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Licensing art

Okay. Looking for advice about licensing commissioned art to the commissioner commercial use.

So I am potentially going to be doing a lot of art for a guy making a tabletop RPG -- he'll be using all of the art in a guidebook that will eventually be for sale. Since this is something a lot of people want to do and since I don't know enough about the project to really form an opinion about how likely it is to be commercially successful, I would rather not deal with royalty payments that may or may not ever happen and would prefer a lump sum one-time licensing fee per image.

The guy pointed out that a flat-rate fee per image (in addition to the cost of the commission itself) would add up quickly for him, since he would need dozens and dozens of images. I understand this, and I understand that this is a very indie project and that he isn't a big business with lots of funds. I do want to be as reasonable and fair to him as possible, but I want to be fair to myself as well, and in the event that this guidebook is wildly successful, I don't want to have given away usage of the art for little more than what the art itself cost.

So I'm not really sure what would be a good compromise. I was thinking about percentages, like maybe a 5% licensing fee on top of the cost of each image, though some of the smaller images would be something like $20, so 5% is only a dollar, which seems.. silly? I don't know.


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( 18 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 22nd, 2011 05:36 pm (UTC)
Or just charge him a one time use fee if he has the money upfront.

I don't know about gametops, but I know about photography. Photos can range from $50-300USD for use in a book. i.e. My friend's photo of a garden in Japan featuring a Shisa statute was licensed to a book publisher for $250.
Jul. 22nd, 2011 05:40 pm (UTC)
I have a friend who publishes gaming books and I believe he does a flat rate. For his first book there were like...30 black and white images that were fairly small, all things considered (filling up corners and what not) and I believe he paid something like 400-500$ for the whole thing. It worked out for everyone and there were no complications from it. They added on a full color cover after that for another 100-200$

Charge whatever YOU feel comfortable with, and I'd suggest doing it as a whole lump sum instead of individual images and he needs to tell you exactly what he needs so you can make up your quote. Might want to make it a bit higher in case he tries to talk you down.
Jul. 22nd, 2011 06:08 pm (UTC)
Hm, when you say your friend paid $400-500 for the whole book, is that the total cost of creating all the individual images AND the licensing fee, or just the total cost of the commission with no separate deal for usage? If the former, do you know what the licensing fee was in comparison to the cost of the art itself?

Charging lump sum for using all the images sounds like a good idea though -- less intimidating than charging per image.
Jul. 22nd, 2011 08:00 pm (UTC)
That was for everything period: art, usage, licensing etc. His artists were also from South America, which might have effected the pricing, as maybe they don't expect as much with inflation/cost of living/etc.

He used the book images in the book, for some promotional materials and his website.
(no subject) - fenris_lorsrai - Jul. 22nd, 2011 06:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 22nd, 2011 06:06 pm (UTC)
Well, the art itself he is commissioning, so they are his characters/etc, and it is against my TOS to sell that sort of work without his permission anyway. He did offer exclusivity on prints in place of a licensing fee, but this, like royalties, would be dependent on if his book is successful enough to garner interest in prints/etc of the material.
Jul. 22nd, 2011 06:10 pm (UTC)
For your percentages idea, maybe do what papal does and charge a minimum (say, $5 per image) PLUS something like %5. this way a $20 pic is $6 for licensing but the more expensive pics are comparatively more as well. Lastly, I'd calculate the cover separate if you were responsible for that because it's the face of the product and worth a LOT more.

Jul. 22nd, 2011 07:14 pm (UTC)
I've done this before. First: How much is he willing to drop ,and is he funded for this project? Where's he getting the money from?
Jul. 22nd, 2011 07:38 pm (UTC)
If this book is self-published (sounds like it is based on "very indie") it's not likely that he'll sell more then a handful; self-published RPG books are a dime a dozen and the vast majority don't go anywhere except the author's mom's attic. So I wouldn't accept anything like royalties or prints-exclusivity in lieu of cash.

At the same time though, you probably don't want to charge the same rates you'd charge for pro work to a dude doing what's basically a vanity project, because the level of distribution isn't really comparable and he probably can't afford it anyway.

I think the idea of a flat rate for the entire book sounds most fair for both of you.
Jul. 22nd, 2011 08:04 pm (UTC)
I agree with this! It's not a great idea to charge the same as would if say...White Wolf or WotC were asking for the same thing. For one guy, if he's spending a few hundred dollars, he probably won't be making it back, and it's all out of pocket from his main job.

If he wants a lot of super complex art and you quote him a high price, after that try quoting him something more attainable but simpler (like just characters instead of full backgrounds or black and white instead of color)
Jul. 23rd, 2011 04:21 am (UTC)
Yeah - there are a ton of tabletop RPG systems out there all competing for the same very small market of tabletop RPG players. 99.9% of indies never go anywhere and in all likelihood, this indie won't go anywhere, either. It's nothing against the guy creating it. It's just the reality, and it does mean that accepting royalties will probably get you shafted and charging a pro rate for distribution is probably unfair.

I agree - if he's asking for so much art that the price tag is in the stratosphere and he's balking at it, offer him simpler pictures that still get the job done. Don't lower your prices past the point you're comfortable with expecting money down the road, 'cause you won't get any. Agree on some kind of flat rate that has a small amount for distribution rolled in, and you should both wind up happy.
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 23rd, 2011 03:47 pm (UTC)
No, but I would consider the resume bump and supporting someone trying to make an indie game part of a discount. Some people are okay with lowering their prices on a bulk deal too. It's just all stuff to take into consideration.

For example, I wouldn't charge family quite as much as I would strangers for the same work because I don't mind working for less for people that have supported me.

It still takes me the same amount of time, but it's a different circumstance. There are people who don't take those things into consideration though, which is 100% okay!
Jul. 23rd, 2011 08:40 pm (UTC)
I was thinking distribution prices. A distribution fee for a major company with an audience of thousands shouldn't be the same as a distribution fee for an indie book with an audience of like, 10.

Jul. 22nd, 2011 09:45 pm (UTC)
Indie RPGs are notorious for never paying royalties.That's just the market reality. Get it up front, or half up-front, half on publication. Yes, it will add up quickly. That it not your problem. Art is a thing you budget for in RPGs. That he wants a lot of art does not create a moral obligation on your behalf. Cut him a bulk rate, if you must, but get the vast majority up front, because the odds of you seeing royalties are very very low.
Jul. 23rd, 2011 01:55 am (UTC)
Licensing fee would be 5% of what, for what?
Jul. 23rd, 2011 05:58 pm (UTC)
Charge what you're comfortable with.

No really, charge what it's worth to you to do it!

From my experience with small RPGs, they are in some ways easier than individual character commissioners because they aren't that picky and there's a lot of creative license. On the down side, be careful of an arrangement where you end up with way more work than you can handle because of a bulk fee (this hasn't happened to me but seems like it could happen).

So what I'm saying is, if you end up just adding a little bit to your usual commission prices, like only 5%, that may not be such a terrible thing, provided your usual commission prices work well for you. Yes it's not a lot extra on the other hand if it's a lot of images it's a lot of guaranteed work that should be easy to bang out (again, provided working with this guy is okay)
Jul. 27th, 2011 05:21 am (UTC)
I've done work like this for a lovely client who has a lot of promise in this field. But, knowing I'm so disorganized, I went ahead and offered him a flat rate on each pic. It was actually less than my standard rate because he a) ordered in bulk for his website and b) he's a repeat customer.

Royalties are kind of a pain to deal with, and the risks kind of outweigh the benefits. The chance that it'll blow up and you'll kick yourself later are slim. I'd go with the flat rate up front and build a working relationship.
Jul. 29th, 2011 08:48 am (UTC)
I don't know if this has been mentioned yet or not, but I would really recommend picking up a copy of The Graphic Artist's Guild Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines. It has full explanations of things like licensing and common business practices for graphic artists as well as form contracts in the back that are free for your own use. This thing is my professional Bible.
( 18 comments — Leave a comment )


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