“How did you get illustration projects?”—Anna Faktorovich, PhD Interview

Faktorovich: How did you convince the first person that hired you as an animator/ illustrator that you deserved the job? Would you/ have you showed your portfolio from those days to the general public? Why or why not? (Can you share any of your early illustrations/ drawings as part of this interview?) What was the highest amount you’ve made for one of your illustrations? Was it from a flat payment for freelance work, or a percentage in royalties based on sales of the book? How did you get that project? Did you work with an agent? While in theory people told you that you can grow rich from illustration, has this really been the case in your experience. This is probably of top interest to new illustrators who are considering if this path is worth the sacrifice of more artsy pursuits.

IMG_1991Adams: The first person who hired me as an illustrator chose me because I had a sketchbook full of drawings with me. I had the person describe in words a character: appearance, emotion, and action. As they spoke, I drew. When they asked for my card, I told them I didn’t have one, but wrote their name inside my journal. They left hoping I’d call or email, because I had the drawing of their character in my sketchbook.

That’s how you get the job. Don’t carry a cumbersome portfolio of messy charcoal figure drawings. Don’t send them to your weak website, because they won’t bother viewing your portfolio page. Don’t wait!

Drawing in public was my best portfolio. Developing the spiel took some time, but worth every failure. It goes kinda like this:

Contact: “Hey, you’re talented. Are you a professional illustrator?”

Me: “Yes, I’m an award-winning children’s book illustrator.”

Contact: “Wow, I know a friend who has written a children’s book and needs an illustrator.”

Me: “That’s wonderful, I don’t have a card, but I’ll write down your email and you can forward it on to your friend. They can contact me when they’re ready.”

Contact: “Wonderful. Where can I get one of your books?”

Me: “I’ve illustrated over 50. If you go to the Barnes and Noble in the mall and buy a book, I’ll sign it now before I leave.”

Contact: “I’ll be right back!”

See how working on the spiel can land contracts and sell books. It took time though.

The most I’ve ever received for a single painting was $2,500 freelance for Marc Michaels Interior Design in Orlando, Florida. Nancy Short, Principal at Ansana Interior Design, Inc., commissioned my services after seeing art and furniture I had created for my own home.

My children’s book illustrations pay a deposit up front (average $8,000.00) and a royalty for the life of the book including merchandising (average 10-20%). I tend to be my own agent, actively interviewing prospective clients. The more hands in the cookie jar, the fewer cookies for everyone.

FullSizeRenderGetting “rich” as an illustrator is one of those words with double meaning. Is rich money? Is rich knowledge? Is rich cultivating strong relationships? As an illustrator, I invested $100 in supplies and generated $8,000 and a 10% royalty for life. That’s rich when you finish 6-8 books a year. As a publisher, holiday book sales make you rich! Until January, when you reorder 20,000 books to replenish inventory.

The knowledge and relationships cultivated through this journey are priceless. My animation dream was the stepping stone to my full potential. Authors and Illustrators create new realities for themselves and others.
Read the complete interview with Mark Adams, Award-Winning IllustratorAdams-Author Bio Photo-mwa.company-template with Anna Faktorovich, PhD

Contacting Clients: Illustrator Follow Up

Be selective with projects and be selective with clients. The pitch has been made though a previous meeting. The potential client’s contact information was received. Now what? Continue the momentum through prompt follow up!

  • Send an email to the contact within two days. The email should include the Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How. Use this example:

“Hello Ms. Jones,

    We meet (where?) at Book Expo America (when?) two days ago. I was (who?) the somewhat funny illustrator. Your (what?) book about fairies sounds exciting. (why?) We can create a profitable story using both our talents. (how?) My contact information is listed below. 

Our meeting was brief.  Did you have any additional questions?


The Professional Illustrator

  • Follow up one week later with an email that reminds the contact of your first email and ends with, “please kindly respond upon receipt.” They will feel obligated to respond or end the discussion.
  • FAQ’s Section Reduce email time by creating daft emails with answers to frequently asked questions.
  • Give correct information. If the information isn’t readily available, don’t make something up. Kindly respond, “Great question! I will research this topic and get back with you shortly.” This builds credibility and doesn’t cause frustration.
  • Be a good listener. Observation is key. Ask personal questions using this simple F-O-R-MF: What is your Family like? O: What is your current Occupation? R: What do you do for Recreation? M: What do you do for Money.? Here are examples:
  1. Mr. Smith do you come from a large family? I bet the Smith children love to read your stories!
  2. I bet you use your talent in your occupation. What does your employer think of your writing?
  3. I run for fun. What would Mr. Smith do for recreation?  I noticed you like sports Mr. Smith, do you play?
  4. I bet working for your company is financially rewarding. If money were not an issue, what are 5 things you’d do for free Mr. Smith?
  • Determine a deadline on the third email. Determine when a client wants to release their book. If the project is six months from starting, kindly email the client once every other month. Keep the enthusiasm you’ve created in the first email. Offer your windows of illustration opportunities. If a project is not of interest, give clients a referral to a trusted illustrator.
  • Be in control of time. Don’t chase a contact! If there has been no communication, file the contact as tentative. There are hundreds of other authors willing to make illustrating easy.


Blog Post: Contacting Clients: Illustrator Elevator Spiel

Graphic Artist’s Guild Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines, Graphic Artist Guild

Contacting Clients: Illustrator Elevator Spiel

Keep it simple. If asked, “Do you illustrate books for other people?” or “How much do you charge?” follow up with this simple elevator spiel.

“Yes, I illustrate professionally. Many clients choose cost effective Royalty Contracts for full use of the illustrations from books to licensed products. Do you have a card Mr. Smith? I can explain more in an email.”

Spiels quickly qualify clients. The mention of pricing, professionalism, and a contract deters non-paying clients and attracts serious clients. A concise spiel is a must at book events, conferences, or on elevators.


Blog Post: Contacting Clients: Illustrator Follow Up

Graphic Artist’s Guild Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines, Graphic Artist Guild

Art Approval Process: Children’s Books

Writing is a revision process. The illustration process is no different. Don’t feel overwhelmed by “the approval process” of illustrations. Your approval is the green light for an illustrator to dedicate time into a final masterpiece. Written input from authors and publishers allows illustrators to adjust images at various stages.


Below is a basic layout sketch. These layout sketches are done quickly and require minimal time and cost. From thumbnails to the final illustrations, each is generally scanned, manipulated, and sent for review. This dedicated time is beyond the illustration process. Provide clear written direction for each page to avoid back and forth with the illustrator.


This layout sketch is basic, no facial expressions and a general feel of the scene. Storyboarding may come to mind. Notes for this page were: Have the fairy eating a snack and reading a map, possibly on the roof or a branch. Show children reading books and make the moon glow.


Layout Sketch


Based on the “Layout Sketch Approval” This pencil sketch is updated with specific details on watercolor paper. Houses have siding, roses climb a trellis, and a fairy is resting on a branch reading a map. New details add dimension; however, the drawing isn’t 100%. A lightly sketched pencil image still fills the page.


Notes for the pencil sketch adjustments were: Add a flashlight. Make the children happy. Watercolor pencil is used in this book. Other books use either a detailed pencil or pen and ink drawing before colorizing the final illustration.


Pencil SketchPencil Sketch

This line illustration shows crisp details unlike the pencil sketch. In this process some notes are eliminated but will appear in the color illustration. For example: Notice how the moon was eliminated from the illustration. This is done because the moon is added during the watercolor stage along with other details.


Sometimes line illustrations are converted to coloring sheets or activity pages. Communicate with your illustrator before the art is colorized, if you require coloring pages. Also note, not all illustration contracts allow the reproduction of line illustrations. Most contracts only allow reproductions of the final illustrations.

Line Illustration



Four approvals later, the color illustration is complete. The moon is glowing and the once flat lined illustration now has depth. As you can see, the author’s and publisher’s input is needed not once but four or more times per illustration. A 32 page picture book is a fun and complicated labor of love. Created by a team for with readers in mind. I use this approval process to illustrate books my clients envision.


Color Illustration