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Old 02-21-2008, 07:24 PM   #1
Ronald
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Default Book Publishing: Payment, Etc.

Hi, everyone. This is my debut post.

I recently met a man that's interesting in publishing a children's picture book he's writing. While he's never worked in the genre, he claims to have written academic books that can be found in most major colleges. The man asked if I'd like to illustrate the children's book he's working on. He says that he's currently finishing writing and looking for a publisher. We've just starting discussing the project and he thinks the profits could be split 60% (him) and 40% (me). As a young college student, I would be fine with this, as I'm mainly interesting in recognition and a great addition to my graphic design/illustration resume.

He doesn't seem suspicious or anything, but I hardly know the man at all. So I'm somewhat concerned regarding proper payment and recognition on the project should it come to fruition. Is there a good source of information where I can find the nature and (legal) standards regarding book publishing and payment, or could you personally help me? Contracts, money, and other related matters are of my curiosity.

I'd also like to know more about the illustration process; my graphic design teacher says that most children's book illustrations are created a few hundred times larger than the actual scaled-down end product. She also says that the number of illustrations and content (human figures, etc.) makes a difference in payment.

I'm not paranoid of course; I just want to be educated and protected. I've been told to research on AIGA.org and look into finding a proper contract. The author claims to be looking into publishing details as well.

Thank you.

Last edited by Ronald; 02-21-2008 at 07:27 PM. Reason: More details
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Old 02-22-2008, 12:14 AM   #2
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Welcome to the DTP forum!

The telling phrase here is 'looking for a publisher'. In my experience, publishers assign illustrators to books they accept for publication. They also control the distribution of funds, and the authors get a very low percentage.

If the author is self-publishing, then the dynamics change, but the total dollars are also a lot lower. You would need to be sure that the distribution channel was set up and guaranteed, and even then I would push for a negotiated fee per illustration. If the author won't do that, then there's a fair chance you will get nothing at all for your work.

With no publisher/distributor backing, you could be working for nothing. Or less than nothing if the author wants you to accept some responsibility for the financial side of things.

My advice is to get some good financial advice. If you're interested in children's book illustration, then I suggest you present your portfolio to an agent.

I work for a library service that purchases thousands of children's books a year, all through the standard distribution channel. Many of those books are outstanding, so you are trying to enter a market that's already very organised.

If you've got the talent, then there's possibly a great future for you. But it's probably not with an author who is still looking for a publisher. Do have a look around for someone who will appreciate your talents, and keep us informed of your progress.

   
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Old 02-22-2008, 05:14 AM   #3
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Use Google and Amazon to learn as much as you can about this author. If he has published academic books, you will quickly learn more about him.

Ann has given you some good cautions.

It is fine to get some experience with this situation, but not if you have to pay for materials out of your own pocket, and maybe do the work without compensation.

Look into the Kringle format self-publishing, too.

Welcome to the DTP/Web publishing forum. There is a lot of good information here about many subjects.
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Old 02-22-2008, 06:45 AM   #4
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Ronald:

In Britain, the Society of Authors publishes a series of guides for authors of books (which includes illustrators, not just writers) which can be purchased for small sums by non-members. I do not know the US equivalent, but I am sure there is at least one.

   
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Old 02-22-2008, 07:31 AM   #5
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Hi, Ronald — nice to have you here.

Unfortunately, there is little likelihood that an unknown writer (without an agent, I assume?) will be able to sell a children’s book manuscript at all. It is a highly competitive field, and very tricky — who knows what will sell to kids? The specialist agents and editors think they know, but your author will have to get them to read his manuscript.

If they do read it and like it, they will want to select an illustrator that they know can satisfy the literary and technical requirements.

Which is a long-winded way of saying that you probably will not make fame and fortune this way. (If the author decides to self-publish, then you would at least get a few copies of the book to show off, but it probably wouldn’t sell.)

You can read Dangerous Myths & Terrible Truths: A quick intro to children’s writing for one writer’s insights into this business (or you may want to pass it along to your writer acquaintance).

Other information on children’s book publishing from the Purple Crayon site.

Random thoughts: Many of the best books for younger readers that I know of (the sort that I buy for my honorary granddaughter) were written and illustrated by one person (usually the artist); or by a couple, one who writes, one who illustrates (like Daniel Pinkwater and his wife Jill, both of whom started out as artists).

Since artwork is often pivotal to the success of books for young children, an artist who writes to accompany his own illustrations may do better than the other way around.

To get to the money part: Books published commercially may offer the author a 10 to 15% commission. If the publisher finds an illustrator, it may try to get you to take a flat fee (bad for you) or give up all rights for another percentage.

   
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Old 02-22-2008, 02:34 PM   #6
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Quote:
ronald: I'd also like to know more about the illustration process; my graphic design teacher says that most children's book illustrations are created a few hundred times larger than the actual scaled-down end product. She also says that the number of illustrations and content (human figures, etc.) makes a difference in payment.
First...welcome to the forum...

Would you be using traditional media for your work or do you work with any digital painting programs--specifically Corel Painter? The reason I ask is that if you do work digitally, the image size can be less of an issue. You might take a look at Mike Reed's work--he does much of his childrens' book illustrations using Painter--I know Mike from a number of different Painter lists and he's well known for his Flame Warriors images...they are a hoot...'-}}

Do keep us posted on what happens...

Terrie



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Old 02-23-2008, 04:12 PM   #7
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Thanks very much to everyone for your input.

What would self-publishing normally consist of? Would that have the author literally mass-printing everything on his own machine? Maybe I shouldn't share his exact words, but in the first email he said "Since I have never done an illustrated book, I will have to investigate some details. One way or another, it will be published."

The author currently has a cushy job simply observing workers at the warehouse I'm employed at - noting safety and time requirements to make things. He's allegedly lived in New York and San Fransisco and worked for NASA. Based on that, I assumed his confidence might be because he has some connections to publishers or related people. Maybe it's just a small leisure project that he decided to take a stab at.

Is this uncommon or even unheard of for a free-agent author and an illustrator to propose a book of their own to a big publisher? Would that not be a normal or successful process? I found a few academic books co-written by someone with the same name as him (including the same middle initial), so I believe he has indeed written some. Regarding the 60/40% profit split he said "I think that is more than illustrators usually get--you can correct me if I am wrong." Let's just say theoretically that a publisher does accept our book and wants me to illustrate the entire thing. Wouldn't I be paid by the publisher rather than the author receiving all profits and split it with me however he wishes? I would think the publisher would contract/commission us individually.

Much like what annc said, according to underdown.org:
"Unless you're an artist yourself, editors will want to match you with professional illustrators of their own choice. Sending someone else's pictures with your words can count against you."

Yesterday, he gave me a small collection of photos of his cats (the characters in his story) and said that, for now, painting one piece to show publishers would suffice. He planned on sending me his unfinished manuscript this weekend. I suppose I should ask him a few questions and discuss some aspects:

- Asking what kind of publisher he has in mind (national, local, etc.)
- The nature of children's book publishing from what I've read
- Publisher contracts
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Old 02-23-2008, 04:31 PM   #8
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What medium do you work in now? Terrie asked that excellent question.
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Old 02-23-2008, 05:28 PM   #9
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Oh yes, sorry. I showed the author a watercolor painting I did as well as two penciled photo portraits, and he said the watercolor style is just what he had in mind. I like the safety in pencils and am hesitant to use watercolor because I'm afraid of making a mistake. But on my first try in many years, I actually did an exceptional job using them, so I'm fine with using them if the job calls for it.
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Old 02-23-2008, 06:14 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ronald
What would self-publishing normally consist of?
Producing the print-ready book, delivering it to a printer, paying for all the copies ordered, and taking delivery of the books. Then arranging to sell them. Daunting, to say the least.

You could not expect to have the book reviewed, for one thing. And probably could not get it into the stores.

Printing a book on a local (desktop) printer would also qualify. But then you would have to figure out how to bind it, and then go through all the rest of the stuff.

Either way, you would need to get ISBN numbers, etc.

Believe me: That is not a realistic way to publish any sort of book.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ronald
Is this uncommon or even unheard of for a free-agent author and an illustrator to propose a book of their own to a big publisher? Would that not be a normal or successful process?
Successfully? Extremely uncommon.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ronald
Regarding the 60/40% profit split he said "I think that is more than illustrators usually get--you can correct me if I am wrong." Let's just say theoretically that a publisher does accept our book and wants me to illustrate the entire thing. Wouldn't I be paid by the publisher rather than the author receiving all profits and split it with me however he wishes? I would think the publisher would contract/commission us individually.
Did you read any of the comments that I linked to earlier?

Please start there, then ask again.

   
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