In need of Advice about changes made behind my back

  • Hi there,

    I am an illustrator who recently started working with a publisher (my first proper book illustration gig and it's with one of the big names!) . They found me and long story short I have done 2 covers for them so far and have signe to do 4 more aswell as inside illustrations for 4 childrens books. I don't do the typography for the covers so the publisher sources that to someone else. I have found out that she makes some big changes to the illustrations behind my back and I have now for a second time been sent the final artwork to review. I feel deeply offended and angry at this. I know it might be very irrational of me to feel this why which is why I would like any one who has had a similar experience or who knows the ropes about working for a publisher can enlighten me on if this is a normal practice.

    The first time around I politely asked her to let me do the final changes for quality purposes and since my name will be on the book. I now got sent the second cover and the changes are so great that I feel like it will be lying to have my name on there and I also don't want to seem uncooperative and difficult to work with...

    I keep thinking why did she even hire me if I clearly don't do the job to what she wants? and this has gotten me to feel a bit inadequate too (maybe my own issues resurfacing, also irrational) anyway, some advice on how to proceed would be greatly appreciated 😞

  • @Gwendolene-vdm Oh my gosh. I don't have any advice for you, but I am angry on your behalf. That is incredibly frustrating and you have every right to be concerned about this for future projects. Is the publisher open to having a conversation about why they felt they had to do the changes? If anything, it can be a learning experience. But they need to be more communicative with you, for sure.

  • SVS Team SVS Instructor Pro SVS OG

    I can sympathize with your situation. Can you give some examples of the kinds of things they are changing?

    I think asking them to be included in the changes is a great start. Maybe ask for that again with this second one. You can say "I see you have made some changes to the cover. Would you mind if I went ahead and try another to address your concerns?" You can address some of the things you don't like (politely). " For example: I feel like the cover changes make the characters seem inconsistent with my style" or "I feel like the new changes make the composition feel a bit crowded. Would you mind if I did another version of it?" etc.

    The key is running with the changes and trying to address what their concerns are. Saying things like "Can I suggest another option?" or other phrases like that will rarely be turned down. They like working with people and they want you to be happy too.

  • Oof, big sympathies here. It can always be really frustrating when partnerships don't go quite as you'd hope.

    I agree with Lee here--presenting solutions is always a good way to go, with the bonus that people never want to turn it down. Framing your words in a way that would clearly be to the publisher's advantage is a good technique; e.g. "it might help to streamline the process if I made these preliminary changes," etc. Also it's completely fair to ask what feedback led to those changes, since that's something that's good to know for your own craft.

    I think something else to keep in mind is that sometimes it's good to chalk things like this up to a learning experience about this publisher in particular. I find that often a lot of the decisions made behind closed doors are by committee and sometimes their ability to communicate to anyone outside that room falls short. And it can be so discouraging for changes to your work to happen, but don't diminish your contribution; it wouldn't be "lying" for your name to be attached to it since you were an integral part of the creative process. It sounds like they value your work, too, since you've been signed on for more work. I wouldn't say it's irrational to feel inadequate, but I hope you don't lose heart completely. 💕

  • @thousandwrecks @Lee-White thank you so much for your wisdom and advice! this helped a lot and it made me feel more at ease with the learning aspect of it all. I have made communication clear with the publisher and she is very understanding towards me and has agreed to let me do final sign offs and changes on illustration work. I really appreciate this as I expected to stand up for myself and then being told this is just how it works and then just going with that (I want my foot in the door at this point so I if it were something demoralising I'd probably have endured), she is a very honest and forthcoming person, she just wasn't very communicative, but she heard my plea and is respectful of it now 🙂

  • SVS OG

    @Gwendolene-vdm oh dear! This is not okay. Would you mind giving examples of the changes they made?

  • @Gwendolene-vdm this is great to hear! Really happy for you! Maybe you can ask her whether she has had problems with illustrators not taking direction before, and what, in her experience, makes a stand out illustrator to work with in that regard.

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