How To Find an Illustrator for Your Book

One of the most common questions I get is how to find freelancers for all kinds of publishing tasks. Illustrators are one such sought after group of people and today Lisa M. Griffin, illustrator & designer gives us some tips.

You have decided to self-publish your completed manuscript and have decided on a company to print your book. Great! But you still have to make a critical decision, the artwork. Namely, who can do it, where do I find them and how much should I pay them?

A few self-publishers have a variety of illustrators to choose from, and this is a good option to begin with. I would suggest doing additional research, as there are many talented illustrators working today and you might find one more situated to the style you envisioned for your book.

A wonderful place to start (and consider joining) is the Society of Children’s Book Authors and Illustrators. This is a member based creative organization and it holds a wealth of information on publishing such as industry tips, directories, artist portfolio’s and contact information. Another source is, which is primarily a portfolio directory site. It is a visual playground of creative talented sorted by medium, style and subject. I recommend this site if you are unfamiliar with the artistic style you want – reviewing portfolios will give you a better understanding to your preference. Also, don’t forget the power of a good Google search. Most professional illustrators have both a blog and website, which gives you a more intimate look at the creative person behind the art.

Ok, you have done your research and found a few illustrators that you are excited about and would like to contact… now what? I would suggest a few things to consider before sending a query letter or email.

1. How many illustrations do you need? For a picture book, will it be full page spreads or single page art? If it is a young adult book, maybe one illustration per chapter? What is the layout size of your book? Will you be needing spot illustrations too? You get the general idea, right?

2. Set a realistic budget for art. Do not expect a professional illustrator to do your book for free, for their portfolio or for a split of future royalties. If you are approaching an experienced, professional, illustrator with a query you should do so respectfully and be prepared to pay them for their time, effort, talent and experience. To give you an idea of current industry rates for children’s picture books (based on a 32pg book) estimates range from $3,000 – $12,000, plus royalties. To break it down another way, if you estimate that an illustrator is creating 20 original illustrations for your book and you are paying them $3,000 for art that is $150 per illustration. Now consider how much time goes into each illustration, starting with thumbnail sketches, revisions, pencil outlines and final color. Oh and don’t forget the cost of supplies, along with the artist’s time.

3. When you find the perfect illustrator and you are both happy with the creative arrangement, it is important to remember one more thing. Let he/she do their work. Yes, talk about your manuscript and give them an idea of the scenes you want illustrated, but allow room for creative expression. You approached this person because you loved his/her art, right? So trust in the illustrator you hired to breathe life into your story and give him/her some creative freedom. If you are unhappy with a certain composition tell them early on and explain why. I much prefer getting revisions in the early stages to eliminate surprises during final color. Trust me, most artists have developed a thick skin over the years and can take constructive feedback – especially during preliminary work.

Self-publishing is not an inexpensive endeavor. But if you believe in your story and want the satisfaction of having a beautiful book, then you need to recognize that quality illustrations are an important ingredient in the editorial and marketing value of the book.

Good luck to you!

Lisa M. Griffin, illustration & design

Top image is one of Lisa’s illustrations.

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  1. says

    I was impressed by the informative nature of the article here. I do illustrations for a broader audience, not just children’s books, and I can say that the experience there is similar. There will be people trying to get an illustrator to work for beans and talk about how great it will be for their portfolio and for exposure. On the flip side there are publishers who will pay handsomely for someone to create just the right image.

  2. nicole says

    I am a newbie at self publishing. I have completed my manuscrpit and have found a great illustrator. To me, it seems natural that the illustrator read the manuscript to be inspired, but the skeptics around me say not to hand it over. As you can imagine they believe that it will be stolen. Please advise.

    • Lisa says

      Congratulations on your story Nicole.
      If you have selected your illustrator then you should have a contract drawn up outlining all the terms and conditions of the working arrangement. I would not enter a project without one. This will help safe guard you against any concerns that you have.
      If you are deciding between a few artists then you could request a preliminary sketch and describe what you are looking for (little girl with her dog for example). This way you can make a selection based on the best style for your story before you send along the manuscript to the chosen artist.
      I have had authors send me manuscripts with an initial query and others who will send an overview first. You will need a level of trust with the chosen illustrator and if you have reservations about what that individual might do with your work, then maybe that isn’t the person your should be spending several months collaborating on a project with.
      Hope this helps with your endeavor!

  3. Adam Rex says

    Hey, I’m a kid’s book author/illustrator. Found this article by accident, but I see a lot of good information here.

    The illustrator fees quoted are very low, however. I can’t tell you what a novice illustrator gets paid for her first book anymore (mine was 13 years ago, and I was paid an 8,000 advance by a medium-sized publisher–this was considered low at the time), but the upper limit of the fees quoted should be easily 4 or 5 times what you have here.

    I see other commenters boasting about getting illustrations for 50 dollars apiece, and others balking at the idea of paying someone a few thousand dollars for an entire picture book. Self-publishers (and only self-publishers–if you’re submitting to publishers, submit the manuscript by itself) should definitely get the best illustrations they can for as little money as possible–no one’s asking you to run a charity–but keep in mind that professional illustrators spend months on a 32-page picture book. I typically need 4 to 6 months, and I’m considered reasonably fast.

    Maybe people on this thread believe I should be happy making a good deal below minimum wage, but I doubt it. I think they probably just haven’t really considered all the sides of this.

    Oh, and OF COURSE you should let a prospective illustrator read your manuscript. No one’s going to steal anything.

    • Victoria says

      Such an informative article, thank you!
      I am an illustrator and yesterday was asked to illustrate a small book
      I was offered 35$/illustration because the editor didn’t know how much money should illustrators get for this job.
      The cover was of the same price

      People should learn the market first
      This experience was quite offensive

  4. says

    I am a children’s book illustrator with SCBWI. Each job is different and some customers have a finite budget while others have quite a bit of money to spend. I try to work within each person’s budget. I always ask what style they are looking for so I can determine how much time it will take me to complete the job.

    Rich Olson

    • sara tang says

      Thank you for all this vital information, I truly appreciated the insight. I am searching for an illustrator who can convey graphs on blood sugar changes and some medical symptoms, is there a specific group for these kind of illustration of graphs. Thank you so very much for your time!

  5. says

    Whoa, I think more writers should read this. They should understand that the illustration will support the story if it is being done right. And not in a very cheap way. I’m an illustrator for business and promotion. In the past I had a client that ask me to draw illustration for 15$ per page that took me hours to make.

    Some illustrators are having a hard time trying to get a good deal out there. Take a look at some of my illustration and please tell me if it’s good enough for a better appreciation. lol.

  6. Sarah says

    I so appreciate your including post on this topic. I’d like to go the self-publishing route (with an illustrator) for my children’s book–but with the hope of getting it traditionally published down the line. My understanding is that in order for a book to get into bookstores, you need to be published via the traditional route. (That is the case, correct?) If so, is anyone aware of a barrier to a publisher taking on a self-published children’s picture book? In Canada, at least, publishers want to be able to choose their own illustrator. Thanks so much!

    • says


      I know of a couple who assists writers getting their book self-published. I don’t know how it would work with transitioning the book to traditional publishing down the road, but perhaps they would know. You can find their website here:

      I also wanted to inquire if you were in need of an illustrator for any of your books. If so, I would be happy to work with you.

        • says

          Hi Sarah,
          My name is Erika and I am an Illustrator. I was reading through the comments and came across yours. I would like to invite you to take a look at my portfolio on my website Please feel free and contact me should my style meet your illustration needs.

          I look forward to hearing from you,


  7. says

    Hi Lisa,
    I found your article very informative and also some of the q&a helpful.

    I am looking to publish my first children’s board book and used your links to narrow down illustrators for my book. A good quality illustrator prices anywhere from $500 – $1200 a spread and $200 – $600 per page. The final work is offered in the tiff, jpg or psd formats.

    However, the next step is to find a designer. Also how to price this work. They place the text on the illustrations amongst other things. Do you have any advice / suggestions for that ?
    Also printing a board book is exclusively done in China. Some US printers manage it, thus reducing the risk. Any recommendations for these printers ?

    Thanks again!!

  8. says

    In response to Naryan’s comment above, there are illustrators like myself with multi-disciplinary backgrounds that do illustration as well as layout and text and graphic design. In addition, having the same person design your website will also help your brand remain consistent. The author Im working with currently has me do all promotional graphic work as well as illustration and this has worked very well for us so far. Feel free to browse: to see how we’ve approached it.

    Also, as a mixed media artist, I notice people will try to get very complex work for the same price as a simple illustration that takes significantly less time and skill. It can be insulting to the artist and you should expect to pay more for complex illustrations…$1200 per spread is a good medium for someone with a unique skillset.

    To contact me with any questions, email me at Happy to help!

  9. says

    It is wonderful to see how this article seems to resonate with creatives after all these years! The best advice that I can give… even after all these years, is to do your research. Be sure you are ready to self-publish via going a traditional route with a publishing house. By doing your research first, you will make the right decision for you and your story. Self-publishing a picture book is an expensive endeavor and one that will require a lot of time and effort. Take your time and make sure you put out the very best product that your budget allows.
    Good luck in your publishing endeavors!

  10. says


    I would just like to make a quick comment that I love to do illustration.
    I like drawing cute animals, especially things like ocean creatures, crustaceans & insects.
    At the moment I prefer not to draw people. I also love Australian scenes.

    I am still working on my website & portfolio and the few illustrations that are there are editorial ones. At the moment though I am just trying to pay the bills so it is hard to find time to do what I love. But I’m also working on my own children’s book, so I’ll periodically be uploading more stuff soon as well as some more examples of relevant pieces.

    As a creative though, I’m never quite ‘finished’ anything and for some reason I am reluctant to show people my work.

    The main reason for the comment is to say that I’m here, I’m ready & willing enough, and if you check out my website you can easily make an enquiry online directly on my website:

    Thanks very much,

  11. says

    Great article! I am a cartoonist/ illustrator, and I see a lot of people wanting a full book for under $500. I think everyone that wants to publish a book should read this. A children’s book without illustrations wouldn’t sell.:)


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