Monday, August 2, 2010

Always get a paper trail-Pretty simple right?

I was taught to be honest and I have lived by that rule my whole life (ok, I took a bath towel from a fancy hotel one time). When I was younger and just starting out in this business, I found a company that wanted my art work. I was so excited and happy that I was actually going to sell a design to a publisher. Nothing better than that right? This was way before the internet so everything was done via snail mail and talking on yep, regular phones. No cell phones either. So, it was slower going but still satisfying. I worked hard on these designs but I did remember to keep asking the publisher about sending me the copyright info. They kept putting it off but I was to excited that I was going to get my work published that I finally just let it go. So, I send in my work and I find out that I would be paid in royalties. Now that sounded good too. But, still no paperwork. Nothing was signed by either party.

I had a young son then so life was busy, I sent in the work, sort of forgot about bugging this company for the copyright info and life went on. Meanwhile, the royalty checks were pathetic and finally they just stopped. This was a few years later and I was a little older and wiser so I asked why they stopped. No good answer so I finally asked to give me my originals back and since I didn't sign anything, that they were LEGALLY mine and to stop selling them. We talked it out and this guy was so nice, aren't all used care sales men nice? We worked out that he would sell the rest of his inventory in 5 years and that would be the end of it. He also said he would mail back the originals. I did get the originals back so that was wonderful news. I asked him to send me a written statement but I never received one. After 5 years, I contacted him to make sure that he was going to live by his word. He never returned my request. By then, I was finally on line and was able to contact other artists. I joined SCBWI and found out so much information. I checked out his website and I did not see my work on his site. It didn't mean he wasn't selling it but I was hoping. Go along a few years and I find out just a month ago that he is STILL selling my work. I was flabbergasted. I emailed him and asked him what in the world he was doing??? He wrote back saying "I don't remember agreeing about not selling your work and I had all this inventory and I am going to sell it." He also said "You should be so happy I am selling your work for you." What the %&^$#*(. For one thing I OWN copyright and he knows it. For another thing, I am still not getting any money for the sold cards. What does an artist do? Go after a place out of the country and spend thousands of dollars over a few designs?

I was so innocent back then and I want to beat myself up for it but I won't. I just learned a very valuable lesson and I will count it as part as my college education. I will always be honest. Don't they say honesty wins in the end? I sure hope so.

Most new artists are more educated than I was. With the internet, we can find out so much more and protect ourselves. I wish I would have done things different but I am writing this to let anyone new just starting out to make sure you get everything in writing. If you don't like the terms, don't do the sale. Yep, it is fun getting your first sale and seeing your work in print but it is not worth having them steal your work.


Susan Walker Art said...

Thanks for sharing this experience Becky. it is good for all of us as the reminder. though i wouldn't let him off the hook. Maybe you don't have the funds to go after him directly but you can just put his name and a caustion out there as is 'business'methods. SCWIBi members may be able to direct those tips too. You see the power of face book everyday and like internet medias. It is so others don;t go through the same thing.
Hang in there and keep up your fabulous work!

Vanessa Brantley Newton said...

Hey Becky, Happy New Year to you!
I came by to answer your question about the piece I did on WAWE. The blue piece for long and short? Doing the illustration on watercolor paper and IN watercolor. Then take the piece and scan it into the system and open it up in photo shop. I click on image and then adjustments and play with the color balance and play with color value and tint and then I put a filter on to give it some texture. Do you have photoshop? I am still learning it after all these years. Seems as soon as I learn on thing they are are updating and have added something else. You tube has wonderful tutorials on photoshop you can learn a heck of a lot right from home!

moira ladd said...

hi , i just wanted to say that this article was very interesting, I have always wanted to be an illustrator, but i sometimes get sidetracked with different work. Exhibitions etc. Your work is really lovely. I will continue to read your blogs, and I must say i am learning something particularly about copyright and agreements. thanks for that. take care moira.