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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 174 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Cover Art Questions  (Read 10158 times)

Posts: 228

« Reply #15 on: April 07, 2004, 08:16:45 AM »

Quote from: quozl

About what price range can one expect if paying for 1st rights only or 2nd use from a professional artist?

Well judging from the Artist Guild and my own feelings...

...1st Rights ONLY is about 60% of the costs I quoted in earlier posts.

2nd Right use is usually 1/2 of what the original price was... but that is for the big boys in the industry.. Brom, Parkinson, Elmore, Lockwood.  I'm not that big.  I've had a "couple" of 2nd use purchases, around 35%, as I recall, of the original.  Unfortunately, I do not own very much of my own work.  I do not have the clout, the name (and let's face it, the skill) to demand such yet.

Peter Hollinghurst

Posts: 44

« Reply #16 on: April 07, 2004, 08:19:39 AM »

Copyrights are certainly an area that can sometimes be negotiated on (and if the artist is an amateur and doesnt understand copyright, you still should if you are paying for someones work, regardless of the level of professionalism of the artist, otherwise one day you could get a nasty legal suprise). Generally when you pay an artist to do work for you they retain all rights to the work as the originator unless you work out a contract that says differently (in which case you should also pay them more because it restricts what they can then do with that artwork later). You should always allow for the artist using any work they create for their own publicity. You may or may not make an agreement to retain the original yourself-the artist may want it back to exhibit or make prints from or to use in a book compiling their work at a later date.
When you commission a piece of work you thus really should know what you will use it for yourself, what the artist may or may not use it for, and reflect this in the price offered if at all possible. You may find an artist willing to work for less if they have their original returned and you make no claim on their own reproduction right for their work. Worth bearing in mind. Rons advice earlier is very,very sound.

When it comes down to the issue of the expense please remember two things-firstly any art you use for the cover will also probably double up as a substantial part of your advertising for the product. People spend a ton of ads because otherwise they get less sales. Unless people will be able to read your product before they buy they will probably judge if they will buy it or not as much by your cover as by anything else. Just looking around on somewhere like rpgnow you will see a lot of variety in quality of cover art-and many people will not want to pay much if anything for those which look substandard compared to the rest. Your future sales (if you intend to sell) may well depend on the cover-so the amount you are paying a cover artist should reflect this. Dont think-oh I cant afford to pay for fancy artwork-think can I afford NOT to pay for my advertising?

Secondly-dont underestimate the amount of experience and skill involved in producing that piece of artwork. Most artists have been learning their trade all their lives, many are professional trained and have art or design degrees which took them time and money to gain and taught them valuable skills others may not possess. People tend to treat artists rather casually on the basis that they believe it 'cant be all that hard'. If this is the case,more people would just do the art themselves... You may also find that their is a big gulf between pro and amateur artists in the areas of knowledge of repro process (where needed) and professional practice that may make a big difference when it comes to printing a cover.

Now, Im sure that neither I, nor any other artist posting here, means to 'rain on your parade', but the prices offered for art in the rpg industry as a whole are terrible. They effectively amount to the artist paying you for the joy of working for you in some cases (certainly if you rate work done on a cash per hour basis). ANY artist doing work for the rpg industry is probably doing it because they love rpgs. Get them exited about your game/product. Give them a copy when its done. Let them know how important to you their contribution has been. If you do manage to get a pro, thank your lucky stars that they really do believe in you and what you are doing (or that they are currently desperate to get their art out), but also treat those dedicated amateurs like the gems they are.

We artists are often very susceptible to a bit of flattery. It works wonders.

Posts: 890

« Reply #17 on: April 07, 2004, 08:50:44 AM »

Quote from: Storn
...and STILL CANNOT do certain characters and reprints due to the fact certain character illustrations are held by a cranky artist(s)...

Yea, that can REALLY bite, but if you watch yourself you can still be safe there too.
What I did with my artists was agreed they could use the artwork for just about anything they wanted, but that pieces with MY characters could only be used for personal merchendising/promoting. Considering each artist did about 3 or 4 cards and not all of the cards were exactly of my characters, they didn't have a problem with that~ They had material they could use elsewhere as well as some cool pictures for their CafePress shops or what other avenue's they have for mugs, t-shirts, poster prints and what not.
Plus, in the end such use benefits me as well. Its not always so bad when someone else wants to use your characters; say a couple of pieces really catch a lot of peoples eye. They'll pick up a shirt, print, whatever, and might inquire about it, why the artist did it/inspiration, whatever. Then the artist says "Well, I did it for a game..." Boom, interested game customer and your artist makes a couple bucks as well ^_^

Also, when dealing with your own property as opposed to generic fantasy, GET IT IN WRITING! I just had a simple little 3 page freelance agreement drawn up, once we reached an agreement they were fine with signing it. Made sure neither of us got screwed with.

Nate Petersen / daMoose
Neo Productions Unlimited! Publisher of Final Twilight card game, Imp Game RPG, and more titles to come!

Posts: 18

« Reply #18 on: April 07, 2004, 12:09:39 PM »

I have also been wondering what good art costs.  I am a firm believer that the art on the cover is perhaps the most important piece of the publication.  It gets the passerby to stop and look.  Thats probably better money spent in the long term than say Dragon magazine adds.  

Just food for thought, I asked Michael Whelan who actually responded and politely gave me his contact agent.  However he did say he is in the 10k range and is backed up on projects and I would have been required to wait perhaps a year or so.

I also sent an email to John Howe.. pretty much the same response.  He was also very kind and forthcoming about his availability due to other work.  Of course my tastes in art far exceed my pocket book.  Even if I could afford their prices, the idea of dropping 7-10k on an oil for a RPG that may sell 1000-2000 copies is insane.  Yet its always fun to know that even the big dogs would do the work given price.    Both were very nice and it was just a pleasure in getting their attention via email.



Posts: 26

« Reply #19 on: April 07, 2004, 03:41:13 PM »

Matt:  Thanks I'll check them out.

Peter Hollinghurst:   The style and medium are most of what I'm actually looking for.  I want a not as technically demanding (don't flame me, i realize this is wrong... but I'm using it - deal) style such as something with lots of emotion and movement and colors and less set "Group of different genres all together on one page"

Storn:   I'm not looking for something traditional.  I'm looking for something out of the norm especially stylistically.

This is what I mean by eyecatching - what most would consider sloppy unfinished art or 'easy'.  Very non traditional.

Or more directly I dont want it to be catering to the publics wants.  Now thats exactly what a book cover is supposed to do though right ? cater to the wants of the customer to try to suck them in - but I'm thinking of doing something crazy and doing the exact opposite.  I guess we will see how it works out.  Hopefully the completely different and odd cover will draw enough attention.  
(I found a great example of this last night and I'll post it once I re-find it.)

Ron Edwards:  Thanks, Yeah I saw this on other posts and took your wise suggestion when I was posting my price on other sites. Thanks.

To most so far:  Yeah, I think the best idea is to find someone who cares about the project.  Which will be great once I release both the playtest files and the free download lite rules as I hope they will help build a community around it which hopefully will contain some artists =-D.

greyorm:  yeah, what I really need is an indie who cares about the project.  

Time though is not an issue.  Really I'm getting a heads up on things and getting art while working on other matters.  This is mostly because I've heard horror stories about artists not meeting hard deadlines.  I do mention the deadlines in the post though.  Thanks.

strom: this is exactly the kind of thing i want to do.

jack aidley:  I am actually quite decent at design- at least well enough to do a cover.  I really want art though rather than design.  Really just a preference that may or may not change after dealling with this for another month. =-).

"...1st Rights ONLY is about 60% of the costs I quoted in earlier posts. "
Thats what I'm hoping for with this price. so that makes my 175 about 291 which is slightly more reasonable I hope.

Peter Hollinghurst:  Yeah, I'm familiar with copyright from other endeavors.  I am also very wary in dealling with them.  Sound advise.

As per thinking art is easy to make, I know its not true.  My father actually does oil paints, or at least he did las time I saw him.  Painted for most his life and still was working on it.  Would take months for him to finish a piece....

Mourglin:  Interesting to see what the real stuff costs. Thanks

Wow this was an amazing response.  I came home expecting at most 5 responses more and I got an encylopedia of knowledge.  Never ceases to amaze me how willing this community is to help.


As for more information on what I want stylistically -  the game is carefree and fun and made for quick games.  I don't want a ten thousand man battle scene with each persons emotions sinking into your heart. Like wise a redhaired big breasted goth vampire chick is also not what I want =-).  I want something stylistically and thematically out of the norm.  Thats how I want to catch eyes.

Before I post anything else I need to give my hands a break. =-).  

Thanks again for all your help,

Posts: 432

« Reply #20 on: April 08, 2004, 12:23:06 AM »

At Apophis, we have a standard deal for interior art: $75 for a half-page, $150 for a full page.  We contract by number of pieces, and have a $20 and $40 kill-fee for pieces we reject.

For a cover, we spend from $300-$1000.

When we were using Chris Shy, that was our range.  Of course, then WW got their paws on him, and he charges some really high amount for pieces now... I couldn't say how much, we rarely use him, and have a friendship with him now, so it doesn't count.

But... here's the kicker: I have been told by a number of artists (RK Post, Fred Hooper, Thomas Manning, Raven Mimura) that we pay in the high-end of things... and, we pay upfront.  

That's the key.  We pay upfront.  Not 30% upon acceptance, 30% at publish, and 40% six months later.  Not any other wonky fuckaround.  We pay you when you sign the contract saying "I will create X pieces, Y% of which will be half page, and Z% full page."  We tally it up, cut you a check, and tell you when to get them to us.

We have NEVER had an artist flake on us.  Ever.

I love handling artists because they honestly want their stuff to look as good, or better, than you do (because its their commercial too)... and they like the respect we give them by trusting them.  We have artists that will refuse exclusivity clauses for other companies because they know that when we promise work, we mean it.

If you want a good cover... find an artist you want and contact them.  Admittedly, someone like Mike Whelan is going to run you tons, but he is uber-popular, and one of the "Dragon Bunch" (my nickname for Elmore, Easley, Whelan, and the old D&D cover guard).  Try someone in comics, or someone that is well-published, but not PAINTING their pieces.  Alex Ross is a good example of famous name that will work on something he LIKES for a reasonable price.  Fred Hooper (THE HOOP!) has been prolific in the industry for years, and has credits that will include a number of forthcoming ID Games (I know, computer), Shadowrun, Obsidian, quite a few card games... But damn! The boy can make the picutres!

Look through old RPG books you like, find the artists, and contact them.  Or find someone that you know that knows them.  RPG is a contact sport.

And here's another name if you want excellent, unique, and beautiful work: Veronica Jones.  DAMN!

Brennan Taylor

Posts: 499

« Reply #21 on: April 08, 2004, 07:20:50 AM »

Being upfront and clear on the terms when you start with an artist is essential, and even then misunderstandings can come out. I got some great artwork for my last project, but there was still a little tension with a couple of the artist. It all worked out for the best, though.

Covers are by far the most expensive component, but this is what all of your ultimate customers are going to see first, and is therefore the most important piece in the book.

As far as Luke's design goes, that looks great, but don't forget that good design takes skill, too. It was Luke's skill in this case, but expertise in any area will cost if you don't do it yourself.

As a warning, I was scammed by a cover artist early in my game's development. The guy had posted a whole bunch of other people's work on his web site and taken the credit for this very fine work. His skills were far less developed, and I luckily found out about this before any money changed hands. I was starting to suspect something because the sketches were not very good, and then someone tipped me off, having seen my game credited on the guy's site and recognizing that the other artwork there was by different hands.


Posts: 26

« Reply #22 on: April 08, 2004, 07:22:24 AM »

Thats one thing I noticed when I posted 'ad'-requests for cover art at 125-175 at artist communities.  LOTS of comic book people responding (Among the others was 1 that didn't seem to have done any rpg work and was just a hobbiest painter, 1 who had done several rpg artworks, and a few otehr misc.).  I even found someone I may thinka bout doing the inside art - something I was writing off to public domain art at first.  As a whole there was not much suitable for cover art, but as a whole it doesn't matter since I believe I found the artist I want.  Of course I'm going to wait a week and see what else comes in as I have been averaging about 6 applications per day.

On a side note about Art and Contracts:
A question comes to my mind.  I hear everybody talking about contracts etc for art to ensure I have rights to use it and for how long I have said rights.  This makes me think I need a laywer.  Is this assumption correct?  If so how much have you guys found it runs?  So far my art budget is on the verge of exceding my actual printing budget (which i suppose isn't *that* uncommon but I dislike it anyways).

Posts: 5574

« Reply #23 on: April 08, 2004, 07:38:06 AM »

Nah, you don't need a lawyer for something like this unless you're doing really big dollar stuff.

The main issues are:

1) who owns the art:  you or the artist.
2) how can the person who doesn't own the art use it
3) What restrictions are being placed on the owner of the art
4) of course price, payment options, and deadlines.

For instance you might decide the artist owns the art and you are just paying to use it (#1).  

You might then decide that you want permission to use the art for a) the cover of the book, b) the cover of any future print runs of the book, and c) for promotional fliers or tshirts.  The artist might then ask that you not post a high resolution version of the art to a website where it can be grabbed and printed by anyone (#2)

The artist, being the owner of the art, can continue to use the art as they see fit.  You might ask that they not provide or sell the art or substantially the same image to another rpg publisher for a period of at least 3 years (#3)

Or pretty much any other combination of these you and the artist agree upon.  Its pretty straight forward really.

Jonathan Walton

Posts: 1309

« Reply #24 on: April 08, 2004, 08:27:43 AM »

See, a lot of people are of the opinion that the cover art is what catches people's eye, but I totally disagree.  I think the graphic design of your cover is as (or even more) important than the picture itself.  For instance, take a look at Two-Fisted Tales.  Nice cover piece by Chris Shy (though it does look pretty much like all his other stuff, with no pulp-specific elements), but the graphic design isn't all that exciting.  Pretty non-descript.  Nothin that reaches out and really grabs you and says "PULP!"

Many, MANY pdf-based games suffer from severe problems in layout and graphic design.  Just wander around RPGnow and it becomes obvious very quickly.  Look at the game companies that know what they're doing: Malhavoc, Ronin Arts (Phil Reed is a pro and a great designer), and a few others.  They know how to take a piece of artwork and make it a part of an overall cover design.  Most people just take whatever they've got, slap it on the front, and put a title on it in whatever font they like, in whatever color they think looks cool.  Doesn't do much for me, personally.

You don't have to be a pro to do good layout work.  I mean, I'm a complete amatuer in the sense that I have zero formal training, but I've developed an eye for graphic design over the years.  In fact, I'm laying out the interior of Argonauts in Microsoft Word just to prove this point: super-expensive software isn't necessary for solid graphic design.  Time and attention is.

Brennan Taylor

Posts: 499

« Reply #25 on: April 08, 2004, 09:19:06 AM »

Quote from: Jonathan Walton
You don't have to be a pro to do good layout work.  I mean, I'm a complete amatuer in the sense that I have zero formal training, but I've developed an eye for graphic design over the years.  In fact, I'm laying out the interior of Argonauts in Microsoft Word just to prove this point: super-expensive software isn't necessary for solid graphic design.  Time and attention is.

I think I may not have been totally clear here, but I agree that layout on the cover is key. A great piece of art and a crappy layout will scream 'amateur.'

You are correct that you don't need to be a pro, but if the layout is bad, the result is disastrous--worse than a crummy piece of artwork.


Posts: 26

« Reply #26 on: April 08, 2004, 09:51:44 AM »

Yeah, I'm good at layout design in general.  Been doing various graphical design as a hobby for a good 4-6 years so I should be able to get that down right.  

I'm also doing all the layout for the book : ie text, pictures, design of the header and sidebar design (im thinking some sort of border thats not the standard plain line i see alot in gurps and other books...)  When I get home I'll link you to some preliminary sketches I have.

Back to the point:
The cover design I'm doing myself.  Im planning on  something very simple to surround the art, but not *too* simple.  Maybe something like M&M...I'll get back to you on this while i get home.
Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Posts: 16490

« Reply #27 on: April 08, 2004, 10:40:22 AM »

Hi there,

Everyone interested in this thread should read Elements of a great cover and all internally linked threads.

Acts of Evil Playtesters

Posts: 309

« Reply #28 on: April 12, 2004, 06:19:05 AM »

Dav, that bit about up front payment is really interesting.  I just read a book about how expectation of rewards based on performance tends to destroy people's motivation and performance.  Pre-paying for art would seem to eliminate that: the reward is already granted; now people can work for the sake of quality.

I can also imagine that such a gesture of trust and straightforwardness would create a *very* responsible and motivated artist on the other end of the deal.  Trust breeds trust, responsibility breeds responsibility, respect breeds respect.  No wonder nobody's flaked out on you.
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