A content creator approached me and wants to sell my fanart as merch! What do I do?

Yesterday, I posted my experience with working with the Yogscast to my tumblr. A lot of people stepped forward in response to it, telling their stories and how they struggled in their interaction with the Yogs. The most common theme among them was that the artists felt overwhelmed by being approached by the Yogs and not knowing how to price their work and settling for too little or bad and restrictive contracts.

Artists are a close knit community, but we so seldom talk about the business side of things. But how else are you as a hobbyist or an artist who is just starting out supposed to know what you can and should do?

Research

Make a background check

A quick google search about the person or organisation asking you for your art should be mandatory. Do they have a bad history with paying artists? Do they have a bad reputation attached to their name that you don’t want to be associated with? It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Compare notes

Ask friends about similar sized projects, research online for pricing sheets for professional illustration work. See if you can find pricing guides for illustrators and designers (the German one I use all the time can be found here). Know what other artists charge and see where you’d put yourself.

EDIT: Someone linked this site which is an excellent introduction to a pricing guide. Also here is a really good book for all American based people!

Ask questions

Ask them for what kind of merch it will be. Ask about how many units will be printed, where they will be distributed. Ask about reprints and if the art would be used in other places. The more your know about what they plan to do with the art, the better you can price your work and not run into bad surprises.

Pricing

But I did the fanart for free, why should I charge for it?

The fact that the content creator approached you and wants to put your art on merch means that they deem your art to be of professional level. They could have gone and commissioned someone for a piece, but instead they approached you. Your art has the same worth as that hypothetical commission. Treat yourself with respect and charge for your art to be used on merch.

Should I give them a discount because I am a fan?

No. If they are an ethical person, they will pay you fairly for your work and not exploit your admiration of them for their own benefit.

I was offered to be paid in exposure, is that worth it?

Hard question. Do you think your name in a description will net you enough follow up contracts to make up for the time spent on the piece? This is very rarely the case and also means that you rely on possible payoffs weeks or months in the future. It is a lot fairer to be paid upfront.

They offered to pay me with a small piece of merch.

Pretty sure any art you can sell them to use on merch is worth more than a shirt. Think about how much your time and creativity is worth and renegotiate.

Contract

They want me to sign over all right on my art so they own it now.

If you see a contract that states you would sign over ownership of your art, think long and hard if you want to sign it. Why do they want to own your art instead of right of use for the merch they approached you about? Handing over your art entirely means they can reprint it, resell it, put it on everything and you don’t see a penny for it. Instead I recommend you talk to them and ask them why they want to own the art. You can offer a right of use for the merch you discussed and offer to be open for discussions if they want to use your art in the future on other projects. It is common practice to only sign away your right of use on art contracts, NOT the ownership of your art. 

I am so unsure about all of this, what can I do?

Ask for a second opinion. Ask an artist you know, an art friend, approach online communities and have someone look at the contract or tell them what you are dealing with. Not only can a second opinion help you realise when you undercharge yourself, it might also help you figure out why the contract made you uneasy. Don’t rush into a contract. Take your time and read it carefully and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

EDIT2: The Graphic Artist Guild also has an awesome reference and guideline section with great tips on copyright, contest rules and more. Go check it out!

Yogscast: fanwork is still real work

Back in December during the Christmas Livestreams, the Yogs contacted me and several other fanartists for a music video project in the shape of a community contest. The project never saw the light of day and so I kept my worries to myself. With the recent resurgence of artists talking about their bad interactions with the Yogs regarding fair pricing of their work, I decided to put my worries into words because my silence will only help make it easier for other artists to walk into bad situations unknowingly.

Christmas is an important season for Yognau(gh)ts. It is a holiday season full of community projects for the Charity livestreams where everyone comes together and works toward a common goal. The willingness to contribute to Yog-related content is high in December, and fans who might not have been active throughout the year return to the fold of the community during the festivities. There is a shared spirit of doing something for a good cause.

Myself and some other artists were contacted before the contest was supposed to be made public for everybody, because the Yogs “wanted to reach out to those we personally wanted involved in this first”. This was the first line to make me wonder, because this didn’t sound like a contest at all when cherry-picked artists got contacted prior to it. Because this music video project was announced during December, and with the Charity Drive happening at the same time, I assumed the proceeds of the video would go to charity. In 2014, all proceeds of the “Does Santa Claus…?”  video were added to the charity money on the HumbleBundle page.  After asking for more details, I was told that this year’s video would be monetised the same as all their other videos, and that the work the artists would do for it would not be compensated.

Sadly, this is not the first time the Yogs have had trouble with dealing with fancreations:

Here is a reblog chain of pythosart talking about lack of credit on her art on the old spreadshirt store. (edit: sorry for the misgendering, fixed now!)

Here is an account on how Turps contacted a fanartist to remove a donation button from their site because they also posted fanart.

Here is an account by baron-norris about the lack of credit and recognition for their art.

While I know that everybody can decide for themselves what to do with their time, I decided I cannot with a good conscience keep my silence. And although the contest and the video got shelved, there’s no guarantee something like this won’t happen again (see the 4th of July fanart contest last year).

Keep reading

New shirt on sale by the Yogscast to raise funds for ILGA!

‘Hey everyone,

We here at the Yogscast fully support equality and inclusiveness. In light of recent events we’ve decided to raise money to fund harmony and support the work of the ILGA.

Why the ILGA? The ILGA is a worldwide federation of 1,200 member organisations from 125 countries campaigning for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex rights. We decided that because of it’s global reach and good reputation it’s a great organisation to raise money for.

How can you help? We’re raising funds and increasing awareness with a new t-shirt you can purchase here (http://smarturl.it/yogscastpride), all profits will be donated to charity.

You can donate directly at the ILGA’s website here. (http://ilga.org)

And of course you can help spread the message by telling all of your friends!!

Thanks,

Mike’