Authors seeking Illustrators – Buyer Beware!

This morning, I read a complaint from an author who’d been burned three times by so-called “children’s book illustrators” who conducted themselves unprofessionally. The first person kept telling her that they were working on the illustrations, putting her off repeatedly. She let eighteen months pass before demanding an answer, then the illustrator finally admitted that she hadn’t been doing the illustrations at all!

She then found two new illustrators to work on two different books. Both agreed to work on the books, then one decided to pull out without notification and the other hadn’t contacted her for weeks, even though she begged her for an update.

I thought you might like to read my response, as it might help many self-publishing authors who are thinking of having their manuscripts illustrated in the near future.

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Dear Self-publishing Author,

It’s a shame, but yours is not a unique story. There are thousands of people out there claiming to be children’s book illustrators, when indeed they have never completed even one book. There are others who forget they’re representing a business, and treat illustrating as if it were a hobby. Both types make the pro’s (like me) have to work harder for every dollar we EARN.

Once a trust is broken, (often authors act unprofessional as well) the injured party becomes skittish and guarded. The new pro must then deal with gaining trust above and beyond the norm so that everyone can work in harmony. Authors who’ve been burned, tend to micro-manage after such an experience, and it’s understandable but not usually necessary if the new pro has a proven track record, meaning that they’ve worked with many happy clients, over a reasonable period of time, and produced many wonderful results.

Another frustration for pro illustrators is that we have to bid against these unprofessionals, who bid ridiculously low prices because of their inexperience or hobbyist attitude. Unsuspecting authors looking to do things cheaply, jump to hire them without considering what they’re more likely to receive…unprofessionalism or second-rate work. Hiring a pro doesn’t have to break your budget, if you’re smart about it! Look for pro’s who are willing to break their fee’s down into monthly payments over the long-haul.

Just because someone can draw well and claims to be an illustrator, doesn’t mean they are one!

Character Sample2There’s a LOT more to it than just drawing pretty pictures! An illustrator should (once hired) be ABLE to provide you with a storyboard layout of your book. They should know how to illustrate your story in such a way that the pictures will ENHANCE your text, not just show what’s already being said in the text.

I recommend that authors seeking illustrators should do their homework before hiring.

Make sure that the prospective illustrator can give you references from other happy clients (that can be verified). Make sure that your illustrator can provide you with a legally binding, mutually beneficial contract that states WHEN/HOW OFTEN sketches will be delivered to you in a timely manner. It should state WHEN the finished full-color illustrations will be completed & give you a reasonable time frame for completion and delivery of the whole project (3-6 months, depending on the page count and details), and the contract should contain a break down of all the fees and what they are for.

Once you sign the contract, your illustrator will be legally bound to follow it. Pro’s will do this by CONTACTING YOU periodically throughout the project to let you know how things are progressing. They will deliver sketches and completed illustrations according to the contract delivery dates. They will request your feedback along the way, proving that they are working on your project.

There is no excuse for not contacting your client to report how things are going!

YES, sometimes life gets in the way, and problems occur that slow down production, but a PRO always keeps their client aware of such things! A clear understanding and good communication are KEY to a great working relationship and a successful, pleasant outcome!

Authors, if your illustrator does not contact you in a timely manner (according to your contract), you then KNOW that something is wrong! DO NOT hesitate in taking action. If your illustrator does not deliver the goods as promised, ask what’s up! You have the right to know.

Finally, if both you and your illustrator conduct yourselves in a business-like manner, all should be well and the project will be a joyful one (as it should be).

Nothing makes an author happier than seeing their dream become a reality, one page at a time!

If your illustrator is not including YOU in the process, pull out quickly (siting breach of contract issues) and find someone else BEFORE you’re in too deep!

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