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How Much Do Book Illustrators Earn?

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An artist who makes a living creating illustrations for books earns a salary that is dependent on the type of books she illustrates and whether she is hired by a publishing company or works as a freelance illustrator, and whether she is on salary or works on a contract-to-contract basis.

Average Salary

Artists in the "Fine Arts" sector earn an average annual salary of $57,400, or $27.60 an hour according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This average includes illustrators in the newspaper, periodical, book and directory publishing industry.


Earnings for book illustrators vary throughout the United States. The five highest paying states for illustrators in the book industry are Delaware, California, Connecticut, Michigan and Indiana, which have an annual mean wage that ranges between $61,000 and $133,280 annually. The highest paying metropolitan areas are Wilmington, Detroit, San Jose, San Francisco and Los Angeles, which range between $72,810 and $137,750.

Picture Books

Most full-time book illustrators work in the children's publishing industry, as picture books are the most lucrative medium for illustrators. According to the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, the advance a publishing house will provide to the author and illustrator of a picture book is typically between $8,000 and $12,000. While they share this advance, the illustrator is often given a higher percentage. In addition, both illustrator and author will each receive 3.5 to 6 percent of the royalties.


As with any career, the amount of experience a book illustrator has will lead to an increase in earnings. Because of the nature of their work, this is both due to seniority illustrators have with previous clients, as well as an acknowledgment that the illustrator has improved his craft. According to PayScale, an illustrator with less than a year of experience earns between $10.08 and $20.56 per hour, while five to nine years of experience earns between $15.91 and $36.67 hourly. An illustrator with over twenty years experience can earn an hourly rate of between $34.39 and $82.23.


Kara Page has been a freelance writer and editor since 2007. She maintains several blogs on travel, music, food and more. She is also a contributing writer for Suite101 and has articles published on eHow and Answerbag. Page holds a Bachelor of Music Education degree from the University of North Texas.

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