Book Illustrator Hiring Considerations for Self Publishing Authors – Part 2

Book Illustrator Hiring Considerations for Self Publishing Authors – Part 2

Part 2: Rights, Royalties and the scary Contract Agreement

Welcome to part two in this three part series of considerations for when you hire an illustrator. Here we’ll go over some considerations that should be made when finalising a contract between you as the author and your selected book illustrator.

Other articles in this series:
Part 1: Know What You Need and talking Budget
Part 3: Making a Return on Your Investment

The ownership and ongoing royalties from the illustrations created should be negotiated in advance and detailed in the written contractual agreement between the author or self publisher and the contracted illustrator.

Keep in mind that both the author and illustrator have the right to negotiate the terms and conditions of a project. These points below are not set in stone for every book project, but will certainly serve as a guide when making these important decisions.

Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer or finance expert. There’s no direct copyright, legal or financial advice here, advising you of specific actions you should take. These are merely guidelines for you to consider when hiring an illustrator.

Rights: For a typical agreement

It’s important for authors and self publishers to know that just because the illustrator has been paid for the work, does not mean the author owns it. Simply holding the physical illustrations in your hand, does not mean you have ownership of the actual ‘rights‘ to that artwork created. There needs to be proof that rights have been transferred in writing, commonly in the form of a project contractual agreement.

In a typical contract the author or self publisher pays a one-off fee for services rendered. This would include the book illustrator granting all rights of the project illustrations to the author or self publisher. In this case this would also include such terms as ‘worldwide copyright rights‘.

In this instance, the agreement might also state that the author or self publisher can distribute the images and make any modifications to the images, such as re-purposing the illustrations for marketing and promotional purposes. In a typcal agreement the illustrator receives no further payment, after the balance is paid of the one-off fee.

The illustrator is typically credited on the front cover and the copyright page of the book, for eBooks, print books and any derivative book products.

If the author or self publisher creates additional products outside that of the book product for which the illustrations were originally intended, the contract can state that the illustrator is entitled to a percentage of royalties which is negotiated upfront. This is quite common and make sure this is made clear upfront.

Cancellation or not delivering

Under a typical agreement, if the illustrator doesn’t fulfil their part in the contractual agreement the author or self publisher may terminate the project. It may be stated that the author or self publisher can do so with a notice in writing and may remunerate the illustrator a termination fee.

If the author or self publisher should decide to cancel the project agreement, they shall pay the illustrator a cancellation fee based on the work completed up to the point of cancellation. If this should happen, usually all rights to the artwork fall back to the illustrator.


As mentioned previously, most illustration project contracts deal with the illustrator being paid a full service fee for their time and expertise. Where additional royaties paid to the illustrator may occur, is in the event of the author or self publisher choosing to create new products such as merchandising items like t-shirts, for the purpose of financial gain and profit.

In this case, the illustrator may be entitled to additional royalties and this would be negotiated accordingly upfront in the contract agreement before the book illustrator goes to work.

When you hire an illustrator, it’s important you have a contract in place before proceeding. Read over the contract a few times before signing. Seek professional advice if you are unsure of specific clauses in the contract. For the most part, these contract agreements are quite straight forward, usually no more than a couple of pages long.

In Part 3: Making a Return on Your Investment, we’ll cover how an independent author or self publisher can make money back on their initial book investment. This is probably the biggest sticking point for most, because most authors simply don’t plan and factor in how they will drive sales. Some authors shy from investing in their book because they see the immediate upfront cost, but this is because they haven’t considered how they’ll make back their return on investment.

See you in part 3!

4 Responses to Book Illustrator Hiring Considerations for Self Publishing Authors – Part 2

  1. I have written a children’s educational book with 3 versions based on age. I have bought a self-publishing package from West Bow Press worth $2,500. I want to hire an illustration. I like Realism. I met a young artist who is just staring out and wants to make a name for herself in the children’s market. I do not have the $3,ooo to pay, which would be $300.oo for 3 illustrations. What percentage of the royalties is fair to offer her?

    • If you can, see if you can make an arrangement to have a one-off, upfront fee with your illustrator. It’s quite common now.

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