How One Illustrator Works with Authors

by John Collado

As a freelance illustrator I am always on the hunt for new work and whether I am contacting an author or publisher or whether they have made first contact, I usually have a set of steps by which I work a project from start to finish.

Initially I will discuss their project and try to find out what their goals are. If it is an independent author I usually ask for a simple break down of the story, as I usually do not have time to read the entire book. This begins to give me a visual image in my mind as to the different compositional possibilities for their cover. If the author is located in the US or Canada I normally do this by phone. This gives the author more opportunity to discuss their ideas and how they envision what their cover might look like, and I am able to ask questions along the way to help narrow down my own ideas. Needless to say, I listen and take notes as we delve deeper into their project, and I may even doddle a bit if something stands out right away so I don’t forget it later. Emails back and forth during the project are common.

After our initial discussion I usually spend a day or two working out details about the composition and about how much time it will take me to complete it, including drafts and the finished art. I may call the author back during this time if I come up with any additional questions that I may have missed during our first talk. Once I am sure how I would proceed with the project I will contact the author again with an estimate, or if I am confident about a deadline and composition, a set price for the entire project. If the author agrees with the price and would like to start, I prepare and send a basic contract with all details included for the author to review and sign. Once signed and returned, I begin the project.

I am very flexible with payment and will work out a schedule that is convenient for the author. Normally it is a two payment process, 50% upon inception with the remaining upon completion. Though, I can make other arrangements if necessary. I include a limited copyright, usually a one-time printing of the cover art only. If the author wishes to purchase additional rights or fully purchase the art, payments would be additional.

If an author is initially working with a publisher, they usually have their own pool of artists to draw from. Sometimes an author likes to send some, if not all of the artwork when they submit to a publisher to help sell their ideas. This doesn’t mean that the publisher will use it, but it does make the author stand out more. Usually I work with independent authors who are self-publishing their books.

There is so much more to say along these lines, but I know I have already exceeded the size of this post. If you have any questions, I can always be reached via my vendor page, or at my website

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