How to Hire a Book Illustrator

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1106 Design

May 12, 2014

Authors of children’s or nonfiction books frequently require the services of an illustrator. Sometimes authors already have an illustrator in mind, or think they should hire one before approaching a professional book designer, but in truth, you should hire your book designer before your illustrator. The book designer will help you determine the page design, book trim size, how your book will be printed and by whom—and the number, size and location of the illustrations required. Your illustrator will need to know this information before starting the project so as to prevent costly surprises and unsightly compromises.

The route followed by an independent publisher for determining the book design and engaging the services of an illustrator mirrors closely the process followed in traditional publishing:

  1. Hire your book designer and ask the designer about options for trim size, page count, and binding style — and how to relay these details to the printers. With this information, printers will be able to provide you with price estimates; you will begin to define your costs and eventual retail price, and determine if the project is economically viable. It’s tough for indie publishers to compete in a retail environment against “the big boys” who print tens of thousands of copies for a very low unit price.
  2. Avail yourself of your designer’s “art direction” skills to help you choose a qualified illustrator. Liking the illustrator or the illustrator’s style is not enough. You’d be surprised at how many so-called illustrators don’t have basic drawing skills.
  3. Finalize the text with your editor, and work with your designer to place the words on the as-yet unillustrated book pages.
  4. Show your illustrator these nearly empty pages, and ask him or her to provide rough sketches to fit “around” the words. This will allow you to request changes to the drawings before the illustrator spends a lot of time.
  5. Once this rough layout is approved, the illustrator can proceed to full color, final illustrations, which then go to the designer for assembly into the digital file required by the printer.

By following this procedure, the beautifully illustrated book you envisioned and planned, will be the book that comes off the press.

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