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Hiring an Illustrator for your Children's Book

​I hope this will be helpful to both the authors seeking to hire an illustrator and illustrators working with authors who are self-publishing. It is a finely tuned dance between the two and in order to create the best book possible it requires a lot of work on both sides. Hiring an illustrator is a BIG step and there are many things you need to consider and have in mind before approaching an illustrator. Hopefully, this will help you get your ducks in a row to move to the next step of getting your children's book out into the world.

Four cute ducklings marching in a row
Ducks in a Row

Things to consider when looking for an outstanding illustrator

There are many things you need to consider before diving in and hiring an illustrator, and there are several questions that need to be answered before an illustrator can quote a price and gauge their interest in your project. Here are several questions I have found most needed and helpful to get the project started. You may not have answers to everything, but as many of them as you can will help make the entire process go more smoothly. This post is more personal to how I work, but most illustrators will have a similar process.

Questions, Queries, Posers:

• How did you find me or my company, Imagine That! Design? This can help me to know what work you have seen and what style of art with which you might be most interested.

• Is this your first children’s book?

• Do you have a complete manuscript? Or are you still writing?

• Has your manuscript been professionally edited?

• How many pages will your book be? (Please include the cover, back cover, copyright page and title page in that number).

• What is the target age range of your book?

• Do you have a budget in mind for this artwork? Keep in mind that it takes several months to a year to complete the illustrations for a full book, and illustrators need to be reasonably compensated for that time.

• What rights are you interested in purchasing?

• Are you publishing traditional print or ebooks? Or are you going to try to sell your books to a publisher? (If you are looking for a publisher, you do not need to hire an illustrator. If your manuscript is acquired by a traditional publisher, they will choose the illustrator.)

• Do you have an estimated date that you would want the artwork completed by?

• Do you have a printer?

• What outlets will you be using to sell the book?

• How do you plan on publishing and marketing the book?

• Will you be hiring a designer as well, or will it be necessary for me to perform those duties? My partner is a designer and has designed several books. This would be a separate fee from the illustrations.

Remember, publishing is a business

Before I can agree to take on any project, I would need to review the manuscript of your story to gauge our interest in working on the book. You can send an NDA if you feel you need to. After years of working with clients in the publishing industry, these are the things we found most important to mention:

What we need to begin:

The final size, a template from your printer, how it will be printed, what kind of cover (soft hard, jacket cover), and what text will be on each page or spread. All these things determine the price and the design of the text and art for an optimum reading experience.

Timing :

It will will take from four to eight months to complete the illustrations for a full book depending on the total amount of illustrations needed, the number of pages, the complexity and number of characters for each spread as well as our current work load.

Payments :

I break the payments into thirds: one third up front to get started with character development, one third upon delivery of final sketches, and the final third at delivery of the final art. I also have a kill fee of 25% in case the project is cancelled after we have invested much or our time.

Revision Limit:

I will provide one or two rounds of revisions on sketches and light revisions on finals. Any further revisions needed, there will be an additional charge.


It is unlikely that you will need or ever use all rights to the art we create for your book. We will grant you the appropriate usage and terms needed to use the illustrations for 1st North American Print rights for an agreed upon time frame. If you still wish to buy all copyrights, be prepared to pay an appropriate amount for them. This can add up.

Contracts...Yes :

There will be one. We use a simple contract outlining rights. We can use one of our own or you can provide one, but keep in mind that what we have outlined above must be clear.

Thank you for your interest.

If after reading this, you are still a go for bringing your story to life, please contact me with as much information as possible and we'll get the process started. I have not given specific pricing here since there are so many variables, but you should be prepared to spend $5,000 to 10,000 or more for a full 32 page picture book. I will be happy to provide an estimate once I have as many as possible of the above questions answered and have established an interest in taking on the project.

I hope you have found this helpful. Please feel free to ask any questions, or share your experiences as an author or an illustrator in the comments below.


Live. Laugh. Learn.

A girl holds up a green thank you sign with her cute dog by her side

Some helpful links and further readings:

by Kelley McMorris

Marlo Garnsworthy, Wordy Bird Studio

Illustrating Self-Published Books By Elizabeth O. Dulemba

For the self-publisher by Wendy Martin

Muddy Colors, A Fantasy Art Collective

-By Greg Ruth

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