1. Style, then Artist.
2. It’s okay to do sample projects!
3. Book Illustrations Timing
- your manuscript and its status
- your budget
- your publishing method
- your book design team
- your publishing deadline
- artist availability
Generally, we ask that your manuscript be fully edited, but your book design process hasn’t yet begun. Bringing us in at this stage means we won’t have to make any changes to the illustration because your text is fully edited and won’t change. If you have a book designer, your designer won’t have to re-do the whole layout to incorporate late-addition illustrations.
If you want illustrations, tell your publisher immediately. They might have specific rules about who you hire or onboarding them as a vendor, or bringing your own illustrator for the project can be part of your contract.
You also need to give the artist plenty of time/head’s up. We don’t know about other artists, but we’re consistently booked out 1-2 months in advance. We often can’t take on a short-notice project like “My book deadline is next week can you make 25 illustrations by Friday?” because you didn’t plan ahead, and you’d make us work overtime/rush, and you likely didn’t budget for that!
Turnaround: This depends on the artist, project scope, and their current workload. Most of our projects have a 2-4 week turnaround. Your timely response and communication matters!
5. Licensing rights vs. ownership rights.
Licensing illustrations means you’re paying for the creation and/or use of the artwork. You won’t own it, but you get to use it.
- On the far left extreme, an example would be an icon for sale on a site like Shutterstock.com. Anyone can buy a license to use the icon and use it wherever they want on their website.
- An example in the middle of the spectrum would be a cartoon strip. Any newspaper or online publication can license it, but the artist might have to approve it.
- An example on the far right of the spectrum would be like a commissioned portrait of a person for an article in a magazine. Only that magazine gets to use that portrait, ever.
- An example on the far left would be using an illustration in a single article in a magazine issue, and that’s it.
- An example in the middle of the spectrum would be an infographic made for a business, and they’d be able to use it for 5 years. After that, they could a) stop using the infographic, b) purchase additional time rights if they wanted to keep using it, or c) commission changes and a new contract would be established with new time restrictions.
- Book illustrations: exclusive rights, use in the first printing/edition and any first editions in other translations. Sometimes I’ll add on rights for marketing materials/websites/
presentations for people who do speaking/teaching and want to also use the book illustrations in talks or workshops. Most books don’t sell well and are only made in one edition/translation. If their book DOES do well, they can license the illustrations again for those new editions.
- Articles: For some clients, I’ve developed a unique style or character for their brand. These are exclusive illustrations- no one else gets to use the illustrations but them. The usage rights are only for their blog/articles, social media, and presentations. For other clients who just need a generic illustration, that might be a non-exclusive license if they don’t care if the illustration is used again by someone else at a later time.
- Infographics: These are usually exclusive because it’s made for a corporation with their data, and it’s usually a 1-5 year time limit. Most data gets outdated pretty quickly, and the need for a longer license is often unnecessary.
- Alter or change it
- Create derivative works (versions)
- Re-create/re-print it
- Sell it (i.e. put it in merch, or sell the copyright)
- and basically whatever you want to do since it’s yours.
If you as a commissioner need to own the artwork,what happens is the copyright is transferred to you upon full payment and artwork completion. This is often called a full-rights buyout. You are buying the ownership rights of the artwork from the artist for yourself. This is also called work-for-hire or works-made-for-hire. This is the arrangement all full-time employees have with their employers- if an employee invents something on the clock at work, the business owns it, not them.
Not all artists will work on a full-rights-buyout basis. The ownership of a creative asset is valuable, and not all artists want to part with their artwork. It can be risky to sell your rights.
Full rights are valuable, and therefore costly. You should expect to pay a few for the creation of the artwork, plus 100% to 300% of the invoice price for those full rights. There is no one formula, it’s kind of up to the artist and the circumstances to determine the value.
When we do full-rights buyouts,we often charge an artwork fee + 100-200% of the invoice. So if the artwork fee was $500, and you wanted full rights, and we thought it was valuable, we might charge you $1500 total. Sometimes there may be bulk discounts. Our bulk discount policy is for 50+ works commissioned at once, and the discount depends on the project and scope.
The reasons for needing ownership vary. Some businesses’ lawyers demand it. Others want the flexibility to use the artwork whenever and however they wish because they aren’t sure of their needs.
90-95% of our clients do not need ownership, nor do they want it. It is a very small percentage. Ownership is costly and most people do not factor it in when budgeting.
When you’re equipped with the knowledge of these 5 areas, working with an illustrator should be a much smoother process!