I have a confession of sorts. I’m a sucker. I have a hard time saying ‘no’ to people when they ask me to do something, especially those who I’ve come to know. I have little regrets doing things for little or no pay to help someone out. A good deed, if you will. Sure you hope down the road that karma will offer you a morsel but it’s not something you expect or think you have a right to. We shouldn’t do things with the expectation always getting something out of it.
While I love the direction my writing career has taken, I’d also love to see some of my artwork get out there. Sure, there’s other people better at it than me (and I’ll say the same about my writing) but it doesn’t mean I want that dream to die a horrible death. Laying helplessly in the gutter bleeding paint down the sewer grate and all as a #2 pencil stabs it.
So I do things here and there, some solicted and some where I’ve extended the olive branch. What I’ve learned from the small amount of experience I’ve had doing this is it’s not the person you do the work for that you have to worry about. It’s the publisher, should the work of art be acceptable to their delicate sensibilities. They’ll bend your ass over faster than you can say “Thank you, sir. May I have another?”.
I signed a contract once, and in my starry-eyed wonder of getting to see something I did on a brilliant piece of literature, I didn’t read it carefully as to the rights I would be giving up. Sure, I retain the copyright to the artwork. I remembered to check for that. It can’t be sold off to someone else or given away without my permission. What, in my giddy happiness, I didn’t expect was the artwork to be used over and over without any indication that the piece was mine. My preciousssss…..
In fact, the wording was so vague it basically gave them the right (without payment from the publisher) to use my image in anyway they deemed. Fuck you very much for being too stupid to question the vague wording, you stupid girl. Bend over and hope I use lube!
Being nice is fine but allowing people to take advantage of your hard work is wrong. If I have any advice to offer those young artists out there trying to get a name out there for themselves it’s this– Make sure that any artwork you allow someone to use states specifically what the work is being used for whether it’s a poster, webpage image, or book cover. Don’t let them use it for anything but what is specifically named in the contract. So if Mutant Frog Balloons 2 goes into production, they can’t use your image without a care. This, of course, also pertains to any image you don’t get paid for directly from the company(see: name of blog post). If they buy it from you, well, it’s theirs to do with as they please from what I see. If some lavish pop icon wants your watercolor painting of Mount Rushmore in their bathroom so the presidents can watch in horror, all’s fair if you’ve received your fair share of the dead presidents.
Keep in mind as you read my tirade: I don’t blame the person who asked me to do the work. I was compensated with a barter system which I agreed to and have no regrets. The number one person I blame is myself for getting an inflated head. The second in line would be the person who wrote up that contract. I have a feeling they knew what they were doing and are probably laughing about it behind closed doors. I mean, more profit for them when they didn’t need to pay to use the image over and over again, right?
My saving grace? They don’t have the original unaltered image and I think that’s going to look very nice on a certain fantasy novel I’m writing. The artwork is, after all, copyrighted to me. It won’t be the exact same image, of course. I have a different plan of action.
Through it all, if I was asked to do it again from this person, I would do it in a heartbeat. I’ll never regret making it for them–Ever. Their joy makes me happy. I’d just play a little better hard ball before flourishing a pen to paper on a contract.