Finding and Contracting an Illustrator for a Children’s Book

If you are an author who plans to publish through a traditional publisher, meaning someone is paying you to write the book, the publisher will find an illustrator so read no further... However, if you will be publishing the book yourself and your drawing talents will not suffice, read on to learn how to find an illustrator and work with them to produce a delightful children’s book.

Prep work. Before you look for an illustrator, you need to determine the scope of the work for the project. You need to decide the book’s size, whether it will be in color or black and white, and how the illustrations will be used. Will you have full page illustrations with the wording inserted (you will need an area in the artwork which has very little detail, preferably just a background color so the words can be read)? Are the illustrations only on the top two-thirds of the page with white space below for the words? Will the illustrations only be at the start of each chapter? You need to have a concept for the illustrations which you can clearly articulate to the artist.

The artist will need to know the size of the illustrations and whether or not you want the illustration to go to the edge of the page. If so, you will also need to provide the artist with the book printer’s bleed requirement. The artwork will have to be sized to cover the bleed area so when the pages are cut, the artwork will actually reach the page edge. Otherwise, there is the possibility there will be a thin white edge on some copies of the book due to the capabilities of the cutting machines.

Finding an artist. You will be surprised how many artists would like to illustrate a book. To find an illustrator, tell everyone you know or meet that you are looking for one. You can also search the internet for “children’s book illustrators”, “book illustrators”, and “illustrators for hire”.

You will definitely want to see examples of the illustrator’s work and find out whether or not they can meet deadlines. As a publishing company, we announce we are looking for an illustrator and invite artists to contact us to be included in our selection process. We set a date for the start of the process and send out an e-mail announcement on that date with a call for characterization drawings of one or two principal characters in the story. We give a synopsis of the story and a target age group for the book. We state the scope, timeline, and compensation for the work. We include a copy of the contract so all factors are known up front and any artist who participates is showing a willingness to abide by the terms of the contract. Artists are asked to send jpeg files with their characterizations by a set date.

Artists who do not meet the deadline are eliminated from further consideration for the project since they have just demonstrated they can not meet deadlines. The files we do receive, we print, label the back with the artist’s name, and hang on a wall so we can view all the possible visualizations of the characters. Then we select the characterization that is the best match for the story.

The contract. Use a “Work for Hire” contract. “Work for Hire” contracts make the hiring entity the owner of the copyright. In the case of book illustration, the illustrations are considered “supplementary work” specifically commissioned to complement the work of the author. Two conditions must be met: (1) the work must be one of nine categories in the copyright law (illustrative work is one) and (2) there is a written agreement between the parties specifying that the work is a work made for hire (therefore the “Work for Hire” contract).

Points to have in the contract include:

  • the title of the book,
  • total number of illustrations,
  • whether or not the illustrator will do cover art,
  • timing, form, and condition of the deliverables,
  • specification of how the artist wants his name spelled in any credit lines accorded to him,
  • a requirement for a short biography of the artist to use with the book and any marketing material,
  • an assignment of Intellectual Property Rights,
  • a statement allowing the artist to retain the right to display the work and reproduce the artwork in connection with the promotion of the artist’s services,
  • a warranty from the artist that his work does not infringe on any intellectual property rights,
  • a final completion date which must be met,
  • payment specification (how, when, and how much),
  • a statement of which state law governs the agreement,
  • signature blocks including a typed version of the names of the contracting parties, addresses, e-mail addresses, and date of signature.

Keep in contact with your illustrator through the entire process. Provide feedback quickly on work as it is submitted, so any changes can be made right away. Put the illustrations into your book layout as you receive them to make sure the sizing is right and everything is proceeding properly. You will find your project goes more smoothly when you work closely with the artist you have selected and follow the guidelines in this article.

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