Yesterday, I found out really discouraging news about the website Upwork. I found a children's book deal for $1.5K and I was really excited to hear that the authors saw my proposal and were interested in hiring me for the job.
It all seemed to work out until we approached the "exclusive rights" myth in the conversation. From what I've learned from @NessIllustration's freelance cafe, copyrights are not customary in children's book deals, and actually require compensation to the illustrator up to 6-figures. I tried to be smart and speak from a place of authority and experience that this is not commonplace and that as first-time authors I do not recommend them.
All of a sudden, they linked me to the website's rules and conditions which stated that "Upon Freelancer’s receipt of full payment from Client.... Freelancer hereby automatically irrevocably assigns to Client all right, title and interest worldwide... Freelancer retains no rights to use, and will not challenge the validity of Client’s ownership"
After that I freaked out and did not respond to the client, as they bombarded me with materials to make the book, assuming that I was okay with this current set up. I waited a couple of hours until I could call someone with experience over the phone and tell them about the situation. What they recommended was that if I could not enforce royalties for obligatory selling of rights that I either adjust the price or I adjust the number of pages. (Shame on me for trying to negotiate a deal under completely unethical terms?)
I offered both options to my clients, and they calmly told me that they were no longer interested, impulsively withdrew the contract, but that they valued my work as an artist. So what does that mean? Are you going to seek another vulnerable, naive, and inexperienced artist and devalue them so you can get your book made? They told me if I adjusted the price it would be too expensive, and they told me if I adjusted the pages the "educational content" would be lost. This was for a 22-page book with cover and back.
While I am disappointed that I am not going to earn $1.5K, I am glad that I did not produce work that I could not legally even put into my portfolio. I completely blame websites like Fiverr and cultures on Facebook for perpetuating this type of mindset in small authors that illustrators can be asked to give away their work, but not be properly compensated for it. I don't think I'll ever use Upwork again. I should be able to retain my rights to the images, and not give the author power to disagree. There are a lot of authors who want exclusive rights to their books, but so little willing to pay a realistic price.