Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Interview with Harold Underdown- Part II

Two weeks ago on this blog, Harold Underdown answered general questions regarding writing and publishing for children. In this follow-up post, he answers questions posed by some Carolina illustrators.

Question: I am worried about the ease with which people can download artwork/images from the internet. It seems as if it will be much harder to enforce an illustration's copyright when it is so easy to steal, manipulate and reuse images from on-line sources.

Harold: This is true, but that should not stop people from posting illustration samples on a website. Illustrators need to have their portfolios online--it's expected. To prevent *meaningful* theft, the samples can be watermarked, reproduced at 72 dpi (looks fine on screen but won't reproduce well in print), or otherwise protected.

Question: Do e-books have some system to prevent this type of theft from happening?

Harold: This is a separate issue, and yes, it's not easy to copy an illustration out of an e-book. In general, copying of e-books is no easier than copying of print books. There is piracy, but publishers actively pursue it.

Question: How will freelance artists be compensated for their work on e-books?

Harold: They will be compensated in the same way that they are for print books, if the e-books are published by a traditional publisher--with a royalty and advance. In general, royalty rates for e-books are higher than for print books. There are some small “e-book only” publishers out there. I would proceed with caution in working with them, just as one would with any new, not established publisher.

Question: I see that the textbook industry seems to be embracing e-books, for good practical reasons. Does this mean the death of decent work in this area for freelance illustrators?

Harold: The textbook industry started to outsource much of their illustration work overseas several years ago, long before this development, and is continually looking for ways to cut costs in the face of school budget-cutting. That's a much bigger threat than the impact of e-books--which still need illustrations.

Question: "I am an illustrator and have been offered a contract by an author who is self-publishing. It offers me X, Y, and Z, and I have to do A, B, and C... [and so on] Is this worth it? What terms should I look for in such contracts?"

Harold: The BIG red flag in this contract is the lack of an advance.

My basic recommendation to illustrators working with self-publishing authors is simple, and I'm not the only person saying this: make sure you get fully compensated for your time up front, because there is a low probability that a self-published book will get meaningful sales.

The royalties given in the agreement are almost irrelevant, from that point of view, because it's unlikely that royalties will be paid. Ideally, the illustrator should get additional earnings if the book takes off and sells really well, since the illustrator's work will have contributed to this success, but in 99% of all cases, the only money the illustrator will ever see is the advance.

Note from Carol: For further information about e-books check out: E is for Book and EBook Apprentice.

In a few weeks I’ll post my third and final interview with Harold as he answers questions about writing picture books.


CL said...

Thanks Carol and Harold Underdown! Great information and much appreciated.

Anonymous said...

YAYAY! Great answers. I'll post this link and the links to the first part of the interview on my blog this weekend. Good stuff, my friend!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks for sharing this on your blog. One more Harold Underdown blog to go...unless I get more questions from folks. IF you have any, pass them along. (You can mention this in your blog if you want to.)

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