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How much does an illustrator charge for a Children's book?

(Post for authors who want to self publish)

The reason why I wanted to write about budgets and prices for children's book illustration, is because no one likes to talk about it openly. Actually, I think this topic is usually not very clear for independent authors and I want to help giving some more clarity.

The first thing that I should say, is that this post is written for independent authors and not publishing houses. It is not the same to work with a big publishing house, a small one or an independent author. Ideally, I would like to help to those authors who are planning to self publish their first story for kids, as a picture book or even a board book.

With this being said, let's start with the topic: How much does it cost to hire an Illustrator for a Children’s book.

Ways of paying an Illustrator.

I want to mention the main ways you can retribute the work of the illustrator. In easy terms, there are three ways:

  1. Royalties: It is a percentage of the sales of the book, usually between 4-10%. This is very uncommon working with first time independent authors, because it is difficult to guarantee that you will sell enough copies to pay the hours of the illustrator. But it can be combined with the next options.

  2. Flat fee: You agree on a price for the working hours that the illustrator will need for the total work. Usually, you will agree on a price per illustration. The cover will have a different price. The total amount is usually paid 50% in advanced and 50% once the work is finished.

  3. Advanced of the Royalties: This is more common with publishing houses, but it is also an option for independent authors. It is basically like a flat fee, but in terms of advance royalties. This means that you don´t have to pay royalties until the total amount of royalties gets to the amount paid in advanced.

In my personal opinion, If it is your first book I would go for the second option. Later on I will extend a bit more about how to calculate that amount.

How to calculate a flat fee for the children's book illustrations?

Based in my experience, a book professionally illustrated, including the cover and back cover, could have a total cost of 2500€. But it can go between 2000€ and 4000€. Of course there are illustrators that could charge you 5000€ or 7000€, but personally I think that those prices are unfair for independent authors, especially if it is your first book. So if I were you, I would try to find a way to make it around 2500€.

Be careful If an illustrator charges you less than 2000$; The service that you will receive might be very poor and you will have a lot of problems with this illustrator, like not sending the files on time, not finishing the work, bad quality…

In any case, If you have a very limited budget, you can find ways to reduce the cost, for example: making it in one color or two, fewer characters, no background. If you have a low budget, feel free to speak with the illustrator and you will both find a way to make it possible.

Things to have in mind in order to know what makes the budget:

  • The experience of the illustrator: well this is easy, the more experience this illustrator has the better, but also the more expensive it is. In the case of self published books, I think that it is important to know if the artist has worked for many independent authors, or even if the artist has self published something by himself. In my case, I had experience self publishing, so I could also guide the first time author, not only in the artistic part but also for editing or choosing the right platform.

  • The copyrights: Usually you will have the rights to use the art in the children’s book and for promotion. But other things like merchandising, they will require more rights and these extra rights will have a cost.

  • Style and book project:

    • The amount of characters: the amount of characters of the story will have a proportional impact on the amount of hours that the illustrator will spend working on the art.

    • Background: Using a white background or a minimalistic background would help to decrease the total price, because it will decrease the amount of details.

    • Colors: The illustrations for the book can be in full color, or it can be in monochromatic or even in two colors. From my experience, having less colors means that the illustrations will take less time.

    • Textures: I personally work with watercolors or digital. For me the price per illustration won´t vary too much from one technique to the other, but usually illustrations made with traditional techniques will have a higher cost.

Prices per illustration:

Well, basically you have:

  • One page illustrations: the cost could be from 50€-200€ (illustration)

  • Spread or double page illustration: I think that an average could be something from 90€-300€

I don’t think I can give you more information. At least this will give you an idea of what to expect, but the best is to contact directly an illustrator and ask him. The illustrator will need to know a little bit about the project. With your information, you could have an estimated budget.

I am Ato, a children's illustrator. I would love to know about your project. Write to me and let's have a nice chat about your project.

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