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Need advice - Book covers

Hello, all! I am coming to you with an inquiry as to what I should do (I'd like to take this commission on) as well as what prices I should be charging. I don't want to sell myself short, but I also don't want to sell too high.

I got an email from an interested commissioner asking if I would do book covers for six novels that he's writing. I've never done this before, so I'm not quite sure what the legalities and whatnot would be included. He states that I would get full rights to the pictures as well as he'd give me credit, so I don't have any inclination to think it's a scam.

On Saturday, November 06, 2010 08:27:16 you wrote:
> Hello there!
> I appreciate your interest! Yes, I am still open for commissions. I've
> attached my commission prices below for your convenience (link here):
> I'm pretty free as far as what content you'd like. Also, it sounds like an
> interesting project. I would love to live in a world like that!
> ~~Milli

His e-mail:

Super fantastic! I really like some of your work, which I'm referencing here
with some comments, then you give some mock-ups which I've already done and a
little synopsis. Then, let me know what your imagination thinks of and the
media you're thinking of and the specific prices.

perhaps too dark but I like
the detail is wonderful
would want a little more
'normal' eyes

throwing this out there as the
style is an interesting difference but which is probably too light-hearted.

ah! lovely in attitude, but
is too light hearted

very nice body and face

another different style that I

Now, I have plans for six books as outlined below, so continuity is important
although we'll probably only start with the first book. I've pulled together
some covers for all six based on the overall theme of each book, but of course
I do not have license to these images so can't use them for any
advertising/promotional/etc material. They're not consistent with the aging of
the characters so won't work anyway. That's where you come in! We just can't
use these for what you do either, but inspiration and feeling conveyed should
be legally okay since that's why I chose these particularly images. He inserts examples of what he wants the images to look like

He explains the summaries here

I have stuck with a mostly monotone color scheme, but this is not necessary to
stick with. It seemed appropriate to me but then I'm a layout guy not an
artist. Whether there is a background or not doesn't really matter to me, as
long as it doesn't overpower the primary images. I actually kind of like the
idea of a background as sometimes these look too "simple" to me which is also
what I like about them. Is it possible for you put background on a separate
layer so it can be included or not as the mood fits?

Anyway, please review the information above and let me know your thoughts and
what price you want based on the style/medium that you think will fit best. My
preference is probably for a high quality scalable digital version as will
give the most flexibility if and when it comes to actually publishing.
(although I love the idea of a full size hand-drawn original, but we'll skip
that )

The only licensing from you that I'm looking for right now will be the right
to use on the web (small image with non-obtrusive watermark) for building
public interest in the book and perhaps as limited printed copies (larger non-
watermarked image) solely for the purpose of review and obtaining a publisher.
We will have to have another discussion if and when the book actually is
provided in electronic form (free or for a price) or is published for sale as
you should have the right to some form of royalty payment in those cases. And
naturally, attribution/credit to you as you like in both cases.

Once I have your initial thoughts, final price then I can give you the go ahead
to actually do your drafts, etc. If you also want to provide prices for the
remainder of the covers/backs that is good for my budgetary planning, but I
will only feel comfortable giving the go-ahread with the covers of the first
two books and that image for the back cover first book, so the rest will have
to wait until I get into the details of those books some number of
months/years from now.

I'm hoping your inspiration and creativity are running wild by now!

oh. let me know if you need larger images as I can send them.

Price List + FAQs

I'm also going to be sending him examples of my newer artwork (as all of the pictures he references above are from April) to see if he'd prefer a more realistic type style. Thanks in advance and please let me know if you need anymore information :)

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( 22 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 8th, 2010 07:36 pm (UTC)
Well something to put into contrast. Logos often are in the range of 500-1,000 USD a piece and upward. A friend of mine does t-shirt designs and she sells the design along with the rights to the image so that they have the right to make as many prints as they want, for 1,000 - 1,500 USD. Hopefully this will give you the idea of what a ballpark price is to sell the image itself and the rights for the commissioner to print it.

They may want to use it online now, and if they want to do a sort of 'pay half now half when printing' sort of deal you need to be very clear about your charges for the rights to publish the image and when the money should be paid so they don't go off printing when they've only paid you a measly 100 USD for the image.
Nov. 9th, 2010 04:30 am (UTC)
As a small note, logos aren't really comparable to illustrations because logos get a lot more exposure, particularly if it's a big company/business. To put it into perspective, a logo for something like a bank can cost upwards of $200,000 - because of the amount of exposure the logo itself will get. The publisher's logo in an illustration book probably cost a lot more than each individual illustration in it.

Basically the question that needs to be asked is "how much would I be making in royalties if I didn't sell the rights to the image".
Nov. 9th, 2010 06:47 am (UTC)
I would like to point out that the vast majority of authors, like myself, don't have 500-1000 to drop on a commission and will be lucky to see that much profit from our written works over the course of our entire lives.

Its interesting for me to see how this commission is treated almost fearfully because it is for a book cover, though it might explain why it took me so long to find an artist to do just one book cover.

Were I an artist, I would just tell them to put in commissions like anyone else, one image at a time, and put them in the queue as normal. Its not like they are going to publish all six books in a series at once, after all. Only quote a price for the first cover, then if they are one of the few that make a lot from their book, you have reason to charge more for future covers. If they aren't, well then you have five more commissions which still isn't bad.
Nov. 9th, 2010 06:56 am (UTC)
I wasn't even talking about doing all covers at once. I'm talking about the price of one cover, and only one. And it's not about being fearful, it's about being properly compensated for your time for a piece of art to be used commercially by someone else.

If you don't want to pay a flat price, then you would have to work out a contract that gives royalties to the artist for every book sold. You could likely end up paying less altogether, but you'd have to keep track of your sales. Flat prices like the ones I have listed are intended to be a one time fee so that the commissioner never has to worry about paying the artist again, they have the rights they can use it how they please from then on.
Nov. 9th, 2010 03:16 pm (UTC)
Well first, if they are self publishing with amazon or lulu or another 'print on demand' free publisher, the artist is going to have to take their word for how many were published. Hiring a lawyer to confirm would cost more than the profit potential hidden.

Realize that the profit made per book is often pennies and if they do choose to have it professionally edited (which is far more than just proofreading) or other features added, they are very likely to actually loose money for having published it. On top of that, the majority of online services promising to help people publish are scams and they are pretty easy for an inexperienced writer to fall into.

For this reason, I would say any deal involving royalties should require that they make x amount of profit before royalties kick in, or at least that they break even. Even then, again, you're going to have to trust them unless they hit it big enough to make it worth hiring a lawyer to confirm things.
Nov. 9th, 2010 12:20 pm (UTC)
Thanks very much! :) I appreciate your advice~!
Nov. 8th, 2010 07:56 pm (UTC)
The first big thing you will need is a contract that explains in great detail exactly what he can and can't use the images for, including that you retain rights to the images.
All I can really say is that I highly suggest picking up an artist resource guide such as:
Graphic Artists Guild Handbook : Pricing & Ethical Guidelines (Graphic Artists Guild Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines, 10th Edition)
Legal Guide for the Visual Artist, Fifth Edition

I know there's another one I had in mind but the title escapes me right now. You can find those two on amazon.com

Nov. 9th, 2010 12:20 pm (UTC)
Ok, thank you for those references :) They'll come in handy~! I appreciate it!
Nov. 8th, 2010 08:06 pm (UTC)
I should have mentioned as well that if he tries to say pay half now and half after publishing, that you get a lawyer to oversee the contract, because there's nothing really binding him to pay you after that.
Even if he sounds very honest and trustworthy, just go by the book to make sure you get paid correctly.
And armaina made a good point about the price. I think maybe your prices are too low for something that is getting published and used. Just remember that he's going to be selling these books with your illustrations on them, and often times it's the cover of the book that attracts people to it ;]
Nov. 9th, 2010 12:22 pm (UTC)
I think what I'm going to do is take the advice of others and sell one 'cover' per book as individuals. I'll just treat them as regular commissions and if he would like more, he can come back for some. If his books DO get published, then we can work something out at that point. I'll tell him this is for web-use only, however~ :)
Nov. 8th, 2010 08:22 pm (UTC)
Um. Is he self-publishing?

If he is, then fine, proceed as normal. If he's not, then he isn't the one who talks to you--hiring cover artists is the publisher's job, not the author's. The author rarely gets all that much input into it, so if he's said anything to indicate that he's seeking a publisher for these, the thing to do is to tell him thank you for the interest and to mention your name to the publisher when he's got a contract.

I would also strongly suggest that you contract for ONE cover, with an option to renew. Tell him that you want to get the process down and make sure you can work together--this is a totally reasonable approach and if he rejects it, it's a red flag right there.

This way A) if he turns out to be the nitpicky client from hell, you don't want to be stuck with him, and B) if he's gonna flake on the money, you aren't out six covers instead of one and of course C) the odds of people actually finishing their grandiose six book outline aren't that statistically significant, so you won't be left hanging on it, or have a nagging contract out there that comes back to haunt you in twenty years when he finally finishes and wants you to do the cover at prices BEFORE you became known as the next Michael Whelan.

Good luck!
Nov. 9th, 2010 07:15 am (UTC)
I concur! I just recently got 'commissioned' for a 7 book set of covers and I just charged my normal price because everything has yet to be written.

Even if it only IS a self-published book hell, you still get to say on your resume that you have had your work 'published'. Pretty swanky!
Nov. 9th, 2010 12:22 pm (UTC)
Thank you! This is good advice; I appreciate it :D And I don't know if he's self-publishing or not. He didn't actually mention that. Or he did and I just overlooked it.

Anyway, I appreciate the advice!
Nov. 9th, 2010 12:56 pm (UTC)
Saying that he might like "limited printed copies (larger non-
watermarked image) solely for the purpose of review and obtaining a publisher" sounded to me like he would like to show or send send prints of the cover to (traditional) publishers, thinking that so his manuscript would get more attention that one without a cover illustration.

It's something I'd ask him to clarify.
Nov. 9th, 2010 01:10 am (UTC)
Heh. "solely for the purpose of review and obtaining a publisher"

Ie. this is probably never going to be published. And as Ursula says, if it *does* get published, it will almost certainly be with cover art commissioned by the publisher, not with the cover art you're drawing now. So I'd set your prices with mostly web-only use in mind.
Nov. 9th, 2010 12:24 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I am going to go based on a cover-by-cover commission and go from there. If he -does- get published, I'll have something set up at that time for it. Anyway, thank you for your input :)
Nov. 9th, 2010 02:43 am (UTC)
Most self-published novels are lucky to sell 30 copies, depending on how many cousins and aunties the author has. Not trying to be mean there, it's just reality. Even if this dude does happen to get lucky and find a publisher, the books would be printed and sold with cover art the publisher chose/commissioned, not the stuff the author is paying you for now.

So I think I'd treat this like any other personal commission, tbh. It effectively is one.
Nov. 9th, 2010 12:24 pm (UTC)
Yes, I think I'm going to do that~ Just treat the entire thing as a single commission, one picture at a time, and charge the prices as what they'd normally be. Thank you!
Nov. 10th, 2010 12:12 pm (UTC)
Former Book Editor for Del Rey books here. And I would processed with caution.

The art director of the publisher is the person who buys the rights to the cover of a book.

If they are just "shopping" this around with your image, I would be dubious if you would see another dime. Plus as an editor, when I got a manuscript with a cover that someone submitted, the cover did nothing to sway my decision if we wanted to buy the book at all. Also I would then look and see if it had been self published which would put it to the bottom of the pile again. We wanted first rights to publish not second.
Nov. 10th, 2010 01:44 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much for this :) I really appreciate it~! :D
Nov. 11th, 2010 12:23 am (UTC)
Hehe, nothing says proceed with caution like Bad Idea Bears!
Nov. 11th, 2010 12:47 am (UTC)
Yep *grin*

( 22 comments — Leave a comment )


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