Getting a Handle on the Art Budget for Your Book

Both publishing houses and self-publishers have a vested interest in controlling the costs of book production. Although artwork — and by that I mean photos, illustrations, line drawings, charts, and graphs — adds to the value of a book, it also can add significant time and cost. Why is that? Here are the biggest drivers:

  • Art-heavy books require a lot of manipulation during page layout so that the photographs and illustrations land near enough to the text that they belong with. Sometimes the text may need to be rewritten or captions revised in order to accommodate all of the artwork. Layout artists will charge more to account for the additional time. By comparison, most fiction and other all-text books require much less manipulation, as there are fewer special elements to disrupt the flow of regular text.
  • Photos and illustrations also require licensing. The cost of these licenses can vary from around $40 to upwards of $300 per piece. If you’re planning a different photo for each of the 20 chapters in your book, for example, that’s a serious cost consideration.
  • If stock art is not appropriate for your book, you may have to research museum and library archives or hire a photographer or illustrator. In the case of hiring an artist, in addition to licensing you also have to pay an hourly rate or a flat fee for the artist’s time. Researching archives may not add monetary costs, but it does add time, which is an indirect cost.
  • When artwork is introduced, another professional may also be introduced: the image specialist. This is the person who scans any prints and verifies that the images are of high enough quality to be used in a book. If there is no dedicated image specialist, this job falls to another player in the book production process, and the time for that person to do the work is added to the cost of the book. Publishing houses may have the production editor or layout artist perform these tasks. Self-publishers may have to do it themselves.

What This Means to You

With a large art program, you have to stay organized
With a large art program, it can be difficult to stay organized.

Okay, so having photos and illustrations adds money to your project. What does that mean for you as the author? Well, a couple of things. If you are self-publishing it means having to factor the extra money into your budget. You will use your budget to find the balance between how much to charge for each book and how many books you will need to sell to recoup the investment. The added time must also be factored into the publication date. Copyediting, layout, and proofreading all take longer when a book has a large art program.

If you are seeking a traditional publisher, you need to be able to say why this artwork is needed and why the cost is justified. Some types of books simply require photos if they are going to be successful. For example, a cookbook with photos sells much better than one  without. Depending on the target audience, children’s books usually require artwork also. The publisher may want the author to provide and/or pay for said artwork. (Providing means either creating it yourself or hiring and paying a professional.) Again, your budget will need to be consulted and adjusted.

But never fear, you have options for saving money.

How to Save Money on Your Art Program

When planning the art program for your book, the first question you should ask yourself is, does your book require artwork? If the answer is yes, the follow-up question is how much artwork does it require? Not surprisingly, having a handful of photos will take less time and cost less money than a book with many pieces of art or many kinds of artwork. If you can achieve the same effect with less, then use less.

Sometimes black-and-white photos are just as effective as color.
Sometimes black-and-white photos are just as effective as color.

Another question to ask is, do the photos and illustrations need to be in color, or will black-and-white accomplish the same goals? Color photos require premium paper in order for them to reproduce properly. The cost per book for 4-color books is also quite high compared to a 1-color book (i.e., black-and-white). Is the value that color photos add to your book equal to or greater than the expense of including them? In some instances, if the photos aren’t in color they aren’t worth having at all. A thorough check of the competition can help you make this decision.

Finally, ask yourself, do the photos need to be placed throughout the book, or could they be gathered together and placed in the middle of the book? This alternative to a full art program, called a photo insert, is becoming more and more popular. A happy compromise on cost and readers’ expectations for photographs, a photo insert is the 8 or 16 pages of photographs you see dropped in the middle of a book. This feature is cheaper than having photos placed throughout the book because (1) you only have to pay for a few sheets of specialty paper and (2) layout does not have to accommodate the images, yet you still get to have your photos. Perhaps an insert is right for your book.

Like this blog? Check out Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, available through Hop On Publishing, Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Left Bank Books, and other retailers.

Advertisements

3 thoughts on “Getting a Handle on the Art Budget for Your Book”

  1. Anyone relying on Print on Demand needs to know that color inserts are not an option with CreateSpace, and probably not with other POD printers. Aside from the cover, you must choose between black and white or color for the entire book. You’ll probably experience sticker shock when you see the print price for color.

    1. That’s a great point, Sharon. POD printers are limited in what they can do. For self-publishers who have a lot of photos, it is probably worth getting quotes from offset printers as well. You have to print more to make the price per unit manageable, but the quality is much improved. Those approaching traditional publishers may want to propose a color insert for their project.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s