I am a children's book illustrator. I am hired to illustrate a series of books by the author. The first book has already been illustrated by some other illustrator and published by a publishing house. Some rights are obtained by the publishing house and some rights are obtained by the author of the first book but I do not know the terms and conditions of the agreement between the author and publishing house. Should I take the project or refuse?

What all permissions should I obtain in order to take the project?

  • 1
    Are you intending to sell the right to your work or license it? Selling the rights would mean that you sell the rights of reproduction and also the creation of derivative works (i.e. they can use the images anywhere and may alter them without hindrance). Selling the license can have any limitations you want, assuming they'd agree it the terms. Either way, if you agree to a price and terms, get it all in writing, then apply for a copyright if you are licensing rather than selling rights. More likely, the publisher wants you to make the illustrations under their copyright. Work for hire.
    – user15479
    Commented Oct 11, 2015 at 23:16
  • It is much better to get money than "permissions". I do not even know what "permissions" are. I do know what money is. If I were you I would focus on money and forget about permissions. If you are interested in "permissions", you are in the wrong business.
    – user11233
    Commented Oct 13, 2015 at 12:26

2 Answers 2


Whether or not you accept the job depends on whether you think the terms are acceptable. Find out what terms they are offering. As @fredsbend says in his comment, are they asking you to sell all rights, i.e. "work done for hire", they would own the copyright, or are they asking for a license to use your work but you would still own the copyright?

I have no idea how valuable your work is to you or what they are offering. If you're just starting out and you're doing the work in your spare time, maybe $20 and the fun of seeing your work in print would be worth it. If you do this for a living, maybe you need thousands for it to be worth your time.

Of course it's better for you if you keep the copyright and just sell them permission to use it. If they insist on owning the copyright, how big a deal is this to you? Do you think you could sell the same illustrations elsewhere? Do you think they will likely use the same illustrations in another book? Etc. If someone offered, say, $1000 for the right to use your pictures in one book, or $2000 to buy all rights so they can use them all they want, which would you prefer? I'd never say, "No, I will not sell my copyright, period." What if they offered a million dollars? Or more realistically, what if they said, "Hey, if this book works out, we have many other books that we'd like you to do illustrations for." Getting your foot in the door is often worth the trouble of a small first job. Etc.

  • Just remember that if they keep asking for free / cheap work with empty promises further down the line, they are just exploiting the artist. "Fool me once, shame on you..." Once for cheap might be acceptable, but after that, maybe not. Commented Aug 16, 2018 at 16:17
  • @Mindwin Sure. It's impossible to say if an offer is a good deal without knowing all about the poster and his situation. $X may be totally inadequate. $X plus a promise of future work could be a great deal. $X plus a promise of future work but they broke the last such promise might be worthless.
    – Jay
    Commented Aug 20, 2018 at 19:21

Since you are selling your work to the author your exposure is limited, and you should not have an issue other than finding out what the author wishes to do regarding keeping/using the original artwork moving forward.

I would not turn down the work because you are coming in after the original illustrator. If the author has the rights to reuse the original artwork, that should be easily answered and if not he will need a whole new approach.

Good Luck

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