How can an Author Find the Right Book Illustrator?

26th June, 2024

5 min read

How can an Author Find the Right Book Illustrator?

How can an Author Find the Right Book Illustrator?

Written by:

Hannah Cather

The world of illustration is bright and beautiful, but it is also big. Goodness, it’s big. And that’s spoken by someone who’s been involved with it for over a decade. So, for anyone new to this incredible world of images, it must seem overwhelming – both inaccessible (how on earth do I find an illustrator?) and scarily accessible (there’s too much choice!).

Questions, Questions, Questions about Finding a Book Illustrator

Let’s imagine you’re a budding author, fresh from finishing your book and newly on the hunt for the images to bring that text to life. It might be a children’s book that needs to be fully illustrated – every page, every little character – or a novel that’s missing an eye-catching cover, or a historical biography needing portraits of the people mentioned. Lots of questions will inevitably be buzzing through your brain.

  • Where are the illustrators?
  • What style am I after?
  • What’s the first step?
  • What’s a good artist and a bad one?
  • What’s a brief and how do I do one?
  • What sort of fee am I looking at?
  • How much is too much, too little, about right?

All valid questions – but so, so many questions – and at Troubador, we knew there was a need for an illustration service to help authors solve these very queries. We regularly received enquiries from new authors needing help with illustrations and checking to see if this was part of our remit. Well, as of January 2024, it is. You can read more about it here: Troubador’s Book Illustration Service

In a nutshell, our illustration service helps authors find an artist and walks them through the journey of getting the images briefed, sketched, coloured and completed – providing the author with fully finished, everything-the-author-dreamed-of illustrations.

We currently have over thirty-five amazing illustrators within our (ever-growing) portfolio, who are all brilliant and can bring a broad range of styles. We have artists who create children’s illustrations, black-and-white linework, bold and bright abstract covers, fantasy worlds, historical depictions and comic-book art. Our styles range from the naturalistic to the animated, from film-quality cartoons to sketchy, pencil etchings, and from vintage prints to modern minimalist covers, with specialists in animals, humans, covers, cartoons, scenes, spots and settings. The magical thing about most of the artists, too, is that they have the staggering ability to adapt to a particular brief and the required style of a commission, bringing bespoke requests to the page.

But what’s really special about Troubador’s illustration service is that we’ll help you through each step of the process. We’ll be a helping hand and a guide throughout; getting you that perfect partnership with an artist, dealing with the day-to-day communication and navigating all those back-and-forths that could easily befuddle a newbie, whether that’s feedback on roughs or a particularly in-depth question. We do the hard bits so you don’t have to, though you’ll be privy to everything.

The Book Illustration Process

Even with our assistance, it’s useful to understand a little about the process at Troubador and how exactly we’ll be helping. Every project is, of course, different but tends to follow a similar pattern:

  • Author Referral – When an illustration enquiry comes to us (usually through our Customer Services team), the author’s details and project requirements are sent to the Illustration team.
  • Initial Chats – Through emails and calls, we’ll get an overview of the book from you, as well as the illustrations and what kind of artist/style you’re looking for. Budget might be mentioned at this stage – it’s not a necessity, but it can be useful as artists can be filtered according to this.
  • Portfolio Viewing – Once the basic questions are answered, we’ll go through our portfolio of artists and collate suitable samples in a bespoke list. You’ll take a look through and whittle it down to a shortlist of favourites – several are best, but it may be that a clear favourite stands out.
  • Finalising Fees – We’ll collect quotes from the favoured artists and check their availability, before sending all of this information to you, so that we can (hopefully) make a final decision. Exciting!
  • Green-lit Project – The chosen artist/author sign on and the first invoice is sorted. It’s official.
  • Briefing Time – We’ll then work closely with the author to create a brief. This can sometimes be very overwhelming for the author, but our service helps by guiding the process, collecting the right information (which serves the artist) and putting it together in a tight, cohesive and useful brief.
  • Work Begins – The brief goes to the artist and the project starts! This usually means sketches, then colours, then finals, but there is some play with this depending on the project.

Book Illustration Fees

Authors new to the illustration world can be completely unsure about what to expect in terms of fees, while also being shocked (gasp!) about just how high the fees can sometimes be. The question of fees is often raised early – and rightly so. Please be aware, however, that illustration can be expensive – also rightly so. Or at least it can seem expensive compared to the author’s prior expectations.

To put the fees into perspective: illustration work is very time-intensive and you’re effectively paying for an expert’s time, creative input and skill set, for a project that will last forever. You’re employing a freelancer and getting their attention on your project for months, sometimes up to half a year. It will involve research, planning characters, diving into the story to be accurate and true to the book, checking for consistency and flow, sketches, re-sketching, colouring, finalising, absorbing feedback, constant communication, and creating spot-on printable files. It’s a big job and the fee needs to reflect this.

So, when you see your quotes for artwork, take a minute to think about the breakdown of those fees – the hours of work, oodles of skill, the endless planning and perfecting. Plus – and this is a huge plus – with Troubador, you gain the full copyright of those images in perpetuity once the files are handed over.

A Takeaway or Two…

In conclusion, you and your book will never regret the day you decided to get illustrations. They make words burst into existence, they bring magic to pages, they add impact to covers, and they lighten the load of the text. With children’s books, where images are everything, illustrations do most of the work to bring the story to life. Never underestimate the power of illustrations, but neither underestimate the power of finding the right artist, the right fee and the right style – a tricky trio that Troubador can certainly help you with.

If you’d like to know more about Troubador’s illustration service, where we can help you go from raw manuscript to final, fully illustrated book, click the banner below. We look forward to hearing from you.