Most of us are not artists. However, most of us would agree that illustrations are essential to a successful children’s book. The style and design can make or break your book. So how do you go about getting illustrations? There are a lot of options.
Here’s the thing: If you successfully query a children’s story and score a publishing deal, they will partner you with an illustrator and this entire thing will be a moot point. You’re not expected to bring a fully finished book to the table. They’ll work with you, and your deal will determine the specifics of the relationship.
If you’re here, you’re probably making a go of it on your own. You have an idea that has been living in your head—a story that you told your kids that stayed with you. Characters that you made up somewhere along the way who refuse to leave you alone. Maybe the traditional publishing route isn’t right for you, or maybe it’s just taking too long and you want full control.
We’re talking to you.
So, you’ve got your story and you aren’t an artist and you need to know how to go about finding illustrations. There are a lot of ways to approach this.
Fiverr and Upwork
These are probably the most common ways to self-design a book. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, these sites match freelancers with people looking to hire them. There are a ton of artists and designers, illustrators, editors, and anyone else you may need to finish your project. You can hire people for writing or design work.
Based on personal experience, if you’re going to hunt for an author on Fiverr, use Fiverr Pro. The contractors are interviewed and vetted, and you’re much less likely to get scammed or ghosted. Upwork is also a viable option, and there are plenty of artists there that will be able to get your job done.
Up front, you’ll want to understand a few things. Make sure you take a look at their work and that their style will work for your project. If the style is not a match, you’re not going to be happy with the work, and it’s unfair to everyone.
Pricing an illustrator
The first question is always price because it’s not an inexpensive proposition. Here are some factors that drive the cost of your illustration project:
- The location of your artist. If they are in the United States, you’ll likely spend thousands. In a country with a lower cost of living, you’ll likely end up with a less expensive endeavor.
- The length of the book. Yes, the longer the book, the more it’s going to cost.
- The experience level of the artist.
- The amount of work the project requires. If there are a lot of adjustments, design work, etc. between the artist and author, it’s going to cost more.
- How fast you need the project turned around.
Additional questions to ask a potential illustrator
Pricing. Specifically, what the pricing includes—how many revisions, and what the scope is. Are they designing? Are they giving you page illustrations and leaving the formatting to you? Is the cover included or is that a separate fee? Be clear.
Ownership. Who owns the copyright of the illustrations? Understand what the ownership of the work looks like.
Credit. How do they want to be credited? Do they want cover credit?
Time frame. Do you have a hard deadline? You’re going to pay for speed.
There are a TON of children’s book illustration groups on Facebook. If you go to the search bar and type in “children’s book illustrators” and filter to “groups” you’ll see DOZENS of sizeable groups. We’re talking tens or hundreds of thousands of members. You can inquire there and see what turns up, or scroll and see if there’s someone that matches your vibe and track down their contact info.
If Instagram is your thing, you can look at hashtags like #kidlitartist #illustratorforhire. You should be able to sift through and find some cool artwork by artists taking commissions.
The old-school method
Maybe you can’t find someone on those sites. Maybe you have a specific artist in mind, and you NEED their touch on your project.
Hear me out: You can ask if they do commission work. Just email them, message them on social media, or ask for an introduction.
I know. It’s scary. But you never know if you don’t ask!
On a budget
If you really just want to make a book for your friends and family and don’t have the budget to create a whole book, try Canva! There is a ton of stock art and photography to play with, and they make the design process easy.
Here’s a cool tutorial to get you started:
However you choose to get your book out into the world, we’re proud of you! Do the thing, and tell your stories. You’ll be glad you did.
About the Writer: Allie Gravitt is a mom of 4 and lives in metro Atlanta with a house full of animals and plants. Her debut poetry collection, prisonbreaks, and second collection Killing Ghosts are available now on Amazon. Follow Allie’s writing journey on TikTok and Instagram.