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ANNOUNCEMENTS Join Outland's Street Team, The Outlanders! Get sneak peeks at new releases, including fiction, games, and comics! Receive exclusive content, and be eligible to receive advance review copies of upcoming releases! If you like to help spread the word about...

THE ALL FATHER PARADOX Releases in October!

THE ALL FATHER PARADOX by Ian Stuart Sharpe Coming in October! What if an ancient god escaped his fate…and history was thrown to the wolves? Churchwarden Michaels thought it was just a run-of-the-mill crazy old man who stood in the graveyard, hellbent on studying the...

HATH NO FURY Has Hit the Shelves and E-Readers!

Mother. Warrior. Caregiver. Wife. Lover. Survivor. Trickster. Heroine. Leader.   This anthology features 21 stories and six essays about women who defy genre stereotypes. Here, it’s not the hero who acts while the heroine waits to be rescued; Hath No Fury’s women are...

Announcement: VIKINGVERSE COVER ILLUSTRATION RELEASED!

ANNOUNCEMENT Official summary of ALL FATHER PARADOX along with color cover illustration! What if an ancient god escaped his fate…and history was thrown to the wolves? Churchwarden Michaels thought it was just a run-of-the-mill crazy old man who stood in the graveyard,...

Announcement: New Comic Coming from Outland Entertainment!

ANNOUNCEMENT: Announcing Riddle of the Loremaster, an all new original comic series written by Melanie R. Meadors, with art by Nicolás Giacondino! Here is a sneak peek at some of the promo art: Riddle of the Loremaster is a comic for mature readers set in a fantasy...

Women in Dark Fantasy Have Changed by Linda Robertson

In doing a bit of research looking for a dark-fantasy-related topic for this article, I sought something that I knew at least a bit about, something I felt strongly about, and something where I could add meaningfully to the conversation. Many things were considered,...

Alethea Kontis on Imposter Syndrome

Earlier this year, I met the only student Katy Kellgren ever had. He told me he just about had to bully her into being his teacher. This amazing, multiple award-winning voice actress with hundreds of audiobooks under her belt truly didn’t believe she knew anything...

Announcements: HATH NO FURY Has Arrived in the US!

Backers of the paperback and hardcover editions of Hath No Fury will be happy to learn that the books have arrived at the printer's headquarters in Chicago! Now, they just need to be sent to our head honcho Jeremy Mohler, and then they will be sent out to backers...

Fairies with Dark Faces by I.L. Cruz

I like fairies—not a difficult admission for a fantasy writer—and I don’t mean the safe Victorian ones with gossamer wings that spread sparkles when they walk. I mean the ones that steal little children and make Faustian bargains. They were ancient and magnificent and...

Announcement: Launching New Transmedia World, VIKINGVERSE

Announcements Introducing the beginning of a new transmedia project with fiction, comics, and games in development! VIKINGVERSE From a concept created by Ian Sharpe, Vikingverse is going to launch this fall with a novel called All Father Paradox. Here is the line art...

This is a loaded question in the comics and game community (and while I’m speaking directly to that community, I feel that this applies across the board to ALL creative endeavors).

With the rise of the internet, there is absolutely no shortage of artists looking for work. There is also no shortage of people wanting to have work done for free. And as a young artist, sometimes, it can be difficult to figure out just what the best course of action is as you build your portfolio and reputation. It’s also easier to take chances when you are younger and fall into traps because you just don’t have the experience to know what kind of mess you might be getting into.

There are several situations you may find yourself in –

  • Somebody approaches you to work on the project for a royalty. This is typically called spec work and no matter what the person approaching you might say, there is no guarantee of payout. Please be wary of dropping weeks and months into a project with no guarantee of payout.
  • The other situation you may find yourself in is the case of free samples. Again, this is often considered a test to potentially get a project. I’m here to tell you – any decent art director can take one look at your portfolio and know whether or not you’ll fit the project. Plus, you may sink days or even a week into working on these free samples and still not get the job. Samples are fine, but getting some sort of payment for them is reasonable.
  • Finally, watch out for contests from big companies. Often, a large, well established company will run a contest for a poster, design, or anything, really. Please read the fine print – often-times there is just one reward and the company running the contest will own rights to every contest entry. This is simply an easy way for them to generate new ideas cheaply.

I personally feel that any payment, even a low payment, is better than no payment. There is almost always room for some sort of negotiation. And it’s not good for the industry for artists to take on free work as it devalues the work across the entire industry. More personally, it’s also not good for you, as I’m pretty sure you are still going to have to pay your bills on time, whether or you are paid or not.

Now, there is almost always an exception to the rule, so when you find yourself in this situation, and you will (every professional I know has been in this position), you need to ask yourself several questions –

  • Who am I working with? Is this somebody I know of? Do they have a reputation in the industry?
  • What is the product I’m working on? Is it well known? Does it have a following?
  • If the person approaching you cares so much about this project, why aren’t they willing to put their own money into it?

Sometimes, you may find yourself in a situation where the lines aren’t so clear. It’s easy to turn down a project from a complete stranger. But if it’s a peer or colleague, or even somebody who has some pull in the industry, it may be worth taking a chance. The same can be said for established properties. If it’s an established brand with a large following, it might be worth taking a chance.

To give you several examples –

  • I took on a coloring project for a graphic novel a couple years ago. It was for a well established property with millions of novels sold and a feature film in production (which, incidentally, flopped). I researched it before hand to find all of this out and to educate myself on whether it was a smart business decision or not – from all indications, it seemed like a sure thing! I colored over a hundred pages of artwork over the course of a year and at the last minute, the owner of the property decided to change the terms of the contract, and I’ve never seen a dime. This is a cautionary tale – even with research and a well-established property, taking on spec work is still a gamble.
  • Several years ago I met an industry veteran, Bo Hampton. I’d grown up reading his books and I have always been a fan of his work. We started talking, exchanged some emails, and eventually, he had a really awesome project come together called 3 Devils. It’s a supernatural western with zombies, werewolves, and gypsies and he invited me to work on it with him. For me, since Bo was somebody I’d grown up admiring and reading, I jumped at the chance to work with him. We’ll be publishing the series through IDW later this year. In this case, the royalty didn’t matter as much to me as the opportunity to work with an artist I admired.

You have to judge each project on a per case basis, just keep in mind – nothing is a sure thing.

JM