Tales from the Sith Witch - The Official Blog of Julie Ann Dawson

The Publishing Business

August 18, 2011

Five Things You Do That Annoy Me, Part III

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The Cover for The Doom Guardian, done by an actual artist.

The cover of The Doom Guardian, if forced to use my own artistic talent.

I preface this particular rant by stating the obvious. I have no artistic ability whatsoever. I can barely manage a decent stick figure. So it pains me a great deal to have to take the community as a whole to task on this matter. Because they possess a talent I do not, and I certainly need them to produce my books. And I can say I have had the good fortune of stumbling across some truly remarkable, professional and cooperative artists, and I routinely heap praise upon (and send business to) them. I hope they realize that the following does not apply to them, but their heathen brethren.


1. You can’t meet a deadline to save your life. Some of the most bizarre and obnoxious excuses for missing deadlines come from artists. I’ve had artists tell me point blank “Well, this other job came up and it paid more so I figured you could wait.” That almost makes sense, were it not for the fact that we have a LEGALLY BINDING CONTRACT and all. But I suppose it is better than “I’m gonna be late with the art cause my friend needs me to help him with a comic he is doing and he wants to get it done ASAP so you’re cool with me being a few weeks late k?” I’ve had to listen to how a cat’s life-threatening hairball upset an artist so much she couldn’t draw. I’ve had to listen to how an artist couldn’t eat for a day because his acid reflux flared up, which wouldn’t be so bad were it not for the fact that it flared up one day out of the four weeks he had to complete the art. It is almost as if artists live in an alternate dimension where time doesn’t exist.


But see, for a publisher, time is a very real issue. I need that cover art to release my book. I need those illustrations so that I can finish my interior layout. My entire project is on hold until you get your act together. Which brings me to the fact that…


2. You are a goddamn terrorist. You know damn well I have a deadline. You know damn well that I am depending on you to get the art done. So what do you do? You decide to try to renegotiate the terms of the contract and hold my art hostage. Two weeks before the deadline you send emails like “Uh, this is taking more of my time that I expected. I need you to pay me an additional $50 if you want this finished by the deadline.” Or “My friend said you are completely not respecting the amount of work I have to do. He said I should have charged you twice as much. If you want me to finish the art, we need to up what you are paying me.”


Bullshit! What you need to do is come back into the material plane of reality and honor the contract that you signed. But it isn’t like you care about the contract anyway. What am I going to do, sue you? You don’t have a pot to piss in. So you think this is a completely acceptable way to do business? And then you wonder why you get no referrals from your clients.


3. Your prices are obscene. Look, I am the first person to jump to the defense of artists when it comes to getting paid. I know you get a lot of BS offers from people looking to mooch free art out of you in exchange for exposure. Writers deal with that crap too. But unless your name is Michael Whelan or Todd Lockwood, you aren’t getting paid like Michael Whelan or Todd Lockwood.


This is the thing, my friends. Just like a writer doesn’t start out with a million dollar publishing contract, artists don’t start out getting paid $200 an image. If you are going to solicit business from small publishers and indie authors, then you need to develop realistic expectations of what those businesses can reasonably afford to pay. Now if you think you are so amazing that nothing less than professional rates should apply to you, then you should only solicit business from those publishers in a position to pay those rates. Go ahead. Apply to Simon and Schuster as a cover artist. I am sure they will get RIGHT BACK TO YOU.


I’m not saying you should accept slave wages, either. But maybe take some time to look at the marketplace you are soliciting for work. If you have an indie author selling her book for 99 cents on Amazon, she gets a big fat 35 cents per sale. Keep that in mind when you decide whether or not to solicit her for work. If you want to charge her $300 for a cover, that means she needs to sell almost 850 copies of her book just to pay you. That is before she pays for any editing, proofreading, or marketing expenses. The average self-published book sells 200 copies. I’m not asking you to do quantum physics. This is basic accounting.


4. I don’t want to look at your porn collection. I’m not a prude. Really. I don’t particularly care what people do on their own time. If you like to draw nudes, that’s cool. If you like to draw nudes in…um…exotic positions, hey, whatever rocks your boat there. If you like to post your exotic nudes on Deviantart.com and other sites to share with other artists, that is lovely. But if you are going to send a link to your online portfolio to a business, particularly when you do not know the age, gender, or moral upbringing of the potential recipient, keep in mind you are communicating WITH A BUSINESS. I swear to the gods, I have gone to look at some artists’ online portfolios and my corporate anti-porn software has blocked the site. While working from home, I have had my boyfriend walk into the office and exclaim “What the hell are you looking at?” To which I have replied dumbfounded, “I’m not quite sure.”


5. You come up with ridiculous restrictions on how I can use the art. Now some restrictions I can understand. Maybe you don’t want your work associated with a project you don’t approve of, so you don’t want it used for a cover promoting Nazi propaganda or kiddie porn. I get that. Totally understandable. But if you are going to offer to do work for say, fantasy publishers, then you need to understand the norms of the industry and what the publisher may need. There is a difference between creating a piece of art for display in an art gallery and creating a piece of art for publication in a for-profit book. Artists, please, you need to understand this fact.


This one is particularly true of artists who sell stock art packages. Usually, it isn’t until after I bought the package that I can read the license, because these restrictions are never mentioned in the product detail. And those licenses get ridiculous. I can’t remove your obnoxiously oversized signature. I can’t crop the image. I can’t recolor the image. If I am going to use the image for a print run of over 500 copies, I have to pay an additional fee. The image can only be used for a cover image. The image can only be used for internal art. And even if the stock art package has twenty images in it, I can’t use more than three in any single project.


And even when I am trying to contract with an artist on a work-for-hire project, they try to rope me into accepting all sorts of limitations. I am asking you to produce an image based off of MY intellectual property, and you want to tell me how I can and cannot use a derivative work based on my IP that I paid for?


OK, enough picking on artists. Tomorrow, the five thing publishers and indie authors do that annoy artists right back.

  1. Loved the article start to finish, Julie. :)

    Comment by Brian Kittrell — September 3, 2011 @ 12:31 am
  2. # While working from home, I have had my boyfriend walk
    # into the office and exclaim “What the hell are you looking at?”

    But he was thinking “OMG, she’s into the frogs-with-boobs thing too! At last I’ve found The One!”

    Right?

    I have a feeling I’m going to regret some of these comments in the cold light of day.

    Comment by Colum Paget — October 3, 2011 @ 12:34 pm
  3. Colum, did you forget your pill today? lol

    And no, Mike is not into frogs with boobs. I do think, however, he as a secret crush on Yoruichi from Bleach but it weirds him out that she has a male voice in her cat form.

    Comment by Julie Dawson — October 3, 2011 @ 1:04 pm

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