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ok, need some help here.
I just got offered a contract from 4RV publishing to be on staff as an illustrator.
I am based in Japan, they are a US compnay (quite small by the looks of it).

Was wondering if anyone could reccomend someone who could help me read through the contract
to make sure all is kosher before I sign anything. I haven`t got an agent (still trying) so this is all
off my own bat.

Hoping someone can help,

thanks in advance,

Luisa
#1 - June 12, 2012, 03:00 AM

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Luisa - I've heard of 4RV Publishing, but, don't know too much about them.   You should have a lawyer who specializes in the arts and publishing look at it, as there's so much contract lingo that gets confusing and you should definetly watch out for your copyrights.   I'd suggest to google Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts and I think there's a chapter in various US states.    Usually they will work with artists if either the artist or the client are located in that particular states.   They charge a small fee, but, it's worth it if they take you on - however, sometimes there's a long waiting period, which makes it difficult when the client has specific deadlines.    If there are lawyers in Japan who specialize in art and publishing, that maybe more beneficial for you - and well worth the money if you can afford it.   I hope this helps - Congrats and good luck!   :yoda
#2 - June 12, 2012, 09:57 AM

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If you're an SCBWI member, they have annotated sample contracts that might help a little. But a contract for a staffer is going to be considerably different than a contract for a book project, and many of the issues and concerns will be, too. So if you're not comfortable reading and understanding the contract yourself, you'd probably better hire an attorney.

The Graphic Artists Guild probably also has resources (again, for members).

You could also Google "contracts for freelancers" or "for illustrators" or something to that effect - I know there are a couple of books on the subject.
#3 - June 12, 2012, 04:32 PM
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I'm betting the most important item in there will be that, as staff, you will not retain any copyrights to your work produced. Make sure you are comfortable with that (it's like working for Disney etc) and make sure too that there is no provision for them owning the copyrights to ANY Illustration you do on your own time. Check into the taxes withheld situation (an accountant might be best to speak with on this subject. Will you be truly an employee or on contract, will they deduct income tax in the US, you needing to apply to have it returned  etc. This can be a real problem. Finally, make certain the pay you get weekly, to be on staff, is enough to compensate for the loss of copyrights etc.
I am thinking, because of the size and type of books they put out, it will not be worth it but that's just a quess.
Joni has made a good suggestion re: SCBWI. They also have a lawyer who will answer questions from members and you may be able to run this by her.
#4 - June 13, 2012, 02:32 AM
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Thankyou for all your input and help. I`m so sorry it has taken me so long to read and reply to this. My family and I have relocated from Japan to Australia and have just settled down enough to start thinking about drawing/working again.
I did actually end up signing a contract with them. It is for 2 years and actually the illustrations are credited to me when (if?) a book is published with my illustrations in them. The rights for the work are one off as far as I can tell but will look more closely into the contract.
I figure its experience and a bit of exposure at the least.

Please do let me know your thoughts,

regards,

Luisa
#6 - October 15, 2012, 02:36 AM

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Luisa, I checked their site and submission guidelines and was wondering if you realized that you only get paid royalties and not an upfront fee for your work? Is this different in your contract? In other words if the book doesn't sell you get nothing. Also, having the artwork attributed to you should be guaranteed and not even a second  thought unless you are working on licensed products which it does not appear you will be.
Some other questions if I may?

  • What does this two year contract expect from you?
  • Do you have the option of turning down a story if you aren't interested in it's content?
  • How quickly do they expect you to turn a book around?
  • Do you retain any rights to the artwork at all?
  • What is the penalty if you don't complete a book?
  • Are you allowed to work for others during these two years?

I'm just curious why they would need to put you under contract for two years to a job that doesn't pay you anything outright. Makes my little antenna go up a bit.
#7 - November 13, 2012, 11:33 PM

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I'm just curious why they would need to put you under contract for two years to a job that doesn't pay you anything outright.

Wilson, that's the thing that threw me as well. When Luisa mentioned a contract, without a specific book in mind, that was odd. A contract typically implies working for an employer and getting paid, ie: work for hire situation perhaps. I too have never heard of an instance when it's not a given that the Illustrator is credited in a book, unless, as you mention, it's a licensing project, your working for Disney, working on licensed characters like sesame street, with an ad agency or some such on logo's etc. So, being given credit is NOT any sort of compensation for work, it's just standard.
I suppose it's too late in any case, as the contract has been signed but it's a new one on me, doesn't make any sense and typically, there are so few royalties in these types of publishings. I don't know if the artists under contract are looking at the standard 5% or not but if so, they might make 200 dollars over time if the books sell a couple hundred copies?
#8 - November 14, 2012, 02:15 AM
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I'm just curious why they would need to put you under contract for two years to a job that doesn't pay you anything outright.

Wilson, that's the thing that threw me as well. When Luisa mentioned a contract, without a specific book in mind, that was odd. A contract typically implies working for an employer and getting paid, ie: work for hire situation perhaps. I too have never heard of an instance when it's not a given that the Illustrator is credited in a book, unless, as you mention, it's a licensing project, your working for Disney, working on licensed characters like sesame street, with an ad agency or some such on logo's etc. So, being given credit is NOT any sort of compensation for work, it's just standard.
I suppose it's too late in any case, as the contract has been signed but it's a new one on me, doesn't make any sense and typically, there are so few royalties in these types of publishings. I don't know if the artists under contract are looking at the standard 5% or not but if so, they might make 200 dollars over time if the books sell a couple hundred copies?

Exactly!! I hope we are wrong about this situation and there's more to it than we know. But at this point it feels like a company feeding off the hopes and dreams of a newcomer. Ughhh!! I really hope there are details to this we just don't know, otherwise this is a very scary situation and the artist is indeed being taken advantage of.
#9 - November 14, 2012, 02:50 AM

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  • What does this two year contract expect from you?
  • Do you have the option of turning down a story if you aren't interested in it's content?
  • How quickly do they expect you to turn a book around?
  • Do you retain any rights to the artwork at all?
  • What is the penalty if you don't complete a book?
  • Are you allowed to work for others during these two years?


Wilson's list is excellent. I'd especially pay attention to #6 in a contract like this. If you're not getting paid, you should at least be able to work for others and/or send your own work out to other publishers for possible publication.
#10 - November 14, 2012, 08:02 AM
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picture book: EWE AND AYE (now available as an ebook!)

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Yes, you all make valid points and  I was aware that I was only getting royalties..seems like I am a `staff illustrator`..I`ve done a few images for them already but since I don`t know the turnaround for even getting images approved etc (seems to be taking a loooooong time).
I can take on other work as long as it doesn`t invovle authors already with the publisher eg..freelance. I thought just getting the experience and knowing what was needed for this kind of work would be good...

To be honest, I am finding the experience a little disheartening, more for the lack of professional feedback/response. Communication seems to be a little off.

It doesn`t help that I am in Australia and they are in the US..but..

*sigh*
#11 - November 19, 2012, 07:10 PM

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Luisa,

Is there an exit clause in your contract? How are you staff and you aren't being paid. So basically you are working for them for free at their beck and call for two years?? How can they demand that you not work with their authors when they aren't really actively paying you anything? I don't get it.

It shouldn't matter your location. I'm in Florida and one of my larger clients is in Canada. With e-mail, skype and phone communication shouldn't be an issue with a client.

I smell some shadiness. Please be careful.

#12 - November 19, 2012, 08:47 PM

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I`m starting to not get it either..the exit clause is that basically if I have agreed to do a project and stop halfway through and they have to find another author, I have to pay for the illustrations! Since I haven`t taken on any projects so far (just samples for the author to decide on) it`s not an issue unless I decide to leave and the samples I have done so far are considered part of the project...

Thanks for your input Wilson, I appreciate it..sometimes bringing up points helps me see what I miss initially in my rush thinking that I am doing good..

Luisa
#13 - November 19, 2012, 10:38 PM

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Why do you have to pay for something they aren't paying you for??? They aren't out any money, they are only out time at the most.

Also, they have you doing samples for the author for free too!!???  No, no, no, no, no. I'd walk away from this. But I can't tell you what to do. This is getting stinkier and stinkier by the minute.

It's not a problem Luisa, I know what it's like trying to break in and wanting to jump at any opportunity. It can be so long between getting any news back from prospective clients that it wears on you. I understand completely.

But this situation seems to hold you under a lot of responsibility and risk, yet they don't seem to be taking any themselves. If you aren't being paid then the author should have no say in what the illustrations look like. They aren't paying for them. Why should you be beholden to someone who isn't paying you??  You are going into a joint business deal. If the book sells they get a royalty and you get a royalty. That's a partnership. Have they delivered the script to you and let you send it back to the writer with revisions and changes?? If no, then why do they get to do it to you?

Even in most traditional publishing situations the author doesn't have anything to do with the artwork. The publisher buys the story. The publisher hires you to draw the story. You deal with the art director. Do you have an art director?

Plus dealing with an author can be difficult. Not because they aren't great people but because it is very difficult to make your idea and mental visualization match with theirs. It can be very problematic. If you are brought on to a project to draw it then usually it's because they want your visuals and the writer's words. Not your visuals made to match what the writer personally visualizes.

I'd pass on this and focus on creating your own works and sending them out to potential publishers. If you are good enough to land this gig, you are good enough to land another. You deserve better.
#14 - November 19, 2012, 11:09 PM

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>Why do you have to pay for something they aren't paying you for??? They aren't out any money, they are only out time at the most.<

You beat me to the punch on that one Wilson, it stood out like a sore thumb, completely ridiculous!!!

Because the Illustrator is free and because the authors do not get advances either, I guess keeping authors entertained with free art samples to pick an artist for their book is how this publisher works. It's obviously not a traditional/commercial publisher as we understand the meaning and I used to wonder about them. This abuse of the artists is proving it.
This is so, so wrong and NOT the way the industry works and that's why doing this sort of thing is NOT a learning curve for Illustrators starting out, unless one considers learning the hard way a bonus (and we have all likely had that happen, myself included)
Seems like, according to a post on their blog, the Authors, paid only in royalties, are required to turn in a completely edited, properly laid out, word doc and the publisher only does layout for page size. Again, not an industry standard. I always worry when I see a "publisher" feel they need to state that they are a traditional publisher, they do not charge authors. When have you seen that mentioned on HarperCollins or Random House's web site or any of the many hundreds of small publishers?
Lusia, even though you signed the contract, I am assuming you do not have to accept any of the jobs, if an Author picks you. You could ride the contract out, not taking anything on, if the contract gives you that option. That or ask that they terminate the contract. They might, if they feel you are not going to turn down the work anyway.
If they won't terminate, you can still move on and work at sending out promo postcards or samples to publishers.
#15 - November 20, 2012, 05:07 AM
"Penelope and the Humongous Burp"
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Thanks Wilson and Christapp,

Thanks for your input. I am considering riding it out anyway..it takes a while to hear anything from them so I am guessing the 2 years will be easy. In the meantime I am trying to put that part behind me and get on with doing more drawing to improve my portfolio and website and to just keep going and try try try.

thanks again,

Luisa
#16 - November 20, 2012, 08:29 PM

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