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Forgive me if this topic has been raised before, but I am interested to know how people go about deciding on what fees to charge for illustration and design work (book covers for example), and for sales of original artworks. Do you have set rates or is it always open to negotiation? What is it based on? How has it changed over the years and what are the factors?
In the field of book cover illustration, clients usually decide the budget, not the Artist.
There is of course room for negotiation, but for the most part, they have set rates they offer.
That rate varies from client to client.
Small publishing houses may offer $1000 for a cover, a large one $4000.
Unfortunately, the prices have NOT changes over the years.
The budgets are pretty much the same as they were 20 years ago.
Given inflation, it means we are actually getting less.
Pricing original art is a personal thing, and everyone one has a different approach.
I will however pass on one piece of valuable advice I once received...
"Never price your work so high that you later need to reduce it's price."
If you start your prices off low, and gradually increase them, your work becomes a desirable investment.
If you make it too expensive, sell a few at that high rate, and then later decrease it's cost, because you are having a hard time selling stuff...
Well, everyone who already bought it at the expensive price just lost their investment.
ALL of your work is now worth less, not just the one you priced low.
- Dan Dos Santos
If you buy the GAGH realise it's prices also haven't changed in years, so an older, possibly copy will do as well.
Back when I was young and referred to it, the only client I ever worked for that paid their rates didn't ask for a quote, they told me their rate and that was that. Everyone who asked me my fee and got a GAG rate choked and sputtered.
Here's some pricing info that may help:
We also have a thread in the employment section about this subject:
Thanks all. Some wise words. That blog hit the nail on the head, too, with the public presuming that artistic creativity is somehow easy, or even a predominantly enjoyable process.
I wonder if this is to do with the prevalence of photography aided by Photoshop cut and paste/manipulation which is cheaper to do and the artists simply having to accept prices related to this in order to get any work at all.
It's tricky this one isn't it? The value of something commercially is what people are prepared to pay for it. If you can't sell at one price you lower it, and if you think you can get more you raise it. I don't think anyone is being immoral in all this, unless their were unions involved. However, it is exasperating how someone who has figured out a way to paint what amounts to expensive wallpaper can charge the same prices as someone who has poured love into their work over many weeks. I think it amounts to "pay unto Ceasar what is due unto Ceasar and to God what is due unto God". In other words your work has to be its own reward when you are doing it and you have to put your commercial hat on to sell it to the highest bidder. And this will be at the mercy of public taste and their pocket.
Well there's all these other factors such as the economy and the advent of new technology, like Photoshop. There's a great amount of fear that new artists have which makes them do regrettable things. They fear a loss of jobs because of photomanipulations gaining a foothold in the book cover market, so they lower their prices, while more experienced artists who have weathered the storm have to deal with the consequences. Art directors pounce on these unexperienced artists and use that leverage to pressure the rest of the community into charging less. It's a vicious cycle.
I heard one theory that sounded pretty sound, that the GAG has been a detriment to the industry, and is the reason why fees have stagnated. Once it got into popular use, everyone turned to it not as a guide, but as THE prices, especially new art buyers who didn't have as much experience.
Photoshop does seem to be taking over, though I don't know if it necessarily makes the process any quicker, nor look any better. As it happens there are two books in front of me: 'Fantasy Art: The best in Fantasy and SF art worldwide' by Dick Jude, published ten years ago, and the similarly titled 'Fantasy Art Now: The very best in contemporary fantasy art and illustration', edited by Martin McKenna, published recently. Predictably enough the digital to traditional ratio has reversed over that time. Globalization seems to be another factor. There are artists all over the world contributing to the genre, all with websites, and publishers can easily call upon anyone they like. Pricing seems to be a real headache for a lot of people, meanwhile. Maybe it helps to have an agent to help decide that. Seems you can't lower your prices without shooting yourself in the foot as a collectable artist, while you can't keep them high without pricing yourself out what is of a buyer's market! What a game...
I completely agree - you and RyerOrdStar describe the process perfectly. I guess that all I'm saying is that on each job, people new to the business find their back is against the wall, they react accordingly. This even happens to some extent to people with a lot of experience in the field if they are going through an extended bad patch.
But something else is at play here. Even in the impossible event that all artists could club together and form some sort of pact as to what minimum prices were it would not stop the trend that is going on. To my mind it would even speed it up. Once upon a time you could stand in front of any magazine display and practically everything on the front covers involved an illustrator. The same goes for book covers. We now almost have a situation where not a single illustration appears on any cover in view and with a few exceptions only a tiny, tiny percentage of the content within those covers makes use of them.
The traditional food supply has tapped out, and there is nothing that the animals who depend on it can do to change that.
They have to adapt.
How they should do that is a very interesting question.
Last edited by Chris Bennett; March 1st, 2009 at 01:21 PM.
Yes that's true, but I think there are things that can be done within what we produce.
For instance, the fantasy genre, which is required to make things look believably real that are too expensive to produce photographically is a reasonably fruitful area. This is a reasonably safe field at the moment. But it wont be this way for ever - as the 3D software becomes more fluent there will be ways that photography and digital manipulation will have a significant effect on this market and the work available to the traditional image makers within it.
To my mind the problem lies in realism itself. This is why most artist agent websites have a preponderance of 'cartoony stuff'. This is something that photography and its manipulation cannot begin to compete with.
Yet 'cartooning', although one of the answers to this problem is not the only one. The traditional artist has to ask themselves this question:
"What is the added value of producing something in a traditional medium?"
In other words, what is it that is unique to producing images in this way?
There are many answers to this and answering them and acting on them is what will start finding solutions to this.
Last edited by Chris Bennett; March 1st, 2009 at 01:43 PM.
Agreed. It's a shame what's happened. Still, I've always felt traditional had a life and energy that's just hard to achieve with digital. When I see a beautiful final up next to a digital print, it doesn't inspire the same feelings at all.
One of the other issues here, is that anyone can get a copy of Photoshop, and then assume the program has a magic 'don't suck' button.
A GOOD photomanip takes time, effort, and practice.
But what about the fact, that there is *more* illustration than ever during the last 30 years? When I was younger (1980s) there was virtually no illustration in/on magazines and books. It's getting more during the last years. And there is a trend, in the UK at least to produce very old fashioned illustrated books for adults. I have seen several adults books during the last 3 years that have been illustrated. This was unheard of during the last 20-30 years.
Things are difficult financially, so much is certain, but the general trend is to use more illustration,I think. Photography has become a bit boring, and the audience is generally more open to illustration again.
The illustration market fluctuates just as the economy does. It comes in and out of fashion. Thankfully there has been a rise in creative illustration. However when people talk about a time when illustration was used a lot they are mostly referring to the Golden Age. And then when it was not used a lot they are mostly talking about that decade where the photograph was the new 'it' thing and everyone wanted to use it. I'm sure photographers are now complaining they get less work. That's life.