How to Properly Pitch a Children’s Book Idea to an Illustrator


I am going to share with you the key secret to getting an illustrator interested in working on your project. I am sharing this as a public service announcement, on behalf of illustrators everywhere.

In the course of networking, I meet a lot of people from different walks of life. And when they learn that I am a cartoonist and illustrator, I almost always hear one of three things from them:

  1. I could never do that.
  2. You are so talented.
  3. I have this idea for a children’s book.

My answers, respectively, are always:

  1. Yes, you can. You just need to practice.
  2. Thank you, I work really hard and practice my skills every day to get to where I am.
  3. Please kill me now.

Okay, I’m exaggerating on that last one. But not by much.

Invariably, I will hear this pitch. The idea is presented with a lot of enthusiasm and conviction. And, on a very rare occasion, the idea is good.

So why do I politely turn these gigs down?

The honest-to-Buddha truth is this: There is no upfront benefit to me.

At no point during the pitch is the idea of money and payment mentioned. When the topic of renumeration comes up, usually at my inquiry, it’s discussed in a round about way using terms like “profit sharing”. Or royalties. Or *gasp* even exposure.

You will always lose me at this point. Always.


I’ll cut to the chase:

If you really want my attention and you really want me to illustrate your book then I expect to be paid up front for my work. I don’t want royalties. I don’t want to split the profits 50-50. I want money in my pocket. Because I have bills to pay and a family to feed. And other paying projects to work on. Half payment upfront and half when the work is finished is my usual policy for any client I take on.

It’s shocking how fast a “great children’s book idea” is killed when the subject of money and immediate payment come up.

If you really believe in your idea: Pay your artists upfront.


These beautiful and intelligent people wrote

  • Karl
    June 12, 2014 at 11:01 pm

    Amen! I always cringe when those words come out of my mouth in an elevator pitch…and it’s usually as an aside as I am desperate and will take on any paying gig I can get (which turns out to be more empty promises than actual gigs…call me, Karl and we’ll sit down and discuss, hey Karl, we’re going to update our website soon and I’ll give you a call, hey Karl, you’re not using that second kidney, why not sell it to me…okay, maybe not the last one, but again, I am desperate). It is always so funny how fast people turn and walk the other way when I mention my rates. When I do speak with them again, they either shelved the project or found “someone cheaper via email received in some far off land”, that cuts deep into our pockets and I try to patiently explain to them that sure, it may be cheaper, in the short term, but good luck in getting support or updates in a timely fashion like you would from me, mr local guy. They are also quite shocked at the lack of ownership to their sites created offshore or the struggle to get a full, working copy in hand. Ah, well, I’m preachin’ to the choir. :D

  • J.Ferdous
    June 13, 2014 at 1:51 am

    You have explained the the whole idea of doing illustration in a very funny way here. One thing that no one can take away from you is the talent and hard-work. It really makes difference on quality of work.

  • emjay
    June 13, 2014 at 3:12 am

    Printed out and taped above the computer.

  • Becki
    June 16, 2014 at 7:04 pm

    It’s not just illustrators, trust me! My husband writes novels as a hobby (and writes all day at the local newspaper as his paying gig). When he talks to someone about his hobby, he invariably hears, “Hey, I have this great idea for a novel. Want to write it for me?” He politely encourages them to write it, saying they have so many options these days when getting ready to publish, and at that point they walk away. Sound familiar?

    When he hires artists for the comic-style graphics in his books, he expects to pay them a decent wage (which is always agreed on in advance and put into writing in a contract), pays them promptly, and gets great artwork. You get what you pay for, right?