Commissioning Cover Art?

General discussion on illustration, art, and the business of same.
Strycher
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Commissioning Cover Art?

Postby Strycher » Thu Dec 29, 2011 6:48 pm

So, here's a nice broad question for you: Has anyone commissioned art work to be used as an eBook cover? I'm interested in the legislatures of this type of transaction. Is there a standard contract out there somewhere on the interweb that I can copy/paste? What kind of usage can I expect for commissioned work? (Typically, do I get to use work I've purchased the rights to on multiple editions? On infinite copies sold? On advertisement banners [on my web site for instance]? Sell/ pass out for free promotional posters for the piece featuring the artwork?) What ballpark amount should I expect art in this regard to cost? (Don't want to get hosed.)

I understand that you can write a contract to say anything, I'm looking to understand the industry conventions involved with purchasing the rights to artwork by an independent artist for use as an eBook cover.




This is the part where someone links me to a commonly referenced writing guru like DWS or Mike Resnick, right? I'm sooooo lazy . . .

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MJNL
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Re: Commissioning Cover Art?

Postby MJNL » Thu Dec 29, 2011 8:32 pm

Well, price will largely depend on the professional status of the artist (established pro? Neo pro? Semi-pro? Hobbiest?). Pro rates for black and white illustrations start at 200 USD, that I've seen. Color is way more expensive.

I think usually you purchase the right to exclusively reproduce and distribute (within stipulated venues--ie, as a cover for said work, as digital advertisement for said work, etc.) for a certain period, and non exclusive rights after that (to protect ongoing sales of the product) The exclusivity usually does not include the artist's rights to display/distribute that work for self promotion, or to sell the original(unless explicitly prohibited in the contract)--not sure how prints fit into that.

This is what I've gathered from research and the one art contract I've signed. Hope it's helpful.
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Re: Commissioning Cover Art?

Postby soulmirror » Thu Dec 29, 2011 11:34 pm

As MJNL suggests, you'd have to be very specific as to the venues/rights you're wanting for yourself.

Buying the right to use artwork X on your book cover: can you use it in advertising your book (and where?) -- You'd be paying for each use (so, for instance, you might not expect to print out posters or small prints to promote your book, if that's cutting into the Artist's sales of posters and prints. What if it becomes an audio book, did you pay for the right to use art X on a cd cover, or to advertise that?)

The point is: It all belongs to the artist, unless you've specifically agreed to and paid for uses.

A beginner will allow you more uses than a pro, without expecting you to pay for mere future possibilities and uses.

(Writers are often in the same boat: are you signing away possible future movie or tv adaptation rights, audio rights, etc to your story or characters ... for FREE? We ALL need to think carefully!)
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Re: Commissioning Cover Art?

Postby izanobu » Fri Dec 30, 2011 12:34 am

I usually avoid some of this by buying my own stock art/photos and then teh person I hire does the work without expectation of any ownership beyond that, since I own the image rights (depending on what rights I purchased).

I am having an artist do some fantasy covers for me and we agreed that I was paying her for the right to use the image as a book cover, both digital and in print, also on promotional things like bookmarks, business cards, bookplates, etc. She gets to keep the original paintings and she is allowed to make and sell prints etc from them as she pleases (or to sell the original paintings). My only stipulation was that the paintings cannot be used for any other book cover or media-related work. She's cool with this agreement, I'm cool with it (it makes sense to both of us).

And you can find people who do very nice work who are willing to do color illustrations for fairly cheap. Of course, by fairly cheap, I do mean 100-400 bucks. Deviantart is a good place to start, as is looking at covers other people have (especially self-published books) and finding out who their artist is. It never hurts to ask the artist for a quote, their prices might be less than you think.

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Re: Commissioning Cover Art?

Postby ThomasKCarpenter » Fri Dec 30, 2011 7:47 am

I tried the Deviant Art route to commission original art for a novel that I still don't have a cover for and the prices were either too high for my tastes ($1k+) or the artist agreed to the work and then flaked out. After the third flake out, I set the novel aside for the time being.

On the flip side, if it only requires stock photos and a cover designer, then I've had good success. I've used four different cover designers and have been happy with each one.
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Re: Commissioning Cover Art?

Postby MJNL » Fri Dec 30, 2011 2:22 pm

Well, another place to look for artists would be here, supposing you think someone's work might suit your needs (and you could always ask for additional art samples, as a lot of us might be keeping our most recent work under wraps for the contest). Just a thought.
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Re: Commissioning Cover Art?

Postby soulmirror » Fri Dec 30, 2011 3:29 pm

MJNL wrote:Well, another place to look for artists would be here, supposing you think someone's work might suit your needs (and you could always ask for additional art samples, as a lot of us might be keeping our most recent work under wraps for the contest). Just a thought.


wotf007

It's a good thought too!

Seriously though, it's hard to imagine that a writer willing to invest a little $$$ (because you get what you pay for) and time searching for their "perfect" art for their cover could not find a very good artist happy to let them use a piece of art already done.

Yes, deviantarts is full of 1) Amazing undiscovered artists and 2) Flakes. Weed 'em out, wheat versus chaff.

Maybe think thematically and conceptually rather than literally?

You won't find anyone has drawn an exact scene from your book (unless they're psychic, in which case ask them about next week's winning lottery numbers!) -- but sometimes a CONCEPT will catch the eye of the buyer faster than something literally in your book anyway.

Concepts are universal. Something specific won't mean a jot or tittle (?) to anyone until they've read your book anyway.

If your book has a werewolf in it, put a freaking werewolf on yer cover.
I bet deviantarts is FULL of werewolfs.
Freaking manga put-a-bullet-thru-my-head-now manga/twilight werewolfs!

If anyone should ever want a well-dressed Edwardian werewolfs, I got one fer ya cheap, Guv'nor! wotf013

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Re: Commissioning Cover Art?

Postby Martin L. Shoemaker » Fri Dec 30, 2011 3:56 pm

soulmirror wrote:Yes, deviantarts is full of 1) Amazing undiscovered artists and 2) Flakes.


The two are not mutually exclusive. The amazing undiscovered artist I tracked down on deviantartist and then across four other sites still has not responded to my attempt to license his work. I would call that at least a little bit flaky.
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Re: Commissioning Cover Art?

Postby gower21 » Fri Dec 30, 2011 4:18 pm

It depends on what your looking for in an artist.

How many writers would want someone to come up to them with an "idea" and then say "write it" -- you write it and they say..."no that is not at all what I imagined in my head."

Every artist faces this. Then they have to start all over again, not being paid for the art they did previously....and also there are flakes.

I understand the webpage building profession is similar, people want a massive site design with original graphic art for less than $500 dollars or says, "You can add it to your portfolio." -- but it doesn't sound like that is what was happening on deviant art. For the most part, why even put your art up if you don't want to sell it or make it available for sale? If you just want a gallery then just make a website. Maybe I misunderstand the purpose of deviant art. It is a sale site right?

It is better to try to find art already done or maybe give an idea of what your looking for and then see if any of the artist on the board come to you with work they have hidden in their sketchbooks. If the work is not quite right there is always photoshop.

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Re: Commissioning Cover Art?

Postby Rebecca Birch » Fri Dec 30, 2011 4:40 pm

izanobu wrote:I usually avoid some of this by buying my own stock art/photos and then teh person I hire does the work without expectation of any ownership beyond that, since I own the image rights (depending on what rights I purchased).


This is actually a big perplexing to me, so I want to be sure I understand it. If I purchase rights to stock art/photos, I can then manipulate them to use on my covers (cropping, re-coloring, what have you...), even though they are not the actual exact image that I purchased the rights to, correct?
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Re: Commissioning Cover Art?

Postby MJNL » Fri Dec 30, 2011 4:45 pm

Re: Tina--Deviantart is for hobbyists and working pros alike (and if you look at some of the communities there--which I stay away from--each group loves to complain about the other). So I bet there are plenty of people there who post solely for a pat on the back--it probably never even crossed a lot of minds that they are making a potentially salable product.

What you really want is an artist that wants you involved in all stages, because that's really best for both parties and the work relationship. So, for instance, after the initial consultation they'll give you a rough sketch, and take your input on what you'd like changed, and then alter them until you're content. But, once the lines are approved and finalized by the commissioner (you) they're set. It would be unprofessional to ask for line changes after that. Then they can move on to color, and they should get your approval on the color scheme, etc.

Another good tip--don't be a bridezilla. What I mean, is, you'll actually be happier on your wedding day (read:with your cover) if you aren't focussed on it being exactly as you have it in your head. Because no one can see that but you. The more flexible you are, the happier you'll be.
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Re: Commissioning Cover Art?

Postby soulmirror » Fri Dec 30, 2011 4:52 pm

I'd agree with you, Tina, (ETA: and other messages that appeared while I was writing this) that you might expect to have to pay an artist for work done, whether you end up using it or not. The proverbial "kill fee" for artists and writers both (usually a percentage of the full price, if used)

You'd also be right that mere "exposure" (unless attached to a major work) isn't that appealing to many writers or artists, since anyone can get free web publishing or web portfolios. Artists rightfully PAY a contest entry fee to take a chance at appearing in SPECTRUM, for example. If Neil Gaiman offered almost any artist a chance to work with him for free ... we'd jump!

"Jump 'ow 'igh, Mister Gaiman, sor?"
"Oh ... up as high as another bestseller, I suppose, lad!"

But again, I'm not blindly suggesting writers "throw money at artists" (Imagine, though, a swinging pocket watch. It is shiny, it is swinging, back and forthback and forthhhhh ... your eyes are growing sleeeeeepy ... Please throw money at artists!)

I cannot imagine why a beginning (but very talented) artist somewhere wouldn't be happy to sell you the rights to use an existing artwork. If it's just sitting there done ... you have coin in pocket ... what's to lose?
Last edited by soulmirror on Fri Dec 30, 2011 4:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Commissioning Cover Art?

Postby gower21 » Fri Dec 30, 2011 4:54 pm

AH! That clears a lot of it up for me. So it's a mix.

The best relationship are the ones where the parties work close at all stages. <---paraphrasing your previous post. I totally agree. I think this is the same in other professions too. People need expectation management.

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Re: Commissioning Cover Art?

Postby izanobu » Fri Dec 30, 2011 8:17 pm

Rebecca- yes. Read the fine print before you buy stock art/photos, but generally you can use them any way you want that is covered by the license, including cropping, altering, etc. That is why it is call "stock" art. Many of the covers you see coming out of large publishers are stock photos that even I could buy for about 10 bucks that have been manipulated and combined with other pictures and/or original graphics to make the pictures you see. It is sort of amazing once you start getting into this stuff and looking around at hundreds of covers and thousands of stock pictures.

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Re: Commissioning Cover Art?

Postby Martin L. Shoemaker » Fri Dec 30, 2011 9:11 pm

izanobu wrote:Rebecca- yes. Read the fine print before you buy stock art/photos...


And then read it again. And again. And if you're at all uncertain, get a lawyer friend to read it.

Those stock image licenses are generally crafted to be friendly and comprehensible to the layman. The whole point of them is to make a standard, common license that will work for most parties. They specifically want to make everyone comfortable so that there are few impediments to people buying and selling images. So if you're at a big site like dreamstime, they're NOT trying to trip you up or anything. They really aren't.

But it's still a contract, and a contract is a contract. There are very specific rights and limits. They spell them out very precisely. If you've read the license and you still don't know the answer to your question, assume the worst answer -- the answer that benefits you the least -- and do nothing until you can get it reviewed by someone who is competent, able, and willing to give you legal advice on the license.
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Re: Commissioning Cover Art?

Postby Strycher » Sat Dec 31, 2011 9:10 am

Thanks everyone for your advice!

So what we've established is:

*Purchase rights for every use you want individually (and I assume specify usage time table).
*Querying about existing art is less expensive.
*Stock photos are cheapest.
*Request to see a commissioned work at each stage for the design, but remain flexible.
*Commissioned art price range is $100-$400 (or $1K, for a pro on Deviantart? Yikes)

I have an artist in mind. He went to high school with my sister and he is extraordinary. He just graduated from art school and so I'm hoping to get some of his awesome art before he becomes famous and too expensive. (Which I think is an inevitability.) I've got a budget of up to $200, and since he's only made 2 paid commissioned pieces ever, I think that should be enough. But, I want to approach this from a professional stand point, since he's really just an acquaintance. Having seen his portfolio I trust him enough to hand him my (short) story and accept concept ideas from him, so I don't think I'll end up as a commissionerzilla.

Now I'm wondering where can I get the basics of a contract to work with? I'm not confident enough in the law to try to write one from scratch. How have you (anyone) composed such contracts in the past?

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Re: Commissioning Cover Art?

Postby ThomasKCarpenter » Sat Dec 31, 2011 9:41 am

I would say commissioned art can be from $100 to $2000. And a few of the artists I contacted were not from Deviant Art. One did covers for Analog occasionally and he was asking about $1200, but I could understand given the level of his craft and didn't begrudge him for his price. Someday I would like to be able to use him though, but not until my sales grow a bit more. wotf008

And don't forget to add that you MUST add the copyright information of your photos or artwork to your copyright page. And it's also nice to contact the artist when you use a particularly nice photo (one that they would be able to recognize in the final version) and thank them for their work.
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Re: Commissioning Cover Art?

Postby Strycher » Sat Dec 31, 2011 2:45 pm

ThomasKCarpenter wrote:I would say commissioned art can be from $100 to $2000. And a few of the artists I contacted were not from Deviant Art. One did covers for Analog occasionally and he was asking about $1200, but I could understand given the level of his craft and didn't begrudge him for his price. Someday I would like to be able to use him though, but not until my sales grow a bit more. wotf008

And don't forget to add that you MUST add the copyright information of your photos or artwork to your copyright page. And it's also nice to contact the artist when you use a particularly nice photo (one that they would be able to recognize in the final version) and thank them for their work.


No, that's fair. Given cost of time and equipment I understand how a professional level, full-time artist can ask for a higher price. I was just kinda going for a ballpark for lesser known artist at the cusp of becoming "professional." I didn't really make that clear.

I have spoken to a couple pro level artists who do covers for publishing companies (while at Dragon*Con) and they have told me they will be happy to do a commission for a small timer, so long as I can wait the 9 months or whatever for them to work through their current contracts. Not sure how much these guys (and gals) will ask for, but it's intriguing.

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Re: Commissioning Cover Art?

Postby Martin L. Shoemaker » Fri Mar 23, 2012 10:44 am

A late return to this topic. I friend just reminded me about 99Designs.com. You describe your cover concept, and you set your price. Designers who are interested at that price propose and post their concepts. Only when you see one that you like do you pay for it. Pricing seems to run $200 and on up, so you have to be pretty serious about wanting a custom cover.
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Re: Commissioning Cover Art?

Postby izanobu » Sat Mar 24, 2012 3:40 am

That site is CRACK though for looking through various designs and stuff. You can see the winning and runner-up designs on other people's projects and see what works or not. It's a great way to waste time wotf008

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Re: Commissioning Cover Art?

Postby Bard Constantine » Sat Apr 28, 2012 9:20 am

I've been wondering about this too. Not for my (limited) art skills, but because I'm always no the lookout for artists that I might want to commission for a project. Deviant drives me crazy because so many of the artists don't even bother to list their contact info, websites, or anything else to drive potential business. Most of the ones that do are already professionals, meaning quite expensive. Fortunately I have developed a great relationship with an artist there and am working on a project with him right now, but that was a happy accident. I think that artists who are looking for freelance work should make it a bit easier for potential interested parties to get a glance at their business guidelines -thumbnail ideas of the cost of say book covers, stock images, etc.

Is there a thread listing WotF artists who do that sort of thing? When looking at future projects I'd love to check out my peers here first...

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Re: Commissioning Cover Art?

Postby creativestream » Wed Nov 05, 2014 3:52 pm

For a commission agreement contract you should provide a rough description of the project. This could simply be a description of the artwork you want done, number of revisions or edits, the size of the artwork etc. You should also state the payment terms and whether the artist is to receive payment in advance before beginning the work, deadlines, how the artwork will be delivered and the copyright terms – whether you will fully own the rights to the image or whether the artist can place the artwork on their website for example.

A less expensive method and the most common method is to simply purchase stock photography and adapt it using Photoshop. This is what I do. You can either pay a professional or do it yourself. If you’re going to create the cover yourself there are a few design techniques that are essential – such as choosing the correct font for a particularly genre - I give advice on my blog here http://www.wordhook.com/ . Assuming you know how to use Photoshop and follow some universal guidelines on book design you should be able to create a half decent cover yourself.

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Re: Commissioning Cover Art?

Postby Brydar » Mon Apr 06, 2015 2:35 am

I am gleaning as much info as possible here. I have tried recently to post a notice at the state college looking for an artist. I need cover art for a book containing four SS I am going to post on Smashwords soon. This will be the first installment of two books, I don't plan on writing a third unless I get good reviews from folks and good sales of course. The first book I am putting out will be free and is about 50,000 words. My question is this, for the first book I have no plan on charging, could I use the same cover art but with a different title for the second book of SS? The second book I was planning on charging only .99c to download. All my Beta readers have read the first three SS and said they would definitely download the sequel if it was only .99c. I should have asked how much they would have been willing to pay. My second question would be could I offer an artist a percentage of the sales as opposed to a direct payment, or even a combination of the two? For example: $100 and 10% of sales with exclusivity of the cover art used only for my book but the artist can use it for other purposes. This of course would be based on the artist first reading the SS and going from there.
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