Thursday, October 19, 2006

A cautionary tale....

I've just had three months of work rejected by a publisher. While this is upsetting, they are perfectly entitled to reject it if they feel it is not up to standard.

What I want to warn people about is this publisher's contracts and business practices.

When I was initially contacted about this book I was offered the same amount that they paid me for a book I did 2 years ago. The new book was also going to be 10 pages longer (42pp), have a tighter deadline and require a fair amount of research.

My agent tried in vain to negotiate a better deal but they wouldn't budge on anything, even down to small things like upping the number of copies of the book I would receive (they said it would be unfair to give me more copies than the author, is it my fault the author didn't ask for more?!).

The contract specified that I would paid on signature, on approval of final art and on publication. Once again, my agent tried to get this changed to include a roughs payment and to reduce or remove the payment on publication. They refused. I reluctantly agreed to do the book because at the time, I needed the money and thought I could make a good looking book out of this.

After continual reminders, I finally received my contract payment 45 days after returning the contract to them.

I completed four spreads and the cover, ahead of schedule to be used a sample for the Frankfurt Book Fair, they gave no indication there was anything wrong with the artwork at this stage. Over a month later, after some frantic work (into the night and across the weekends) I delivered the final artwork for the rest of the book.

They e-mailed me yesterday to tell me that the illustrations were "below the standard we require to invest in publication." They would not be publishing the book and would not be paying me anymore money. They had given no indication before this that there was anything wrong. I think this raises serious questions about how professional they are as a company, if they cannot come to a decision about artwork until they have the whole book.

Because of the way their payments were arranged I was not entitled to anymore money from them, despite having completed the entire book.
I would strongly recommend strongly recommend anyone who is negotiating a contract with a publisher to ensure they have a rejection clause in their contract and if possible to push for a payment at the point of approved roughs.

As it is they can commission you for a book, reject it when you've finished it and only pay a signature fee (if you've received it by then).

This book was supposed to be a lead title for their spring 2007 range so I imagine they will be very frustrated at not having the book, the difference is of course that they have all been paid fully, whilst I was wasting my time on it.

Hopefully the lesson they will learn from this is that for a 'lead title' to be successful they need to allow enough time and a big enough budget for the illustrator, treat them with a little respect and be around to offer feedback (both the founder and the designer went away on holiday during the production of the book.).... but I doubt it.

Needless to say I will not be working for them again, and I will be checking my future contracts very carefully, as I've learnt this the hard way.


Anonymous said...

I saw you post this over on the AOI site. The moral of this tale is simply never to sign a contract with less than a 100% cancellation/rejection fee.

Jago said...

I have to say I agree 100%!

June said...

Thanks for the cautionary tale, and so sorry you had this dreadful treatment Jago.

Thank goodness you have that sunny face of your beautiful daughter to cheer you.


heather said...

Hi Jago, have just come across your post on the aoi forum. I'm in the process of submitting spreads to them to work out out if my style might fit. Reading about your experience has worried me. Thanks for posting in so much detail. I'm going to ask them for an honest opinion about whether or not I actually have a chance of getting work published with them. They have been nice but a bit vague and have asked for a number of changes on the test spread I have sent without any real mention of a contract or how viable the ideas are. Thanks so much for the warning!