Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Question About Rates...X Rated

Hi Eric,

My name is X and I'm a recent XXX grad working in X. We've met a couple times before and I was wondering if you might be able to answer a question for me. Since graduating I've mostly been doing work for various collectible card games and board games which tend to dictate up front just how much they're going to pay you. But I have a sci-fi publisher (XXX Books) asking how much I charge for cover work, and the question has thrown me off a bit. If you don't mind my asking, what do you charge for cover work? I'm certainly not looking to compare my work to yours, but I don't want to lowball myself or undercut the market either. In any case, any light you could shed on the subject would be extremely helpful. Thanks in advance and have a great day!


Professional Artist and Illustrator
123 X St., Apt X
X, X 43202

Hi X,

Publishers usually pay somewhere between $1500-4000 for a cover. Depending on how interested you are in the job, how much artistic freedom you get, how quick the turn around is, or how much exposure you'll get(is this a well known publisher?), you may feel inclined to charge more or be willing to do it for less. I'm usually willing to work with a lower budget if I get the opportunity to have some freedom and do a really strong piece for myself. Hopefully, you can do the good work and get paid top dollar.

An art director will usually give you the info when they inquire about your availability ie budget, deadline, size etc. If they don't give you any of the info don't be afraid to ask.

"Hi Art Dir X,
Thanks for contacting me. I'm looking forward to working with you on this project. Could you please provide the synopsis, deadline, size, and budget for this job?"

Something simple like that or however you want to address it. But getting the information is a must before signing on to a job. That way you can make the most informed decision.
Also, I would take the "Professional" out of your title. It is assumed that you are already a professional. You don't want it to look as if you're overcompensating for lack of work. I'm not sure you need to give your addy or phone # either unless asked. I like it nice and simple. Just my opinion. You should also make your website a live link so it's easy for anyone to just click on it as opposed to copying and pasting.

Hope that helps,


Any other tips? please post them:)


Chun Lo said...

Great advice Eric!

CGriffin said...

SUCH a timely post! I was just complaining about this very topic to some of my business friends. I have a few observations...

Publishers who specialize in e-books WILL NOT pay the prices you quoted, Eric. This is true almost across the board, regardless of genre. (TOR might be one glowing exception.) Yes, right now the vast majority of e-books are romance/erotica. I have gotten the very same email from potential employers, and they offer as little as $50 a cover. It puts the artist in a real bind when they want to know our rates instead of telling us what the job pays. It's detrimental to the artist, for sure. We're stuck with the worry of undercutting the market or overpricing ourselves right into no work.

My husband is of the belief that we should decide what we're worth and stick to our guns. That's a bit over-simplified, but he's got a point. Far too often, artists are taken advantage of because we're so hungry for work. It generates a really desperate, taxing situation for many.

Thanks for giving us this pricing info, Eric. It's a step towards the knowledge-sharing and support we need to do a great job for our clients, and be happy within ourselves. It's tough enough to make a living at art without being manipulated by the folks we work for. *highfive*

Charles Valsechi III said...

I thought asking an art directors budget is an obvious 'he doesn't know what to charge me' flag.

EricFortune said...

Personally, when most of my clients contact me they usually offer all of the fore mentioned information. It's part of the job. Without knowing when it's due, what size, and budget I wouldn't know if I can fit the job into my perhaps hectic schedule. If they are professional you shouldn't be made to ask. You definitely shouldn't be made to feel bad about it. Every client is different and different jobs have different rates. There's no way to know what the budget is unless you ask or have already worked with them. It's actually a flag to the artist if the art dir isn't being up front about the price. It's not their personal stash. It's the publishing company's budget.

Let's say you're extremely busy with work and someone offers you a job that you're not amazingly excited about. Or you like the job but are seriously swamped. You could try to negotiate a higher price "if we can make it $1750 I can work it into my schedule" or say something like "I have a base of $300 for this type of work" Be prepared to let the job go if they don't go for it. $50 for a cover is not acceptable.

Even if you are not swamped you can always try and negotiate a better price and have a base price for the work you accept.

Remember first things first. To be in demand you have to have an outstanding portfolio.

Francisco Galárraga said...

50$ omg. But on the other hand, the editorial jobs rates are sounding great! Gotta get me one of those.