I love to work with artists. Not a big shocker to those of you who’ve been keeping an eye on me for awhile, but to those of you who are just tuning in, this is one of my favorite past times.
Usually, I’m trading artwork or writing them up character profiles, but sometimes, when I have some extra cash, I’m lucky enough to hire one.
When I hired the duo, Nord and Foxy, I was so excited. I’ve been following their artwork for a little while now, and the storybook style they have always made me think of a high fantasy short story I have tucked away in my files.
They captured the scene beautifully, and now that I got permission to post it, here’s the finished product.
If you’re looking for an artist to commission, please consider them. They did an amazing job and the scene turned out exactly how I imagined it in my short.
The relationship between an artist and a writer can be a beautiful thing.
Writers write, and artists come up with amazing fan art, or can be commissioned for stunning book covers. We work hand in hand with one another more than we realize, and in return, many of us can get well known through the others’ work. In fact I didn’t start reading Sarah J. Maas’ work until I saw the beautiful character art put out by Coralie Jubénot.
But sometimes, like all relationships, things can get a little hairy.
Maybe this shouldn’t be directed just at writers, but since I’ve noticed quite a few writers doing this type of stuff, I’m singling us out. If you’re not a writer, and you want to commission an artist, you should probably remember these things too.
What not to do when commissioning an artist
Ask for free work.
And I mean ANY free work, including the “pay you later” type of work. If you can’t pay them when they ask for payment, you’re asking them for free art. None of this “Oh well, I can pay you after I make it big” or “I’ll give you money when my crowd funding campaign is over”. They’re still working for free. Some artists might say they don’t have a problem with this, but don’t just assume that an artist is going to be fine with waiting over a week for payment.
Ask to pay them in publicity.
This is still free. Can you pay your bills if someone asks you to write for them for free, but don’t worry they’ll tell a friend about you? No.
Tell them the last artist you hired did it for cheaper.
Artists charge different amounts based off many things. Skill level, time taken to produce the artwork, and personal value of their work all come into play. Someone who’s only been producing art for a couple years might charge less than someone who takes commissions on a regular basis for the past seven years. If you want cheap artwork, hire the other person, don’t try and haggle to get them to lower their prices to someone else’s standards.
Tell them you shouldn’t have to pay extra for digital art because there are less materials used.
This is one that I’ve heard a few digital artists over the years talk about. Keep in mind here, some digital artists have amazing technology to help produce their work, and sometimes that tech breaks down. Tablets break, tablet pen nubs need to be replaced, computers crash, and sometimes some software requires yearly updates that cost money, as well. Just because they’re not using a physical canvas doesn’t mean their work is worth less.
Think that because writing a book takes longer than drawing a picture, their work isn’t worth as much.
This is something I’ve only heard from one writer, but it still completely confused me. Writing and art are two completely different mediums, that require different mind sets. One isn’t better than the other, they’re just different. By saying you took longer therefore your work is worth more, you’re taking away the years of practice it took for that artist to get where they are today. Sure it only took an artist a week to complete their commission, but they’ve been perfecting that craft since grade school.
What do you do when you find that artist you want to commission?
First off, check and see if they’re open for commissions.
Most artists will have a disclaimer somewhere if they’re open or closed, or at the very least, a way to contact them to ask them. By not assuming they’re just going to jump into working for you, you’re already establishing respect with your artist.
Find out what they’re comfortable drawing.
As someone who has some NSFW situations in my novels and short stories, I always check the artist’s “will/will not draw” page. Many artists have no problem drawing violence, artistic nudity, or sexual situations, however there are a few prefer not to do this sort of thing. Some might be willing, but would prefer not to due to their skill level with the subject. If the artist doesn’t have a list of things they’re okay and not okay with drawing, and you know what you’re looking for is questionable, don’t be afraid to ask them how they feel about certain subject matter.
If you KNOW you’re a picky person, give details.
I’m a little different when it comes to my commissions, in that I like to give the artist a little bit of creative control. I’ll tell them what the scene is, or what the characters look like, but after that, I tell them to interpret the information however they see fit. This doesn’t work for everyone. If you have very specific ways you want a picture to be done, tell them up front. Don’t be THAT difficult to work with, but still fill them in you have a specific vision for the project, so they’re not blindsided later when you’re angry with how it turned out.
Establish what you want the art for in the beginning.
So you found the artist, they finished the commission, and you’re ecstatic to have some beautiful art to accompany your novel. You start using it as a book cover, posting it everywhere on websites and social media, and then suddenly you get an email from the artist asking for more money, or saying you went against their copyright. Some artists don’t allow for commercial use of their commissions, if it wasn’t established when the commission was first placed. Others might not want their work posted up online without giving credit to them as the original artist. If you know you’re going to use the artwork for bigger things, disclose this from the get go, and it’ll save both parties some pain and heartache.
This may seem like a lot, but if all else fails, remember one thing.
Hiring an artist is a business transaction.
If you think of it as two people exchanging goods, instead of two creative people coming together, you’ll leave the experience a lot happier. Of course, there will still be a creative exchange, just due to the nature of this situation, but don’t expect there to be no business talk. Treat each other with respect, and respect will be given.
I’ve hired artists, from base line beginners, to well established in online communities, and I have to say I’ve always had a great experience. If you want to get involved with artists, but don’t know where to start, please let me know! I’ll try to point you in the right direction.
Jessica Ingold recently put out a tweet asking for “new and different ways to promote her books”. It got me thinking about a way authors occasionally overlook that would help not only themselves but other artists as well.
I don’t make it a secret that I love to draw. In fact, I have an Instagram and a Deviant Art dedicated to building my writer’s platform through art. One thing I’ve found, however, is that the best way to promote myself isn’t to plaster up ads on Facebook or spam my twitter followers with automatic messages. It’s to get other artists involved in my work.
Here are two ways to create healthy relationships with artists to help promote your work.
1. Have a contest.
One of the first ways I got my writing on the radar was to hold a contest. I put up 7 scenes, between 3 and 5 pages each, from different short stories, one offs, and the novel I was working on and asked artists to draw what they interpreted from the passages. What I wound up getting was not only people reading my work, but also artists posting up artwork of the pieces that linked back to my page.
2. Hire Artists
If you have the money, this is the fastest way to get artwork. Many artists will put up some information about what they’re drawing, or what the story’s about for their fans to get some extra information about what they’re looking at, so feel free to ask for them to link back to your website, amazon, or any social media.
You can also hire artists to design characters for you to use in stories or novels. When people see a character design, they usually begin to wonder “What’s the story with this person?” That being said, some don’t like their artwork being used for momentary gain, other’s don’t care, so be sure to ask your artist when hiring if you’re going to use the character in a book /short story you plan on submitting for money.
Here’s a big “don’t list” when it comes to working with artists.
Don’t offer them publicity as payment. Publicity doesn’t pay bills or put food in your stomach.
Don’t ask for artwork for free. It’s insulting. You wouldn’t write a whole book for someone for free just cause they wanted it would you?
Don’t offer payment when you “hit it big”. That could take years, and artists don’t want to wait around for that to happen.
Don’t hire artists you know nothing about, check reviews for artist. I paid fifty bucks one time for a character design and the person vanished. I’m still a little stung over this.
Don’t use their artwork for unintended purposes. Many artists have copyrights, so be sure you’re following them if you post the artwork elsewhere, or want to use it in promotional items.
Hope that opens some doors for you as far as hiring artists and looking for promotion!