How do I ensure that I get paid my share of royalties as an Illustrator for a book
October 17, 2008 3:27 PM   Subscribe

How do I ensure that I get paid my share of royalties as an Illustrator for a book?

I am considering illustrating a book for a guy from an online classified site. He has indicated that there is no "up front" payment, but has said he will share royalties (if any). I have a lot of free time, and would like to do the job, but how do I ensure that he pays me a share of royalties? Are there publishing companies that will handle dividing the royalties?
He has also indicated that he intends to self-publish with an online firm, but has not indicated which one. I am not at all familiar with the publishing process, so what should I be asking him? It's not a huge project, so if I get ripped off, then it's not the end of the world, but I would like to at least ensure that I get my name on the book.
posted by idyllhands to Work & Money (3 answers total)
Royalty splits and payments are handled by that author's agent or, if you're established enough as an illustrator, your agent.

Since this is a vanity pressing, it's solely up to him to be straight with you and pay you your share. Additionally, "royalties" may not be the correct term to use in this case depending on his arrangement with the online firm. (A royalty only comes into play if he's granting this online firm the exclusive rights to print and distribute his book.)

Draw up an agreement with him with the terms that you would prefer. Cover what that payment should consist of: a percentage of each sale based on cover price? A percentage of gross earnings if ## books sold? A percentage of net earnings? What is he defining as net? I would also draw up a paragraph covering when he should send you earnings statements on this book and what information the statements should cover.

Also cover exclusivity of the images, how long that period lasts, and what terms will cause reversion or cancellation of his rights to use your illustrations.

There's more but the simple answer is: think of fair terms that will cover your ass, put it on paper, and have the both of you sign it. That's not a guarantee that you won't get snowed, but it starts a history of documentation if there is ever a dispute.
posted by greenland at 4:08 PM on October 17, 2008

Basically, you sign up a contract to specify what you are due, you make sure the contract includes giving you access to information that lets you know whether he's living up to the contract, and you sue him if he breaks the contract. It's between you and him -- the only other people who are going to look out for your interests are people you hire (and a lawyer wouldn't be a bad idea -- many will do a half-hour initial consultation for free).

If you really think there's a chance of the book making money, you could propose to be partners in the publishing of it -- both putting up an equal share of the money and taking an equal share of the returns. But then you've got to be able to collaborate as business partners (and get a lot more stuff clearly agreed on before you start).
posted by winston at 4:37 PM on October 17, 2008

Make sure the contract covers your rights to your images in other media like movies, web, cartoons, films, merchandising etc. It sounds silly and reaching but it's best to cover everything. I just took a look at "Graphic Artists Guild Handbook for Pricing and Ethical Guidelines 12th Edition" and it has a whole section on illustration for books including royalty contract terms.

Here's some relevant info from page 173:
Outside of children's books, it's exceedingly rare for royalties to be paid for book illustration. A one time flat fee is usually paid...

It also mentions that illustrators normally sell only first reproduction rights and that if it's used for anything outside of the original (web etc.) the price needs to be negotiated. Artists add a reuse fee ranging from 50-100% of the fee that would have been charged had the illustration been commissioned for the new use. It goes on, so I'm not sure how much you want to cover yourself but the book might be a good resource to pick up. IANABI
posted by Bunglegirl at 8:06 PM on October 17, 2008

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