For pricing grids compiled from list members see:

To add to these pricing grids e-mail your info to:
Your info will remain anonymous.

I've got a pricing guideline set up at under Freelancing. Here is the format I used to set it up - so if you could take some time to send me some information on recent work you have done and I'll try to group similar projects together.

Theresa B.

How did you get the job (direct mail, internet, directory, portfolio showing, other)

Type of job (children's picture book, mass market, trade, educational, book cover (paperback or hardcover, black and white, color, gaming cards etc)

number and size of pieces


length of time for job

rights purchased


advance and/or royalties?

other info.

Date: Tue, 5 May 1998 16:34:55 +0000
From: Miron Iosilevich
Subject: illustration: Re: comparative fees

Here are the comparative fees for children's book illustration from the Graphic Artist's Guild handbook of pricing and ethical guidelines:
Picture booksAdvanceRoyaltyRoyalty escalation
illustrations only$3000-120005%6.25%
illustrations and text4000-180006-10%4.50-13.50%
There are other aspects to consider: subsidary rights, etc, but I hope this gives you an idea. These fees are based on a 32p picture book. I usually have 17 images together with the cover design, most of them full spreads+ a few spots for the title page. Good luck,

Katya Krenina

I agree with you Jessica.... personally, it doesn't much bother me to do educational work for hire... I mean does anyone really think that the typical text book illustration has any further use as art? I'm quite grateful for the fee that they're willing to pay, (usually about $300 page)

It has been my experience that textbook illustration is one of the most lucrative on a fee to work ratio. It's quick, simple, somewhat painless... unlike doing a book where there is all the extra effort of character development, setting, continuity, along with the all the hair splitting over trying to create perfect art. Ah, well, that's just the hack illustrator in me talking.

I once figured that if one did two spot drawings for textbooks a day, five days a week, one could work just three hours a day and make $60,000 a year! Golf anyone?


This article is about a sign-painting business, but think it's got a lot of relevant info. Especially about not going DOWN on a price, once you've stated what it will be.


Date: Tue, 13 Oct 1998 09:00:37 -0500
From: hrcomm
Subject: illustration: I'm new and clueless!

Hi all of you really really smart people,

My name is Karen and I just got a call from a publisher to quote a price on illustrating a 32-page, 8 1/2" x 11" children's book (watercolor). I had mailed them a few pieces and I guess they like what they saw (or wanted to be polite, or something).

This is what I went to school for, but they didn't tell me at school what to do if I actually SOLD something!

I want the work, but I don't want to give it away. Just almost give it away.

Is there a wonderful soul out there that could give me a clue on how to quote this job?

Thank you in advance!


I think that a standard base price for any picture book should be about $5000. Variations from that figure are for size of the page, number of pages and complexity of the subject or your style of work.

Best of luck! And get to the bookstore quick!


Yep... on a page per fee basis, books score low on the fee / labor ratio. Royalties are by no means guaranteed with any book... and probably only one out of ten ever goes into reprints. Hence the labor of love. Whereas the standard page rate for doing simple workbook illustration is about $300 / page... and is quicker, easier and less trouble. Don't have to worry about story... setting... continuity... etc. I got a royalty check last month from some awful little books I did in 1983! For some reason they reprinted them... nearly $400! I'm taking the bus to Disneyland.

Date: Wed, 14 Oct 1998 11:55:19 -0500
From: "Christina A. Varela"
Subject: Re: illustration: book bids wrote:

"In a message dated 98-10-14 14:02:15 EDT, you write:

'What do you all think? Should we write to GAG and SCBWI and ask for more specific pricing guidelines? I can see the difficulty because there are such variables. Depending on the client, you can be paid $1000 for a magazine cover spread or $150, but still . . . Would this be helpful or am I dreaming?'

Helpful! I second this (and third it). Most of the prices in GAG are totally unrealistic for beginning illustrators especially. And I think that open discussion on this list about pricing is a good thing-I really don't see how it could hurt anyone involved.


I'm with you guys. Matter o'fact, I just called on a fellow lister asking that same question (thanks Kelly). I know what I'd charge back East but AZ got me in a quandry.

Count my vote for more pricing discussions here and in GAG/SCBWI guidelines!

:) Christina, rebel with a clause All the pics fit ta be drawn!

Date: Wed, 14 Oct 1998 14:13:02 +0100
From: Greg Carr
Subject: Re: illustration: book bids

I agree that it would be helpful--we work in enough isolation as it is--we can negotiate better if we have more of an idea of what other illustrators are being paid. I agree also that the GAG guide is usually too broad-but at least it is something


You're absolutely right... it's really a total abstraction what any job might pay. The prospect of figuring out a more detailed pricing guide is daunting... There's so many variables. I've often wondered if I could come up with some formula...

(number of characters times number of pages... divided by page size multiplied by Publisher's print run... )

What really gets me is how illustrator's are asked to bid on a job right on the spot. (i.e. phone rings... can you do this's part of a reading program...'s really fun stuff... and the deadline's really crazy on this one!)

Then when you get the job via the fax eight minutes later, you realize it's not at all what you imagined. I hate how they catch you off guard though... As you're trying to figure out all the variables right there on the phone as they're waiting for an answer.

It's a weird feeling... fear, excitement, dread... and because you're trying to be polite to someone who you've never met before... it puts one at a disadvantage to be talking about money right off. I try to use little catch phrases like "what would the fee be on this project?"

Anybody got any good business-talk phrases from the book of etiquette for these sticky situations?


This would be a wonderful idea and with it to include what variables are at play, such as experience of illustrator, size of publisher, whether royalties are involved and etc. And to give specific examples of different pay rates giving the variables to explain the rate. I am all for more information being available to all of us. When you're starting out you have no idea what is the norm. I agree that the GAG guidelines leave a lot to be desired as far as having a realistic picture of what you can expect.


I agree with Sarah....I always try to get something in writing before quoting any dollar figure. I do have a general cost formula that I use for any project. I have this right by the phone so that I can be putting numbers in the calculator as I'm talking (this way I can get a ballpark figure). That way I can get an idea how much the project will cost to me. Still I end all conversations with....."when I get the project details via fax, I'll review them and give you a quote"

I think one of the reasons publishers get away with much too low pricing is that there are so many artists that do not know what to accept. Especially when new, they will take anything. Heck, they'll pay the publisher so they can get something published! What this does though in the long run, is pulls down the pricing for them and all of us who aren't so famous we can't ask for the moon but established enough to be trying to make a living at this. Perhaps the internet will help us band together more and expect a fair days pay for a great days work!


I've had that same notion... that somehow artists could overcome their isolation through the net to form more of a union... with standards of pay... working conditions.... etc. Imagine if the GAG or some similar group could establish a central pricing board... to which jobs might be submitted to be assessed a standard working price. Artists might form their own smaller studio groups (vaguely similar to the groups which artist representatives now profit from) which could be contacted through the web... and by banding together find increased bargaining power, etc. etc, etc. (Sort of like that Artists Island group... only run as a co-op business venture.. co-operative capitalism I think)

Has John been in the lighthouse too long? Is this just Leninist / Trotskyist banter? Is there an election coming up?


We could actually do something like that on this list. We could start a database of jobs people have won, listing pertinent details like size of job, location, experience of illustrator, fees, and, perhaps most importantly, how initial contact was made. If we all contributed to this, it could turn into a sizable database that would be very useful for reference.

Any volunteers?

- -pd

One thing which makes it hard to narrow the guidelines further is the fact that different illustrators work differently. Some illustration is much more labor intensive than others. Also, a bigger name illustrator is going to get more money than a new one. Artist's reps. probably negotiate higher fees than illustrators working alone. So it would seem there are many reasons for such a broad range of fees paid for work.


I think this is such an excellent idea. I know people are reluctant to discuss money matters, but if we kept the publishers anonymous and gave important info like pub size, and the other info you mentioned, I think this would be a great resource. It would be at least a frame of reference and might help us to keep prices for ourselves more reasonable (read higher). Some of us beginners are clueless and are making big mistakes for the sake of being published.


Add to this the complexity of the book: 10. are there multiple crowd scenes or is it a book with a single character, etc.

Date: Fri, 16 Oct 1998 07:40:05 -0500
From: hrcomm
Subject: illustration: Re: No longer clueless

Dear Everyone,

I want to thank everyone for their guidance and support on how to quote a project. I'm the newbie that asked for help, and did I ever receive! I've gone several years wondering where all the illustrators were. I thought you had all been rounded up and taken to a small island off the coast of Greenland, and that I had been left behind because my work wasn't good enough. I bought my first computer last month (iMac), and now I know where you are. Knowing this is so much more important than getting work from a publisher. I know now that work will come.

Thank you for welcoming me to your community!

Karen Lyons

Date: Wed, 9 Dec 1998 17:33:31 EST
Subject: Re: Re: Re: illustration: Creative Teaching Press

Hey Debi! Congratulations on CTP! I've really enjoyed working for them. I usually do 16 page books for them. Their standard rate is about $4000. They buy all rights since it is in the education market. They pay about 30-45 days after completion. Did you talk with Carmella? She's a sweetheart. Deadlines are pretty fast but not unreasonable. Since you have done work for magazines, you are used to fairly fast turnarounds.


(Joy's done 9 books with them.)

There are some valid reasons to work for cheap, but I have to wonder if the publishers hiring illustrators would work for what they're offering us. In other words, less than minimum wage without benefits? How do they think we support ourselves?

I agree. My experience trying to explain careers without sick leave, benefits, vacation pay and 15% social security bills is that people can't identify. All they see is the gross pay. I once read it costs $135,000 or more a year for a teacher plus the classroom and supplies. We pay the studio and supplies.

An art director recently told me he dreads telling illustrators what the project payment will be.

Have noticed doing a job directly with Scott Foresman-Addison Wesley this month that the prices are much better. The design companies take 1/2 of the designated illustrator money often. Did a job with one in Chicago, then Steck Vaughn called me directly to work on the project. Pay was twice as much. Steck Vaughn was shocked to find out how much the design house took out..especially since that design house was telling them they couldn't have the top illustrators because the budget was too low.

....But, problem is, we all love the work..


Subject: Re: illustration: Re: Expose / Shocking Truth

"but I would love to see editors try to keep their 'professional' demeanor when working in the trenches like us fortunate artists.
Thanks for the expose! That's one thing the internet it good for...networking. The truth be told!

I think this problem is made worse because illustrators don't discuss with each other how much (or little) they are being paid


Date: Fri, 11 Dec 1998 13:14:06 -0800
From: "Jessica Schiffman"
Subject: Re: illustration: Re: Expose / Shocking Truth

"the Publisher actually referred to the person that landed the job (from sending in a gif he liked) as 'the winner' as in 'we'd like to congratulate the winner...' He sent us all 'finalists' the gifs for the 'top 3.' I was really appalled. This is a JOB! It's a profession! Not a contest!


YES! I recently was told: "I have $150 to come up with an artist. So I'm having three artists each do three or more sketches (more would be better!) and you'll each get $50 when your done. The one that comes up with a sketch we like will get the job.

I said "no." She said, what if I just give the $150 to you? I said, OK, but I want part of it in advance.


Date: Sun, 24 Jan 1999 19:26:22 +0100
From: Tom Byrne
Subject: illustration: Priceing


There is a pricing debate going on at the ispot. Join in in the chat section. It involves posting works and then other artists guess how much the work was priced at. Things like the use of the work, how long it took etc are discussed.

The URL is Click on art talk and go to the bottom of the Whats Up section, click on "what price would you say?" and go in to read the posts.


Date: Tue, 09 Feb 1999 15:55:16 -0500
From: Claudia Sargent
Subject: illustration: The Essence of the Contract.....

Linda posted yesterday about a BAD contract she was offered-- rather than post the dissection of that deal as a whole, and why it was V*E*R*Y B*A*D N*E*W*S--- I'd like to make some observations about contracts in general, and about advance-against-royalty contracts in particular. I'm not a lawyer, nor do I present myself as one--if you are ever offered a contract that seems too good (or too bad!) to be true, be sure to read it CAREFULLY-- and keep in mind that every word, every comma, has a meaning that WILL affect you!

In Linda's case, I assumed that this was at least a 32 page book, with an illustrated cover, perhaps illustrated endpapers. A normal advance for a book like that, even with a small publisher, SHOULD be closer to $5000 (as opposed to $1,000 advance she wouldn't even consider) when you consider it's likely to take a couple of months to do it. (Check with John Nez, Lainey, Theresa, Joy, and Phyllis for prices on a similar project-- they all are more versed in children's trade than I am.)

"The royalties are 5% of Net Revenues, after deductions of shipping costs, customs, agent commissions, sales commissions, sales taxes, and cost of collection. (I realize GAG says it should be a percentage of the list price.)"

Well, if you saw my LOOONG giftbook post a week or two ago, you know that I don't think a net royalty is the worst thing in the world. If a book has good distribution, you can make up your numbers with quantity sold through the right channels.

What you need to consider, though, is that more than 90% of books NEVER earn out. The advance-against-royalty deal is a gamble for both parties, where the publisher is gambling a portion of the proceeds (your share=the royalty) and you are gambling your time, effort, and talent. The advance on a royalty-based project is always lower than a flat fee would be, with the expectation that the author/artist will earn more in royalties than they would have earned in a flat fee arrangement--- hence, you are gambling on [a]your own talent and [b] the publisher's ability to get the book into the marketplace and sell it. In this deal, Linda was being asked to gamble EVERYTHING in the expectation that the book will sell. Let's say the book has a $20 list price-- the net after discounts, etc., will probably be $10. Take 5% of that-- your net royalty is 50 cents a book. By asking for an advance of $1,000, you are asking the publisher to guarantee that she will sell 2000 copies of the book ($1,000 advance divided by 50 cents per book royalty=2000 books sold). If the publisher won't guarantee that small amount-- it's a bad sign.

"There are many other problems with the contract, including transfer of all rights to the publisher, primary and secondary and subsidiary."

This is by far the most troubling thing about the contract--Linda is being asked to work for free, and to give up all rights to the work, in exchange for 5% of....what?

Sub-rights can be very profitable-- they usually include all licensing rights at the very least. For instance, if you signed this-- the characters could be made into toys, and you'd be shut out of any profits; she could license the characters to a film studio, who could base their work on your work and you'd be shut out-- you get the idea...

The deal, as described, is essentially a work-for-hire contract-- except you're not even getting paid a basic flat fee. In signing this contract, you probably wouldn't see a nickel until 6 months or so AFTER publication--and if the book was never published, you wouldn't see ANY money. (It happens--just ask the 100+authors whose contracts were terminated by Harper Collins last year-- but they got to keep their advances.)The point is, don't count on ANYTHING in publishing if you don't *actually* have the money (i.e., your advance) in your pocket-- you may never see another dime!

Be aware that the essence of any contractual relationship is that VALUE is exchanged for VALUE. Your work has an intrinsic, as well as a financial, value to both parties-- to you, and to the publisher. What are THEY proposing to exchange for your work? There's nothing of substance being exchanged from the publisher's side in this deal-- all the value, and the bulk of the risk, is on the artists's side -- and that's what makes it BAD.

Peace & joy,


I also get excited and flustered when a call comes in from a publisher for a new book project and get a brain disfunction forgetting to ask all the right questions, etc... then finding out I didn't know nearly enough to give a FAIR (to me) quote/cost to the publisher.

So I've decided (it's the typesetter in me) to take the wonderful questions/points that Linda SW has noted above and design a "form" for myself that I can keep near the phone with check off boxes and fill in sections etc. (I'm know I'm weird as I really like to design *good* and *functionally correct and easy to read and understand* forms!)

If anyone can think of any other points that would/should be included on this form, please send them on to me. Also, I'd be happy to share whatever form I come up with with whomever would like it. Forms work for me... I like using them because they help to simply my life and just checking a list of questions would not work for me as the list would get buried someplace under one of the bazillion piles we were all talking about yesterday! And if I tacked it up on the wall I would never see it! :0>


So lets write this list.I already know:
1. Deadline and schedule
2. Number of pages
3. Size of book
4. How many spreads, full pages, spots
5. Will the cover be from the interior or an original
6. Hard or softcover
7. Royalty or flat fee payment
8. What rights are sold
9. Who keeps the original art
Please keep filling in!
linda sw

I put up Lainey's Job Quote form at the Drawing Board ( under freelancing, and I also put up a reply card format. I'm always looking for well written informative articles for the site.

Theresa B.


Date: Sun, 31 Jan 1999 07:56:52 +0000
From: Rodney Schey
Subject: Re: illustration: portrait pricing

i have a price list on my website at

Click on the price list


Here's some info. In our group of studios, we have several people who do portraits, one who does pet portraits. Here's the GENERAL price range.

Artist A: Does classical, 16-17th century oils on canvas, for corporate board rooms. Moody, static, gorgeously painted, time-consuming (she works from grisaille (monochromatic underpainting, thin oily glazing layers) and she gets somewhere between $5K and $20K, (these are large) often working with an agent out of New York. That's one, and her work can be viewed at: Beautiful stuff. Note, she oftens sells the preliminary drawings from several thousand drawings to the families, after the painting is done..

Artist B: Does oil on linen, predominantly pet portraiture, usually from owner's photos, but she oftens takes her own. She is a wizard of the alla prima technique (wet on wet, 'do it fast') and can realistically create one of these in two eight hour days. She charges generally around $600-$700 per, for a 16" x 20" or 20" x 24". Second pet adds a few hundred dollars to the price. She is busy as can be, and quite good at what she does. Hers can be viewed at: although I just tried it and could not get logged on. Maybe you'll have better luck.

and let's add, for fun, Artist C: Doing some portrature from old photos, people are bringing in their parents' wedding pictures, to be recreated in oil, and preserving these old memories. Fee? $600-750 for one person, $1000 for two people, 18"x24", although the price moves around, depending on how easy the photos look to recreate, and the general sense of what the client can afford. These are often people who are doing this for the first time.

None of these works are yet on my website, but you can view the rest of my work at:

Have fun!

Date: Mon, 1 Feb 1999 08:19:35 -0400
From: Kathy
Subject: illustration: portrait pricing

I usually charge $300 for the first person and $150 for addt. people for a private portrait commission (head and shoulders) oil. But then I'm very fast in painting heads, it usually only takes me about 3 hours to do a head. Now if its for a commercial commission then $1300 although it should be reversed because private yodels usually give me more hassle, they don't know how really ugly and wrinkled they are!

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