First time book offer (through Fiver) - How much to charge?

  • Hey gang,

    Someone approached me on Fiver asking how much I would charge to illustrate a children’s book with 16 full colour/background spreads and one cover.

    I’m enough of a noob that I’m even asking this question so I would love some advice from my fellow SVSers.

    Taking @Jake-Parker ’s advice, I replied back with the question of “What’s your budget?” (Awaiting reply). In the meantime, I’m trying to decide what my minimum price would be.

    I’m new at this and somewhat slow still which means I want to give myself enough time to get it done right. I also want to make sure I’m adequately compensated for that time.

    Taking another page from @Lee-White ’s book, I made sure to ask what this book is being used for. In other words is it for personal use/gift for a friend or is this going to be published and sold. I guess it’s going to be self-published. Should this affect my rate and if so, how do you adjust?

    My initial thought was $20/hr, allotting for 5hrs per spread and another 5 for the cover. That could be overkill but I’d rather overshoot than under. Anyway, 16 spreads plus a cover makes 17 illustrations at $100 each, totalling $1700.

    What do you think? Too high? Too low? Not asking enough questions? Any input would be appreciated. Thanks! 🙏🏻


  • Pro

    @Bricz-Art Way way too low, and you are underestimating how long it will take to make a book spread. I have a really simple style based on efficiency, but it still never takes me any less than 15h minimum to do a spread. You have to consider initial research, character design, the discussions back and forth with the author/client, thumbnail sketches to figure out what you're doing, then actual sketches, then running it through with the client and doing the changes they asked (sometimes that means whole pages to start over from scratch) then tone and color tests, then the finished painting or clean drawing, then another round of feedback and tweaks. Same for the cover, except usually the client is pickier with the cover and more iterations/tests/versions/do overs will be necessary. I accepted my first children's book for $1500 and it was so underbidded because it took me 3 months full-time (40h-50h a week) to finish it. I'm currently doing a 12 double spreads book for $8000 and trust me that's not too much.

    People on Fiverr are very often looking to get art/work for way less than it's worth (like $5 logos) and the fact that he asked first and foremost how much you'd charge is telling of the overall cheapskate attitude found on that platform. I've been asked to do books for $200 before or similar some such ridiculous rate. It's quite common for self-published authors to have no notion of the amount of work involved in illustrating a book, and no idea what the actual value of this work is. They'll tell you what they're offering is already more than enough or give you a sob story about how they're a poor writer trying to make it and that's all they can afford. None of this means that what they're offering is good enough for your time and talent, so stay strong in your knowlegde of your own worth 🙂

  • @NessIllustration wow, thank you so much. I had a feeling I was under shooting a bit but you opened my eyes to a bunch of details I completely overlooked.

    It turns out this person was looking for something in the $150-$200 range! Apparently she had someone willing to do it for $300 but wanted to shop around for a better price. I politely told her how much time and effort goes into these things and that I would be sceptical of the $300 offer.

    After being a personal trainer for nearly 20 years, I’ve learned not to get too excited about someone saying they are going to train until the transaction has happened and money is in the bank so this wasn’t a real let down BUT it was nice to think for a minute that I was going to get a chance to illustrate someone’s book (and make a few bucks as well).

    Anyway, thanks again for the input. I will keep that in mind next time an opportunity like this arises.


  • Pro

    @Bricz-Art You are a really great artist, definitely skilled enough to illustrate a book 🙂 I hope you know that just because some people are cheapskates, this absolutely doesn't accurately reflect your level of skill! Like you said, this person is looking to pay near to nothing and in exchange, will get near to nothing... A proper job will come in time!

  • Omg that lady is INSANE if she thinks someone will do it for so cheap!!! Aaaaaa that makes me CRINGE

  • I am dealing with pretty much the same thing here, I have been approached by 2 different people (aspiring authors after a Facebook post) and I am struggling with coming up with a commercial proposal.

    I live in Italy (the authors are Italian too) and I wondering if even a publisher would pay an illustrator that much... it sounds waaaay too high to me. I read a manual written by Anna Castagnoli, an Italian illustrator, who briefly mentions that the average pay for a 12-spread album is between 500 and 2000 EUR. Does anybody have experience with the Italian market by chance? Or has suggestions on how to define the right price for a specific country? I know that 8000$ would be too high, but I feel that 500 EUR wouldn't be respectful even for this context, so I am a little lost...

  • Every point @NessIllustration makes is spot on. Consider whether you would train a client for an hour at that rate in your personal trainer days - you know what goes into that!

    Don't undersell yourself, don't give your work away and remind yourself that it is not 'just a drawing'! If you haven't already, have a listen to SVS' Podcast on Illustration disasters for some salutary tales on THAT subject! - $300 is laughable and cunningly naive - even the most inexperienced author can hop online and see a fair approximation of what illustrators in their country are charging so that sounds like a whopping cheek to me.

    I always caveat my quotes with a schedule of amends, being clear that I will undertake amendments in stages (I usually allow for two in the quote) prior to the final image being drawn up and I also clarify that I do not start those stages until they have supplied their WRITTEN comments back to me.

    Don't undervalue yourself and perhaps consider too that Fiverr and other similar sites are not the model on which to generate a decent return for your work. I have been a graphic designer for 30+ years and have rarely seen anything come to market that undermines my industry more comprehensively than these sites. (I even had a prospective client for whom I had been 'too expensive' return to me with the logo he had commissioned asking me to critique it and then amend it so that it worked! Needless to say I politely declined.)

    Good luck!

  • @Elena-Marengoni I was cheeky and came straight out and asked my illustration agent - she's happy for me to undertake additional work as long as I let her know my work schedule. I sent her the pricing schedule I was going to forward to the client for the work that was required and she came back with her opinion/guidance. It was most useful and she was happy to reply as agents don't like us undercutting with ludicrously low prices. A reputable agent wants to give their illustrators the best price for their work whilst making a sensible fee themselves for doing the legwork for us.

    Do you have a friendly agent in the business who could give you advice? How old is that book? Even 2000EUR sounds too low for 12 spreads - let's say you submit pencils sketches @ 7 hrs each spread, amend those just once @ 5 hrs each then undertake final artwork @ 20 hrs each - that's a magnificent FIVE Euros an hour. And that is a VERY conservative assessment of the time it takes to research, gather reference and actually finally produce a print-ready piece of work. Italians must be struggling even more that us Kiwis to see the worth in illustrators' work!

  • SVS OG

    @Bricz-Art Fiverr is known for being a cheap marketplace. I should know I’ve worked there before. I think $1700 is too high for those people, try $300. I personally think you’re better off working on your own project. However, if money is really tight, then I guess there’s no shame in taking it. I’ve been in that position as well. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do to get by. But if you can, try to avoid Fiverr.

  • If self-published authors approach me, I send them to a pdf that educates them about the process and value of an illustator's time. I encourage them to read it before asking me. It's from

  • Moderator

    @Elena-Marengoni Currently, there are some hashtags on Twitter that are discussing things similar to the answers you're seeking.

    The topic hashtags #publishingpaidme, #comicspaidme, #animationpaidme, and others are intended to illuminate the disparity between what white authors/illustrators earn on projects versus black authors/illustrators. The difference is flat out startling, and how the industry perceives and categorizes (and pays) most black projects as "niche genre pieces" is disparaging.

    But as more and more author/illustrators share their advances and fees, a lot is being revealed and becoming much clearer. I don't think there's any sort of summarizing document from the information being posted, but there are numbers for you to peruse. You might be able to narrow the search terms for Italian-specific or European discussions and get some rough indication of what you're looking for, perhaps?

  • SVS OG

    This post is deleted!

  • @NessIllustration thanks for the kind words. I’m not too concerned about it as I know more opportunities will come in the future if I just keep my head down and continue to work on improving. It’s definitely a huuuge help to be a part of a positive and encouraging community here on SVS to discuss this stuff in the meantime. You’ll have to be sure to share your book when it’s done so I can look it up and take a look, I’m sure it will be amazing.

  • @Frost-Drive haha I agree but you can’t be surprised that people are going to do what they can to find a deal. I’m more concerned for her that she’s going to pay $300 and get a crap job in return. I guess you have to learn the hard way sometimes??

  • @Elena-Marengoni that’s interesting, I never even considered varying prices based on different countries. Maybe it really is different across the board depending on who you’re dealing with and what they’re willing to pay. I like @Will-Terry ’s suggestion in one of his videos about determining your absolute bottom line you will accept... and then doubling it and starting there. You’re right though that you don’t want to charge too high and insult someone and ultimately lose the deal. It’s a tricky game to play...

  • @Jane-Smith thanks Jane, that’s great input. I agree with you that sites like Fiverr are not the best place to find quality work offers which is why I have it up there more for little one-off requests here and there to make a quick buck or two. I don’t have a polished portfolio with which to approach agencies yet but that will be the next step before I expect to get any real offers for some kind illustration work.

    As for the SVS podcast episode, I have already checked it out (as I’m hooked on these guys for some strange reason 😆) but maybe it’s worth another peek.

    Thanks again Jane!

  • @Nyrryl-Cadiz thank you. I agree with this point. My profile is up there for little side projects to bring in some extra cash which is why this book offer caught me by surprise. I will keep in mind that people are there for a super deal and not to expect anything worthwhile to come from it BUT if someone wants a quick sticker design or a logo tweak, I’ll gladly take their money:)

  • @Laurel-Aylesworth ooh! I like this! Thank you so much. This is helpful stuff and will help open the eyes of people who aren’t in the industry or putting pencil to paper so to speak.

  • @Coreyartus thank you for these suggestions, I will definitely check them out and do some more research on the topic

  • @Jane-Smith I know, it's low, terribly low...I did some more online research today and that seems to be a pretty common price range. I am not entirely surprised though...there are a lot of jobs who are extremely underpaid in Italy and 5 EUR/hour isn't the worst I've heard. Generally speaking, 10 EUR/hour (1600 EUR/month) is considered a pretty good salary for any job. I like your suggestion in any case, I don't know an agent that I can ask to, but I think I have a couple of people in my local network that could give me guidance on the topic.

Log in to reply