Book illustration rates?

Does anyone have any suggestions for how to charge for book illustrations? I have the opportunity to produce medical illustrations for a professor looking to publish a book about neuroscience. He already has a publisher lined up and he is in the final stages of writing the book. This is not one of my professors, just a connection through a connection. He mentioned that the publisher needed estimates of how much I would charge for the project. I will need to create, update, and improve close to 300 drawings.

Is anyone familiar with standard rates for a job like this? I’m a corporate guy, not a freelancer, so this is new territory for me. I’ve heard of people charging anywhere from $50-$100 per drawing for similar gigs. I was thinking of charging on the project as a whole. If there are 300 drawings, and I charged even $50 per drawing, it would be $15k. Seems like a lot to me. It won’t be the professor putting up the cash though, it will be the publisher, so it’s not as big a deal. I don’t want to look like an idiot when I throw out the number.

Tough one - it sounds like a big number when you multiply 300 x 50. But if you don’t do that, you risk taking a bath and having too much work. You might also factor in how much you want the job/client and try to suss out what kinds of numbers they are comfortable with.

I was once interested in medical illustration as a career - and I know people make a tidy living off it, in some cases. Maybe try researching it on the web for a bit. I just saw a job on elance that paid $500-$1000 for an illustration and animation using 3DSmax and CS. Or check out this person - Megan Rojas - Freelance Medical Illustrator

Thanks, slippyfish. Good advice. I guess the secret is balancing that delicate line between hypothetical projected cost and what someone is willing to pay in reality. I think it’s more of a bulk rate cost versus individual product cost. Of course, everything is negotiable I suppose.

Three options-

Charge per Illlustration. The guide from that website may be good reference, but also depends if you skill level is on par with the pro

Charge for the total project. Estimate the amount of time you would need to do it (including revisions) and what rate you would be comfortable with and what you think is acceptable to them.

Charge per hour and track your hours. Same note as above per your rate.


Bottom line though, the advice about what the client is willing to pay is a good one. It might even be the case that they have no idea how much this really costs and are expecting to get 300 illustrations for $500. I’d first ask what budget range they have in mind and the level of illustrations they are looking for. If it is reasonable (I think $50/drawing for line drawings of medium complexity is minimum) I’d work out a proposal. If they way undervalue the project, walk away.

R