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Commissions for Publications

Please excuse me if this has been covered before...I couldn't find it, but please do redirect me if I just missed it!

I recently opened for commissions, and my second offer is from a friend of mine who's looking to commission an illustration for a published work.

The work is an RPG rule set and framework, similar to D&D. The base rulebook itself is already complete and available online in .pdf format (the illustration would be for the print version), and they are already partnered with Game Parlor for publication and distribution - so although it's a small, independent publication, I'm less concerned about this being "legit" and more questioning "how do I approach this?"

Price has not been established, though already the commissioner understands that a 300dpi illustration suitable for printing isn't going to be "cheap." He's willing to compensate me fairly, he's waiting for me to quote a price that I think is fair. What do you charge for a work that's going to be printed in a book and sold for profit?

Are there specific legalities I need to be concerned about while I'm negotiating the terms of this commission?

Any input would be highly appreciated.
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( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 3rd, 2010 10:18 pm (UTC)
First of all, I'd do some research, talk to folks that do published work for a living. You're going to need a contract. Considering this is to be published, you have to think about the copyrights. Is the commissioner going to own the copyright? He has to buy that from you, which means once he owns it, you have no rights to the image at all.

I'd do some serious studying up on this before you go any further! Good luck!
Feb. 3rd, 2010 10:51 pm (UTC)
I've read US Copyright law fairly extensively, and believe this falls under a "work for hire" contract.

I've asked what their policy has been for other artists, but I'm guessing since they're commissioning several amateur artists, many of them don't have the same detailed contract requirements I'm asking for. Waiting for their response.
Feb. 4th, 2010 01:00 am (UTC)
Just remember what a work for hire means, at least legally in the USA: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Work_for_hire

You would then be an employee-- note that this changes your employment status and tax status- so be sure that they fill out a 1099 form for you. If they are a friend it might be helpful to let them know that their tax situation also changes, as they now have an employee. Also bear in mind that you are not selling the copyrights; they simply completely own everything you do for them. They never need to credit you in any way or form, because THEY become the 'author'.

I have done a lot of freelance work and /none/ of it has been work for hire. You can sell the rights they need without doing that.

I'd personally recommend it be a pro freelance contract with the sale of XX rights depending on what they need (most RPGs will need a first time North American and Exclusive game or book use copyright). But it's up to you, just make sure you know what you are getting into in a work for hire situation. ^^

Make an informed decision and kick some art ass! I hope you are published, that'd be great! :D Good luck!
Feb. 4th, 2010 03:51 am (UTC)
*nods* Thanks for the clarification. Copyright.gov's FAQ only mentioned Work for Hire as a situation in which copyright belongs to the person paying, not the artist. Among employment, they listed a number of other circumstances that would constitute "work for hire," including simply "a contract written and signed by both parties that defines it as such."

Selling the rights sounds more appropriate to this situation, and I was unaware that such a transaction was not under the definition of "work for hire." I may have been using the term incorrectly, I'll look into it in more detail.

Thank you for the clarification of terms. That was my misunderstanding, not a specific offer made by the commissioner. They certainly don't intend to employ me, nor do they intend to publish without my name in the book as an artist, so it sounds like they're just going to be purchasing the copyright. :3
Feb. 3rd, 2010 10:22 pm (UTC)
The main thing to be concerned about is copyright - I imagine the buyer will want to have the copyrights to the work, because it'd be a pain to keep track of royalties for however many dozens of artists they want to hire.
Usually when you sell your copyright with the work, that is reflected in a higher price.
As to how MUCH to ask, that depends on your skill, the time it takes for you to do what they want, and how much they can pay. I would try to make it come out so you're getting about $10/hr, but that's assuming you can work pretty quickly (therein is where skill factors in). Personally I'd charge ~$50 for inked black and white pieces, but I'm not necessarily saying that's what you should charge.

IF you give them copyright, ask if you have permission to use the art for advertizing / portfolios. I actually usually ask if I can sell the originals and so far no one's had a problem with that, so if you think they will sell okay that might reduce the commission price a little.

Edited at 2010-02-03 10:24 pm (UTC)
Feb. 3rd, 2010 10:49 pm (UTC)
I've read US Copyright Law fairly extensively. What they're looking for is a "work for hire" contract, where they do indeed buy the copyright from me.

I'm alright with this arrangement, as they still promise credit to me as the artist and I would prefer to have the larger sum up-front to buy the copyright from me, rather than counting on royalties. It's a smaller publication unlikely to see insanely large sales, and I'm not the betting type!

A contract is in the works, thanks for your input on the pricing methods!
Feb. 3rd, 2010 10:24 pm (UTC)
Things you NEED: Contract, copyrights permissions

Make sure you stipulate in your contract if they are given full rights to the work FOREVER, or if they are only given publishing rights for this one time printing (any re-printing will cost additional royalties).
Feb. 3rd, 2010 10:49 pm (UTC)
Good point. It's already been established that they'll be buying the copyright, but a stipulation on how far those rights extend is a good thing to remember. Thank you!
Feb. 3rd, 2010 10:24 pm (UTC)
If you want in depth info on this subject, pick up a copy of "graphic artists guild handbook pricing & ethical guidelines", most recent edition. It has EVERYTHING you'll need to know about stuff like this, from contracts to industry standard pay rates for jobs like this. =)
Feb. 4th, 2010 12:52 am (UTC)
I second this as it was required reading/purchase for my senior year of illustration at SCAD.

It *does* have alot of info, and I suggest anyone serious about doing illustrations/commissions/etc (freelance & non) to pick it up.
Feb. 4th, 2010 03:52 am (UTC)
I'm not necessarily seriously considering a great deal of freelance work - this was dropped into my lap. All the same, I'll see if I can get my hands on a copy at some point!

Even with the research I've done, it seems there are nuances of copyright law and freelance work that yet elude me. I like to have facts to back up my practices, the reference is much appreciated!
Feb. 3rd, 2010 10:25 pm (UTC)
I'm no specialist in legalities, but I do believe that you'll need to discuss copyrights with said person. If they're only paying you once, you're selling them the right to distribute your piece freely without compensating you further.

If you need some kind of formula, try to consider how many copies you believe the book in question will sell. Consider what its price will be, and how much of the total sale price you believe would be a fair share to you. Multiply that by how many copies you believe it'll sell, and add it to the amount you'd usually charge.

It's generally advisable, for this kind of work, to settle negotiations with a contract. If you want to stay informal, though, try to consider the scope of the publication. Usually, the more exposure your work will get, the more you can charge for it (which is the reason why, for instance, logos are generally simple, but very expensive). This doesn't sound like something that'll see a lot of exposure, but still.

Usually, work that's going to be published and sold, whether it's an independent publication or not, doesn't go for anything not in the triple digits range, minimum. For comparison, a group of friends of mine wanted something drawn for a CD cover, and one artist wanted roughly $1.2k for it.
Feb. 3rd, 2010 10:28 pm (UTC)
To add to it, that price may or may not include the copyrights to the image (as in, you losing your rights over the image) depending on your level of skill, how much they're willing to pay, et cetera.

I'd be wary of selling copyrights if it's a small publication and try to negotiate distribution rights instead.
Feb. 3rd, 2010 10:52 pm (UTC)
Thank you for your input!

By no means is this "informal." A contract is being drawn up.
Feb. 3rd, 2010 10:40 pm (UTC)
Generally my rule I follow is either fandom price x 3, or $20-40 an hour. Whichever ends up with a number that sounds reasonable to ask.
Oh and if it's work for hire (ie: you don't retain copyright), then 2-3x that.

Edited at 2010-02-03 10:41 pm (UTC)
Feb. 3rd, 2010 10:50 pm (UTC)
Most likely "work for hire," as stated above. Thanks for the tip. :3
Feb. 3rd, 2010 11:32 pm (UTC)
[Error: Irreparable invalid markup ('<lj-user=ursulav>') in entry. Owner must fix manually. Raw contents below.]

<lj-user=ursulav> had some very good comments on another beware entry in regards to publication.
She also posted this link though it is mostly focusing on writers:
Feb. 3rd, 2010 11:45 pm (UTC)
My advice: Approach this like freelance work, not like a commission! Commissioners and Artists tend to get a little bit buddy-buddy with trust and leniency, something that can easily drift into a nasty gray area when talking about something that will be put into print and copyrighted and over which there could be some confusion about just who the art belongs to. You NEED a contract that clearly sets forth what is expected, who will retain ownership/copyright of the art once it's out of your hands and in print, how much you will be paid and definitely a timeframe that designates when things are due and when you'll be paid. Freelance work like this is notoriously bad about extremely delayed payment, if it ever comes at all (not dissing your friend in any way, but this is a sadly frequent thing that happens in freelance work, seemingly moreso in RPG art work for some reason). Don't agree to base your payment off of whatever profit the book makes! I usually just try and calculate how much I think an hour of my time is worth, and then try and estimate how many hours a given piece will take and base my quotes off that. It's okay to require everything in writing--and you very much should!

(sorry if I sound paranoid, but legit freelance work for this sort of thing has bitten me and several other artists I know heh. Better safe than sorry!)
Feb. 4th, 2010 04:00 am (UTC)
It does just so happen that the writer has a standard contract he has used with other artists, and a copy of it should be coming soon for me to look over. It sounds like he's open for negotiation, but very much insistent on a written, signed contract before work is begun. That's at least putting me at ease that he's not expecting "buddy-buddy" or "trust" to be sufficient for such a task.

I was initially contacted by a mutual friend of the writer (who I do not know), who has been going back and forth with me on his behalf - mostly to establish if I would be interested in such a piece, and because he's the one who will be footing the bill for this in order to help support his friend's effort. Now that he's given me the details and I've expressed an interest, he's going to the writer for legal details and to put me in contact with him directly.

I'm happy to report that, thus far, both the writer and his friend-who-is-paying have been very professional and understanding both about the potentially high cost of such an illustration, and the absolute need for a contract.
Feb. 24th, 2010 12:14 am (UTC)
Pardon this sudden question, but if your icon is an indicator of the style of work you are capable of, do you have a website or FA account I might have a look at? It simply caught my eye and I'd like to see more now. :)
Feb. 24th, 2010 06:54 pm (UTC)
( 21 comments — Leave a comment )


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