For an inexperienced writer, the search for an illustrator may lead to a crossroad, with illustration companies on one side and freelance illustrators on the other. There are some positive aspects and some negative aspects to consider before teaming up with either one. A right decision taken after due consideration can lead to a great long-term collaboration between the writer and the illustrator. Some of the best work in children’s literature has been a result of perfect writer-illustrator teamwork. For example, Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake.
Since an agency is a team of people assigned to their specialised jobs, the illustrators in an agency have no need to multitask or wear many hats at a go (drawing, doing paperwork, marketing, accounting etc.). They can focus on the job at hand and give you the best of their work. Most agencies have a number of illustrators, which gives you access to artists with a variety of skill sets and different artistic techniques. Since there is always a backup artist, there is a greater likelihood of your project being completed as per schedule, even if the illustrator assigned to you is unable to deliver on his commitment.
Since an illustration agency is a professional organisation, chances are that all your other dealings with them will also run a smoother course. Whether it is contracted, promotion, invoicing, negotiating or any other business dealing, you will be working with professionals in the field which can save you a lot of wasted effort both in the short term and long term.
One of the greatest advantages of working with a freelancer is that you have a better chance of building a good working partnership since you will be dealing with him on a one-on-one basis for everything. While an illustration company may be more professional, they usually have a number of clients and are not specifically focused on one individual writer.
Since the illustrator is taking on the work in an individual capacity, he has a greater stake in ensuring the success of your project. If your book is a success, the illustrator gets a career boost as well; this is usually not the case in an illustration agency where the identity of an individual illustrator is submerged within the organisation. Being more focused on you also means that the freelance illustrator has more time to understand your narrative and envision your work. Since children’s literature relies heavily on the visuals for success, this works well for most writers. As a writer, you also have a better chance at negotiation with an individual freelancer rather than with a company. This could mean that you get more value for money and better terms while negotiating a contract and discussing copyright.
A writer’s experience of working with freelancers and illustration agencies varies widely, but the end result should be a mutual relationship that produces awesome artwork for readers.