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    Family wanting work for free

    An estranged member of the family just recently asked me to illustrate a childrens book for her but expects me to do the work as something i can add to my portfolio..(like you havent heard that one before, right?)

    Im not sure at all how to go about replying to her with this and i was hoping someone could shed some light/experience on these sort of situations.

    A little more information that I know of is that shes been published before through a company called Authorhouse. The book that shes wanting to do is three stories in one book which, from her draft looks to be about 35 or so illustrations- not including any cover work. I have no idea of what size she wants the illustrations done as..nor media usage.

    The other problem is that I have no idea of what even to charge her per page (full color) assuming she would want to pay me for the work.

    I know i've seen a post or two before about working for family but I cant find them, so sorry if this happens to be a repost.

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    It depends if you can spare the time and they sound like the sort of thing that would be useful for your portfolio. It sounds like a big job to do for a favour, and I'm assuming you want to run a business rather than a charity. Certainly I wouldn't prioritize it above paying work. If they value your skill they should be prepared to pay a fair rate for it, regardless of whether you are a relation.

    Normally publishers rather than authors are responsible for commissioning illustrators, so I'd also suggest finding out more about the publisher, and whether they are happy to have you do it. You never know, they might offer to pay you!

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    Quote Originally Posted by dashinvaine View Post
    It depends if you can spare the time and they sound like the sort of thing that would be useful for your portfolio. It sounds like a big job to do for a favour, and I'm assuming you want to run a business rather than a charity. Certainly I wouldn't prioritize it above paying work. If they value your skill they should be prepared to pay a fair rate for it, regardless of whether you are a relation.

    Normally publishers rather than authors are responsible for commissioning illustrators, so I'd also suggest finding out more about the publisher, and whether they are happy to have you do it. You never know, they might offer to pay you!
    Thanks for the reply, lots of helpful information. =)

    Yeah im not a freelancer by any means.. i'm actually back in school getting a second degree, so of course any payment is welcomed. Its just too difficult of a project when im swamped in homework everyweek!

    Authorhouse from what I understand is self-publishing company so i'm not sure if that changes things or not. Its my first time dealing with anything this big so I want to make sure I have all my bases covered.

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    If you want money, a polite way of asking is "What is your budget on the artwork?" That'll let them know that you're thinking about money and usually put the brakes on a situation where they're trying to get you to work for free.

    If you are wanting to be charitable, I would imagine it needs to be treated as if you were being paid. Some sort of legal contract that establishes her expectations and what you will deliver. I could see there being some friction if she expect you to prioritize her work above all else or something. God forbid it ever get to a point it couldn't be finished, you'd need to protect the work you have done up to that point.

    So either way, whatever you decide, write it in stone. If she's unwilling to enter a legal contract, then I would kindly suggest some places to find what she's looking for and move on.

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    Quote Originally Posted by anteater View Post
    Authorhouse from what I understand is self-publishing company so i'm not sure if that changes things or not.
    Not. It might mean the rates of pay are slightly less than a big publishing house but it doesn't mean she has a license to scrounge. I'm working for a self-publisher at the moment and they're paying four figures per image. To be honest there's no point in you working out a reasonable price and telling this person because if she already expects you to work for free, she won't pay it. You can't change that sort of mindset. And you should definitely not do if for nothing because it encourages these idiots as well as devalues your own worth. So, after due consideration, I recommend you reply, "No."

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    Tell them to go to editors & predators.com and look up autherhouse. It's on that list. Not a good pub house.

    TO answer your question, say 'NO'. GO to Authorhouse's website and see where your work will be associated with. NOT good cut&paste covers to be named with.

    "Everything must serve the idea. The means used to convey the idea should be the simplest and clear. Just what is required. No extra images. To me this is a universal principle of art. Saying as much as possible with a minimum of means."
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    Don't do it. Even if you manage to squeeze some money out, it still won't be worth it. Explain, very apologetically, that your school work and other demands on your time would make it impossible for you to do the kind of job that such a project warrants blah blah blah.


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    Quote Originally Posted by vapour View Post
    Where have I read this before?

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    "No."

    (Or, if you feel like being polite, "No, thank you.")

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    Quote Originally Posted by anteater View Post
    An estranged member of the family just recently asked me to illustrate a childrens book for her but expects me to do the work as something i can add to my portfolio..(like you havent heard that one before, right?)

    Im not sure at all how to go about replying to her with this and i was hoping someone could shed some light/experience on these sort of situations.

    A little more information that I know of is that shes been published before through a company called Authorhouse. The book that shes wanting to do is three stories in one book which, from her draft looks to be about 35 or so illustrations- not including any cover work. I have no idea of what size she wants the illustrations done as..nor media usage.

    The other problem is that I have no idea of what even to charge her per page (full color) assuming she would want to pay me for the work.

    I know i've seen a post or two before about working for family but I cant find them, so sorry if this happens to be a repost.
    How to charge? Just charge how much your time is worth.

    Don't want to accept the job? Just say you're too busy and have other playing assignments.

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    Your asking a bunch of strangers about how to treat your family? Anyway I think it sounds like a bunch of work leading to nothing.

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    A bunch of strangers that have had more experience than me, yes. Anyways like I said, its not someone i've really known personally as shes just married into our family recently. :p

    Thanks for all the helpful advice, obviously i need to just stick with my gut instinct more

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    Right after reading the topic my brains just alarmed DON'T DO IT !!!!!!!!!

    I'm really bad at saying "no" if people ask me to do art work for free and I always go on that "well, it's good exercise for me and something to add in my portfolio, I should definitely go for it and help a friend out"- mode but I usually regret it later. 35 illustrations, really? Who has the nerve to ask somebody to do that for free? Seriously...What's wrong with people? So disrespectful.

    I can see why it's really tempting to say YES and "take the challenge" but man...

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    Family stuff should be approached with caution! Sometimes clients are difficult or unreasonable, but if they're just a regular client, oh well, life goes on...but if it's family they're going to be in your life a long time, so you end up having to consider long-term family relations -and that can be at odds with reasonable professional expectations.

    If it's not even paid, then I think it has to be with a person you like (and whose ideas you like), so it's a personal project/collaboration that you enjoy. Otherwise, you may just end up feeling taking advantage of and unappreciated, and that can't be good for family relations! Some very tactful ways of saying no have already been stated. I'd be tempted to explain that I just can't afford to do *that much work* for free, because often I think people genuinely do not understand how much time and work their project will take to do! Anyway, you know best how much tact and delicacy you need in this case!

    Hope all goes well!

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    DONT DO IT.

    AuthorHouse is a fairly notorious vanity press - not a real publisher. She paid to have the other book printed, and is either deluded or lying for ego purposes. There will be no royalties, and the 'publisher' doesn't pay anyone - they present themselves as a legit press to dupe the gullible into spending thousands on fairly worthless book packages.

    If this person were very close to you, it might be a different story, but this isn't going to help you in any way.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lumisade View Post
    35 illustrations, really? Who has the nerve to ask somebody to do that for free? Seriously...What's wrong with people? So disrespectful.

    I can see why it's really tempting to say YES and "take the challenge" but man...
    Hahahah, this. Made me laugh out loud at how rude that is to ask of someone. I'd be a little offended that they considered me as someone who'd be foolish enough to do a whole project for nothing. They'd be off my christmas card list

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    Something like a childrens book that she'll actually publish is something that I definately think you should get payed for. If you hire someone for your company you don't avoid paying them just because they're family.

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    Quote Originally Posted by anteater View Post
    A bunch of strangers that have had more experience than me, yes. Anyways like I said, its not someone i've really known personally as shes just married into our family recently. :p

    Thanks for all the helpful advice, obviously i need to just stick with my gut instinct more
    Married into your familiar recently, eh? Sounds to me like she just said to herself "OH! How convenient! There's an artist in the family! Maybe I can get them to do my the pet project for me that I use to quell my boredom with life". I'm not just making a snap judgement to be a dick...I've seen it happen before. People love finding out that they are within a degree or two of separation of an artist.

    I'd definitely steer as far away from this as you can. You'll feel more fulfilled spending your time on your own art, trust me.

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    In the context of this project.. it seems like the best thing to do would be to decline it.

    OTOH, if you believe in the concept and think there is some potential.. ask for a percentage of future profits. Don't forget that your time is an investment. If somebody is going to ask for your time without being able to offer compensation -- you deserve just as much compensation on the back end as the author does.

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    You wrote "estranged" in describing this person's relationship to your family, which sends up warning signs.

    People don't become estranged by accident. The family members I'm estranged from did things that warranted that sort of termination of the relationship.

    I suggest saying no and also making a point to never work for family is rarely a bad choice.

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    A good cover-all out is "I wish I could, but I'm just so bogged down with school/work/moving/finding a job/existential crisis/pet's illness/new apartment etc..."

    Seriously though, once you start coming into your own as an artist, you're going to start getting these "generous offers" for your portfolio from pretty much everyone and there dog. The sad truth is, all of these people ultimately think that all it takes to get from the 'idea' stage to the 'completion' stage is the use/abuse of an artist. And to be fair, a lot of people just don't know any better. Here's an easy way to deal with this sort of proposal if you really feel you can't just say no;

    Go into it, but explain firmly that in order to see this project through to completion, you're going to need a set of detailed briefs explaining each illustration to be done and you'll need them all together so as to have a better understanding of the over arching theme. Don't accept "can I just give you a couple first" or "is one or two lines okay?" as an answer... put the first real bulk of work in this project on their plate instead of taking it on your own... 90% of people will crumble when faced with actual work in developing their 'great idea.' Seriously.

    Or at least that's my experience. YMMV~!

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    "In god we trust, others must pay cash".

    Family or not, this story raises too many warning flags. A vanity publishing house means you'll never see royalties. An author (rather than the publisher) commissioning illustrations. And, worst of all, the "good for your portfolio" argument all freeloaders use.

    If they can pay, treat it as another job and add it to your portfolio - you are entitled to it in addition to payment, not instead of payment. If they cannot pay, politely decline.

    And don't ever do speculative work. It never pays off and only breeds freeloaders who'll go on in search of sucker artists to leech work off for free.

    End of story.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Frank View Post

    OTOH, if you believe in the concept and think there is some potential.. ask for a percentage of future profits.-- you deserve just as much compensation on the back end as the author does.
    Mike - check out my earlier post. There won't be any future profits, this 'author' pays a vanity press to print their work, she's not getting paid for this.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MiniGoth View Post
    Mike - check out my earlier post. There won't be any future profits, this 'author' pays a vanity press to print their work, she's not getting paid for this.
    Exactly.

    "Everything must serve the idea. The means used to convey the idea should be the simplest and clear. Just what is required. No extra images. To me this is a universal principle of art. Saying as much as possible with a minimum of means."
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    Ah shit, yeah.. umm, stay away.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rpace View Post
    You wrote "estranged" in describing this person's relationship to your family, which sends up warning signs.

    People don't become estranged by accident. The family members I'm estranged from did things that warranted that sort of termination of the relationship.

    I suggest saying no and also making a point to never work for family is rarely a bad choice.
    Probally the wrong word to use but i couldnt really think of anything else to describe it, regardless ive only met her once lol. Anyways, obviously i chose not to take the work. Thanks everyone for their input and for expanding on the whole publishing deal for me, it helps me understand everything a lot more.

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    There's nothing wrong with taking a vanity project, provided the writer is paying you.

    For publishers, most kids books are illustrated by a regular contract staff. It's a rare thing for a writer/illustrator or a team to pitch a book with illustrations. (Notice that it works a bit differently than comics.)

    If you want to focus on illustrating children's books, check out the SCBWI.

    You can also present your portfolio to publishers - they often have art director contact info on the webpage somewhere, and there are a ton of legit small presses as well.

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