What Would You Like To Know About Contracts?

  • Hi Guys,

    Next month's third thursday is going to be about deciphering, understanding, and negotiating publishing contracts. We have an attorney from the entertainment industry who will help us navigate these sometimes murky waters. We'd love to know - what you want to know? What you hope to learn? What you've always wondered? What you've had problems with? If you ask questions here we'll use them to help Sara Payne (our guest attorney) formulate her outline and thoughts. She'll be working from most of the standard items in a publishing agreement for the bulk of the content but would love to know what you'd like to know as well. Thank you!

  • Pro SVS OG

    This is a great idea! I wish I had some ideas for questions but it is all new to me, happy you are doing a third Thurs revolving contracts, thanks!

  • SVS OG

    Are there common clauses that we need to know the implications of? Words/phrases/clauses that we should be wary of?

    I may think of more this is just off of the top of my head.

  • @Sarah-LuAnn - Yes - we'll be hitting the main points - if you come up with anything just put them here please 🙂 ...thank you 🙂

  • This will be all new to me too, I can't think of specific questions, but I am sure it will be very helpful!

  • @NoWayMe Thank you - I didn't know anything about contracts when I started out - I probably wouldn't have known what to ask either...I think we'll have plenty to talk about but wanted to check in with you guys to see if we were missing anything. 🙂

  • Pro SVS OG

    The only question for me is what you do when the terms of the contract are not to your liking. The fear of losing a job by "being difficult" is very high for a beginner...How do you judge where there is room for negotiation and where there is no flexibility? How do you know when it is really better to say no to a job?

  • I'd like to hear any personal stories that Will, Jake or Lee might have - did any of you sign a contract with a questionable clause and you wish you hadn't? Did anything come back to bite you because of it?
    I'd also like to know - how does it work if you sign a contract with an American publisher, but you yourself live and are a citizen of a different country? Would it be no different than if it were an American signing it?

  • SVS Team SVS Instructor Pro SVS OG

    Oh I've got some personal stories about contracts! Some of them are tragically hilarious (only in hindsight). Contracts are something that no one really wants to talk about. So big companies are changing some of the language in the contract that actually affects our income A LOT! There is ONE word in a publishing contract that can cost you literally thousands of dollars. Tune in to find out what that word is!

  • Would you recommend* going through an attorney to write up a contract or are there "stock" illustration contracts available online that are good?

    I suppose this would be more for working with a non-professional client because I'd assume that a professional one (like a publishing house, agent, business, etc) would already have one for you to look over and sign.

    *not in the legal sense of the word

  • SVS OG

    @Will-Terry If possible, it would be good to hear contractual distinctions (including things to look out for) and deal structure differences between:

    1. Illustration Work Commissioned by Publishers for Picture Book and Book Covers/Interiors (MG, YA, Adult)

    2. Illustration Work Commissioned by Publishers for Editorial & Other Periodical Needs

    3. Illustration Work Commissioned by Ad Agencies (Print/TV/Web/App/Game Advertisements, POS Displays, Packaging, etc.)

    4. Illustration Work Commissioned by Manufacturers (Imprinted on Apparel, Toy Decals, & Other Products, In-App/Game Elements, etc.) (Though, perhaps technically called “publishers”, I’m including game & animation companies as “manufacturers” here)

    5. Art Licensing

    6. Retainers for TBD Ongoing Work

    7. I'm sure I'm missing other types of work that may have additional contractual considerations, so it would be good to have notation of those too.

    Also if there are any special considerations for non-profit organizations (church/parachurch, humanitarian/NGO, governmental), particularly with ongoing I.P. use and/or buyouts.

    Thanks! 🙂

  • SVS OG

    @Will-Terry A few more things occurred to me after I posted the previous comment:

    Another area of distinction would be contracts with art & lit agents (also the flow of legal responsibility between all 3 parties of Client, Agent, Illustrator, particularly with client-to-agent/illustrator contracts)

    One highly specific question I have always had is regarding contract points/obligations between the illustrator and an ad agency that are not conveyed in contracts between the agency and the end client. If the end client is not aware of something like usage restrictions (duration & region, and consequential costs to any expanded use) and thus do not hold to the illustrator’s agreement with the agency, how is this resolved (or prevented from happening in the first place)?

    There are a few other things that might be good to touch on given the breadth of experience levels of the audience:

    1. Contracts often have moral clauses, which has implications upon the illustrator and any displayed illustration work or accompanying text the illustrator posts/prints/etc., particularly in relation to the end-client

    2. There are often restrictions upon what can be shown and when it can be shown, along with restrictions on information shared with others (especially competitors of the client).

    3. Conflict Resolution. State/Country of arbitration, financial & other responsibilities upon the illustrator, etc. With this is also the reality that a contract does not prevent abuse/breaching of that contract by the other party; however, litigation is costly (financially & relationally), even when “you are in the right”. Thus, there are some hard realities that might need to be addressed.


    When sharing with a friend about this upcoming webinar, I realized that I overlooked a key part to this webinar's topic: "publishing contracts" - So, I suppose much of what I wrote in these 2 posts is irrelevant to the topic at hand... oops — haha — Well, perhaps there's some nuggets in what I wrote that may be they'll help formulate parts of an outline anyway... Regardless, thank you so much for this topic!

Log in to reply