Getting paid

Owing to current deadlines, I regret that I am unable to answer your questions until further notice ~ Thank you


Q - Is it easy to make a living as an illustrator?


A - Illustration is not the easiest profession to make a living from. As illustrators are mostly self employed, there is no certainty of employment. Some jobs can be very well paid, particularly in advertising. You can have a very good run of work and be very much in demand for a period of years, but the market is fickle and styles can also go out of fashion.



Q - How much money do illustrators earn?


A - This varies from job to job and from illustrator to illustrator. There really is no standard. It depends on how much the client can pay and how much they want a particular illustrator to do the job. The amount you can earn is also determined by your style. Mine happens to be very labour intensive, so obviously I would earn more per hour if I worked and twice the speed but, sadly for me, I wouldn’t get the creative satisfaction I want from doing that!



Q - Is it usually good to take the fee you’re offered?


A - I think at first the client will usually offer less than they actually have in their budget for the job, in the hope that you’ll agree. You can always find out by asking them for more: if they won’t raise the fee, then you need to decide whether the job is worth doing.



Q - If you have an agent, will they get you more money?


A - This is one of the functions of an agent – see Illustration Agents. They might get you a better deal, but you have to pay them their commission out of that, at an agreed percentage. It’s a matter of choice, but they then need to be able to negotiate considerably more than you can and with most publishers the sky isn’t the limit. If you do have an agent, they would also deal with invoicing the client and chasing payments.



Q - Have you worked for too little sometimes?

A - Yes, definitely, particularly earlier on in my career, when I was trying to establish myself. I had to weigh up whether it was worth working for minimal money, if the work was something that I really wanted to do, and if it was something that would give me a lot of valuable exposure, then it might have made it worth doing.



Q - Do you always get paid a flat fee for your work?


A - I usually get a flat fee for educational illustration, particularly when I am one of several contributors to a book. The other way I get paid is as an advance on royalties.



Q - What is a royalty?


A - This is the way a lot of illustrators and writers get paid by publishers, and most picture book payments work like this. The royalty is the illustrator’s or writer’s percentage of the money made from the sales of their book. The details of the percentages are all outlined in the contract for the book.



Q - What is an advance?


A - The advance is the sum of money that the publisher pays to the contributor while they are working on the book, so that they have something to live on before the book sales come in. This varies hugely, depending to a large extent on the commercial success of the contributor so, if you have no track record, you are unlikely to get a large advance.



Q - How does it work?


A - Royalty statements are sent out twice a year showing the contributor how the book is selling. The money from any books sold will then be offset against the royalty advance the contributor has been paid, until the sales and the advance cancel each other out. Only then will the contributor earn more money from the book, but that will continue until the book either stops selling or goes out of print.



Q - What about doing your accounts and all that?


A - You’ll need to create a system of bookkeeping, sending out invoices and keeping receipts, paying your taxes etc. The Tax Office is pretty helpful in my experience and I have been on quite a few Business Link courses designed for people just starting out – see Other Sources of Advice.



Q - Are there other ways of making money from books?


A - Yes, there are some collecting schemes that you can apply to Public Lending Right (PLR), The Design and Artists Copyright Society (DACS) and Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) – see Other Sources of Advice - and if you are eligible you can get some money from those.



Q - I would like to know what % of my royalties should I pay my illustrator as I wrote two children’s book and I have the first one published but it is only clip art but now I found a illustrator to do my book if my book is a success how much should I pay the illustrator.


A - As you are the writer, you should not be paying the illustrator or deciding how to split the royalties yourself, as it’s not you who is employing them but the publisher. Usually when a book finds a publisher, it is the publisher who draws up contracts for the writer and the illustrator and decides the % of the royalties. The payments and contracts are usually completely independently of one another. It might help you to take a look at a guide to publishing if you can lay your hands on one.



Q - I was wondering if you could help me? I  have currently been offered a book illustration job and the agent has asked about royalties . I would like royalties but how do I go a about this and what do I say to the agent?


A - First of all, the publisher should make it clear to you – and to your agent – whether this book is on a flat fee or a royalty basis. Most trade publishers offer royalties to authors and illustrators, while some educational publishers don’t. If your contract is on a royalty basis, this means that you get a % share of the profits from the book sales. While you are actually doing the work a non returnable advance on the royalties is paid to you, so that you have something to live on while you are creating the work. The payment of the advance is usually broken down into three stages, so if the advance was for £10,000 or $10,000 you would get one third on signature of the contract, one third on approval of finished roughs and one third on delivery and approval of final artwork. You would then receive royalty statements from the publisher every 6 months after the book is published, which will offset the amount the book has earned during that 6 month period from your advance. You would then start to get additional royalties when your original advance has been ‘earned out’. You may well know all this already, if not your agent should certainly be able to tell you more – it’s surprising that they haven’t already put you in the picture. It is usually better to get a royalty based contract if you can and if the publisher are willing – and they may not be in the final analysis, but your agent should be fighting to get that for you if they possibly can – I hope they are, as that is part of their job and one of the reasons why you pay them commission! Every contract is different and clauses can often be negotiated to get the best terms for you as the artist, again, speak to your agent about this specific contract.




Q - How do I pay my illustrator in royalty if self publishing.


Were can I get a legal contract on the net?


Do self publishing companies provide those kind of contracts that will guarantee  the illustrator’s pay/royalty, if so do you know their names?


1) Who owns the illustration if royalty offer is accepted by the illustrator (2)and the book described the characters to a good  percent


A – Most of your questions are outside my field of experience unfortunately as I haven’t had experience of self publishing, so I can’t help you there. You’ll need to do some more research, no doubt there is advice on the internet. The only question I can give feedback on is that illustration artwork is generally owned by the illustrator – and remains their property, unless the illustrator decides to sell it. There are exceptions, but most of my work is done on a royalty basis and I get the artwork back.


Q - I’m a newly graduated children’s illustrator. I found your FAQ advice page on your website about getting paid and just wondered if it would be ok to ask for your advice on another question not previously answered? I understand that you’ll be busy, but advice will be greatly appreciated.


I recently received an email from a publisher offering me the opportunity to illustrate an e-book with them, however, at this moment in time they don’t offer an advance payment but have a ‘generous’ royalty structure and claim to be successful in promoting their books. I’ve received really mixed advice about whether to take it. I understand that getting paid this way isn’t ideal and can be unreliable and low. However, as I am new to this industry, I can’t decide if it’s a good enough opportunity for exposure to go ahead with it. As a professional children’s illustrator, do you have any advice or recommendations for me?


A –  Interesting question – yes, and a new one! You will obviously need money to live on from somewhere while you are illustrating the book. Do you have another source of income – another part-time job?


I am also new to electronic publishing, but my hunch is that few electronic publishing companies would be willing to take the risk of paying an advance, as the market is still so new. It might also be worth thinking about looking for an agent (preferably a literary agent, as they take a lower commission as a rule) to help you find a print publisher and negotiate the contracts for you. In the meantime, can you talk to any of your ex-tutors to sound them out about this issue? To buy yourself a bit of time while you think about your options (and because it’s a good idea anyway), can you ask the company who have emailed you to send you one of their standard sample contracts, so you can take a look at their terms?


I do hope this is helpful and would be interested to hear how you get on as your experience could be very helpful to other illustrators.




Q - I’m currently in my second year studying illustration at the Arts University in Bournemouth and as part of our course we have been asked to make a presentation on children’s book illustration, as part of this we have been asked to research the payment structure of illustrating a children’s book, including how much publishers pay illustrators per book on average, how royalty payments work and the percentage that agencies take. I realise this is both a personal question and also one which may vary greatly from client to client but advice from someone currently working in the industry would be greatly appreciated.



A - Thanks for your question. I have already covered most of what you ask about on this page on my website (you might like to take a look at other pages in the list too.


I suggest you have a read first and come back to me if you do still have other questions. Generally speaking there is no standard payment scale, the industry doesn’t work like that – payment also varies within the different industries that use illustrators – book/ educational publishing/ electronic/ advertising. etc…..  It’s often a matter of negotiation, so for that reason I can’t share actual amounts with you, as I’m sure you’ll understand.