Since I posted about how to get your children’s book illustrated for $5 at fiverr, many, many people have raised some pretty strong objections.
If you listen to these people, you might justifiably believe the world as we know it would come to an end if we buy illustrations through fiverr and similar sites.
But I’m here to assure you that it won’t.
Here are a few of their objections (some of which I share – read on):
“As a reader, I object”
I read books, too. I hate poorly-illustrated books, and refuse to share them with my children. Bad illustrations are offensive.
And so many self-published books look terrible.
But if you read through my original post on hiring an illustrator through fiverr, you’ll see that I’ve given you a built-in way to avoid finding a terrible illustrator – although, of course, there’s always the chance that a good illustrator will draw bad pictures for you.
Still. This could happen through any type of hiring arrangement. You could place an ad in Craigslist, meet a local illustrator in a coffee shop, get along great, peruse his portfolio and love his stuff and still end up with bad illustrations.
But I think it’s actually tougher that way. Think about it. In fact, if you have a personal relationship with your illustrator, you’d be more hesitant to speak up if you think his art sucks.
“As an artist, I object”
There’s this idea out there that’s simply wrong.
Illustrators believe that writers are either going to hire them… or they’re going to go hire somebody working for pennies in an art sweatshop in some humid country with palm trees.
(Don’t get me wrong, by the way; I currently live in a humid country with palm trees and like it very much.)
Those artists are wrong.
Global vs local? A false dichotomy.
Before fiverr, before the internet, did children’s-book writers hire local artists to illustrate their stories and self-publish them? No, by and large they didn’t. By and large, their stories sat in drawers or on their hard drive and never saw the light of day.
Who can afford to have a book illustrated? Only the most wealthy writers.
If they were brave and sent their manuscript around, and if they were lucky and it got accepted, did their newly-acquired editor tell them to pick a local illustrator to get the pictures done? No way. By and large, editors worked with illustrators they knew and trusted to do a good job (they still do, by the way).
What editor in her right mind would take a chance on an unknown? Only a crazy editor would do that.
That’s why those artists are mistaken. It’s a false dichotomy. It’s not either/or. There was NEVER the huge marketplace for independent story-book illustrators that they imagine before fiverr et al began horning in on their business.
Opening up opportunities.
But wait a minute – “taking a chance on an unknown”? That’s basically what fiverr is about. The deal is, “I don’t know you, so here’s not much money. Make me a picture.” Anybody can do it, and even though they’re making pennies, they’re gaining experience, building a portfolio, and gaining a number of other intangibles that may or may not pay off someday.
Sites like fiverr, elance, odesk… They don’t undermine the local marketplace – they CREATE it. Far more (I believe) than local sites like Craigslist and your local newspaper’s classified ads. Never before could you, an artist, sit home and make pictures for people around the world, picking and choosing the contracts you want for the money you want.
Artists, you were NOT thriving before fiverr. Fiverr artists aren’t stealing your business. There WAS no business before these sites came along. Not really. Maybe you’d have ended up working full-time as a graphic designer, making pamphlets, logos, corporate motivational posters.
And by the way, this isn’t just theoretical; it’s personal. That’s what my husband, a trained animator, used to do for a living.
When the videogame company we both worked at tanked (he did game design; I wrote documentation and also did QA/testing), he went to work for a corporate behemoth. Doing graphic stuff, but also, let’s see… converting Excel spreadsheets. Generating PDFs. Formatting Word documents. Yuck.
These days, he works online through elance, and despite global competition, is starting to make actual money and build up his reputation there.
But it’s your choice… if you don’t like “competing in the global marketplace,” go back to Craigslist and Kajiji and see how you do.
(My husband did have more to say though… I’ve moved his comments to the end, so keep reading.)
Two more objections also often come up among writers:
“I worry about my story”
This comes from writers worried about handing over their manuscript to “just anybody,” presumably some poor person in a graphics sweatshop in a palm-tree country, who may turn around and sell it (or to an unscrupulous fellow American, I suppose).
This really isn’t a reasonable objection. One thing we really must stop worrying about (and here’s why writers should stop worrying) is manuscript theft. Anyway, what are they going to do once they’ve stolen your brilliant story? Spend thousands to have it illustrated? Illustrate it themselves and put it out under their name?
That’s a ton of work or money… with very little chance of striking it rich on that one book. (Sorry; even if it’s the best book, having just one of it probably won’t make you rich.) They’re probably going to make more money, even on fiverr, just shutting up and drawing the pictures you asked for.
Anyway, the biggest reason you can relax is: you’re not giving them your story.
If you read my original how-to about having your children’s book illustrated on fiverr, you'll see that I never once mention handing over the manuscript... except to say that I don't do it. Not because I'm worried about theft, but because a) many fiverr illustrators don't know English well enough to even read a kids'-book manuscript, and b) whoever you hire probably doesn't care much about your story.
“$5? It’s too good to be true”
I agree. Often, it is.
That’s why, in my original how-to about having your children’s book illustrated on fiverr, I suggested that you hire not one but three illustrators to do a test-run with your concepts and see how well you work together.
There’s a decent chance, if you’ve selected your “test artists” carefully, that you’ll get something you like on the first trial run… but I suppose if none of the three artists produce work that meets your standards, you can either shift your standards downward or give up on the fiverr model and look for a more professional artist who will charge more money.
Or stick your manuscript back in a drawer.
That choice is up to you. I’m not here to take away your choices… but to offer some that you might not have considered.
My own positive experience.
However, I also wrote my post based on personal experience, and my experiences have been overwhelmingly positive. I’m not going to plug individual books here, but all of my books are available on Amazon.com with “Look Inside” enabled.
Click through and take a look at the illustrations. You’ll probably see some you like, some you don’t like. With only three exceptions (Maple Leaf Forever, Penguin Rosh Hashanah, The Family Torah), they were all illustrated by fiverr artists.
An artist’s opinion.
Since my husband is an artist and graphic artist, I asked him briefly to be very, very honest about the type of pictures he’s seen in my books (yeah, I never asked him before; I’m arrogant that way).
He said, “The artwork is getting better and better; it seems to be maybe you’re directing it better or something… I feel like more textured work would be more personal somehow. The artwork you have… it’s a little like tailor-made clip art, instead of a vision that the artist would have.”
I really appreciate his honesty, and I almost completely agree. I do believe that if I had more to spend, I would get more. But I don’t believe that just because I have less to spend, I can’t publish my books at all.
So I asked him that, too. I explained everything I’ve said here, about writers who can’t afford to hire a full, professional illustrator. And I asked him which he thought was better, to leave the story in a drawer and never have it published, or to pay for the best illustrations you can afford.
His response: “Yeah, do it. Get it out there. Better to do that than not do it at all.”
Better out than in (a drawer).
Maybe he’s biased because he’s seen how much I enjoy being able to publish my own work… but he hasn’t lost his own artistic judgment along the way.
He says, “It’s great that you can get the story that you want done at a reasonable price. It’s just the level of art that you’re getting. You’re getting an inexpensive level of art, as opposed to someone who might do some amazing artwork with more depth to it.”
One suggestion he made: “I would do it… but I would consider the book as being not the final result of what you want the book to be. Maybe it’s a working copy.”
In other words, if you do find the money somewhere and feel you still love your story and want to do right by it, you should consider plopping down a bit more and finding a higher-end illustrator you can work with together to craft a book you can be even prouder of.
I don’t mind that idea, but for many of us, that windfall will never come. And in the meantime, finding an artist who can work for $10 or $20 or $40 (or even, rarely, $5) per page has such a liberating experience that I needed to share it with you here.
I’d love to hear your stories about finding and hiring illustrators. What sites or networks have worked best, or have you been lucky enough to connect with a local illustrator you love?
Please let me know (nicely!) in the Comments section.