How do you commission art?

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cauliflower

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Hi, I'm a writer and I'm brand new to the forums here. I'd like an artist's perspective on something. Please keep in mind I have NO IDEA how this works. Okay, maybe some idea, but just keep in mind my questions are completely genuine.




After doing a bunch of research into publishing and selling novels (something I have zero experience in) I decided I would try to commission some art, and someday post it places (WITH CREDIT) to generate some interest in my book. I'm asking how to go about doing this. I want to do it as ethically and respectfully as possible. As far as ethics go, I think the following goes without explaining, and I fully intend to do these things:

-pay
-give credit wherever possible and NEVER crop out the watermark
-ask for permissions before posting anywhere
-be polite
-I understand it's always the artist's choice if they want to do the work
-I understand art is time consuming and can take upwards of 40 hours to finish, depending on what I ask

But please let me know if there are more things I should think about.



My questions:

-How does one start asking to pay people for art? I have a few artist friends, but that doesn't mean they do commissions. I can browse through Deviant Art, or any other site and find an artist I like, but that doesn't mean they sell it either.

-If I want dozens or so images total, is there a community where I can submit these requests and people respond? Knowing that it's always the artist's choice whether they want to do business or not, I was hoping there was a place where I could submit requests so I don't have to go from one artist to the next over and over for all dozen or so pictures I want.
-----Is it respectful to approach an artist with a number of requests? I know it's a lot of time I'm asking for. Is it respectful to show a list of requests, and ask if there are any they'd like to do?
-----P.S. Yes, I understand dozens or so images will cost thousands and thousands of dollars. Before you start saying "Don't rely on this art to sell your work," I'm not, and I want the art for myself too.

-Is there an online community I can turn to where people are always interested in doing commissions? I did take a look at Patreon, but I found it was more about donating to artists than it was about paying for individual pieces. Was I mistaken?

-How do the artist and requester usually agree to payment? i.e., who sets the price? I don't want to insult an artist by asking for too low a number. Do people like use a payment system like PayPal to prevent fraud? How do both parties ensure that full payment is made and the work is completed- is there any such thing as downpayments for expensive work?

-If for any reason I want something changed about the finished product, how can I ask for this respectfully? I'd be willing to pay extra if the change is significant, but then again, how can I avoid getting something significantly different than what I was looking for? I think sometimes the requester asks for a sketch, right? How does asking for a sketch work? should I offer to pay a small fee first?

-Is it right to give a very detailed request, or should I give the artist more freedom? I'm a little afraid that putting too much detail in a request could scare artists away because it makes it sound like I'm too picky and or would be difficult to work with.
-----How much back and forth communication is appropriate between the artist and requester? Again, I don't want to scare anyone off by talking too much.



There's really no TL;DR for this post, sorry. Thanks for reading if you got down this far. Any help is appreciated.

Thank you!
 

Tamarind

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You can post this on reddit r/hungryartists or r/artstore and be flooded with responses (which is time consuming, but hey, options) but my recommendation, as an artist, is to simply email an artist whose work you really love and whose style seems the perfect fit for your story, saying you are self-publishing and want to commission a book cover, explaining something about the content of your book and price range. They may not accept, but this is how the conversation starts at any rate. I do have a question though -- dozens? Why dozens of pictures? Usually people commission one image for the cover -- it might be cropped here and there to fit the needs of social media, but for the sake of continuity, it's always the same image.
 

gtbun

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I'm assuming you're asking about artwork and not say, covers, web banners, etc. However, as a book designer, I'm going to use the terms "designer" and "artist" pretty interchangeably.

Firstly, this list of expectations:

-pay
-give credit wherever possible and NEVER crop out the watermark
-ask for permissions before posting anywhere
-be polite
-I understand it's always the artist's choice if they want to do the work
-I understand art is time consuming and can take upwards of 40 hours to finish, depending on what I ask


Great, thank you. You would not believe how many people, especially those looking for work on the cheap, do not understand any of this. You won't believe the amount of people who expect book covers to cost $50 or logos to be $10. However, I would say that you should not have to ask permission to post artwork you commission anywhere. In paying for work you are also purchasing a license that allows you to use the work in perpetuity - this should be detailed in an artist's contract, otherwise you should ask them and make sure.

Now your questions:

1. How does one start asking to pay people for art? I have a few artist friends, but that doesn't mean they do commissions. I can browse through Deviant Art, or any other site and find an artist I like, but that doesn't mean they sell it either.

Research. Depending whether you're talking about images or covers, google what you want and shop around. There are thousands of freelancers out there and they will appear in these directories. For instance, ready-made book covers and book cover design will likely pull up my work. It's best to shop around as there are a lot of bad artists and designers out there that take advantage of self-publishers. I would avoid bidding sites and places like Fiverr, this is where art and design go to die. Remember the phrase "you get what you pay for".

2. If I want dozens or so images total, is there a community where I can submit these requests and people respond? Knowing that it's always the artist's choice whether they want to do business or not, I was hoping there was a place where I could submit requests so I don't have to go from one artist to the next over and over for all dozen or so pictures I want. Is it respectful to approach an artist with a number of requests? I know it's a lot of time I'm asking for. Is it respectful to show a list of requests, and ask if there are any they'd like to do?

It depends on what you're looking for. If you're looking for twelve VERY different images, then by all means approach twelve different artists. You might be better off forming a relationship with a single artists, however. Especially if this is all for one book. Consistency of art is much better than a group of random images, especially as the changes in quality would be very noticeable. It is not disrespectful to approach one artist with several briefs at all, quite the opposite. And while you may be asking for a lot of time you'll also be paying for that time. Don't assume that all artists, illustrators, and designers are prissy about their work, actually many good and professional artists are client-driven rather than self-driven and arrogant.

3. Is there an online community I can turn to where people are always interested in doing commissions? I did take a look at Patreon, but I found it was more about donating to artists than it was about paying for individual pieces. Was I mistaken?

There are "communities", like bidding sites. But it is best to avoid these places as they are rife with absolutely awful work, no matter how reasonable the price might seem. You are much better off getting a professional if that is an option for you. Patreon can be about commissioning work, in the sense that artists might accept donations to create certain pieces, but there's nothing stopping you emailing those Patreons and commissioning that way.

4. How do the artist and requester usually agree to payment? i.e., who sets the price? I don't want to insult an artist by asking for too low a number. Do people like use a payment system like PayPal to prevent fraud? How do both parties ensure that full payment is made and the work is completed- is there any such thing as downpayments for expensive work?

The artist will have a rate that they work at and should let you know what that is up-front. It really isn't up to the client to suggest a price, though they should communicate their overall budget as soon as possible to avoid anybody wasting time. Normally, for a big project, a contract would be issued that is signed by both parties to signify that the client agrees to pay the price set by the artist. Sensible artists will ask for at least 50% payment before the project begins, even the whole price. It is actually easy to tell a professional by how comfortably they talk about money.

There are many ways an artist might ask you to pay, depending on where they are. International payments incur fees that are unavoidable and the artist might charge more to cover this. In the same country the artists will likely ask for a money transfer.

The price of artwork depends on the product. For illustrators prices tend to be based on size, detail, and how much time it will take.

5. If for any reason I want something changed about the finished product, how can I ask for this respectfully? I'd be willing to pay extra if the change is significant, but then again, how can I avoid getting something significantly different than what I was looking for? I think sometimes the requester asks for a sketch, right? How does asking for a sketch work? should I offer to pay a small fee first?

The contract should stipulate that you are allowed a certain number of alterations to artworks. The only reason you should be paying more for these - within reason - is if the artist works hourly. If you provide a meaningful brief then you should receive exactly what you ask for. It is not the place of the artist to do whatever they want. As a designer I might discuss with a client that I believe their brief is wrong, if, say, they want a logo but really need a brand or if they ask for an ebook cover but really need a marketing program as well. While someone you commission is not your employee, they do have a responsibility to work with you to achieve what you want.

6. Is it right to give a very detailed request, or should I give the artist more freedom? I'm a little afraid that putting too much detail in a request could scare artists away because it makes it sound like I'm too picky and or would be difficult to work with.
-----How much back and forth communication is appropriate between the artist and requester? Again, I don't want to scare anyone off by talking too much.


This is encouraged. The better and more detailed a brief you can provide the easier it will be for the artist. Unless you are a genuinely bad person, you'll have no problem. Bad designers/artists create bad clients, they don't find them. These kind of relationships are developed through a designer or artists not communicating appropriately and not being professional. You are within your rights to provide as detailed a brief as you want, just make sure it reads well.

An artist should be in regular contact with their client, providing updates, requesting more information, and just to make sure the client is happy.


I hope that helps. Feel free to get in touch if you have any further questions.

Geoffrey
 

veinglory

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I would suggest thinking a bit wider than "art". Making a cover that sells book is a specific skill. You should consider hiring a cover artists familiar with your genre. I learn this lesson the hard way. Art that I like, and a cover that sells books, these are very different things.
 

cauliflower

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I do have a question though -- dozens? Why dozens of pictures? Usually people commission one image for the cover -- it might be cropped here and there to fit the needs of social media, but for the sake of continuity, it's always the same image.

I'm looking to generate some interest. The way I see it, pictures are worth a thousand words and you can enjoy them in 10 seconds. With a dozen or so well done pictures in an internet post, someone might take a whole minute. You can depict a number of concepts from your book with a number of pictures. On the other hand a cover is one picture and you get one chance. What do you make your cover a picture of? As hard as you try, you're not going to fit in all your concepts, and each concept could pull in a different type of reader.

I'm not so much concerned with what's worked in the past, this is an idea I want to do. Worst case scenario is I get a bunch of awesome art.
 

Bartholomew

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I represent an artist and dabble a bit myself. GTBun answered your questions in essentially a perfect way, though. If you're looking for a cartoony style, I could potentially work with you.
 

cpatten

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Yo! I'm a professional illustrator in the game industry. Here's some answers to your questions (sorry if they're a bit harsh, haha)...

-How does one start asking to pay people for art?
Most artists will post their commission status on the website they frequent the most. Check their DA, Tumblr/Blog, Personal Website and Instagram(if they have one). When all else fails, just send a PM on the site they post to the most.

-If I want dozens or so images total, is there a community where I can submit these requests and people respond?
Yes, DA has a forum for these sorts of requests. However, I suggest finding artists you are 100% excited for. If you're going to take a chance financially, do it with an artist YOU tracked down. I can't tel you how many times I've had authors ask for me to do art tests or seem unsure with hiring me because I was the one soliciting them. It will take some work on your part.

-Is there an online community I can turn to where people are always interested in doing commissions?
Tumblr, Instagram and Deviantart are places we hang out.

-How do the artist and requester usually agree to payment?
When you first inquire via PM to the artist, ask if they're open for commissions and if they have prices. It might be good to include a short description of what sort of work you're looking for (and maybe link to a piece in their portfolio that you want to match). If they are available and interested, they will tell you their price. If it is over your budget, just tell them. You might have to reach out to many artists to find a good fit.
Most artists take PayPal. I'd suggest half upfront and half upon delivery of the final work. I also suggest paying for one piece at a time, rather than the group of paintings.

-If for any reason I want something changed about the finished product, how can I ask for this respectfully?
Ask up front about their commission process. Some artists don't accept revisions while others do. Often, things like this are stated in the artist's commission FAQ's. If not, just ask! I personally deliver a sketch (for large revisions) and a final color (for small revisions).

-Is it right to give a very detailed request, or should I give the artist more freedom?
If you aren't an artist, you shouldn't be giving creative direction. Give them all the info about your characters, the scene they are illustrating, etc and then trust them to get the job done. If you picked the correct artist, then they should be able to solve creative problems better than you.

-----How much back and forth communication is appropriate between the artist and requester?
Try to give your feedback in chunks. Follow the artist's process. There's nothing worse than a client who asks for one small change, then another, then another...UGH. Remember, their job isn't to illustrate what is inside your head, because what is inside your head is probably bad.

Good luck!
 

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