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Author's Checklist Before Working With an Illustrator

Attention all writers! Just your fellow illustrator/publisher here to fill you in on some vital info you should know before working with an illustrator. I’ll condense it all into five vital steps that will prep you for success.

1. Let’s Talk About the M Word…. Money.

I think the most burning question I hear among authors is, how much do I pay my Illustrator. Though that is a personal business decision between you and the artist, I can fill you in on what I’ve learned from the industry while illustrating books. $20 - $25 per page, $100 for the cover and royalties is a starting point for negotiation. To say illustrating a book is time consuming is an understatement. You have to be able to pay your illustrator what they need in order to work, this accounts for time. This is most likely their livelihood, it’s a job just like any other profession and they deserve to be paid for their work.

That being said, every project will have different parameters and contractual agreements. Work with your illustrator to find a compensation that makes sense for both parties. Just remember that they need to eat, sleep and get paid in order to continue to create.

2. Bleed

This is a think ahead situation. Your illustrator should know what bleed is, they may not, so I will tell you in the hopes that all future books will never suffer from awkward cropping ever again. Bleed is the area around each page that gets cut off in the printer. Bleed is almost always 0.125” extra, around every page. You have your trimmed book size and your book with bleed size. Talk about bleed with your illustrator, make sure they are accounting for it in their creation process.

3. Formatting & Planning Ahead

Know the size of your book before you reach out to your illustrator. Your illustrator will need to know what size they are creating the art in. If possible, know where you are going to print before the illustrator starts working their magic. Unfortunately, every printer’s formatting guidelines are a little different. If you know your printer, you can communicate to your illustrator what the printing specs will be. The printer can be a cropping monster, but if you plan ahead, then there is no printer that you can’t defeat.

4. Research

I LOVE when I get to work with an author that has examples of work to share with me. I always create a mood board and work extensively to find the right style before I start creating. When the author has a starting point for me, I can find our direction much faster. Their preparation fuels my work and puts me on the right path, saving time and money for both of us.

5. Contracts Matter

Make sure you and your Illustrator have signed a contract. Your contract should include the fee, schedule, usage, project description as well as terms and conditions. It’s safer and smarter to conduct business with a signed contract. It’s safer for many reasons. Doing business with a verbal agreement, or online over back and forth emailing, is not recommended. You may think you’re on the same page, until all of the sudden you run into a problem. Then you realize that you and your illustrator weren’t just on different pages, you were in different worlds. What will happen if you need to end the project halfway through? What about if you ask for too many edits, does that affect payment? It’s like signing a prenup, you still love your partner, but what if? We all don’t want to go there, but we have to so that we can feel safe and secure in our agreement.

My words of advice are not meant to scare you away from self-publishing your amazing book. They are meant to prepare you for ultimate success. The fun part is working with your illustrator and seeing your words magically come to life. That part of the book process is so precious and exhilarating that I can see myself spending my whole life illustrating books. That being said, the yucky business stuff needs to be sorted before the magic happens.

If you're reading this thinking, “my illustrations and manuscript are completed, but I didn’t prepare for formatting or bleed and I have no idea how to put this all together.” Then Inkling Publishing may be the perfect last stop for you. I can make the impossible possible, let’s give that artwork some bleed, format those lovely pages and find a printer. LET’S GET YOU PUBLISHED!

If you’re reading this thinking, “woah, I want this lady to illustrate my book!” Then reach out via my site forum or at If you work with me, best believe your book is going to have bleed and we are going to have a clear, communicative contract that respects the integrity our work.

Author Checklist

1. My illustrator and I have discussed and agreed upon the appropriate fee for my project.

2. My illustrator and I have discussed bleed. (0.125” is standard)

4. I have high resolution JPEG files. (at least 300 dpi, CMYK for print, RBG for e-book)

5. I know the dimensions of my book.

6. I found a printer.

7. I have an ISBN assigned to every edition of my book.

8. I have a publishing date.

9. I have found an illustrative style that works for my book.

10. My Illustrator and I have signed a contract.

11. I know where I am going to sell my book. (ex, independently, internationally, Ingram etc.) Include this in your contract.

12. My dedication and back of the book write up is ready. (also consider an about the author/about the illustrator write up)

13. I know if I'm printing saddle stitch, hardcover or perfect bound and have discussed this with my Illustrator.

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