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CHILDREN’S PICTURE BOOK ILLUSTRATION

If you are self-publishing a children’s book and looking for a top-notch illustrator, then you’ve come to the right place!  Not only can I help bring your vision to life with beautiful high-quality artistic illustrations, but I have developed a straightforward, organized, and efficient process to take care of everything from A to Z.  Scroll down for more detailed information.   As an experienced graphic designer, I also include professional layout and book design into my services, so you will not need to hire a separate designer for that, saving you money in the long-term.  In the end, you will be provided a high-resolution printer-ready pdf file of your book as well as high-resolution images of the separate illustrations, which I will provide a full commercial-license for you in our contract to use them anyway you wish in order to promote your book.

As you search for an illustrator, keep in mind two things:  the skill level of the artist and more importantly, their know-how for illustrating children’s books.  The requirements for a good children’s book illustration is very different to other forms of fine art and not any artist can do it well.   While I have a B.A. in Art, it took me several years to unlearn what I was taught and reteach myself how to draw engaging, fluid, and sequential art for children’s books well.  My more than 10 years experience as a graphic designer also gives me an edge in that I have kept up with current trends and styles across many design and artistic fields, which do carry over even into children’s book design (i.e. typography, color palettes, patterns, artistic style, etc.) and I am capable to create a book for you that is in line with current and future trends.  Be sure to check out my BLOG, where I’ve written several posts about illustrating children’s books and info that is helpful for self-publishing authors.

BOOK ILLUSTRATION PRICING

The below rates are general estimates only.  Prices can vary down or up depending on the simplicity or complexity of each illustration, the number of characters, the number of illustrations, and overall project requirements.  I will work with you to determine the best layout and type of illustration needed for each page or spread.  As an experienced graphic designer, I also include professional layout and book design into my services, so you will not need to hire a separate designer for that, saving you money in the long-term. You can read more about my process below to learn how it all works and to how get an estimate for your book.

Concept art – $150 USD (credited back to the author upon contracting an entire book)

Single page illustration and/or design – $175-225 USD

Double page illustration and/or design $200-250 USD

Front and back cover illustration and/or design – $275-325 USD

**A standard children’s book usually has 32 pages plus a front and back cover.  Most of my clients usually spend between $3750-$4250. Prices may vary below or above these figures depending on if royalties will be taken or based on the complexity and detail required for each illustration. However, for my signature style and complexity you see in my portfolio on this website, this gives you an idea of my fees.  I can also work with you to create a payment plan that is economical for both parties with payments spread out over several months.

BOOK ILLUSTRATION PROCESS

1. Creative Brief
First, I have any potential client fill out Creative Brief.  It’s a simple questionnaire to get to know you, your story, and for you to share your vision for how you would like your book to look.  I also use the Creative Brief to determine if I am a good match for you.  I know my strengths and weaknesses as an artist and if I feel another artist would serve you better, I am more than happy to point you in another direction.  To get started, please download the Creative Brief HERE and email it back to me at natalie@nataliemerheb.com.

2. Determine Quantity and Style
During this step, I determine the style and quantity of illustrations that might be needed by splitting up your text into pages and making notes as to what might be on each page, such as single page illustrations, a vignette or spot illustration, or a double page spread.  I might also make notes as to how complex the illustration for that page might be if there would be a unique cost associated with that page.  For example, an illustration of a detailed classroom with 20 children will cost considerably more than an illustration of one student sitting at a desk.  I use this to estimate the cost of the entire project so that the contract can be written.  Keep in mind that any changes to the style, complexity or quantity of illustrations during the project may affect the contract and final amount due, however, no changes will be made without the author’s approval.

3. Contract
I use a very thorough and detailed standard legal contract that includes info regarding grant of rights, sale and purchase, royalties, schedule, delivery dates, copyright, credit, promotion, failure to deliver, cancellation, warranty, publication, assignment, and much more.  I do not work without a contract, as it protects both the author and the illustrator, and is essential to the success of the project.   In general, I require a 25 % advance payment to book your project into my schedule, with a payment plan (typically 3 additional monthly payments of 25% each during the project) for the remaining amount due.  You can download a Sample Contract HERE.

4. Text Layout and Storyboard
I draw sketches for each page or spread to create the initial storyboard.  The storyboard helps us to visually see the flow of the story from page to page.  During this step, I will usually roughly layout the text and looking at options for typography, so I know where the text will be and how much space it will take up.

5. Character Development
Developing the main character is a crucial step to picture book illustration.  Sometimes, I will do this before the text layout and storyboard step to make sure that both the author and I are on the same page before we get any farther into the process.   I sketch a number of character options using info from the creative brief and manuscript as well as from my own imagination and expertise, refining it with feedback from the author.  The character development step allows us to test and establish the personality, look and role of the main character and will create a guideline for any other characters in the book.

6. Black and White Drawings
In this stage, I sketch more refined black & white drawings, revising them with feedback from the author.  It’s important that the author is happy with every detail prior to the start of the coloring step.  Depending on how detailed my initial sketches were in Step 4, occasionally we can skip this step and move right into the final paintings and coloring step.  It varies from project to project and page to page.

7. Coloring
Finally, the drawings start coming to life in this step as I begin the final paintings of the illustrations!  I will do one complete painting to make sure the author is happy with the overall style, aesthetic, and colors.  After that I move on to painting the remaining illustrations, usually working on several at one time to ensure consistency from illustration to illustration.

8. Cover Design
I will usually create a few different sketched options for the book cover and/or dust jacket illustration and design, following the same process as outlined above from sketch to final painting.

9. Book Design
Now we get into the graphic design step of the process.  Each page of the book will be designed down to the last pixel, including final the placement of the text on all the pages as well as any extra graphic design that might be necessary to bring it all together.  During this step, we get the final book formatted and create the final printer-ready PDF file of the book.

10. Deliver Final Files
Your final printer-ready PDF file and hi-res illustration images  will be sent to you in a Dropbox link for you to download and save.   All final payments must be made before any hi-res or final files will be sent to you.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

My process works best for those who are passionate and professional about their book project and willing to invest in doing things the right way.  I love variety in illustration and work on all different types of stories with all different kinds of authors all over the world.  I do have a love affair and talent for nature, outdoor settings and animals (as well as kids of course).  Books with a lot of interior scene illustrations tend to be a lot more complex and take a longer time to complete, thus becoming more expensive. I book a limited number of clients each year to make sure each project gets the love it deserves. Therefore, I strive to find clients who are a good fit for me as well as me being a good fit for them.

In an effort to offer my clients an exceptional and personal experience, I only accept a limited number of clients every quarter oftentimes booking projects months 2-6 months in advance.  Please inquire as to my current queue and book your project as early as you can.  In most cases, I book projects to start in either September, January or April of each year.

Yes. I believe very strongly that a good work-life balance is key to running a successful small business and a joyful, simplified life. In the age of smart phones and social media, it becomes even harder to live in and enjoy the moment. Out of respect for the personal time of my clients and that of my family, I have set business hours. Business hours are Sunday-Thursday from 9am-5pm GMT +4 (Dubai/Abu Dhabi time zone). I typically respond to all emails within 1-2 business days during business hours.

No. Deposits are non-refundable, as it is your way to secure a spot in my schedule, which helps me to make sure that I give each client the proper amount of time and effort their project deserves.  I oftentimes book projects months in advance and with that, often turn away potential clients who require a quicker time frame. If you cancel your project, it leaves an empty space that could have been given to someone else. Only in the extreme circumstance, where I choose to cancel a project that has already started will any refund be given.

Typically it takes me 3 months to finish a book project.   Every book project is a bit different and will depend on many varying factors.  My schedule may be more or less busy at different times of the year as well.  It can be done in 2 months, but it could also easily take 6 months for complex projects.   I would need to have you fill out my Creative Brief and send me your manuscript before I can give an estimate of both time and cost.

In most cases, I do not.  Most self-publishing authors do not sell enough books to the point where any royalties would exceed my illustration fees or “advance payment”, as it is usually called.   I do not want to be bothered with collecting royalty statements every quarter, just as much as you do not want to be bothered with sending them.   I do reserve the right to ask for royalties for self-publishing authors who have a history of selling more than 5000 books or projects where I believe more than 5000 books will be sold.   This will be negotiated when writing the contract on a case-by-case basis.  I will not come back to two years later if you’ve had a successful book asking for royalties if it was not in our contract to begin with.

This might sound like a pretty fair deal on the surface, however, there is a lot of research, concept development, sketching, re-sketching, starting over, sketching again, revisions, and a lot more behind the scenes work that takes place to even reach the point of coloring the final illustration for a page or spread.  By the time I get to that stage, I’ve already put in about half of the hours for the entire book project.   A book can take easily take hundreds of hours to complete, so I do have to protect my time and make sure I’m being paid for it.  As a professional creative entrepreneur, time is my absolute most important asset.

I maintain copyright of my artwork, however, I do issue a full-commercial license, as is standard practice in creative industries, for you in our contract to use the artwork in anyway you wish in order to promote your book, such as printing stickers, bookmarks, posters, flyers, mailings, stuffed animals, promotional items and anything else that you want to sell yourself.  Don’t fret.  Just because I maintain the copyright does not mean that I can use the artwork or characters in other work.  There is a competitor clause in the contract to protect you.  The copyright ownership simply protects me from having my artwork sold to a third party without being compensated for it.   A good example of this is how the well-known Llama Llama children’s picture books were recently made into a television cartoon series available on Netflix.  The illustrator deserves compensation for this and had she sold the copyright she would have lost out on a lot of income.  Or if a clothing store wants to produce and sell their own t-shirts with the character on it, they need to buy the artwork from the illustrator, or copyright owner.  Maintaining copyright ownership also allows me to showcase the artwork in my portfolio or to sell the “original art” as the one taking credit for creating the art.  For a traditional artist, this implies the canvas or paper the art was painted on and art prints.  For a digital artist, this implies the original source files and art prints.  It would be very expensive to buy the copyright for the illustrations, as I have to estimate the potential future income that could be lost.   Maintaining the copyright also allows me to protect myself from anyone else trying to pass off the artwork as their own.  There really is no need for the author to own the copyright to the illustrations.   The commercial license offers you everything you need and protects you in every way.  Once our project is complete, the artwork is, in almost every essence, your artwork.

I invoice my fees and services through Paypal invoicing, a secure online payment method. You do not need to have a Paypal account to make payment through Paypal, but simply a credit, debit card or bank acount.  In some circumstances, I can accept bank transfer into my bank account.  A 50% deposit is required to book your project into my schedule with the remaining amount split into two additional payments.  The final payment must be made before any final hi-resolotion files are delivered.  If your project start date is more than 60 days out, I can split the deposit into two payments.

Concept art is done for a prospective client or an author would like to try me out, to see how I might interpret their character and to see how my style will look paired with their story.  Sometimes an  author will commission concept art from their final choices for illustrator to help them finally decide.  The scope of the concept art is agreed upon between myself and the author beforehand.  It usually consists of either a character development sheet (multiple sketches of the same character interpreted and shaped in different ways, usually with one of the sketches fully colored) or a one page full bleed illustration of the main character and simple background to test out color palette and any important secondary elements.  It includes one round of revision.  Should the author contract their entire book with me later on, the concept art fee is credited back to the author.

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