An open letter to all self-publishing writers looking for illustrators

Dear Self-Publishing Writer,

Please stop writing to me.

This letter has been a long time coming. I finally became fed up with your emails cluttering my inbox over the course of 5-6 years, requesting dirt-cheap illustrations for your self-published book that no one will ever see.

The latest email came from a retired editor of a national Canadian newspaper, a guy who really should know better. I quoted him $500 for a cover, and that’s the last time I ever take the time to write a quote for a self-publishing author. Why? Here is his reply:

“Hi Chantal,
It seems as though you are out of my price range. The $500 you quote is more than double the lowest figure, for which the artist offered a front, back and spine.  As it turns out, I’ll probably accept a higher, third quote.
I regret it won’t work for us, as I do like what I’ve seen of your work,

Then he goes on to say:

“My ideal would be superb pen-and-ink cover art, plus four or five bw illustrations interspersed throughout the text. Now, for that I would pay $500.”

I love when they write back to you telling you that they could get twice the work for half the price. Do you expect me to bargain with you? You could probably get some desperate soul to do it for a case of beer. You get what you pay for.

Do you self-publishing writers actually expect your illustrators to work for beneath the poverty line?

What if your book was suddenly picked up by a legit publishing house and they said, man, this is great work. We’ll pay you $200 for the whole thing. Do you think that’s fair?

Of course it isn’t fair. And shame on you for thinking legitimate artists will work for free.

All this brings me to my final point. This has been a bad week for me in terms of getting emails from people who want a quality product for peanuts.

Art is not free. Some of us ACTUALLY TRY TO MAKE A CAREER OUT OF IT. We are not just sitting around doing it for fun and fall to our knees in gratitude when you offer us some money for it. We have bills to pay just like everybody else in the world. You wouldn’t expect anybody else to work for free, so why would you expect it of an artist?

Self-publishing writers: do not contact me. EVER. AGAIN.


Chantal Bennett, on behalf of professional illustrators everywhere





This entry was published on January 21, 2011 at 9:00 am and is filed under Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

4 thoughts on “An open letter to all self-publishing writers looking for illustrators

  1. I couldn’t agree more. You wouldn’t do this to anyone else. You would never call a plumber and ask him or her to fix your sink for free. I get asked for freebies all the time, both in illustration and music. I avoid it at as much as I can. I make exceptions but only for dear friends and charity.

  2. It’s very infuriating to think that people think so little of artists. I only make exceptions for immediate family and VERY dear friends. I’ve learned my lesson after doing favours for people and getting slapped in the face afterwards.

    Hope you’re doing well! Your blog is so funny. I wish my blog could be half so hilarious.

  3. Thanks. I think your blog is great too. I get blog hungover if I’m trying too hard to be funny. Then I can’t blog for a while. I’m doing good. I hope you are well. Say hey to Joel and Peanut.

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