Wait. I’m the bad guy?
You’re not good enough yet.
Really, you’re not.
I know that people are always out for cheap art to illustrate their RPG projects and that not everybody’s presentation is professional or even semi-professional. I tend to go for fairly simple, minimalist layouts for that reason but please…
Stop selling your bad art.
Any schmuck can put together wooden looking poser dolls and anyone can trace an outline. You’ll get better with practice but that horrible scratching you’re selling for a buck a throw? It’s doing everyone harm, including you.
How is it doing harm?
1. You’re giving yourself a bad reputation – Get a rep for shitty art and people will stop looking and checking.
2. You’re pushing product off the front page of sites like RPGNOW – If you’re throwing up shitty sketches twice a day you’re contributing to product churn and pushing worthy product off the front page. The front page is important advertising for people with new product. Books that take months to put together are being knocked out of view by your napkin doodles. Stop it.
3. You’re depressing the acceptable price of stock art and flooding the market with crud. – That makes it hard to search through and find the good stuff and the price of stock art is already low, very low, compared to direct commissioning.
Now, what constitutes crap art is very subjective. I’m not saying everything has to be perfect and the ‘dodgy doodle’ can even be a stylistic choice for some games trying to capture to old-skool feel. There’s a few things you can do though, even if you can’t stop:
Being Less Crap:
1. Find honest people to give you honest, critical feedback.
2. Consolidate your releases. Don’t release ten, individual, shitty pieces of art for a buck each. Put them together in a collection and sell them. The good pieces will stand out, you won’t flood the front page so much and you’re providing value and giving yourself space to practice.
3. Do spot illustrations. Spot illustrations don’t have to be as good, typically and if they’re a little rough they just recall classics like Fighting Fantasy books or old adventure modules.
4. If you can’t do spot illustrations, do graphical elements, textures, things like that are always useful and you don’t need to be OMFGBRILLIANT to make something useful.
Now, I’ve also become aware of rumours about a disturbing trend amongst other small RPG companies. Reselling artist’s work as stock art.
This is a ‘Dick Move'(tm). Don’t do it. Let’s be honest here, most of us cannot afford what the work of these artists is worth. Allowing them to retain right of resale and reuse of their art or allowing the rights to revert after 3/6/12 months is a way we can help compensate for being cheapskates.
The stock art that I sell is commissioned AS stock art from the artists involved and includes highly detailed and highly stylised art depending on the artist. If I’m selling stock art money is going to the artists and I’m providing a central clearing house with, what I hope, is a good reputation for decent art. I’m not taking advantage as I fear some companies and individuals may be.
Don’t treat artists like crap and if you are an RPG artist I think you should be asking for these rights and finding places to sell your art – after rights revert – to help you squeeze a living out of a tough business. At this point, honestly, this should be standard procedure for small press.
TLDR: Don’t sell shit, don’t be a dick, re-sell your art yourself.