Episode 33: Find an Illustrator for Your Picture Book

How to Find an Illustrator

How to find an Illustrator for Your Picture Book

Hello Writers!

On Episode 33, I give you FIVE methods for finding an illustrator for your picture book!

Joining me for the first time?  Start at the beginning HERE!

This episode is best watched on Youtube so that you can follow along with my screen. Find it HERE!

Would you rather listen on the go?  Go HERE!

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RESOURCES We Talk About!

Find the Facebook group ‘Children’s Book Authors and Illustrators: Publishing, Marketing and Selling’ HERE.

Find the Facebook group ’20BooksForKids’ HERE.

Join the Facebook group Indie Children’s Book Authors and Illustrators HERE

Join the Facebook group Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators HERE.

Freelance Internet Sites FIVRR, UPWORK, 99DESIGNS.

Unlimited Graphic Design Website KAPA99.

Why Is this a big deal?

Hello writers. Welcome to The Writer’s Way podcast. I’m Laurie and I am a children’s author and a publishing coach and this past two weeks I’ve had a ton of questions about how to find an illustrator.

So I’m going to walk you through a whole bunch of options and it’s best to follow along I think on YouTube for this one, if you’re listing on Stitcher or Spotify or somewhere, so that you can see some of what I’m going to share on my screen. So let’s jump right into it.

Why is this a big deal? Well, if you want to self-publish on Amazon and you want it to be a picture book, you’re going to need illustrations. And if you are not gifted in that way, which is my situation absolutely, you might find yourself feeling stumped. So when you go with traditional publishing, they find your illustrator. When you’re doing self-publishing, it’s all on you.

This is actually the big, main issue that had me stumped for more than 10 years and so I want to totally take away that barrier for you. There’s lots of options. But what it does require is leg work, your time, your effort and hunting down the right illustrator for you.

Method #1: Talk to friends, family, and Facebook acquaintances.

Let’s call it the illustrator hunt. That sounds super fun. Okay, so here’s your first option. Ask, ask people you know already. So Facebook friends, you could put a Facebook post out there. Hey, does anybody have a cousin, sister, aunt, daughter who’s a really good artist and would be interested in helping me with my first book?

Now, here’s what’s gonna happen. You’re gonna get a lot of people saying I know a guy or I know a gal who’s a really good artist. And there’ll be a lot of avenues to sort of chase down and a lot of them won’t work, they won’t be interested, they won’t be the style you like, maybe they won’t be good enough for you. Sorry, sorry not sorry, but it is definitely an avenue to pursue if you feel like you don’t have a lot of money to hire a professional illustrator, then friends and family are where you can start.

Method #2: Look for an illustrator at local schools.

Now, the next thing that you can do is look around your city or your town and there’s gonna be a high school, often there’s also a fine arts college or even a fine arts high school nearby. And just start looking. You can call up the secretary or you can look at their website and you can see if there’s any information. Sometimes there’s job boards that you would post your job, you would post your project. And of course they’ll expect to be paid, but maybe not as much as a professional illustrator who’s already been at this for quite a few years. So that’s your second option.

Method #3: Use freelance internet sites like Fiverr, Upwork, and 99Designs.

Your third option, I’m gonna share my screen now, it’s to use freelance internet sites, websites like Fiverr, Upwork, 99designs. I’ll put a list in the show notes for you, so hang on one sec while I share.

Okay, here we are at Fiverr, so now this is actually where I was lucky enough to find my fantastic illustrator and no, you can’t have her. I’m so funny. So here’s the homepage of Fiverr and you can see there’s lots of options for what you need. So graphics and design is I believe where, oh, look, they have new storyboards. They have illustrations. There we go. Illustration is the category you want. And so you can lose, just so you know, you can lose hours, days, weeks, looking through all of these examples. And some are great, some are not great, some will really fit your project and your vision and some really won’t.

You’ll need to weed through the responses

So it can be really hard to weed through is what I’m trying to say. So what you can do is go up to… It’s called a gig request. I haven’t done it in a while, so let’s try to find it here. We’re here on the homepage and you can see where it greets me, hi, Laurie. It also asks if I would like to post a request. So this used to be called a gig request. Everything was called a gig on Fiverr, but it looks like they’ve changed. So here’s what you would say. You would say I’m looking for a picture book illustrator. My picture book is about, and I would either say a boy or a girl or a cat or a dot or a raccoon or whatever your main character’s gonna be.

Pick a category and subcategory

If you know already how many pages, if you know already what style of art you want I would put that here because the more specific you can be, the better. If you have any rough sketches or anything like that, put that there. Your category would be illustration, which was in graphics and design and then subcategory would be illustration. So here again it’s asking what your main thing is. Animals if you are using animal characters, and otherwise I might just say anything. There’s no option for people and for children. There you go. Anything or animals.

What you’re gonna find is the people who write back don’t always pay attention to what you actually are requesting, so you’re gonna get a lot of responses that you can disregard immediately. Once you placed your order, so what’s the turnaround time? The sooner the better, but you also wanna be realistic, so I would pick three days or seven days.

Set a Budget and a Time Frame

And what’s your budget for this service? Again, people won’t always pay attention to whatever you say. A nice number might be $1,000 for your total book. You can expect to pay likely more than that. I mean, you could put $500. Doesn’t really matter because you’re going to have to negotiate with the person you choose in the end and it might be more, it might be less. But, so maybe start with $500 and then they can talk you up if they need it.

So then post your requests and you’re going to start having messages up here. And some of them, like I said, will be not at all what you need or are looking for, so they’re easy to disregard. You can expect to get, I would say, within a day 20 to 30 responses. And you can expect to disregard immediately maybe half of those. And then what I usually do is I pick maybe five, like my five favorites and I give the same page, like a sample page, and I ask them to make a sample for me.

How much you can expect to pay for samples

So then what I end with is the same page so I can look at their interpretation of either my notes or just my words five different ways, like five options. You can expect to pay maybe $20 for each of your samples. Each illustrator will have a different price, $5, $10, $15, $20. But $20 I would say would be the highest so if you budget for that, then if it comes in under that, it’s always good news. So ask for the samples and then hopefully out of those five, you’re going to have one that stands out and really speaks to you and you’ll be good.

Now, it’s going to be a very similar process on Upwork. 99design is a little bit different. You sort of post a request like this and then people pitch to you and you choose from them. I haven’t used them, so my experience with them is not as good. Then there’s one more option that I want to share with you. So, besides these websites, actually there’s two more options.

Method #4:  Make use of Unlimited Graphic Design sites like Kapa99.

So there are a few websites like this one Kapa99 that offer unlimited graphic design, which is very intriguing. I’ll tell you I haven’t used them. You will have a very graphic type of illustration, like they’re not gonna end up looking like watercolors or acrylics or anything like that. But if you look through book layouts, book covers, illustrations, if you look through some of the samples in the portfolios, so you might see that you like what they have.

And I recommend this one, Kapa99, because you can try it for free for two weeks. So what they say is there’s no hourly, there’s unlimited revisions and it’s unlimited illustrations. So if they can get your book done in one month, you’re looking at about $400 because it’s $400 per month. They’ll have a one to two-day turnaround time and you get the source files.

So there’s a few websites that are like this. So off the top of my head I can think Design Pickle. There’s another on that I know of but I can’t actually remember it. I would highly encourage you if the other routes don’t work out to at least give this a try. In the show notes I’ll put the other websites as well so that you can compare all of them. They all seem really similar, but Kapa99 has the two-week free trial. So, really you’re not losing anything and it will give you a good idea of what the potential is here which is exciting to me for sure. So this was one of the other ways.

Method #5:  Join Facebook groups for writers and illustrators.

Now the last way that I want to share that you can find an illustrator, now remember again, I said there’s a lot of leg work and time and effort, but if you join some Facebook groups for writers, so I’ll link a few of them in the show notes as well, so just search on Facebook children’s writers and illustrators and you’re gonna see a whole bunch pop up, but there’s lots of illustrators in there that, they share their work and they share links to their portfolios or their websites or whatnot, so you can spend some time and look through those people on Facebook and see if anybody aligns with what your vision is.

It will take time and when you reach out to people, hey, are you available? I would start with that. I wouldn’t start it with their prices, I would start with are you available for whatever your time-frame is. And the good ones are always gonna be busy, so they’ll give you an idea, no, I’m not available now, but I’m available in the fall. So you can figure out your timeline for your book that way. You can figure out if that person will be a good fit or not and if they’re not available for six to 12 months, then make a note that maybe you’ll revisit them for another book, but then you can move on. So don’t start right off with cost. Start with when the time is available.

Good luck!

Okay, so I hope that that helps everybody find their illustrations, find their illustrator. So I hope these five suggestions will help you to research and hunt down a good illustrator for your picture book and I wish you the best of luck self-publishing your picture book on Amazon. Thanks, everybody. Please leave me a comment or question if you need more information, I’m happy to help. Bye.

Laurie Wright

Laurie Wright

Teacher turned author, turned children's mental health advocate. Laurie has given a TEDx talk, gives workshops for parents, teachers, and children, and has published five books in the Mindful Mantras series, all to help combat the crisis kids are currently facing. Teachers can't stop the urge to teach! A course for creatives who want to write for kids is coming soon!
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