7 Top Tips When Working With Illustrators for Your Book
#1 Create a Mood Board
The illustrator is good at what they do, you like their artwork, that’s going to be the main reason why you want to work with them. You want them to understand the ideas and images that you have inside your head for your book. You want them to come up with creative ideas once you’ve shared the basic outline of what it is you are aiming to achieve with your book. But, they are not psychic. Create a Mood Board to enable your artist to have a clearer idea of what you do and what you don’t like. There are plenty of ways to do this. Pinterest is a good one as it’s easy to set up and use and you can also use Instagram to search through images and types of artwork that you like and more importantly, that will match your words and pull in your ideal reader.
Have a project plan. You’ll have an idea of when you want your book finished, so work back from that point. It’s a good idea to choose your illustrator and start the conversation about what you want and when you want it, as soon as you start writing. If the illustrator is popular, you’ll need to build in wiggle room for such things as holidays, (yours and theirs), set backs (illness or unexpected life events) and any agreed number of changes that you agree within the number of pieces of art that you decide on. Here’s a link to Jason Pickthall – the artist who created Oxy for me. The animation was created by Arti Patel.
#3 Making Changes
Illustrations can take an hour, a day or a few days, depending on the complexity of the artwork and the method in which they work. Traditional illustrators who work by hand, will require a really good match to what you are looking for, otherwise there’ll be many pieces of work thrown in the bin before you get to the final piece. If you are working with an illustrator who works on computer, agree how many changes you are allowed to make, per piece which you agree and sign up to, up front.
If you want to start off on the wrong foot with any artist, ask them if they’ll do the work for ‘royalties’. It’s like taking food from the supermarket and paying once you’ve eaten it. If an artist does decide it will be ok to work for royalties, to what degree are they going to be really invested in creating your artwork or making it their priority? If you want to understand why it’s not a good idea to do this, consider famous books that you have read and love. Would the words be the same without the artwork and would the artwork be the same without the words? Whilst yes you are creating the words and inviting the artist to work on something that could one day make millions, asking them to work for royalties only, isn’t going to pay their bills or put food on the table. If you have worked together for some time and you both know that your books are generating a tidy income, then, they might be willing to work for royalties only but they’ll want a fair share of the profits, even if you’ve also paid them for the artwork up front. It’s not always an ‘either/or’ process. Most artists will work on a day rate or a per piece basis. Get this set out up front and most artists will want you to pay a deposit.
#5 IP and confidentiality.
Get your artist to sign an NDA. A ‘Non disclosure agreement’. These will differ, depending on which country you are in and where your artist is based. Gov.uk website gives lots of great, free advice on IP and Copyright. Most artists will understand the need to protect your ideas and so will be happy to sign one. Be wary of an artist who doesn’t want to sign one! It’s vital, right at the outset to set out, via an agreement who will own the artwork. Don’t assume that they work will be yours to own forever, just because you’ve paid them. Certainly if any artists agrees to work for free (and that’s rare these days), they will certainly own the IP. Whilst you might not have the time, money or will to pay for an ‘official agreement, there are places you can get free advice. The Business and IP Centre – The British Library is also a great source of advice. If you are a member of your local chamber of commerce or the FSB, they will most likely have templates that you can use. If you have a good working relationship, built on working together already, with trust on both sides, it’s still a good idea to get really clear on what each other ‘gets’ as part of the book creation deal. Write down and get clear on who owns what and then put it in writing. Get both parties to sign and agree and keeping an e mail trail is always a good idea for the ‘just in case’ situation of the relationship not working out.
#6 Artists – Use their knowledge and commercial expertise
If you are going to be working with someone who is well known for their artwork and who has been working in the commercial arena for some time, then they will have experience of what works and what doesn’t. It may well be that they’ve worked with some big brand names and so will know not only to create artwork that fits your book, but fits with what works in the market place. Things like:-
- What the public and your idea buyer might like
- What the reader might like
- What makes a great piece of artwork which captivates the reader
- How the artwork can create ‘branding’ and fans interested to want more
#7 Testimonials and Thanks
Once you’ve got your artwork and it’s included in the book, consider how you want to incorporate what the artist has done to make your book look good. Their reputation is also tied to your reputation. If they produce great work, it does both of your reputations good. Great artwork can help to sell the story and sell the book. If you intend to work with them again, then it’s a good idea to ‘show off’ their work and to give them thanks and praise where due. A good artist can pull your book project together quickly by understanding your brief, giving you feedback on what will work and what won’t and they can and will work in accordance with your timings.
Finally, if you think about the imagery that comes through every great piece of written work, illustrators and artists bring that written work to life. A talented artist will do that for your work. So it’s important when you find one whose art you love and who you enjoy working with, that you nourish that working relationship.
“ Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it. I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free”. Michelangelo.