. Thank you.

  • Pro

    @j-sienkowski It's a very hard one at the beginning. I value my time and my work a lot, and don't want to do projects that undervalue my work. But at the beginning, without any books in your portfolio, it's difficult to get the good publishing houses to notice you much less be interested. In my case, because of my vector style publishers were not certain that my style was even suitable for picture books. So when a small local press asked me to do a book for $1500, I jumped on the occasion. It was really hard, because it took me 3 months of full-time work for that price. I had to work nights and weekends on other projects that actually paid the rent at the same time. It was hell! But I gave it my all and created a book of my best work that I could be proud of. I would not do it again and when publishers offer me work for a similar amount I don't accept them anymore. But was it worth it? Heck yeah, because my career really took off after I put that project in my portfolio. I was able to get more picture book work easily, I was able to get an agent, all that good stuff. So it was a good move career-wise even though it wasn't a good move for my financial situation at the time.

    The best thing for you would be to ask a lot more questions right now (don't assume the number of pages, characters, locations, etc.. ask this before any price discussion). and try to get them to tell you their budget first. You can and should always try to negotiate that to make that number a bit bigger. But once you hit that max number that they can't budge anymore, then decide if it's worth it for you all things considered. Is the project interesting enough that it'll make good portfolio material, and showcase your work in its best light? Does the script excite you or is it dreadful? All things to consider. There's also a minimum price you should have, that below that number you won't do it no matter what because it's just too low. Because there has to be a limit. If they offer you $200 for 32 pages, no matter how fun the script is, it's just insulting and exploitative at that point.

  • @NessIllustration Thanks for sharing! Much of your experience echos the issues I've been wresting with in my head. It's wonderful to hear about the boom in your career even though the money was less than it should have been.

    I've been asking questions. It doesn't seem like he is willing to give me his budget, which I understand. Hopefully when all my questions are answered we'll be able to work out a deal. Thanks again for your help!

  • Pro

    @j-sienkowski Best of luck 🙂

  • @j-sienkowski I would have to ask my author, her firm was the one who did research and determined $2500 (though she was also open-minded enough to tell me "if you need to be paid more, I want to pay you what you're worth"). She also was the one to help me find a contract template that I plan on using for other clients.

    I should mention that the author I work with is a close family friend, so I have been very blessed in that regard.

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