Should I or Shouldn't I take the Risk?



  • Hello friends,

    Here's my dilemma. Listening to the 3-point-perspective podcast has left a somewhat bad taste of working with single authors. I've been in the industry for 5+ years and have completed my second book with a small publisher which is who I'd love to work for. I'd like to work for publishing houses but self-published I'd consider if it had an editor, designer, or otherwise a median between me and the author to exchange info. I find working with authors directly can sometimes lead to uncomfortable confrontations that can complicate the project, sometimes not, but I'd like to avoid any complication in a project the best I can.

    That being said, I have been humbled by the crisis. COVID-19 has hit the industry and me personally hard. I lost my main source of income which kept me afloat and I am now one of the 33 million Americans on unemployment. I have several personal projects I've been working on to keep me busy, but my rep even said that work may be hard to come by for a while.

    In comes a man with a passion project and an interesting story. I was contacted by a potential client with a story for a children's book. He has so much energy and I enjoy the story concept greatly but he has no experience making a children's book. He has no experience in the children's book industry. He doesn't know the cost of making one, the business of shipping/exporting of the product once the project is complete, doesn't have an editor for the manuscript lined up, and doesn't know how many pages he needs. I have yet to give him a quote because of all of these factors.

    Normally, I would not consider this just due to the lack of experience. But in the current circumstance... should I feel obligated to take it? Could it work out well and I have an excellent project for the next few months? ... How would you go about deciding whether to take this sort of project or not? Am I being egotistical but not immediately taking a project offer because it's a single author in the midst of a crisis?

    Let me know your thoughts as I'm really undecided.



  • Hypothetically, it could work out fine. But that's a lot of unknowns that could burn you too. I recently said no to a writing gig in a similar situation--contract work with a good company, but no set timeline and no clear word count etc--I'd press for more answers before you say yes. Get some more proof that those details will be decided on in a professional way. If there's a clear phase one, maybe you can say yes to a small chunk before you really dive in?


  • Pro

    @Blayne-Fox You shouldn't feel obligated to do anything, crisis or no. You are hit by this crisis too and are on unemployment. If this project seems too much of a hassle because of the author's cluelessness, no you're not obligated to change your standards. Since you are getting less work from your rep and your main source of income is lost, if I were you I might consider it even though you usually wouldn't, if the project is well paid. You could also put down clear boundaries that while you'll do the illustrations, he's fully responsible for doing his own research to figure out all the rest and you're not going to hold his hand through finding a printer, getting a graphic designer or editor, etc. But money isn't everything, and if you know you're going to pull out your hair over this, then you don't have to do it. You're not destroying is project, he can still get it done with someone else. And making a passion project children book is far from essential to his livelihood. You can say no to this project with a clear conscience.



  • @slywriter I like this idea and it may be the best solution alongside pressing for more solid answers. Perhaps the cover or wrap around? Or a concept art sheet? Something small where we can go through the process of work i.e. sketches, final art, corrections etc. to see how we work together. But I believe this also highly depends on the budget that still needs to be decided on.



  • Hi @Blayne-Fox, perhaps you can respond with a budget quote of $2,500 to $6,000 for a standard 32 page picture book with X amount of spreads and expected payment terms and confirm everything will be in accordance with the contract.

    Also, since the author is not experienced, you may even suggest 50% advance payment with the balance on submission of final art.

    I see scope creep written all over this, as the author will need help on cover design, bleed, gutter, layouts, printing, etc. A clear division of responsibility table will serve you both well.

    Sorry to hear of your struggles during COVID-19; hope things pick back up for you sooner than later.

    Good luck with the gig!


  • SVS Team SVS Instructor Pro SVS OG

    If you want to do this work, budget accordingly. The previous comments are WAY too low. Start at $9,000 for a 32 page picture book. Do not go for anything less than that. I'd probably start the pitch around $12k and possibly go lower if you need to. 33% up front, 33% upon sketches, and 33% BEFORE final art is delivered. Get a contract from The Pricing and Ethical Guidelines book from the Graphic Artists Guild.

    List out what is expected with solid dates and procedures for everything. Be sure it says you get paid even if project does not go to print.


  • Moderator

    I see this a lot with very excited student theatre-makers who don't truly understand what it means to do theatre. Their zeal blinds them to the amount of know-how it takes to produce. Collaborators often find themselves mired in a slog of hurt feelings, too many things to do, and not enough know-how to solve their own problems. The end result is a cadre of students who vow never to work with each other again, or conversely a lot of martyr complexes who equate the amount of dedication with the amount of self-sacrifice. There is much reveling in a product that is clearly more about the egos involved than in the quality of the work as they haven't yet developed the capacity to distinguish the difference...

    It's painful and frustrating to watch, and my professor colleagues and I help guide them as much as we can, but in the end the successful productions are mounted by participants who are as excited about educating themselves as they are about the project itself. Those who know how to ask questions and where to go to seek answers create better work. Too many don't know how much they don't know, and have no interest in learning it to make their process easier.

    Passion projects are great. But real passion comes from taking steps to educate one's self on how to make that passion project real. There's this saying in theatre that sums it all up: "I have a barn!!"

    Has he demonstrated any awareness of process or interest in investigating what that process might be? Are you okay with being his teacher as well as his collaborator?



  • You’re completely right @Lee-White!

    I was thinking a self publishing author probably doesn’t have the budget similar to a publishing house.

    Thanks for the clarification!


  • Pro

    @Jeremy-Ross Most of the time they don't. Doesn't mean you should lower your rates to accommodate them 🙂 You'll be the one doing the work after all.


  • SVS OG

    @Blayne-Fox i personally can’t say if this will a good partnership or not. Realistically speaking, I guess the decision all boils down to how badly do you need the money. Do you have enough saved up in order to wait for a few more months for the right project or have you almost used up all your resources?

    This project might turn out great with you taking the lead, guiding the author. Or it could go sour and you might reget doing it. We really don’t know. The best way I think to avoid the worst scenario is to educate the client, manage you and your client’s expectations, and have it written in your contract.

    There’s really no shame in doing it for the money. Being from a very poor country, I’ve accepted a lot of projects in the past that I did not neccesarily love just to earn a bit of cash. Sometimes you just gotta do what gotta do to survive. If this project means that you could pay your bills and put food on the table for a few more months, then I say take it. But again, the final decision is in your hands. You might accept this project but then a better project comes along and you can’t accept it because you’re already swarmed. You might work on your own project and earn a living out of it or it may not lead to anything.

    The best advice I could give you is to choose the best option that’ll keep you doing what you love doing in the long run.

    I kinda feel I didn’t contibute much with this input but I sincerely hope this helps. I wish you all the best.



  • Very true @NessIllustration, I wouldn’t.



  • @Blayne-Fox I'm surprised to hear some of your questions. I don't think you're 'too' anything except maybe too professional and used to professionalism. Passion doesn't get deadlines done, and often is more difficult to work with than someone that's more laid back. Like @Nyrryl-Cadiz says, there is no shame in taking a project for the money! But assume this untested person is NOT professional, cannot meet their own deadlines, cannot write a quality manuscript, and is so difficult to work with so that he doesn't want to learn what you have to teach him about the industry. Passion doesn't mean much without quality work imo. So then write up a contract that will protect you from the kind of unprofessionalism you would never demonstrate on a job.

    I don't have your experience in illustration, but I do know what it's like to work with difficult graphic design clients. My personal choice is to avoid them and find other work, if possible, to fill in the financial gap. There is no shame in that either, because it has the benefit of leaving extra mental space free for the work I really want to do. Coming at illustration as a person in my 40s, I want to work with professionals above all. If I cannot have that I will work for myself and seek other work. I don't think there's any shame in that either.

    I'm so sorry to hear that the pandemic has hit you so hard.



  • There is a site called iapcbook.com i found it through a group on facebook. They have classes and can help with logistics. It might be the right place for your contact.


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