(I got royally flamed for this post on various children’s book writer and illustrator message boards. Once you’re finished reading, whether you agree or disagree, read my response, Why hiring a fiverr artist for your kids’ book WON’T destroy the universe.)
UPDATE #2: A third-world fiverr artist speaks up. An important post for anyone looking to have their book illustrated, whether through fiverr or not.
Written a book and now you need pictures?
Some of us have the artistic talent to illustrate our own books.
Some don’t have to think about pictures because they’re hoping to snag a traditional publishing contract (don’t even think about submitting a manuscript with pictures unless you’ve drawn them yourself).
For the rest of us… there’s shelling out for illustrations. And one popular way to do that is through fiverr.
I’ve ordered and received literally hundreds of illustrations through fiverr now – and had mainly good experiences.
Are you truly going to get away with spending only $5 per picture? Probably not… but that $5 price tag is going to help you out in a few ways, so keep reading.
Fiverr illustrations… step by step.
Here’s how I get my pictures done through fiverr:
1) Write a great book. I don’t even think about pictures until the book is just about perfect. Typos, maybe. But the plot and scenes should be finished.
2) Divide your book into pages. Don’t leave this to chance. You wouldn’t walk into a housewares store and say, “I need… some plates.” No, you need 8, or 12, or however many. So don’t wander onto fiverr with the vague idea that you need “some” pictures.
3) Decide how many pictures you need. If it’s a 32-page picture book, you’ll need 14-16 illustrations. At $5 per picture, you’re going to be paying $80, but it’ll probably be closer to $200-300 by the time you’re done. Can you afford it?
4) Make illustration notes for every single picture. What will it show? I know, in the traditional author/illustrator relationship, you send your manuscript to the illustrator, who uses artistic judgment to create beautiful pictures. Often with very little guidance. You may find a fiverr artist who works this way, but most just do your pictures as a series of one-offs. Many don’t speak English well, so make sure your notes are very clear. If your character is wearing a hat, or is blue and fuzzy, you must mention it, or you’ll get pictures that don’t match your text. And you’ll have to pay anyway, because it’s your fault for not mentioning it.
5) Search for “illustrators” or “children’s book illustrations” or something similar on fiverr.
6) Inspect each gig you find listed. What is the artist offering for $5? Usually, it’s a preliminary sketch only. Look at the gig extras for things like high quality (you need this for print books!). Many will give a tiny 72dpi illustration for the basic $5 but if you want a full-page, 300dpi illustration (yes, you do), you’ll have to pay an extra $10, $20 or more.
7) Ask yourself: do I like this illustrator’s style? Don’t look only at the “samples,” but scroll through actual finished work and client reviews. If no client work is shown, or no reviews listed, be very, very hesitant. Fiverr lets you “collect” gigs you like, so you can come back and decide later. Or you can just bookmark them in your browser.
8) Choose 3-5 illustrators, then buy samples from each. Buy ONLY ONE. Spend only $5. (If they have nothing available for $5, report them to fiverr; this is a violation of fiverr’s terms.) Don’t pay for colour or anything else at this point. You just want to make sure this artist can follow directions and create an image you like.
9) Wait. Wait for ALL the samples you’ve ordered before making a decision, if you can. Some artists turn over a quick request like this in a day or two; others take up to 21 days. Be patient (published children’s books take months and months to illustrate; think of this as a natural part of the process). If you tell them up front that this is a trial for a series of illustrations, they may do it quicker because they want the work, even if the time shown is relatively long.
10) If any artist misses the deadline, fire them and return to Step 5. No second chances at this stage.
11) When the artists deliver, make sure that what they’ve sent matches what you’ve requested exactly. Do you love one particular style? Can you picture their images inside your children’s book, with your name plastered on the cover? If so, you have struck gold. (If not, return to Step 5.)
12) Ask the artist you’ve picked whether they want you to order all at once, or divide your illustration orders into 2, 3 or more groups, spread out over a number of days or weeks. Fiverr is relatively stupid about deadlines, and might give the illustrator the same 3 days to finish your pictures whether you are ordering one or fifteen. If they don’t deliver on time, it may affect their stats, so most want you to check before placing large orders.
13) Place your order exactly as they have advised you to. Be clear. Be polite. Be grateful.
14) Some artists may send you sketches before they finalize your images. I love when this happens, because it gives an extra layer of security and comfort to both you and your illustrator. But many don’t do this. If you want preliminary sketches, try to specify it up front when you order.
15) As each illustration is delivered, inspect it carefully right away. You only have 3 days to request changes if there’s a problem. Check the actual size in a paint program like PaintShop to make sure it is 300dpi and the right dimensions. If you don’t know how, ask someone who does. You can’t tell just by looking: on screen, a 2” 72dpi illustration looks fantastic, but in your book, it’ll look awful if you blow it up to 6”. (Some programs let you get around this, with fancy algorithms to scale up pictures – even though everyone tells you you can’t. I used IrfanView, a free program, to scale up a whole bunch of pictures from 3” to 7” with no noticeable deterioration of quality. Really – I ordered a printed proof and the pictures are truly beautiful.)
16) If there’s a problem, request a modification. You only have 3 days to do this, so be quick. Do NOT add information – like, “oh, yeah, they were supposed to have blue hair and baseball hats and a lake in the background.” It was your job to say this up front. If it’s a small, honest mistake, as part of a big series of pictures, many artists will correct it free. But for huge changes, you’ll probably have to order a new gig.
17) Leave feedback. This helps them find work. Be brief, but be honest so you don’t lead others astray. If they were slow but the art was fantastic, say that. Fiverr defaults to sharing the image you’re leaving feedback on. This helps grow the artist’s portfolio, but I always uncheck this option anyway, so that only my comment is visible. I’m just paranoid: I don’t want other people seeing and stealing my art.
All told, this process could take a month or two (my longest through fiverr). Try to remember, however long it feels at the time, that this is still lightning-fast compared to the traditional publishing model.
Once you have all your pictures, you’re ready to put your book together. To me, this is the most exciting stage, seeing your picture book coming together.
Quick fiverr pros and cons:
PRO: It’s only five bucks!
CON: Usually it will cost you more. Sometimes, much more. But getting a sample from each artist you’re considering for only $5 will probably save you a ton of money down the line.
PRO: You have a set deadline when you can expect your art.
CON: Artists can miss your deadline and there really isn’t any consequence. You can cancel your order and start from scratch with a new artist. I once tried promise+ng to pay a tip if the artist delivered on time, which I thought would get her attention and circumvent this problem. It didn’t. She was busy and didn’t really care about an extra $5, $10 or $20. But you might want to try it… I still think it could work with the right person.
PRO: Since fiverr is a “work for hire” site, you own any illustrations you purchase through fiverr’s regular terms and conditions. They’re yours, just as if you’d drawn them yourself.
CON: Many artists know this and will give you a drawing cheap but then charge $40-50 or more for copyright. Check each gig carefully before buying for any wording that involves copyright or rights in general. Some also charge extra to “remove their signature,” ie not mess up every single page of your book with their name up in lights.
PRO: You have unprecedented access to a huge global marketplace of artists and illustrators. This truly is amazing.
CON: Fiverr is almost completely anonymous. You may not even know your artist’s first name, or whether they’re male or female. You can’t generally contact them directly, even once you’re working with them, and there’s nothing stopping them from dropping off the face of the earth. Also, you’re one of hundreds of clients, and $5 or even $10 isn’t a lot of money, so not a huge incentive for them to work hard to make your book great.
Since you own the illustrations outright, you generally don’t have to list fiverr artists on the cover of your book. But since some buyers may see that as “weird,” since they know most illustrators get credited for their work, some people do work out terms with their fiverr artists where they list the illustrator’s name but he/she receives no further payment.
The biggest fiverr mistake.
Whatever you do, don’t complicate your life and theirs by promising a share of sales. By the way, some fiverr artists don’t want their names on your book and may not be flattered that you asked. If your book is “a guide to big, smelly, juicy farts,” they may not want their name on that project. They may want to preserve their name, and brand, for projects that are truly important to them.
(And chances are, your book isn’t it.)
Fiverr isn’t the only way I’ve hired illustrators. I hope to tell you how to find an illustrator through odesk and elance. But a lot of the process is the same, especially when it comes to copyright and the specifications for the art you need.
Whether you’ve found a traditional publisher and they’re taking care of the pictures for you, or you’re self-publishing your children’s book and have to buy the pictures yourself, it’s always tons of fun watching the illustrations coming together. Seeing your story coming to life at last is terrific, and if you’re open-minded, you’ll probably get even more than your fiver’s worth.
Like I said, I have bought hundreds of pictures through fiverr. Those have been mainly good experiences, though there have been a couple of bad apples, like the “artist” whose knack was mainly with copy and pasting the same main character onto different (illegally copied) backgrounds. Yuck.
That’s not typical. Most of my fiverr encounters have gone way better than I hoped.
And I feel so lucky that I’ve been able to connect with great artists from all around the world, telling stories with words and the kind of pictures I’d be totally unable to create on my own.
A great illustrator, even through fiverr, may even surprise you by discovering a side to your story that you didn’t even know was there – making it even greater than you imagined it could be.
Have you hired fiverr artists? Was it a great experience… or a nightmare?