steve simpson | on illustration

The talented Steve Simpson has kindly given an illustrators view on working in children’s books. Steve has worked with Irish language publisher An Gúm and recently finished a book with Scholastics in the US - as well as working with An Post and countless others. Who better to ask!?

On Irish and UK publishing:
It’s possible that picture books are becoming inviable in the UK but I can’t imagine there has ever been much profit in Irish picture books for a long time. The market is very small and many of the books that do make it into the bookshops are obviously published in Ireland, lots of Irish names, Irish references, Irish towns and green postboxes. This mostly makes them unappealing for export.

As the potential market is tiny, the fees paid to illustrators are, to say the least, unappealing (others might use stronger language). Some of the fees I’ve heard are far below the national minimum hourly rate and with that they expect to retain all copyright (and even the artwork in some cases). If you want to make a living as a children’s book illustrator you need to look further a field.

On working in the US:
I’m only just entering the market but my dealings so far have been very good. I’ve been able to keep my copyright and the contracts seems quite generous by Irish comparisons. I haven’t heard of any pessimistic forecasts.

A little encouragement for the newbies:
Children’s book illustration is a fantastic area to be involved in, I can’t think of a more idyllic career path. Getting started is always a struggle though. The current Irish scene may appear unattractive to established illustrators, however it can be a great opportunity for upcoming illustrators. You might not make too much cash but you will be published. Just remember to hold on tight to your copyright.

(Thanks again to Steve for answering my rant-like questions. You can gawk at his work, here, or read more from him over at Scamp)

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