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Pricing for small-scale commercial work


I am a buyer attempting to commission some artwork for a novel I've been working on, which is now finally nearing completion.

The novel is split into eight chapters, and I want each chapter to have a little bust-type sketch of one of the eight main characters on the chapter title page. In fact, I have already commissioned a set of busts for the cast for this exact purpose. They are already completed and can be seen here and here and they are lovely. Of course, I dramatically underestimated how early in the process I had this idea versus how long it actually takes to write a novel; these were made three years ago, and the artist has expressed interest in redoing them with the improvements and such she has made in her art since then. I personally thought they looked outstanding already, but if she wants to make them even better, then great! She was a pleasure to work with last time, and I would be delighted to do so again.

The problem that both of us are running into is that neither of us knows what the standard guidelines are for small-scale commercial work. When this novel is done, I intend to put it on some small sale service, such as selling it on the Amazon Kindle marketplace for $2 or so. (If it randomly catches fire and becomes such a smash hit that big-name publishers come in and want to take it, awesome, but I'm honestly not expecting that as a likely outcome.) Therefore, I would technically be profiting off the artist's work, which brings up all the licensing questions and such that neither of us really know. Unfortunately, the problem would persist even if I decided not to get those new updated versions after all; whether I'm using the old ones or the new ones, I'm still using her work in a novel I'm selling. (Besides, I really do want to see what updated versions of them would look like.)

She has asked around, but has not found anything yet. Her exact words from a note I just received:
"[W]hen I posed some questions to friends and groups that supposedly knew, they instead kept referring to larger, much more commercial endeavors than what you are wanting, which is much smaller in scale; I didn't get anything concrete for something specifically like this."

She said she would keep looking, but encouraged me to join in the search in the mean time. Which seems fair; it shouldn't be entirely on her to figure this out if I can help. Of course, the only place I can think to ask is here, so here we are. Ideally, how should my intention to put this novel on something like the Kindle marketplace affect the pricing and permissions and such for commissioning her?
Artist's beware has moved!
Do NOT repost your old bewares. They are being archived.


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 22nd, 2013 07:41 pm (UTC)
Thank you for approving this :)

I forgot to add in the original post: I am not looking for exclusive rights. If the artist wants to find her own way to use or profit off the same images (use them in promotions, put them in a portfolio, whatever,) awesome. The characters and the novel said characters are from are mine, and I'd like to think she'd acknowledge that, but it's still her artwork and I'm fine with that. I just want to be able to use it in the novel, even when said novel is being sold.
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 23rd, 2013 02:35 am (UTC)
Thank you for the recommendation! :D That definitely does look like a neat book. I agree that it's pricey, but I can totally believe something like that would be worth it.
Jun. 23rd, 2013 02:25 am (UTC)
So, the above book is great!

I have done spot illustrations like this and generally it is much less of a headache if you buy the specific rights you need directly instead of fussing with royalties and the like. As an artist, for things like this, I generally sell "first-time, worldwide electronic publication rights in conjunction with ((project name))". I also ask for a credit line. This gives the author/publisher the right to use the work in an electronic format, world-wide, for the first publication of the book/novel/piece. If another edition were to be made, it is the simple matter of renewing or creating another contract. Some artists request an additional fee, others do not (it often matters on the success of the book).
This is just what I, personally, do. Tailor your wording and agreement to your specific needs, of course! :)

As far as pricing goes, that's between you an the artist. From your standpoint, you don't really look to earn terrible amounts of money from this, admittedly. However, from an artistic standpoint, the amount of work he or she did is the same no matter if you sell one copy or one million copies, so be fair in considering the fee you are willing to pay for the rights. It's true that you are not a large publisher or commercial in scale, but that does not make someone's time in creating art any less valuable. In this case, it seems the work is already done and so it might be easier to come to a happy agreement on price! :)

It is very important to draft a contract that you both agree to and sign, as well. In the event that your book really takes off, this can really protect you both!!
Jun. 23rd, 2013 02:34 am (UTC)
What you are seeing there are versions of the pictures she made for each character before, the first time I asked. If I decide to use those, then you are correct; the work is already done, and we'd just need to figure out how much more I owe her for the rights to use it when I go to sell the novel.

Or, she has offered to make updated versions of them, since those ones were made three years ago and she would like to see what she can do with the current level of skill she has honed since then. Personally, I thought they were already gorgeous, but it's hard not to be excited at the thought that they could be even better! In that case, I'd be commissioning her again, and we'd probably just include the rights to use the art in that instead of having to figure the price out twice.

Anyway, thank you very much for the advice. I will be sure to pass it on. :)
Jun. 23rd, 2013 02:39 am (UTC)
That makes sense! That is also what I do. I write a contract that covers the commission AND the sale of rights to the image(s) I make under the commission. It's much more tidy. :)
Jun. 23rd, 2013 06:17 pm (UTC)
From a purely publication standpoint: royalties suck. Many small scale publishing services are not set up to split royalties directly, so it would come down to the author (yourself) sending the proper percentage of your profits to your illustrator after the fact.

That can get messy quickly and led to the some of our biggest annoyances when I was working accounts for a small independent publisher.

I definitely agree with the others who are mentioning that buying the rights for publication, either temporarily for a first release and then renewing or flat out purchasing them in their entirety is the better option.
Jun. 27th, 2013 03:33 pm (UTC)
Like others are saying, offer to buy the rights at a flat rate; that way your transaction with the artist is a simple, pretty much one time deal (unless you end up seeking other rights at a later date, ie, you are planning on using the illos for advertising or something).

I have done book covers for fandom people before and generally give them a better rate than industry standard, because many people in our niche self publish and they're paying for this stuff out of pocket, so I think trying to compromise on the price of the rights is fair, but obviously be respectful of the amount of work the artist did.

Make sure you get either a contract or a rights release letter (if you end up using the work that's already been done) that specifies what you do and don't have the ability to do with the illos. It sounds like the artist will also want to reserve the right to use the work for self-promotional purposes (in a portfolio, etc.) which you seem keen on as well, so that should work out.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )


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