skip to Main Content

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!

This Post Has 10 Comments
  1. What percentage do I give an illustrator friend of mine? I’m writing a book about the chromosome-related depression, that I was born with and suffer from, as well as the numerous health issues it has caused me to be required to endure. Thank you!

    1. That’s entirely dependent on you and what you want. It could be a flat fee or it could be a royalty. And it depends on how integral the illustrations are and what kind of book it is. (i.e. picture book or novel, etc.)

  2. Hi Neil,

    It seems like I’ve managed to get a deal with a children’s picture book I wrote and illustrated (contract not yet signed so fingers crossed). Your tips on percentage rates and advances have come in handy in discussing terms with publisher so I’m very grateful to you. If the publisher decides to have it translated, am I to assume that I get the same percentage rate or should I expect the rate to be divided between me and the translator?

    1. That’s great that you got a deal. Congrats! There’s usually a clause in the contract that stipulates foreign rights. It’s far less of a royalty than the regular book royalty because it’s a sub right. Your translator’s deal is completely separate than yours.

      You could also retain foreign rights if you negotiate keeping them, and shop them on your own as well. That’s a fairly common practice.

  3. Hi there,

    When splitting royalties between author and illustrator via traditional publishing (non-fiction humour book), and the illustrator has done, say, 15 drawings in a book of circa 300 pages of text, would the split reflect that? Or is it always 50:50.

    Am I also allowed to suggest an illustrator to an agent/publisher?


    1. Traditionally, those kind of books are flat fees, not royalty-based. If there were to be a flat fee, it would be small, like 2%. But, usually it would be flat fee.

      Sure, you can suggest an illustrator. It doesn’t mean they’ll hire that person, but there’s nothing wrong with making a suggestion.

  4. Hi. I’ve just gotten commissioned to do a watercolor painting cover for a e-book about a woman’s path from satanic worship and self harm to finding God and Jesus. What would be a good pricing for my work? My internet search has said $250-$500 flat rate and 7% for a royalty fee but your article says different. It’s supposed to be her 2nd book about her journey.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back To Top