Need some advice

  • Hello,

    So I am a new illustrator and I really need some advice on how I should proceed with this first job that I have. I am not sure whether I am being taken advantage of or not...

    I am working with a self-publishing author. We have been working on the book for about 7 months. The contract is that I get paid $25 per page of illustration. This month I have finally finished illustrating all 36 pages + the cover. During this whole process, I would submit the work, and he would email me back with a list of edits that he would like me to make. Sometimes the lists would be very long and very nit-picky, so at one point near the beginning, I told him that from that point onward, he is only allowed 2 rounds of edits and then after that the page is complete. He sort of agreed to this, but over time that kind of fell to the wayside and I noticed that he was emailing me with long and numerous edits again but I just kind of ignored it because I just wanted to get the project finished without conflict.

    But earlier this month I finished all of the pages like I said, and then he sent out a list in which he went back and found new edits he wanted in the pages since page #1, because he wants to make sure everything is polished before finalizing and printing. I understand that sentiment but it still bothered me a bit because it is taking up my time and I'm not being compensated for it. I can't keep working on this project infinitely every time he asks me to make some new changes here and there. I did it anyway, again, just to be done with it with no drama as I see the finish line just ahead.

    So now he is getting ready to do the marketing part of the book. He wants to launch a kickstarter soon. Yesterday he emailed me asking me to edit some character sketches that I did alllll the way back in February that are not actually part of the book. And since they were not pages in the book, they were just concepts, I never got paid for those even though that part of the process took about a month of sketching and communication. He wants to use them for marketing purposes.

    So my questions:

    1. Should I ask for payment to edit the character sketches? Since he is using them for promotion and I never got paid for it?

    2. Where is the point where I can be DONE working on this book and he can not ask me to do anything else for him? How do I enforce that?

    3. For future work, how can I limit the amount of edits that are allowed? How do others deal with this? Because very quickly, the amount of time that goes into the illustration outbalances the amount I'm getting paid for that page and it does not seem fair.

    P.S. Honestly I'm already frustrated with the author a bit because besides asking for numerous edits AFTER I'M DONE, he has not yet paid me for the last 16 pages of the book and keeps delaying it. At least have the decency to ask for favors after you've paid me for the work I've given to you!

    Anyway I need some advice and maybe some pointers on how I should answer the email? Should I keep being a wimp and say okay... or say not unless you pay me?

  • SVS Instructor Pro

    @tazzyartist You mention a "contract" what does it look like? Is it written down? All the answers to your questions should be covered in your contract. If your questions are not specified then it will depend on how associated clauses of the contract are written.

  • @davidhohn it is written and signed. He wrote it at the beginning and it just basically says that I will complete x amount of illustrations, paid in 5 milestones, over x amount of time, and the amount that I get paid at each milestone.

  • Sounds like an unfortunate situation! I don't have experience in this area, but I'll direct you to a video Will Terry made with Tyrus Goshay, who has worked with self-published authors. He goes over contracts, payments, and revision limits.

    I'm pretty sure it's covered in this video:

    I don't know if it will help you now, but it will hopefully help you in future situations.

    Good luck in getting this issue resolved! I'm eager to hear what others have to say. @smceccarelli might be able to contribute?

  • @tazzyartist

    I dunno if I can give you 'good' advice other than commiserations. Sounds like an awful situation to find yourself in.

    Have you been paid for the most recent milestone?

    Have you actually delivered the illustrations?

  • 1 - It depends on what your contract states and what you have agreed to.

    2 - It depends on what your contract states and what you have agreed to. If you have agreed to work on it until the client says you're done, you've left yourself open to this sort of behaviour. I write my own contracts stipulating what I will do and what the client gets for the money.

    3 - You write your contract to stipulate your expectations/conditions. The client agrees to that by signing the contract. For myself, I offer three submission stages per image (sketch, colour rough, final) with one round of revisions per submission stage. Extra rounds of revisions are charged. No stage goes forward until the previous stage is approved. I also do not start work until there is a 50% non-refundable deposit in my bank account. If, at any point, the client asks for anything beyond the scope of the contract, I politely point that out and let them know how much extra it will cost to make that happen. If the client is not paying for revisions, they have no incentive to stop asking for them which leads to endless tweaks and a bad effective daily rate.

    Am I right in thinking that you have submitted your milestones on time and that the client hasn't paid you?

  • SVS Instructor Pro

    Good that you have a written contract!
    That at least takes some of the guess work out.

    Can I assume that this is a Work Made For Hire agreement? Or is this an advance against royalty agreement?

    If the WFH then I feel any changes beyond the agreed upon 2 rounds should be charged for. How you charge (per change or an hourly rate) is up to you.

    If you have a royalty agreement set up there is a squishier argument to be made for making all "needed" changes (but even then when working with a self-published author a "needed" change is somewhat subjective)

    As to whether you are being taken advantage of -- even without seeing the details of the contract or the work you've completed I'd say yes, you are.

    But getting taken advantage of on your first job is not uncommon in the illustration field. Especially picture book illustration for self-published authors.

    There's a whole long business lecture in your question that SVS may already have video's, podcasts, or blog posts for. @Lee-White @Will-Terry @Jake-Parker, I'll leave it to you guys to point @tazzyartist to the resources you've already made available.

    To answer your specific questions:

    1. Yes ask for payment. Changes that are requested to work that is outside the scope of the book itself (but are going to be used for promotion) If you are drawing, you should be getting paid.

    2. It sounds like you have already established when a given piece is "done", i.e. after two rounds of revisions. All you have to do is enforce this by refusing to do additional work after 2 rounds of revisions. If the client refuses to pay you then simply inform them that the copyright license only goes into effect once the terms of the contract have been met. That is AFTER you have been paid. Use of the work before that time constitutes "willful" copyright infringement on the part of the client.


    In re-reading your message you say the author/client "sort of" agreed to the two rounds of revisions. Is this in writing anywhere? Better if it's in your contract. An alternative that is also enforceable is an e-mail exchange. Verbal will be almost impossible to enforce. In the absence of a written agreement you are (potentially) in a tough spot, because now the contract is open to interpretation. You feel the work is "done" and payment should be made after 2 rounds of revisions. By contrast, the client may feel the work is only "done" and payment should be made after the client is satisfied with the work. You are both "right". To decide who is more right might require arbitration.

    1. Yes you can limit the number of revisions and you should! Simply specify how revisions are handled in the contract. I break a project into three parts. Rough Sketch, Finished Sketch, Final Art.
      I allow two rounds of revisions at rough sketch. These can be fairly significant revisions as I'm not spending much time on the drawings (hence the "rough" designation). Once a Rough has been approved I move on to Finished Sketch. This is a tighter drawing with all details finalized (no color). I allow one round of small changes at this stage. If the client doesn't like the drawing and wants to go in a different direction I go back to "Rough Sketch" stage and add an additional 1/3 - 1/2 the overall budget to the project fee. Once the Finished Sketch is approved I move on to final art. No changes are allowed at this stage. This makes sense as the client has approved two previous versions of the finished art. If a client REALLY wants to make a (minor) change to the final art I charge hourly.

    If you don't yet have a copy go and get The Graphic Artist Guilds Pricing and Ethical Guidelines as it does a comprehensive job of covering standard business practices for the different niches of the illustration field.

  • The guys from One Fantastic Week recently did an interview with a lawyer regarding artist contracts. You can check it out here:

  • This is mostly for question #2. I always get clients to approve layouts. I do clean layouts, and that is their opportunity to request changes. For low budget jobs this is their ONLY opportunity to request changes. If it's a higher budget project or the client seems high maintenance, I will work in a few more stages for feedback so I waste as little time as possible (loose sketch, feedback, layout, feedback, color sketch, feedback etc).

  • @aaimiller @Art-of-B @Concept @Simon-Prime @TessaW @davidhohn thanks so much for everyone's helpful and thourough answers. It really helped me to put things in perspective and realize how much power the contract has, which I'll def keep in mind for the future. I have replied to the author basically saying this work is not part of the contract and unless we include a clause about marketing material I can't do it, and I'm just waiting to see what he says.

    And to answer if he has paid me for this last milestone, as I write this, no, I still don't have the money even though the work has been delievered for weeks now.

Log in to reply