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. says

    Hi Lisa-

    In the process of writing my memoirs. It will include photographs and Illustrations. The illustrations will be drwan from the memoirs , usually a scenery watercolors . For example , While traveling in Turkey, my car was stuck in a muddy road. It was pulled out of the mud by a Turkish farmer with his oxen-driven cart loaded with alfalfa,. cloudy & hilly background with shrubs.


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