So You’re a Small RPG Publisher
This essentially means that you have no money to speak of and, as such, you’re doomed before you start. Obviously you’re going to look for cheap options first when it comes to art and that means you’re going to look at alternative art sources such as:
- Begging people on deviantart.
- Friends who can just about draw if you squint and are willing to work for free.
- Your own horrific scribblings in the manner of an epileptic spider having a grand mal in an inkwell.
- Tattoo Flash.
Sooner or later though, you’re going to have to bite the bullet and hire an artist to do some work for you. This is expensive and can be harrowing, distressing and frought with danger for all concerned but it is worth doing and there are things you can do to get maximum value for money, maximum artist satisfaction and a good working relationship. I pride myself on, generally, doing this fairly well and producing good material with a small art budget, and so can you!
My Typical Rates
Just as a ballpark to frame the terms of the discussion, here’s what I typically pay, presuming the piece is not too complex.:
- Full Page Colour: $100
- Half Page Colour: $50
- Quarter Page Colour: $25
- Greyscale: Half the above.
I’ll go up to double that for someone I really like/want or because the complexity gets higher, but I can often get lower than that, per piece if other considerations come into it. There’s a lot you can do to make it a more pleasant experience for you and the artist involved.
Caring for your Artist
Order in advance
Nobody likes a tight deadline. The more in advance you can ask for work the more time the artist has to let inspiration to strike and the easier it is to work your – low paying – work in around other work that they might have. This is convenient for everyone and if you get the art early, lets you think about layout ahead of time. Bonus!
Make yourself available to your artist to talk. A good relationship is essential on both sides and aesthetics are very subjective. You need to communicate to make sure you get what you want and they need to communicate if they’re unsure. You don’t want to get something unusable or completely different to what you want and they don’t want to waste all that time and effort or drawing something ‘wrong’. Regular exchange of sketches and ideas is a good idea, until you’ve learned how each other work and have achieved a position of trust.
Know What You Want
If you don’t know what you want, how in the name of Klono’s beard and whiskers, is the artist supposed to know? “Like… an orc… or some shit.” is NOT an art brief. You need to know what you like and what you want if the artist is going to have any hope of accomplishing that. Similarly, changing your mind every day or two is NOT acceptable and is, frankly, fucking annoying.
Professional AND Personal
This is a hobby industry and, below a certain level of money/activity/scale professionalism is severely overrated. Personal relationships are far more important. I’m not saying kiss people’s arses or pretend to be their friend, rather, work with and talk with people you genuinely like and treat people you work with as friends. This particularly pays dividends at conventions etc where hobby professionals who work together can act as a support network and watch each other’s stock/tables.
Sometimes books work better with a common artistic look to them. It’s to your advantage – often – both aesthetically and financially to get a lot of art from the same person. If you have a very tight theme this might not be the case so much, people do get very bored with drawing the same thing over and over again. Still, if you’ve got a bit of variety a common thread in the book from someone’s style is a good thing to have. You can often get a discount if you’re ordering a lot of work too.
Pay Early, Pay Often
Artists get stiffed a lot. They also get paid late a lot. This sucks unwashed donkey balls and you can often get a bit of a discount and a hell of a lot of kudos from an artist – and their other artist friends – by coughing up the moolah as soon as possible, preferably as soon as you get the art. With services like paypal around there’s really no excuse not to. If you don’t have the money, don’t commission the work. If you’re really pleased, pay extra. Come back often to an artist you like and you’ll build your rapport and they’ll like working with you.
‘What do you like?’
The right tool for the right job. Find out what your artist likes to draw and give them work that plays into what they like. That’ll make things more enjoyable and easier for the artist and if the work interests them, you’ll get better results. Everyone’s a winner.
Just Enough Rope
Too much rope and someone will hang themselves. Not enough rope and they won’t be able to express themselves. Start with a small amount of art direction and move on from there. You’re NOT Alan Moore, pages and pages of detailed description and background notes to artists are unlikely to be appreciated. Generally speaking, the more latitude someone has to express themselves, the better. Some people do prefer more direction rather than less, but it’s easier to provide it when it’s asked for – later – than to start out seeming like a bossy, demanding, exacting wanker who is hard to please.
Help them out
Talk up your artist, credit them properly, pimp them to other companies, talk about them on your blog, link to their pages. Sell clip art for them. Anything you can do to add value to them working for you is good and can offset what you can’t pay in monetary terms.
You’re not paying that much so let higher paying work go ahead of yours in the queue. Let deadlines slip a little, no biggy. If things get really late and the artist starts feeling guilty you might get a discount or some free work! Be understanding and give them the benefit of the doubt. The artistic muse is a hard thing to tame or to rely on. The more leeway, the better and this goes along with booking early’
Let Them Keep Rights
Let them re-sell and re-use the art in prints, as clip art, for other clients. The more they can sell it the more money they get for the same amount of work and this can make up for a great deal. The art is still tailored to your needs, even if other people later use it, that’s well worth it even if others get it cheaper later on.
Next time, care and feeding of your writer.