It seemed like an email that would brighten up my day. An editor from a children's book publishing company had seen my work on my website, had liked it, and was now asking if I would be interested in doing a picture book for them. Further correspondence established reasonable payment terms, and the manuscript that arrived next looked promising. I asked them to send me a contract to go over and the editor said, “We'll talk about a contract after we've seen the samples.” It turned out that they were soliciting several illustrators for the same project. Each was expected to present two pencil and two color samples, and they were then going to make the hiring decision. I asked what they were going to pay for the samples, and the question seemed to surprise the editor. “The samples are for assessment,” she said, “Of course, we're not going to pay anything for them.”

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