Industry Guidelines for Beginners new to illustration, developing a brand property, character or business, or hiring illustrators.

“I’ve written a children’s book…”
“I’ve created a children’s product…”
“I want to be an illustrator…”

So you’re a beginner and you’ve got this great idea for a children’s book or product, or you’re an aspiring illustrator. Where do you start? There are many beginners just like you, so you can take comfort in the fact that you are not alone.

Reality check: Can you really topple Sponge Bob?

According to KidScreen Magazine, it is rare that a new product can beat the big guys, but there are a few exceptions. Baby Einstein, for example, began as a home video and is now one of those big guys. The key to standing out from the crowd is having a strong brand development plan. A distributor is not likely to align with a partner that needs to be guided through the entire process.

Develop a realistic business plan

You need to chart a plan of action before you do anything else. Between printing, distributing, selling, trade show booths, establishing a website presence, advertising and, yes, the price of illustration, you have chosen an endeavor that can get expensive. Keep in mind that it almost always takes a long time to make a profit on a new product. Reliable sources in the toy industry estimate that it may take two years or longer.

Include advertising, illustration and promotion costs.

Sorry, but I am not available to work on “spec” (speculation).  In other words, I will not consider projects that only offer “sharing in the profits later” or “illustrate in your leisure time for a percentage of the profits.” There will always be an up-front payment or, in some circumstances, an “advance against royalties.” While I enjoy my work, it is still a business, not a hobby.

Below are some of the costs you may expect when starting out:

  • Trade show booth – can run $5,000 or more for a booth, plus printed material, display pieces and other essentials.
  • Magazine advertising – typically can cost $1500 and up for a single run in a major magazine or national newspaper.
  • Illustration pricing –  be prepared to spend some money. Illustration is a lot more involved than you may think, especially if it includes brand identity. Character design, logo design and complex background scenes take a lot of time, which translates to dollars. It takes many hours, including in-depth discussions, to get the character, logo or scene just right. You should expect prices along these lines:
  • Logo – $1000 and up.
  • Children’s book – $250 to $1000 each image depending on several factors including size, style and complexity. For more information: Styles.
  • Purchase of all rights to the characters and illustrations doubles the price.

For aspiring illustrators:

The Internet makes it easier than ever for you and prospective clients to find each other, but you still won’t be able to survive if the quality of your work is not up to par. Remember that aside from being a creative person, this is a BUSINESS and you have to treat it as such. Deadlines need to be taken seriously, requested changes to your work must not be taken personally, and at all times an air of professionalism must be maintained. And by all means, if you are offered a project that is outside the scope of your abilities, do NOT accept the job. If you can refer them to someone who is better able to meet their needs, do so. The potential client will respect you for it and may call again when a more appropriate job opens.