Here is an email I received from someone who wanted to hire me:
Are you currently taking on any freelance work? I am looking for someone to illustrate a children's picture book I am writing. If u could email some sample work and an idea of cost per illustration/for the whole project (about 10-15 pics).
And here is my response:
Thank you for the interest. First off do you have an agent? Also, have you been published in the children's book arena? I ask these questions because, as you may or may not know, it is extremely hard to get a publisher to look at your work without an agent. Additionally, publishers do not take writers with artists unless the writer is already a money maker and they want to keep the writer happy. Publishers have a large pool of illustrators they draw from and they do not like to hire artists outside that pool unless the artist is also the writer.
If you do have an agent and the ear of a publisher the next issue is that I do not give up rights to my work. If you were to pay me to do illustrations I would also want illustration royalties from any sales of said book. A a children's book is 50% about the illustration and no illustrator would give up the rights to their work; royalties are our bread and butter.
Your best bet would be to write a book, find an agent, and shop it around to publishers without illustrations. If you want to self publish and want full rights to the art you might have a better chance with art students or posting an ad on craigslist.
If you have an agent, know someone in publishing, and would be willing to pay for illustrations in addition to artist royalties please feel free to shoot me an email. If not, good luck in your endevours and thank you again for your interest.
When you are looking for work as an artist make sure you have these questioned answered. Lots of people think they can write a book and even more think they can write a children's book, but in this business its all about who you know and what you know. If you do not have an agent publishers will not even look at your work. On many of their websites they even say flat out that they will not look at your work. Its an annoying reality, but its true and if you do not know it you are wasting your time.
Writing a letter like this is also a good way to find serious jobs that will not undervalue your work. I have had people come into the shop where I work and ask if the 25 dollar prints on the wall were originals. I am always very polite when I respond that they are, in fact, high quality prints. In true, it boggles my mind that anyone would ask such a question. I also have had people want to commission work and when I have stated the price they ask, can you do any better? I know they are asking to feel out the situation, but I am not shy when I respond, no the price is firm. It surprises me that people who make three times what I do in a year are haggling, but bargain hunters will not consider the fact that I am in one of the lowest tax brackets. Additionally, when I become famous my work will still be worth more than the person paid for it.
Lesson: you not undersell yourself.