Sunday, February 24, 2008

Ask Cristina: Children's Book Illustrating

Hi Cristina!

I met you in Richland WA a few autumn's ago. You were teaching the Paint Happy workshop. I thoroughly enjoyed the workshop. I sat in the front with my good friend Te'. We enjoyed the "energy" language you used in regards to your art and painting.
I am a full time artist. I sell my work and show it in local venues and hope to get into some galleries. Last week I was approached by a young man looking for an artist to illustrate a children's book he has written. He has been in contact with a publishing house and the writing has been approved and registered with the library of congress, he just needs an illustrator to make it come to life.
My situation isn't in the books I used for guidance. This is different as I had been approached by an author who has already been in contact with a publishing house who approved it and registered it with the library of congress. The publishing house sent him out to find an illustrator. Which seems odd because most websites say that the publishing house assigns an illustrator to the story and the author has no control over what the illustration will look like. This author has no money to pay me as an illustrator, and needs it in a very short turn around (18 spreads). The payment would come in the form of royalties. He has 6 other children's stories that he has written although none published yet. I think the book has great potential.
I feel it is a big gamble for me (I have never done anything of this sort before). I am more of a fine artist and used to getting 50% payment up front for commissioned work. So this is a very different animal. I have no idea what to expect in the form of royalties.
I noticed on your website that you have illustrated a children's book, and was wondering if you could shed some light on the process... foibles... pitfalls.... Also would something like this help ones career or send it careening into oncoming traffic.
Thanks for your time!! Laura G.

Dear Laura,

Glad to hear from you, thanks for the compliments about the class.

The details of your situation are unusual. Usually a publishing house hires the illustrator and takes care of any contract negotiations which include the issues of the advance (pre-payment) and the royalty structure (often a 50/50 split between the artist and illustrator). Is it possible this man is "self-publishing" his book and hasn't told you that?

Before you put any energy towards this project you need to know more about the financial end of this proposition and more about the project. Illustrating a book won't help your career if it's the wrong project for you. Don't let yourself be rushed by his deadline. The only time a deadline matters in a situation like this is when you have already signed a legal contract that specifies how you are being paid (an advance is wise and to be expected) and exactly which copyrights are being assigned (sold). The contract will also include time lines for performance and more.

If you do get a contract from the publisher (or him, if he's self-publishing), hire a lawyer who specializes in the field of publishing/illustration to advise you with industry standards and customary procedures.

The first thing I would do in your situation is to call SCBWI -- The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. Pony
up your money to join and take advantage of their stellar resources.

Heres what they say about themselves: . . . We are the the only international organization to offer a variety of services to people who write, illustrate, or share a vital interest in children’s literature. The SCBWI acts as a network for the exchange of knowledge between writers, illustrators, editors, publishers, agents, librarians, educators, booksellers and others involved with literature for young people. There are currently more than 19,000 members worldwide, in over 70 regions, making it the largest children's writing organization in the world.
Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators
8271 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90048 , USA
voice: 323-782-1010 fax:323-782-1892 General Questions:

I am confident that SCBWI will be able to give you the counsel you need.
Best wishes with this situation. Let me know what happens.

Warm Regards,

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