Thursday, April 22, 2010

The High Cost of Self Publishing

I've written a children's book, which I plan on self publishing as an app. I have a built-in mode of marketing, which should ensure publicity for the book.

What should I expect to pay the illustrator? What are the standard fees asked for by an illustrator in the self publishing arena?
I'm afraid I don't know. I've never worked on a self-published book. Regular publishing pays illustrators thousands (or tens of thousands) of dollars, plus royalties. And if we pay an illustrator on a flat-fee basis, even then they'll have a publication credit to point to that can further their career.

Of course, most of the self-published books I've seen weren't professionally illustrated, and that's one reason they sell so badly. If you were thinking of going to someone of professional quality, I don't know what kind of money would tempt them to work on a self-published book.

If you weren't planning on that, you have bigger problems than what you'll pay them.

25 comments:

Susan Adsett said...

Graphic Artists Guild Handbook: Pricing & Ethical Guidelines ( http://www.amazon.com/Graphic-Artists-Guild-Handbook-Guidelines/dp/0932102131/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1271948638&sr=1-1 ) gives some VERY BASIC outlines for work for hire fees. Most libraries have a copy, too. Check it out, and you'll at least be able to make a rough budget.

If you find an illustrator who is willing to work for significantly less then the GAG fees, well, you get what you pay for....

Jeannie said...

as an illustrator, you are looking at about $150 per illustrated page. And that's for an okay illustrator.

Nancy Coffelt said...

I get requests like this fairly frequently. I think most illustrators do. And it isn't just the drastically lower fees that make these jobs difficult to consider. There's usually no art director involved and the author is usually calling the shots. That can be a setup for trouble as that author may find it impossible to give the illustrator the creative control to contribute their VERY important half of a picture book.

katy love said...

I know that the self publishing co. I went with (Xlibris)it was $149 per illustration with their team of artists.The samples I have seen are ok and I was very pleased with my cover.One idea might be to ask at a local college(art class)and see if some of the students can help with illustrations for a small fee.

Anonymous said...

May I be the elephant in the room and say put your hard-earned money in your kids college fund instead?

Or take a fun trip. Or buy your mom a nice gift for Mother's Day. Or give to the heifer project where an African villager will be able to earn income and have a better quality of life from your gift of a real, live cow.

You've come here for information, and instead I'm lecturing you. I know. It's true -- I am sort of a bitch.

But please understand, I'm not condemning you, because God knows a lot of us are in the same boat. But when you are talking about having built-in publicity, why squander that publicity on a sub-par project? Even if the text is stellar, illustrations often make or break the book. Editors have years of experience in what works and what doesn't; they can guide a first-time illustrator, a writer usually can't.

But, this is only if you are looking for a career, some people aren't. So if that's the case, good luck and god speed. :)

Rose Green said...

As the illustrations sell the book, I don't think it should be a gratis or "small fee" situation.

Not to devalue a picture book text, but the Caldecott award, after all, is given for the illustrations, NOT the text.

Michael said...

go on 99designs.com, do a contest and then choose the best illustration. will cost $ 100-200

Duolit Consulting said...

If you're serious about making your self-published work a success, it's integral to consider the costs up front and spend the money you need to make it as professional as possible. After all, why waste the time, energy and money on something that doesn't quite live up to your expectations?

My advice: if you're willing to put in the work to market your book, sell copies, and make it a success, bite the bullet and pay for an excellent illustrator. It's so important, especially for a genre so heavily dependent upon illustration. Best of luck!

bill megenhardt said...

I think the most important thing to consider is the art direction because it is about telling a story through pictures. Self publishing eliminates some layers of creative individuals and if the author and illustrator are not completely on the same page, it can be a nightmare. As an illustrator, I'm constantly amazed how self published authors will cut corners by getting someone they know illustrate their book and wonder why it didn't sell very well. If a self publishing author is going to put the effort in to publish, market and stand behind their book, please don't skimp on the illustrations.

christine tripp said...

Nancy is so RIGHT!

Even when you have an author approach you with their project and they are willing to pay the $5000 or whatever the illustrator thinks is a fair flat rate, there is the horror of no art director to face. All authors are attached to their work and refuse to relase control to the illustrator and their interpretation. They either want you to use the photo of their daughter as the main character or control the scene/settings.
The idea of working with non professional illustrators is just a bad, bad one if the author wants to sell any books. It's not just about the quality of art, it's also about knowledge of page layout, pacing, bleeds, text space, colour saturation for print.... these are things no kid in art college has a clue about.
The art is at LEAST half as important as the text in picture books.
Your asking if there is a standard Illustrator rate and that's fair enough. At least your not thinking an illustrator will work for 4 months plus for a "chance" at a few dollars in royalties IF the book ever goes to print, as many authors do.
For decent quality art that will give your book a fighting chance to sell, I think you should budget for roughly $350 a spread (usually 14 in a book) a single page (perhaps $150) and say $500 for the cover. Remember, we DO judge children's books by their cover:)
These are just suggested numbers and could be a little less, a little more depending on the style of art you are looking for and the detail and research required for the subject of the book.
Remember too, no matter what you pay as a flat fee, the illustrator still should want to retain copyright to the art.
This is not purchasing the original art.

Susan Adsett said...

Michael, 99designs.com is a design site, not an illustration site.

If you can't tell the difference between illustration and design, you really need to not be commissioning either of them.

Michael said...

on 99design there are a lot of illustrators and designers as there are on Elance.com too. You have to give them a good briefing of what you want, thats the hard part.

christine tripp said...

>Elance.com/99designs<

Michael, if an author doesn't care about their book, then they can go your suggested route. You can find foreign illustrators chomping at the bit to do a whole pic book for $200 US, but in my opinion it's ridiculous to take the most important element of a children's book, the illustrations, and get cheap about it.
Just don't bother if the author is not prepared to have it illustrated and printed in a professional manner.

nauthor said...

I'm with Anonymous.

Also with all the people who mention the art director's role. I watch the negotiations my publisher goes through to get a book cover designed, and am very glad to be only peripherally ("You like this okay?") involved. For one thing, the artist is just as insistent on his vision as I am on mine. If we had to actually talk to each other... oy.

There are three good reasons to self-publish:

1)you're addressing a small niche audience

2)you believe you or the person you're mostly writing for may not live long enough to see the manuscript published

3) you just want to hold your book in your hands

But a lot of people self-publish in the hopes of launching a writing career. Anonymous is right: that's not the way. Have you sent your manuscript everywhere you can think of? If you have, and have received no encouragement, it's time to put it aside and write another one.

Nearly 3/4 of a million books were self-published in the US last year. The vast majority sell only a few copies, mainly to the author.

nauthor said...

I'm with Anonymous.

Also with all the people who mention the art director's role. I watch the negotiations my publisher goes through to get a book cover designed, and am very glad to be only peripherally ("You like this okay?") involved. For one thing, the artist is just as insistent on his vision as I am on mine. If we had to actually talk to each other... oy.

There are three good reasons to self-publish:

1)you're addressing a small niche audience

2)you believe you or the person you're mostly writing for may not live long enough to see the manuscript published

3) you just want to hold your book in your hands

But a lot of people self-publish in the hopes of launching a writing career. Anonymous is right: that's not the way. Have you sent your manuscript everywhere you can think of? If you have, and have received no encouragement, it's time to put it aside and write another one.

Nearly 3/4 of a million books were self-published in the US last year. The vast majority sell only a few copies, mainly to the author.

Abbie said...

I have an illustrated podcast - a dark, nautical fantasy called the Guild of the Cowry Catchers. This is what those images look like: http://cowrycatchers.com/?page_id=21

I find my illustrators on Deviantart.com, and I carefully cultivate respectful, friendly relationships with them. I pay $100-$200 per illustration, usually half for the sketch and half for the finished product. I tip if I'm very pleased, and I pay in addition for shipping. I try to give the more than they ask for. I let them chose which scenes they want to illustrate from the text. I don't tell them how to draw, but I do ask that they read the story. I have never been displeased with the results. My audience seems pretty happy as well. :)

When I do get around to selling the text, it will contain some images that aren't available online, and all of them will be higher resolution. I think I'll have good results with this. We'll see.

Ebony McKenna. said...

I'm going to suggest something even radical.

Plough your time and talents into writing a fantastic book. Then write another. And another. When you've written about five or six, take your best one and query an agent who specialises in children's books.

Up until this point, it will cost you little by way of money, but lots in terms of time. Let the publisher do the marketing and publicity, you focus on writing a fabulous book where every word counts.

"Of course, most of the self-published books I've seen weren't professionally illustrated, and that's one reason they sell so badly."
I've seen self-pubbed children's books, and it's not just the illustrations that let it down :-)

Write and write well.

pudders said...

Taken from my blog (as a former art director... in advertising. But much of it applies to publishing I imagine.)

Eventually, I made my way up to art directing. But what I didn't realize is that art directing is not simply coming up with images and matching them with the art. NO, THE REAL JOB is stated below.

What much of it is is quality control which brings the final art to production for print/film.

This involves checking and fixing and finalizing proofs for :

Color
Design
Layout
Type
Readability
Content
Anatomy
Composition
Text Placement
Type with Image Choice
Sizing
Copy Proofing
Storyboarding
etc...

It is a crazy job. Insane at times. Because of multiple projects all needing your attention at once and more.

But without it you get rot for the most part.

B :) I honk for ADs (the under-appreciated, hardworking... "get no credit" people)

(And what Ebony says in full.)

Anonymous said...

Great point to bring into this discussion pudders. It isn't just words + pictures that make a good pb, it is all the design elements too.

When they are done right - the book looks good, and when they are not - the whole thing looks or feels off beam.

christine tripp said...

Pudders, you failed to mention a most important roll for the AD, humouring, cajolling, sympathizing with (during countless changes) and pushing the illustrator to do even better. Then there is the job of being the middle man, keeping the author at a safe distance from the illustrator so they can do their half of the job based on their own vision:)

ae said...

Oh yeah. I forgot that part. (We as a team of art directors often cajoled each other with swear words and tears... as no one else would listen. JK)

Yeah. That too, Chris! :)




Word verification --

Wowwche: An expression of speech commonly used in response to the affects of exhilarating pain.

Pudders

paintedpreppy said...

I am a grad student and I would love to help her get the illustrations going! I work in photoshop, watercolors, and pencil. Please email me jencbrown@aol.com or visit my blog: www.paintedpreppy.blogspot.com

Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Hi! Well this is FABOULOUS!!!!!!!!!!!I am a poet, novelist, radio host, Mensa editor, and have written 30 children's books. This is, by far, the best site for me, as I went under contract with a Publisher, however now I feel I am in need of an agent, due to 30 books, two novels, 4 script specs and 4 books of poetry. Thoughts? Ps-I do not think I will ever and I mean EVER give my illustrator a hard time now LMAO. I loved the back away from the illustrator so he or she can get some work done!!! Bravo to all for your honesty! How the heck do I get an agent? Do I really need one now? Ps-Interviewed a 25 award grammy winner and no agent, problem? Suggestions please! MC

Anonymous said...

Hi! Well this is FABOULOUS!!!!!!!!!!!I am a poet, novelist, radio host, Mensa editor, and have written 30 children's books. This is, by far, the best site for me, as I went under contract with a Publisher, however now I feel I am in need of an agent, due to 30 books, two novels, 4 script specs and 4 books of poetry. Thoughts? Ps-I do not think I will ever and I mean EVER give my illustrator a hard time now LMAO. I loved the back away from the illustrator so he or she can get some work done!!! Bravo to all for your honesty! How the heck do I get an agent? Do I really need one now? Ps-Interviewed a 25 award grammy winner and no agent, problem? Suggestions please! MC

Anonymous said...

Hi! Well this is FABOULOUS!!!!!!!!!!!I am a poet, novelist, radio host, Mensa editor, and have written 30 children's books. This is, by far, the best site for me, as I went under contract with a Publisher, however now I feel I am in need of an agent, due to 30 books, two novels, 4 script specs and 4 books of poetry. Thoughts? Ps-I do not think I will ever and I mean EVER give my illustrator a hard time now LMAO. I loved the back away from the illustrator so he or she can get some work done!!! Bravo to all for your honesty! How the heck do I get an agent? Do I really need one now? Ps-Interviewed a 25 award grammy winner and no agent, problem? Suggestions please! MC