Working with a cover artist, Part 2
There is more to the engaging of a cover artist part of working as an independent writer than just selecting an image or giving them an idea of what you want.
A lot of us get nervous talking about contracts and copyright and that is completely understandable. They seem difficult, complex, fraught with meaning, and all-too final. It feels like a prenuptial agreement sometimes – don’t you want to have faith that everything will work out all right?
Eh, not so fast.
This is not your great love (even if the cover artist is a friend or a relative). Instead, this is about rights. Your rights and the rights which belong to the artist.
The question is: who owns what? Without getting into the minutiae of copyright law just yet, this site offers not only a decent basic breakdown of the law in the United States, but also a good basic contract for a free download.
Are you all set now, and just have to fill in the blanks and you’re good to go?
Read over the agreement. If any of it does not make sense to you, talk to a lawyer! Even those of us not specially trained in copyright or contracts law can generally dope out an agreement. Further, in the US, you have got to have competence in Contracts Law in order to pass the Bar examination. It’s a basic part of the Multistate Exam. Hence even your friend the real estate lawyer should be able to answer your basic contract questions.
One quick tip: for the part of about State, County, and State, you want to write in your own state and county or parish. Why? Because if a lawsuit comes down, you will be a far happier person if you get to go to the courthouse in your county, instead of one potentially on the other side of the country. It will be far less expensive, and you will be far more likely to exert your rights if you feel they have been violated.
Second quick tip: introduce the idea of a contract before the cover artist does anything. Make it clear you won’t engage them to do the work if the agreement is not signed, but also give them an opportunity to look it over and make changes to it (e. g. they might agree to a different-sized format, etc.). Note: this agreement is rather artist-centric. They probably won’t have much of a problem with it. But it’s not outside the realm of possibility. Be patient and pleasant like you would be with anyone; this is not you forcing the artist to do anything. But do insist on a signed agreement.
You might want to make changes to a design. You can spell those out in the contract. Should the artist charge you for any changes? They might; make sure all of that is in writing. See why it’s a good idea to know pretty much what you want before you start? It could come in handy for, say, an agreement that the first three changes are free.
Don’t pay it all up front, and don’t agree to do so. If you are absolutely, flat-out broke, you should still be able to pay something, even if the artist hand waves an doesn’t want anything for their work. Be good to your conscience and at least ask if you can make a small donation to one of their three favorite charities.
Otherwise, payments should be as specified in the agreement. Are they in dollars, Euros, bitcoins? Do you pay with a check, a credit card, Paypal, or something else? When is the first payment due? What percentage of the total is due at the time? What’s the mechanism for getting a refund if things don’t work out?
Do you absolutely love your cover? Or do you dislike it but still think the artist is great (e. g. sometimes our visions can clash)? Then find out where and how to recommend them, whether it’s a recommendation on LinkedIn or a review on Yelp. And be sure to tell your writer friends, too!
Be good to your cover artist, and they will reward you many times over.