Working with Kickstarter, and people who wish to start a campaign, can be difficult. What rewards are you going to provide, how do you get people to take interest in the campaign, how does everyone get there rewards at the end of the day, and how does everyone who worked on on the campaign get paid. The questions go on.
I had the opportunity to vie for the position as an illustrator for an upcoming Kickstarter campaign (unfortunately I can’t share more details, because I am under a non-disclosure). I didn’t get the job unfortunately, but I would like to share my experience so others who are looking to do this kind of work may have a bit of wisdom before diving in.
Protecting Your Work
The creator of the product, after showing me the specifics about the product, was very open with me about how he was shopping for artists to work on his project. He asked that I, along with others, would need to submit some examples of the art he was looking for.
Naturally, when the campaign creator stars seeing all of these different character concepts will begin to hone down on the look he is going for. This is a great thing to do as a producer, but it does raise a few concerns for the artist. What if I don’t get the job, but the campaign organizer obviously uses your ideas, but with another artist, or, blatantly copies your works. What should you do to prevent and discourage this?
“This will ensure that your work remains your own until you say otherwise.”
First, rights to use your artwork can only be laid out with properly signed paperwork. Without paperwork they do not own anything about your artwork until you sign over the intellectual property of your artwork, or, you license the use of your artwork to them for a specific purpose. Communicate early on when working with a campaign organizer, that paperwork is required before they can use your artwork for anything, and preferably before you start moving forward with any art creation. This includes should include before prototypes of the product can be made with your work on it and marketing material that may include your artwork.
What do you do to protect your work before paperwork. Add a watermark to your image that you send to them. It should include your name (or business name), the year, and a copyright symbol. And if there won’t be paper work for a while, I would add a message to the watermark that says “For Preview Purposes Only”. This will ensure that your work remains your own until you say otherwise, and discourage others from stealing your work. It sends a message that you are serious about your doing, that your work has value, and you are looking for an honest relationship.
Working with other Artists on a Campaign
It was pretty obvious that the campaign organizer I was working with had done very little planning for the Kickstarter campaign, or for a future business that may spawn from the Kickstarter. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and doesn’t mean they don’t know how. In fact, I am very thankful that this was the case, as it was an opportunity for both me and this individual to really explore what we wanted from the Kickstarter and beyond.
With that in mind, here are a few questions to ask the Kickstarter Campaign owner/creator in order to better know where they might stand.
- What is your campaign goal?
- Who else will be gaining from the campaign funds directly? (partners, spouse advisory, close friends, etc…)
- How will you be fulfilling campaign backer rewards?
- After the campaign is funded and backer rewards are fulfilled, what are you planning on doing to do with your new product?
There are more questions that can be asked, but these few will help you quickly determine how far along the planning is. Confusing answers or no answers to these questions could be a red flag for you, try to find someone you trust to talk about these answers with, to help determine how much of a risk your taking on if you do get the job.
The Value of Art In Relation to Mechanics
In the book illustration world, the artist along with the writer almost always receive a percentage of sales from the publisher. The percentage varies, and in this story the exact percentage doesn’t matter much. What matters is that the business world, publishers, artists, and writers alike all understand that art holds an importance in selling a product, both in marketing and in the user experience of the product. I included this concept in what I expected to receive monetarily for my work.
“You work is not just a pretty picture, but can and should work with and improve the overall user experience.”
At this point, I had already submitted my sample artwork, and they loved it. After this great feedback, they requested my costs. I sent them a base production cost along with an expected royalty based off of net sales of the Kickstarter product, out side of the Kickstarter campaign (future sales through distribution channels other than Kickstarter). The response I received was disappointing.
The point of contention was the royalty. At first, the reasoning for them not wanting to give a royalty was because they considered me an non-established artist, and that asking for a royalty was inappropriate on my part. For anyone who might be wondering if valid train of though, it usually isn’t. They continued to try and talk me out of it, with the partially valid idea that I don’t bring much value to the Kickstarter, because I don’t have a large social media following. In the end I learned that this is what they were really looking for in the end, someone with an online following.
This part of the story taught me three things. First, by sticking to my guns about the royalty, I was able to draw out what the campaign organizer was looking for, someone with an online following. This was definitely a part of the bill I couldn’t fill, and it was clear to both of us that I wouldn’t work out for his plans.
A Kickstarter includes backer rewards that will include your artwork on other giveaways other than the product itself. This could be signed prints, your signature on on the product, unique artwork for specific backers, etc. Just remember if your artwork is going to be prominent on the product, it will probably be prominent elsewhere, and there isn’t any reason why you shouldn’t get a kickback for that.
The third thing I learned, after counseling with other business professionals, research, and just my gut feeling, is that the value of my work can, and probably should, extend beyond just the cost of production. You work is not just a pretty picture, but can and should work with and improve the overall user experience. Not to mention it’s use in marketing materials to help sell the product. Anyone who doesn’t understand this on some level, is someone I don’t want to work with.
What you should charge your client is always a difficult question to answer. Keep in mind I am talking about the base production cost to produce the art, or the time it takes to actually draw your pictures. When pricing yourself out, here are a few tips.
“Getting a good sense of this information allows you to ask informative questions, and formulate an informative decision…”
Research was a great starting point. Now you won’t find much about making artwork for a Kickstarter, but, there is standard pricing for illustration work. Everything from book covers, to card games, to children’s books. Getting a good sense of this information allows you to ask informative questions, and formulate an informative decision on how much your worth. My biggest help when finding an answer to this was getting on forums, and talking with people you who might have expectations for pricing out art, and other artists. Don’t be afraid to shoot a message to other artists that have been pricing themselves out for years.
As for technically how I came up with a number. Doing the sample pieces actually helped out allot. Because I had done the few example pieces, I learned what the campaign organizer was looking for in a final piece, and how long it took me to create it. At this point it was a matter of counting how many paintings I needed to do for the project, multiplying that by my hourly rate, and then adding a bit on top to account for revisions, and variable research time. Don’t forget your research time.
If the client doesn’t like your honestly calculated numbers, you have a few options. Standing your ground is what I would suggest. It tells yourself and the client that your work has value, and that you want to establish an honest relationship. This is a situation good for everyone.
The other option is to lower your price. If you lower your prices, after calculating a number that is truly fair according to what you know, and you get the job, you will now be working with the knowlege that you aren’t being paid what you are worth. This will effect your work, most likely negatively. Your establishing, consciously or sub-consciously for both you and the client, that you aren’t actually worth the money that you think you are worth. This situation is not good for anyone or the project itself.
Client’s will sometimes come back with comments like,”Well, this other artist is only asking for half of what you want.” If you believe that you are giving what the client wants, then this isn’t a competition with other artists, and they are saying this to drive your price down. Also, at this point things become very subjective, if they can afford every artist that has submitted artwork, they will end up picking the artist they like best. Comments like this also usually mean they like your artwork, but they don’t like the price. If they like your work, they should like your price, unless they simply don’t have the budget to afford you. In that case they should find someone else, or scale back the amount of work they need done if possible, in order to afford your work.
If You Don’t Get the Job, What Do You Do?
Ah… The best part. Dealing with rejection. My best piece of advice is to explore the experience. That is the primary reason why I am writing this article. It is an opportunity to reflect on what you learned, what future expectations should be, share what you learned with others, and a take a chance to enjoy the process.
The work you might have done for free doesn’t have to go to waste. Include it in a portfolio targeted at similar Kickstarter projects, and go find more work. With your new found experience the next fish should be easier to catch.
Overall the experience was great for me, and I believe it was good for the campaign organizer as well. It helped me better appreciate the value of my work, how to communicate that value to others, and what to look out for when it comes to forming partnerships for specific type of project. I hope that this helps someone out, let me know if you have any questions or comments.