How to Hire an Illustrator for Your Children’s Book

If you’re a children’s book author, a number of intersecting factors will determine what your book’s illustrations will look like. If you plan to publish traditionally, your publisher will supply your illustrator and make most of the critical decisions.


However, if you’re self-publishing your children’s book, then you’ll need to find your own amazing illustrator to collaborate with — someone who understands and can clearly envision your ideas, while also bringing their own expertise and unique style to the table. Here’s how to find your perfect illustrator in four steps!

1. Know your vision

A collaboration with an illustrator will always be a two-way street. Of course, your illustrator is the one who’s actually putting pen to paper (or stylus to tablet) to bring your vision to life. But therein lies the rub: you need to have a vision in the first place.

Start by knowing the market and which types of illustrations appeal to your specific niche (the older your target audience, the more complex or stylized your illustrations should be). Then it’s time to nail down the precise style you’d like to pursue. You might have already visualized your story as you wrote your children’s book — now’s the time to sharpen that picture in your mind.

Is your story, for instance, a sweet fairy tale that might benefit from a sensitive watercolor style, or a rollicking good time that calls for bright, splashy drawings? Are you going for dreamy, realistic, or totally out-of-this-world illustrations? Do you want the sharpness and clarity of digital graphics or the fun, familiar feel of hand-drawn pictures?

If you have no idea what you want, you might start with the masters — Eric Carle, Quentin Blake, Beatrix Potter, etc. — just to give you some inspiration. Check out this post of children's book illustrators to expand your knowledge!

2. Look at the illustrator’s profile

Think of this as a vetting stage. While looking for an illustrator, take note of their:

     Experience. How many years of publishing experience does the illustrator have? More tends to be better, though there are also plenty of freshly minted professional illustrators who could be a great fit for your book (and they may be more affordable, too).

     Genre. Does the illustrator have experience working in your genre or niche? Each age bracket in the children’s book industry has vastly different needs when it comes to illustrations, and your illustrator must have a solid understanding of those needs.

     Past published titles. What, if any, books has this person illustrated or published? If a major publisher has trusted this illustrator to create a children’s book (or multiple books) for them, that’s an excellent sign.

Most importantly, take time to look at the illustrator’s portfolio. This is by far the best way to understand an illustrator’s style and make sure your ideas align. Look at their recent work and see how their style has evolved to ensure they’ll take your project in the direction you want.

And if you find an illustrator who doesn’t have a readily available portfolio (for example, if you found them through Instagram but they’ve only posted a few pieces), reach out to ask for samples before committing to a working relationship.

3. Determine your budget

No two projects are the same, and no two illustrators will charge you exactly the same price for their different styles. The average cost to get a children’s book fully illustrated falls between $2,000 and $6,000. But your final figure will depend on a number of things — mainly the length of your book and how elaborate you want your illustrations to be. Needless to say, light sketches will be less experience than detailed, colorful full-page spreads.

Many self-publishing children’s authors underestimate how much it costs to acquire proper illustrations! To that end, we recommend researching the typical illustration rates for your niche and desired style — you can request a range of quotes or try to get in touch with other authors. From there, decide out how much you're willing to spend, and narrow down your prospects.

4. Reach out to the illustrator

Now all that’s left is to reach out to the illustrator to express your interest in working with them! On Reedsy’s marketplace, you can contact up to five professional illustrators at once. If you find your illustrator elsewhere, you will need an email address to establish a connection.

Once you’ve found the illustrator whose vision, style, and personality all sync perfectly with yours, that’s when the really exciting part begins. Nail down the terms of your contract (don’t forget to inquire how much it might cost to get the artwork revised), then get ready to see your children’s book brought to life!

The journey that awaits you might take a little longer than if you’d written a non-children’s book — but you’ll know that it was worth the time and effort when you’re holding the beautiful finished product in your hands.

Savannah Cordova is a writer with Reedsy, a marketplace that connects self-publishing authors with the world’s best editors, designers, and marketers. In her spare time, she enjoys reading contemporary fiction, listening to audiobooks, and writing short stories.

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