Question: Where is the best place to find book illustrators?



Obtaining high quality illustrations is a critical part of publishing children's books, comics, and graphic novels. Knowing how to find the right artistic fit for your story is an important step in making your book as appealing as possible to readers. While some authors are also talented illustrators, most authors will benefit from finding an experienced artist that can help bring their story to life.

If planning to pursue a traditional publishing path for your book, it’s best to let the publishing house pair you with an illustrator once they agree to publish your book. They will have a Rolodex of reputable illustrators and will find the best fit for your story. If planning to use a supported or assisted self-publishing company to publish your book, the leading service providers will have a selection of illustrators and styles from which to choose.

On the other hand, if planning to pursue a DIY or independent publishing path, you will need to do the heavy lifting of researching, vetting, and determining the right artistic collaborator for your book. Here are six resources for finding qualified book illustrators:

1. Other Books and Authors

Finding the right artistic collaborator for you book is an important step.Sometimes the best way to find qualified service providers is to look at the credits of published books and speak with authors in your genre. When you come across a book that contains illustrations you’re drawn to, find out the artist’s name. Illustrators are typically noted on a book’s front cover beside or below the author’s name.

If you’re part of a writers group or have the opportunity to interact with other authors, ask them who they’ve worked with or who they’d recommend. Word of mouth can be powerful in finding the right collaborators. When your peers have had a good experience with a service provider, it’s likely you will as well.

2. Book Events and Conferences

In-person events can be a great way to meet freelancers and other service providers face-to-face. This gives you the opportunity to quickly decide if your personalities and goals align. Working with an illustrator is a partnership, so it’s important that you work well together and are on the same page about your vision for the book, deadlines, deliverables, and more.

Illustrators may be at an event teaching a workshop or doing a speaking engagement. They might also be there to network, just like you. These in-person meetings are a great way to see samples of their work and provide a quick assessment of their style and range.

The SCBWI organization can be a great resource for children's writers and illustrators.3. Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators

This nonprofit 501(c)3 organization is the only professional organization specific to individuals who write, illustrate, and translate for children and young adults. Their mission is to support the creation and availability of quality children’s books in every region of the world. Membership in SCBWI is open to anyone with an active interest in children’s literature, from picture books to young adult novels, Including aspiring and published writers, illustrators, and translators, as well as librarians, educators, artists, students, dramatists, musicians, filmmakers, and others.

Membership in the SCBWI is $95 per year and provides you with access to professional development events, marketing and promotional opportunities, online and print resources, and awards and grants. You don’t have to be a member to access and search their “Illustrator Gallery“, which allows you to filter the directory by name, style, medium, and region. This tool is a great way to research various illustrators and see samples of their work.

4. Freelance Website Directories

A freelancer is an individual who earns money on a per-job or per-task basis, usually for short-term work as an independent contractor. Freelance illustrators are commissioned by writers and others to create drawings and designs for a specific project. They are typically paid by the hour, by the project, or by the number of illustrations produced. Here are three of the top freelance directories writers can use to find illustrators: This platform houses one of the largest directories of freelancers in the world. The site’s search function lets you filter by budget and time line, and provides service ratings and reviews. This platform includes a searchable directory of service providers along with a tool to post a job or project. Service providers that align with your project details will reach out expressing their interest. Then, you can review the providers that respond and find the best fit. Dedicated to the writing and publishing industry, Reedsy offers an array of tools and resources. The “Marketplace” is where you can request free quotes from service providers, compare offers, and collaborate online.

5. Social Media

Social media platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn can provide opportunities to connect with like-minded individuals in the publishing industry. Facebook has many groups related to book illustration that you can join such as “Children’s Books - Writers and Illustrators”. These groups can be a great way to learn about the process, form relationships with other writers, and find qualified illustrators.

LinkedIn is geared toward professionals and can provide an in-depth look at an illustrator’s resume and credentials. The platform even provides a tool for searching for illustrators based on location and whom you are already connected to in your network.

Local art schools and colleges can be great places to find budding artists to illustrate your book.
6. Local Art Schools

A budget-friendly option for finding talented illustrators is to connect with art students through your local schools or colleges. These eager up-and-coming artists are often looking for opportunities to display their work, build their portfolios, and make a name for themselves. Because they lack the years of experience that more established illustrators have, they are likely to offer their services for a small fraction of what you would pay a well-known illustrator.

You may have to provide a little more guidance and input when working with an inexperienced art student, but this option can be a cost-effective way to secure illustrations for a book project on a tight budget.

When you find a potential artistic match, provide an overview of your book’s concept to the illustrator and request a sample of their work. Most will be willing to provide this sample at no cost. Do your research and most importantly, don't compromise or lose sight of your vision along the way.

Photo credit: Jose Martinez Calderon via Getty Images
Photo credit: ronstik via Getty Images