Smaller publishers, deals, risk of working for free?

  • Congrats on getting a book deal, I wouldn't have the experience to comment or offer advice, but would be interested in hearing people thoughts on this. I have heard that in the UK it would be an advance approx 5,000 sterling and a percentage on the royalties but maybe not as much as 25%.

    Just curious do they give you a figure for the production and marketing costs, so you know how much the book needs to sell before you see any monies?


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  • Pro

    @KajsaH Congrats on the book deal! That being said, I personally would be worried, not necessarily because of low pay (I mean I accepted my first children book for 1500$ advance so who am I to talk about that?) but because the deal seems exceptionally dickish. As the publisher, it is their responsibility to take on any risks involved with publishing. That is what a publishing company does. With this deal, they take zero of the responsibility, they do zero of the work (it will be written and illustrated by you guys not them) and they get 50% of the profits. How does that add up? It's the principle of the thing that bug me the most, that they would pass on the risk onto their authors!! It galls me!! (Sorry, I'm getting a bit worked up...) If I were you, I think I would explain in a wording that very politely shames them that it doesn't seem right for the publisher to pass on the risk onto you then take 50% of the profits, and counter-offer with a more "traditional" publishing deal: something like 10% royalties divided between you and the author and an advance. The advance itself can be low (as I said I accepted 1500$ for mine...) but at least you would be getting something out of it right away, and like I said it just wouldn't sit well with me to accept a deal that seems so incredibly... douchebag-like! Just on principle...

  • @NessIllustration Yes, you are absolutely right! It's their job to publish books and take that cost, I was being too nice 😛 and yeah, it doesn't really add up...I will try to counter them with a more fair deal, see how they react. The good thing is though, that it was the author who chose me and the publisher doesn't seem to have much say in that, so maybe I have some room to negotiate? I mean without risking loosing the job to another illustrator 😛
    Thanks so much for your response! I hate this bit of the business so I need people like you telling me straight out when something's off 😉

  • Hmmm. I think Ness is right but also I think I would do it if I were in your shoes. Risk reward type thing. Especially if 25% is higher than average royalty.
    If you have a little time before the signed contract needs returning could you low key chat with a few of their other illustrators / other illustrators in your region?
    I don't know how etiquette works in Sweden, but if it is acceptable maybe go back and say something like:
    "I'm really excited about this. I feel like this will be a great opportunity because of how well my style fits this story and I love the manuscript. Would it be alright if I talked to one or two of your other illustrators?"
    Or, what I would probably do, see if you can make contact with a few people who you see have recently published a book with them. Find a polite way to email them and do a gather information. Just make sure you do so in a way the publisher won't think you're discontent or making trouble.
    I've gotten really good information from people by asking something like if they have time for maybe ten minutes (if you think they are busy especially keep it super short and stick to the time limit) to talk about working with publisher X . If they say yes ask when is convenient (or if they prefer email), call, ask a few open ended questions, thank them profusely, and make sure to let them go when you said they would ( or keep it short if you use email). Then send a thank you note and depending on regional etiquette maybe a token gift after. Everyone in both USA and New Zealand acted like the thank you note part was weird but also looked really pleased to get one. A little piece of art and a note would be good maybe?
    Again, don't know Swedish etiquette. I think Americans you have to be super sweet but also directly ask. It's a big time investment though, so the risk of a few emails or phone calls is small, eh?
    Good luck! I hope it's a great project for you!

  • Congratulations on your children's book! I agree with @NessIllustration. They should give you a downpayment in advance plus all the production and marketing cost (of course!) because the risk of working for free is too high. However, you have mentioned how excited you are about this being your first book with a medium size publisher.

    If I were you, I would use this opportunity to gain as much knowledge about the process, timelines and production efficiency. Hence, when the second book comes around (#fingerscrossed) you can totally charge the publisher a downpayment since you have accumulated the necessary experience on the previous book. Remember, as of now, you have no contract saying you are going to illustrate all 3 books under these conditions.

    Wish you the best of luck, love your avatar!

  • Pro

    @ThisKateCreates and @josegalue25 both make very good points and great suggestions! I think you don't need to do one or the other, but can try all of these things! You can make a counter-offer for a more traditional publishing contract, even if you have already decided that if they say no you'll take it for the experience anyway 🙂 Don't be scared to just ask, worst that can happen is they say no and you're back to the same offer you have now. And you can also ask to contact other illustrators like Kate suggested, regardless of what deal you end up with. It's a prudent thing to do either way!

  • Thank you so much guys! I will contact the publishers to see if there's any room to discuss the contract. And also try to get hold of other illustrators!

    Regardless of what kind of deal I get, this feels like my first step of actually getting a bit closer to what I want (I'm trying to switch from engineering to children's illustration, the struggle is real! 😛 ) and I'm already learning so much haha!

    Thanks again! 💙

  • @MsIllo Word! I'm an engineer too! XD

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