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Book Royalty Rates for Illustrators

Congratulations, you got your first book deal! Now you’re probably wondering, “What royalties will I be getting?” Well, it varies. Let’s break down some areas:

Book cover art

Typically, there are no royalties on book cover work—it’s a flat fee. It may be exciting to illustrate the cover of what will be the next Harry Potter, but, sadly, you won’t see a dime in royalties. So negotiate for as much as you can!

Illustrated young adult and middle grade novels

If you’re the author or author/illustrator, you’ll get the full royalty rate. This is typically 10% but could be lower or higher depending on the publisher and negotiations. There may even be a step clause in the contract where the royalty amount gets higher when you hit certain benchmarks. (i.e. 10% first 25,000 copies sold, 12.5% for 25,000–100,000 copies, and 15% for all copies afterward.)

If you’re only the illustrator on the project, the royalties will be much smaller—if there are even any at all. Most books in these categories tend to fall under a flat fee payment so there won’t be royalties. However, some projects do have them. If you can snag royalties on a young adult or middle grade book, the rates will be around 2%–2.5%.

Children’s picture books

If you’re the author and illustrator, you’ll get to keep the full royalty rate, which would be similar to above: around 10% with possible benchmarks that will raise it to around 15%. If you’re only the illustrator, the royalties will be split equally between you and the author. So that would be around 5% with benchmarks that raise it to around 7.5% when you hit them.

Children’s board books

Board books carry a much smaller royalty rate than traditional picture books. These books tend to be around 2.5% royalties.

Final thoughts

Most of the numbers I’m quoting are from major publishers and are fairly industry standard. However, every contract is different and every publisher is different. You may find smaller publishers who offer far less of an advance but much higher royalties than a traditional publisher. Likewise, you may find the reverse.

One thing worth considering is that most books do not earn out their advances to even pay royalties. So, whatever the royalty rate is, it’s usually in your best interest to negotiate the highest advance possible. That’s my 2 cents (or 2.5%) anyway!

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