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10 things to ask before you draw a Children's Book  - Guest Post by Wilson Williams, Jr.

Artwork copyright Wilson Williams, Jr.

With the growth in popularity of the e-book many authors are seeing a glimmer of hope and realizing that they can get their work out there without having to break into the velvet roped publishing house exclusive party. This means that you will begin to get even more solicitations from those authors looking for artists to bring visuals to their words.

If you have a website or have done any degree of online advertising of your artwork, you have probably gotten an e-mail with a similar message as the title. If not, you will at some point. It's best to be prepared now. For those who have gotten it, nine times out of ten you aren't sure how to respond to it, what should you ask, how do you respond?

I was tired of retyping essentially the same letter over and over again.  I finally saved a template of the letter I use in this situation and I'd like to share it with you. This letter is set up to not only gauge the potential project but to also get a measure of the knowledge of the person I would be working with.  For a person who has no knowledge of  what it takes to produce a book, this letter is quite intimidating. That's the point. You only want serious prospects when it comes to these types of projects, otherwise the jobs end up being more of a burden than a benefit.

Please take the letter and alter it to fit your needs. Within it you should find all the integral questions you should be asking anyone approaching you with a job of this nature. The more you know the better a position you'll be in to decide whether or not the project is worth your consideration.

You can download the file in Word and as a PDF on the original blogpost here.

So why those 10 questions you ask? See below!

1. Is this your first Children's Book?
If it is then you may have to not only be the Illustrator but the teacher as well. In most instances very few have taken the proper steps to educate themselves about the process and kind of work that goes into making a children's book.

Many pick up a children's book, read it and say to themselves that they could do this and seek out an Illustrator skipping all the information gathering that they need to do. It's also very likely that they won't know how to answer the majority of the rest of the questions.

If the  answer is no, then you can ask for titles and do some online research to see what their other products look like and how successful they have been.

2. I would like to see the script for your story. You can send a NDA (Non-disclosure agreement) pre-emptively if you feel compelled to do so.

You need to read the book before you decide to draw it.  For one, you may not like it. I've gotten some pretty out there inappropriate stories from authors.

You also need to see how complicated the images may be to determine how much you should be charging.

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

This is integral to coming up with a price since it will let you know about how many illustrations you may be doing.

4. What age range is your book intended for?

If the writer tells you the book is for 4-7 year olds and then sends you a 5000 word script, you know there is a problem. The age range should give you an idea of how simple, complex and bright your images should be considering the age range. The younger the audience the simpler and brighter the images should probably be.

5. Do you have a budget in mind for this artwork?

I rarely  get the answer to this question. But it never hurts to ask. If they do answer truthfully you may save yourself the trouble of reading the script if what they are budgeting is too low. I recently  got a letter asking for 35 illustrations for $5 each. In the trash.

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

This is necessary to determine if their scheduling  is realistic and will fit within your schedule.

7. How do you plan on publishing and marketing the book?

Do they have a publisher already?

If so, is it a vanity press or a smaller publisher or a larger one.  Be sure to research them online to see who you may be dealing with.  Larger publishers don't generally have the writer select an illustrator.

If not, are they just trying to put something together to shop their story to a publisher? This is a no no as well. Publishers don't want book submissions from authors and illustrators who are not the same person. They want the ability to select the artist for particular stories themselves.  If submitting a script all they need is to prepare it to the submission guidelines of that  particular publisher and submit it. Illustrations aren't necessary.

8. What outlets will you be using to sell the book?

Where do they intend to sell the books; Bookstores, Online, Amazon, Barnes and Nobles?  Again this is to help you gauge their research and planning. What steps are they considering to make sure the book will be a success.

9. What rights are you interested in purchasing from me?

The rights sold by most publishers are usually limited to what they specifically need to reproduce the book alone, first time publishing rights. This may include e-book rights but not always. For example, if the publisher decided to create plush toys, a video game or a cartoon based on your creations they would need to renegotiate your contract and your financial compensation since they are creating something beyond the specific published book you created.

The artist generally retains the copyright of the artwork they create in these situations. Don't be surprised if the person soliciting you asks to buy all rights, which means they own the artwork copyright and everything and can essentially do whatever they like with or without your permission. If you sell those rights at the very least make sure that you are financially compensated for it.

10. Will you be hiring a designer as well, or will it be necessary for me to perform those duties?

Illustrators don't typically do the layout, type or book design. If you are expected to do it then you should charge more.

If you are new to this you will learn quickly that there is a lot to learn about what we do. You need to keep up on all the business side of things that may seem cumbersome to learn but are essential to your survival as a professional. We'll do our best to provide knowledge and tools based on our experiences here at OnceUponASketch.  Take advantage and let us know if you see anything that can be added or improved.

This is the first of a series of Guest Posts by WilsonWJr which will feature interviews and articles with professionals within the children's book industry as well as topics that are of concern for up and coming children's book illustrators. If you want to know more about him, feel free to visit OnceUponASketch

If you are interested in joining our little group, please send us a note entitled "join" to childrensillustrators. Talk a bit about yourself and your attraction to children's book illustration. You must be a children's book illustrator or a wannabe to join us. You must have a great amount of children's book illustrations in your deviantART gallery.

Children's Illustrators Club Team
Nini and Toia

  • Watching: your deviations!
Add a Comment:
Nais25 Featured By Owner Apr 30, 2013
Brilliant! Thank you!
ChiakiNeko Featured By Owner Apr 27, 2013   General Artist
How informative! I may find this useful in the future, thank you :D
Kirrrby Featured By Owner Apr 25, 2013
Thank you for sharing this! Very useful :)
annezca Featured By Owner Apr 23, 2013   General Artist
Oh~ this helps a lot~ I'm a beginner in children illustration, so my portfolio are practically leaning towards show of skills (since I was working in the gaming industry). I'm blessed enough to be introduced to a good and reputable author of children's book. The thing is, I was at lost. What's the proper response to these situations?
Ivy00 Featured By Owner Apr 17, 2013
Thanks for that :)
Yes, *WilsonWJr did an awsome job! :)
WilsonWJr Featured By Owner Apr 21, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
You're welcome!
ArtAnda Featured By Owner Apr 15, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
Very useful! since you published this article I really came back to it and used the tips - it helped me in my collaboration with several clients!

Could you please be so kind and post a model of contract/agreement of publishing rights for international collabs? Thanks!!
Thia would be lovely to have indeed. You should ask *WilsonWJr for this, maybe he has something prepared.
erinwitzel Featured By Owner Apr 10, 2013  Professional Interface Designer
Great article! I hope to be published someday, and this is very informational about learning how to size up potential projects. Thanks!
WilsonWJr Featured By Owner Apr 21, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
You're welcome!
miorats Featured By Owner Apr 10, 2013  Professional Traditional Artist
Great info. I have done a few of these books for friends in the past (when I have time) but I never expect anything to come of them. Also, writers just starting out often do not know that major publishing companies usually match up writers and illustrators themselves.
WilsonWJr Featured By Owner Apr 21, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
Very true. The questions are set up to let you know if they are seeking a traditional publisher or will be self publishing. If traditional then you can inform them that your services are not necessary. You are right that many writers have no idea that a publisher doesn't want a finished book sent to them for consideration.
cornelium Featured By Owner Apr 9, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thanks! This is reeeeeally helpful.
veryverystrawberry Featured By Owner Apr 9, 2013
This is awesome! Thanks a lot!
WilsonWJr Featured By Owner Apr 21, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
feintbellt Featured By Owner Apr 9, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
Im just about to do a children`s book, so this would be very helpful!
that's great! :)
StephHolmes Featured By Owner Apr 9, 2013
This is a fantastic resource!
it really is!
WilsonWJr Featured By Owner Apr 9, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
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April 9, 2013


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