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Sketchfest and Dreaming of Covers

Sketchfest is still on--there's a bunch of art uploaded already, I encourage you to go look.  The artists range from beginners to very skilled, and everyone is welcome to leave prompts or to join in and sketch.

Thinking about art, recently, always reminds me I want to get some of my stories available as e-books.  To do this I need cover art, and the day job hasn't given me time to try to level up in art and create it myself. 

If I'm not to create it myself, then I'll need to get cover art from someone else, which has had me pondering payment for art.  Now, I know that Ms. Rusch has talked about the foolishness of not simply hiring cover art, that giving away royalties for your art is, in the long run (if the book sells) not as good an investment financially for a writer as buying it outright.  Of course, she doesn't point out that if you never sell enough to make up your costs, that doesn't matter at all--and the introduction of easy self-publishing does not, in any way, guarantee sales.  I also thoroughly approve of Torn World's policy of treating all creators--poets, writers, and artists--equally, so that artists get royalties on the Torn World Anthology.

Other things have impacted my musings.

Talking at a recent convention with a traditionally-published author who is glad that she could put her out-of-print books up as e-books and, as she said, "there's no reason to ever let them go out of print again".  So what if she sells just one or two books in a month?  That's a trickle of income for her and happiness for her fans, who can now buy books they couldn't before, to fill in the holes in their collections.

No reason to ever let them go out of print.  That sounds really good to me.

Then, I thought more--if a work is in print forever, and I owe somebody else part of the royalties, then I have to keep accounting records forever--and keep track of where my artists and/or co-authors are forever too. 

Um...that's not so attractive. That is, in fact, rather appalling.  I hate the paperwork part of this business--it's part of why I didn't make my ten submissions per month.  I do nothing but paperwork at my day job, and I want to do creative stuff once I get home and relax a bit.  

The more I think about it, the more I'd rather take the gamble of sinking my money into buying the right to use the art for my cover outright.  By doing that, I'm buying more than art.  I'm buying freedom from spending my time on administrivia that would be (for me) decidedly an unpleasant chore.

Now I guess I should start considering who to hire, and when I can afford to do it.  Happily, looking at art is not an unpleasant chore!

This entry was originally posted at http://wyld-dandelyon.dreamwidth.org/196130.html. Be welcome to comment wherever you prefer.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 22nd, 2012 02:51 am (UTC)
I'm not a copyright or contract lawyer, but it seems to me that there ought to be some kind of a happy medium, some way of codifying that you don't have to do detailed accounting, but if you start selling a large number of copies of the work, you get an option of either starting to account more carefully and pay royalties or buy out the artist's future interest. You should be able to formulate something that says that unless the ebook is wildly successful, you don't have to do anything beyond the initial payment. If it is wildly successful, that triggers a requirement to do a little more bookkeeping, and then either start paying a regular royalty or make a larger lump sum payment to buy the artist's interest out again, but "wildly successful" should be a threshold where you got enough money that it doesn't feel like an imposition to contact the author again.

There are bazillions of talented amateur artists and graphic designers out there who can do a great job (as in, better than some of the stuff that comes out from real publishers) and will think that getting their name out there is valuable in itself, so they wouldn't demand anywhere near the rates or consideration that an established professional would. And I don't think you need to feel like you're exploiting them, since you're not an established publisher with a track record of making solid money.
Jan. 22nd, 2012 03:07 am (UTC)
Ebook cover art doesn't really need to look good at much larger than thumbnail size -- Amazon displays the covers at around, I dunno, around 200x300 pixels when you're looking at the item, and thumbnails at amybe 70x100? Most print book covers actually don't translate that well to ebook, as at the thumbnail size all the detail is lost and often you can't make out enough to tell what the image is of.

So you could commission an ACEO-sized piece -- even that's probably larger than you'd need, and would be pretty cheap from most artists that do ACEOs.

Or you could use stock photos, or public domain, or Creative Commons ones that allow for commercial use, and mash it up to make something that looks nice and is appropriate. Or make the book design elements -- title, sidebar, decorative frame -- dominate the cover and have the image be something even smaller, that you could crop from a favorite part of your own work. Full-length portraits of the main characters acting out a scene from the book, complete with a detailed background, isn't going to make a for a good ebook thumbnail anyway.
Jan. 22nd, 2012 01:52 pm (UTC)
I find working bigger but with the thought of not putting small detail in since it gets shrunk is WAY easier than actually working at ACEO size. Having the ink pen slip by half a millimetre is way less of a problem that way. (This is assuming traditional media.)

Since covers are often displayed on ereaders, and a tiny or blurry and pixeliated cover I think would give a bad impression, I'd shoot for at least about 800x600 pixels size for the cover.

Definitely agree that with ebook covers the "less is more" thing is pretty important, because too detailed or cluttered covers don't shrink down well.
Jan. 22nd, 2012 03:36 am (UTC)
To be honest, for small jobs, buying work outright rather than entering into a royalty agreement is my preference on both sides of the issue -- as an artist doing work-for-hire, and as a creator working with other creators on collaborative projects. This is not to say that I have a problem with the royalty system, nor is it a slam against royalty-based payment agreements that I'm currently involved with (like the one with EMG). And it depends on how large the royalties are likely to be -- if I were working with a large company, with the potential for lots of sales, I think I'd rather have royalties than a lump-sum payment.

But, as an artist, I have gotten screwed over in the past by creators who hired me on the basis of royalties and then went bankrupt or vanished or otherwise were unable/unwilling to hold up their end. The smaller the company, the more likely this is to happen -- "no advance, pays royalties" is a big red flag anymore for me when I'm looking for illustration work. And on the flip side, as a writer who has considered hiring artists or illustrators for some of my projects that I don't wish to illustrate myself, I would MUCH rather do a simple, one-time payment and then tie a neat bow on our relationship rather than getting myself entangled with an artist for years and years.
Jan. 23rd, 2012 02:26 am (UTC)
I was just talking about this with the hubs this morning. This is what I love about small press (mine, anyway); my books NEVER have to go out of print. They can if I want them to, but...
Feb. 1st, 2012 04:43 pm (UTC)
Let me add that "buying the work outright" -- owning a piece of art -- is not the same as purchasing the rights to reproduce it *unless that is in the contract*. Of course, I have no objection to putting such licensing in a contract! Whatever works between the contractors... I am pretty sure that you, wyld_dandelyon, already know this, but I thought it was worth mentioning.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )


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