Illustrating a Kids Book 3: Money

A little while later, I got the call from Dan on my answering machine asking to call him back. I kind of figured I was the Chosen One – if he was calling to say he gave the job to somebody else he surely would have said as much on the machine rather than ask for a callback.

The always awkward question of monetary remuneration came up, as it should. I never know what to charge for these sorts of things, and I always undercharge because I never think it’s going to take as much time and work as it does. And I find non-artists think that artists are superhuman–that it doesn’t take any amount of time or effort to create a masterpiece–and since what they produce is (traditionally) not something they can drive around in or watch movies on, it can’t be worth more than a couple of bucks. I’m not saying that Dan is one of those people–in fact Dan’s day job keeps him immersed in both art and music–but it’s one of those things that as an artist you have to keep in mind when you decide what jobs you will take for the budget that is offered. In this case, I am not only excited about the project, but I also view it as a stepping stone to larger things. It’s kind of nice to have, as my so-called cherry, this low-budget, two-man project, because there isn’t a ton of pressure with deadlines and unrealistic expectations. So now that I knew that Dan wanted to hire me, I had to decide once and for all if I wanted to be hired and under what terms and conditions. How much work would I be doing? What was the time frame? Would there be royalties? What if he pitches the book to a publishing outfit and they hire their own artist to do the illos based on my previous work? I set out to do some internet research on that front, which led me to buy the following books:

Graphic Artist’s Guild Handbook: Pricing & Ethical Guidelines and Business and Legal Forms for Illustrators. (if you don’t have those, try this site for some downloadable pdfs:

keeping in mind these are no doubt in US prices) All the things like royalties and whatnot are things I won’t get into here, but I will say that Dan had a set budget that, if broken down onto a per-page basis was a little light compared to what my research garnered. But then again – I don’t think I have ever been paid as much for a job as these books said I should be getting! And as I mentioned, I didn’t consider this a straightforward illustration job like the work-for-hires I did for D&D books for so many years. This was a book that I had a vested interest in as a portfolio piece, as a stepping stone into a larger industry, and also a learning experience.

Nevertheless, given the unique nature of the project, we agreed to divide the project into separate phases and write up contracts for each phase. The first phase would be, essentially, designing the characters and producing one splash page that Dan could show to prospective publishing companies.