So I knew as soon as I started seriously thinking about publishing a poetry collection that I wanted to have illustrations throughout my book. I started by researching on instagram and tumblr different drawing styles. Some were every realistic, others had vibrant patterns, and another common design style was simple line work. There was something about the simple line work and the way it looked like a hand drawn image that I fell in love with.

Once I decided on the style I wanted, I focused in on finding illustrators that produced that type of work. I found Instagram accounts, Etsy stores, and Fiverr (link) – a freelance app. Next was understanding the price range in the market and seeing what I could afford with my budget. I reached out to quite a few illustrators and was able to begin a process of elimination based on price and the flow of conversation. After a few weeks, I narrowed it down to my top two.

One illustrator had an instagram page so that allowed me to see a ton of samples while the other was from Fiverr which unfortunately had limited samples of their drawing. The price difference was miniscule and shouldn’t have been a factor but for me it was. The last factor was location with one being in country and the other out. I was worried about time difference slowing down the project as well as cultural differences affecting the art work.

I decided to go with the Instagram account since I felt strongly that I knew I liked their style and product. I sent them the poems I wanted them to draw inspiration from with a bit of an idea of what I wanted but still giving them some creative freedom. But I would later find out the better option ended up being just telling them exactly what I wanted along with the occasional copy of a similar image for them to get an understanding of my requests.

The terms of the agreement weren’t completed ironed out and I found myself feeling guilty and demanding when asking them to change certain aspects of the illustration. The biggest problem was the stark difference in the results I was getting and the samples I had seen on Instagram. For that reason I asked them to stop mid way through and to accommodate a refund solution. The cut into the budget left me with a dilemma – do I spend more or let my book suffer because of my poor decision?

I went back to Fiverr and luckily the other illustrator was happy to work with me. This time I asked for 2 drawings instead of 15 to make sure this was the right choice and didn’t waste more of my budget. I decided to up my budget some but also cut back on the original amount of illustrations I wanted in order to combat my extra spending.

When I was confident in this illustrator I purchased 20 more images. I ironed out a few more details to get a clear understanding of the work that would be produced. I felt a bit less guilty about the revisions but still tried to be a reasonable client. I was much happier with the results I got here but learned my lesson.

Purchase a small amount first to make sure you’ll like the results.  

Set clear terms so both parties know what’s expected of them.

Don’t be afraid to change direction if you’re unhappy.

Check out the amazing illustrations in my book Cracked Open!