Book Illustrations


With a completed manuscript, you’ve accomplished much of the hard work involved in writing your book.

With plenty of work ahead left to publish your book, now is a great time to take a breath and appreciate what you’ve managed to do so far.


Finding the Right Book Illustrator

If your vision of your final product includes illustrations, there is still more work ahead before you can publish.

First and foremost, this will apply to authors who want to publish children’s books. But there is also no shortage of books that have used illustrations to engage with adult readers as well.

Before you publish your book, consider whether it would benefit from a few illustrations. Even if it is not aimed at children or younger readers,

If anything, illustrations can be even more helpful to evoke imagery in adult readers who may have grown less used to actively using their imagination.

Comic books and graphic novels are a great example of the power of images. Books such as Teju Cole’s novella, Every Day Is For the Thief, uses photos to connect the reader with characters and the book’s setting of Lagos, Nigeria.

But once you’ve decided that you want to add illustrations to your book, how do you find and choose a book illustrator?

Choosing a Style

What style of illustrations you want to publish with your book is among the first decisions for authors choosing a book illustrator.

This is an artistic decision entirely up to you as a self-publishing author, and it may ultimately come down to what “feels right” to illustrate your work.

You can start by looking at examples of existing illustrations to see what suits the book you want to publish. You’ll find that some styles are more cartoonish while others are more realistic, some are simple, others are more ornate and detailed.

Keep in mind that different styles have longer completion times, as some are much more complex and time consuming than others. This will also have a bearing on the cost, depending on how much of the artist’s time you are paying for.

Consider what you want your illustrations to evoke in your readers, and what style of illustration achieves this most effectively.

Choosing a Book Illustrator

For children’s books, look into the Society of Children’s Book Authors and Illustrators, which offers industry tips and directories, as well as portfolios and contact information for book illustrators.

Reviewing these portfolios is a great way to get a sense of what style of illustration you want for the book you plan to publish.

Figure out if you need full-page illustrations as with a picture book for young children, or single page art. For young adult, or adult literature, you may only need one illustration for each chapter.

All of these factors will affect the final cost of your illustrations.

Once you choose a book illustrator, give them room to do their work. You will want to discuss your manuscript and give them a sense of what you want expressed, but beyond that, be sure to leave room for creativity.

Choose an illustrator whose work allows you to trust them with this task.

Self-publishing and Illustrations

If you want to exercise control over the illustrations in your book, this is another reason to opt for self-publishing over traditional publishing.

Traditional publishers tend to accept manuscripts without illustrations, and make their own matchups of authors to illustrators of their choosing. If you do choose to self-publish your illustrated book, remember that high-quality illustrations can be expensive.

Industry rates range into the thousands to over ten thousand dollars for a 32-page children’s book, breaking down to at least 150 dollars per illustration – in addition to royalties.

Keep in mind how time consuming each illustration can be, with thumbnail sketches, revisions, pencil outlines, and final color. Be conscious of this when approaching illustrators, especially experienced artists.

Technical art can be acquired more cheaply by using graphic design/illustration students, or overseas vendors, but for illustrations for novels and children’s books, you will likely get what you pay for in terms of quality.

However, great illustrations can serve as the main selling point of your book, so it may be worth the price. And control over those illustrations is another great reason to self-publish, in addition to all the other financial and artistic advantages of self-publishing.

Choose Carefully

Illustrations are there to help the reader connect with the world of your book, but also bear in mind an illustrated book is a collaborative effort between the author and illustrator. Find a book illustrator whose vision you trust, and that works well in tandem with the story you are telling as an author.

Take care in this decision, as the right illustrations can go a long way to making sure readers experience your book the way you would like.