View Full Version : Is this a scam? Need advice.

12-31-2003, 10:34 PM
I recieved an email that I've never seen the likes of:

"Dear Sir
As an educational publisher, we are preparing a new schoolbook English for secondary education: Enter for third-formers. In this book, we would like to reproduce a painting from your collection: Lightning. Would it be possible for you to provide us with a digital image or an ekta and to grant us permission for reproduction? Could you please let us know under what conditions we could reproduce this work of art?

We look forward to hearing from you!
Sincere greetings
Nancy Auwelaert

Wolters Plantyn
Motstraat 32
2800 Mechelen
Belgium "

'Lightning' is a painting that's on my web site. I'm skeptical about the email. It won't hurt to respond, but I don't want to waste my time if any of you have seen it before. They may want to be able to reproduce the painting themselves for profit, but I don't think they would have sent the email, in this case.

I have been reading the posts in this forum for awhile, and feel confident about the opions of many of the members that post here. Any input would be appreciated.

Rob Maxwell


12-31-2003, 10:57 PM
WOW, great if it's real.
Try and get her credentials.
Get hold of the publication if it has been in print before and check it out.
Get written gaurantee that they won't be using it to profit.
Draw up a contract for them to sign stateing that they can only use it for the publicataion for educational service.

There would be more things you could do to protect your art and self. Some one will come along with more knowledge.

Maybe you could ever get royalties or something.

12-31-2003, 11:31 PM
Wolters Plantyn does have a website and this is it:
their website (http://www.wpeu.be/). Unfortunately, I don't read whatever language that is. However, you may be able to tell from that if the email address is legit.

This one does actually sound plausible to me. I doubt there is much money in educational publishing and they are probably looking for a cheap (ie free) picture rather than going to an image library which can cost quite a lot.

Lets imagine you were buying a rights-managed image from a photolibrary, they would want to know what kind of publication you were producing (book, magazine, print only or other media?), what size you wanted to reproduce the image, whether it was for cover or inside pages, what your print run was, and the distribution (one country only, a continent or world wide). They have rate cards and work out the cost based on these answers. So, if you wanted to charge, you could try getting a quote based on these answers from a photolibrary (such as getty images).

Whether you decide to charge them or not, I would encourage you to get all this in writing. That would help you if, for example, you found that they went on to use the image in a way you hadn't anticipated. It would also be useful if you subsequently wanted to license the use of the image to someone else - for instance, greetings card producers often license the use of an image in a specific geographical area.

Also, remember that, whether you charge them or not, you retain copyright. In fact, don't mention the word copyright at all at any time. What you would be doing is granting them a license to reproduce the image in a specific way.

Good luck. :)

12-31-2003, 11:37 PM
I did searches on 'Nancy Auwelaert' and 'Wolters Plantyn' and both seem to be legit. I need advice on the next step. This is new.

01-01-2004, 05:12 AM
I have one of my paintings "self harm" on a brochure about self harm in England. The painting itself now lives in Canada (not sold on line but to a Canadian tourist from a gallery) while it will also be on the cover of a mental health magazine sometime in the future.

I don't see anything wrong with giving permission in these situations. These places can't afford to pay for images, and it's nicer that they can get artists to "donate" the use of an image then it is for them to use free clip art.

Write back, tell them that you would be thrilled, and ask that your name be included in the credits. Don't ask for royalties, they can't give you that for a small picture on one page of a school book - even covers of best sellers don't get royalities. If you mention money they will just go find another picture they can use instead.

Then you can tell everyone you know how your art is being used by an educational facility to help teach English as a second language :)

01-01-2004, 09:20 AM
This offer sounds like it is legitimate to me. I would just proceed with caution, and professionalism. If something feels bad, don't sign or send anything. However, I have had a piece printed in an educational book, and my brother is a professor who writes both teacher manuals and textbooks (college/doctorate level curriculum)... so, I have a little knowledge about educational printing.

First of all, I would want to know if this is the kind of book I want my artwork, and creditials, printed in. I would write back and ask for more details on the project. What is the book about, who is publishing, how would it be used and distrubuted, and in what way is your artwork to be presented (as an illustration of a style, a good work or bad?). I would even go so far as to ask for a copy of the contents page(s) and sample of the contents (like part of the first chapter). With this information, you can more easily decide if you even want to get involved in this publication.

You also need to know how the book is being used, and the planned distribution and publication amounts (like, just a few hundred for teachers, or hundreds of thousands for use as a school textbook). This information is needed so you can set/negotiate a price for the use of your artwork image and write/sign a contract. In other words, the higher the distribution and publication numbers, the more you would get paid for usage rights. By asking you, in the email, "what are your conditions," this publisher is assuming that you will charge for the use of your art image... and, this is the most common (and professional) way for her to approach this with you. So, I would assume that they are willing to pay for the usage rights.

I think I would also just tell them outright that I have never sold usage rights before... and what is their usual payment for usage rights for a publication such as this book. That does not mean you have to accept their offer or terms, but gives you a starting point... they may very well be willing to offer you much more than you have in mind!

Publishers who often buy such usage rights usually (should!) have a basic contract already written... they will just fill in the blanks for the details. If you are interested in this project, ask that they email a copy of the contract. Read it carefully... it will be written to protect them, not you. Then, write back with amendments, if any, you want to make... they will negotiate on reasonable requests. Basically, what you need in the contract are the very tight specifics of : what this publication is, how many copies are being printed (how much your image is being used), and what your payment/compensation is for that EXACT usage. Make sure there is a statement saying that the payment (stated in the contract) covers only this ONE SPECIFIED USE, not reprints (you renegotiate for additional payment then), and that the artist holds all further usage and ownership rights to this artwork.

For more information about usage rights and negotiating such contracts, go to www.gag.org
This is the site of the Graphic Artists Guild. They have an excellent pricing guide, with lots of info and actual contracts. And, their forums often discuss such negotiations and pricing.

OK... think I am making this sound too complex? Well, the artist who did the cover artwork for all the Harry Potter books did not take the first cover contract seriously enough, and ended up in court suing for further usage money... and won millions. When she originally sold usage rights for her artwork for the first Harry Potter book, she thought this was just one small run (low publication amount) for an unknown author... so, she did not worry about specifying that she was selling ONLY usage rights for this assumedly small publication run. However, when the movie and all its advertising/products were put out, the physical appearance of the character of "Harry Potter" was based on this first cover illustration. Because her original contract was not specific enough, she had to sue to get further payment for the use of her illustration as the basis of the character in the movie and Harry Potter stuff (posters, etc).

Good luck... hope this project is a successful one for you!


PS... Because this publisher is in Belgium, I would only be comfortable if the contract, writing samples (table of contents, piece of chapter), and everything sent to me is in English. I figure, if this publisher is working internationally, they should be professional enough to negotiate and provide specifics about the book in the native language of the artist they are dealing with. If they are unable/unwilling to do this, it would send up a "red flag" to me... that they really are not professional enough to deal with.

Lady Rando
01-01-2004, 09:29 AM
Nance, the information you give is of great value. Thank you for sharing your insight on a subject many of us, including myself, have no experience with. :)

01-01-2004, 01:11 PM
I have done quite a few freelance jobs for educational pubs. Much of the advice given is correct. For a more realistic idea of pricing for children's publishers go to Phyllis Cahill's site at www.phylliscahill.com and look at her 'great sites' link. She has lots of contract info links and a pricing chart for kids publishing. GAG is a great resource, but their pricing is somewhat unrealistic, imo, for children's/edu publishing.
Educational publishers, at least in the US, are usually a flat fee, not a royalty.
Get a contract. A great resource is Tad Crawford's book, 'Business and Legal Forms for Illustrators'.

Also, great info can be had at www.scbwi.org. This is the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. Another source for good info is www.picture-book.com

If you ask for what their rate is, they will likely tell you something below what their actual budget is. (this has happened to me) Their job is to get your illo for a good price. So, you need to have a good idea of what a fair price is, plus some padding , offer that first....*after asking all your other questions and if they ask you*, and then let them come back to you with an offer. NEgotiating with a publisher is alot like buying a car. I would not offer that I have not negotiated rights/sold rights or have not been published before. Negotiate from a position of strength.

Congratulations that you have been sought out for publication! Good luck. Email me privately if you'd like further info on my experiences with this.

Luanne Marten

01-01-2004, 02:28 PM
Thanks for all the responses. Here's a letter that I've put together. Please look at it and tell me what you think.

"Dear Ms. Auwelaert,

Thank you for your interest in having 'Lightning' published in your new schoolbook! I would be more than honored to have it published. There are a few basic questions about the book that I need to ask:

Who is publishing the book? How will the book be used? Approximatly how many pages will the book have? How large would you want to reproduce the image? Is the image for the cover or for inside pages? What will the distribution be? On what date will the book be published?

My name would need to be included in the credits. I have never before granted usage rights, so please inform me of the usual compensation for such usage rights. Upon our agreeing to the terms, and after a contract is signed, I will then grant usage rights.

Once again, your interest is very much appreciated. I'm looking forward to our working together!

Sincere regards,

Rob Maxwell

I don't want to scare her away with the word 'compensation'. Like ElizaLeahy says, they may just continue down the list of potential images until they find one for free. On the other hand, I don't want to leave any money on the table, and this is the politeist way to ask it. Having a picture published in another country would be neat, but loosing potential cash that would have been paid had I asked wouldn't be neat! Being able to put that (being in the book) on my resume' might help me later down the road. So, it may be best not to ask for compensation. I guess the question is: Would having the image published embellish my resume', thus resulting in selling more paintings in the long run, or should I go ahead and ask for compensation and risk not being in the book at all? Any input on the letter and these other ramblings would be appreciated.

01-01-2004, 03:07 PM

Don't be concerned about discussing "compensation". This is a business negotiation. Wouldn't you want to know what an artist or photographer would charge for you to use something they produced? Besides, compensation is a very open-ended word. It could mean something as small as a credit in the publication, one or a few copies of the book... or as large as thousands of dollars.

Your letter is just fine. Always good to keep it short and to the point (as the publisher did when writing you). Personally, I would not say I am "honored" or "very much appreciated", since you still don't know what kind of quality or junk publication this is, or even what kind of person you are dealing with! (Does my 30 years experience as a free-lance illustrator/designer show through?) I might say something more professional and less overtly enthused, like "Thank you for your interest."

Luanne mentioned the idea of not admitting that you have not sold usage rights before. I can certainly see her point. Such a statement does let them know you are naive about these things... however, I would not worry about it because I tend to be very upfront and honest in business dealings. Anyway, I figure I can always refuse their terms. It is up to you.

I wish you great luck with this... please keep us informed!


01-01-2004, 03:53 PM
It's good to ask the basic questions.
I agree with Nance about leaving out the overenthusiam. Also, she is exactly right that this is a business proposition and that you should not be afraid to bring up compensation. I agree that their original mail indicated that they expect to compensate you.

I have learned the hard way that publishers and editors are looking out for their interests not yours> You need to be as informed and educated about typical compensation for this kind of job as you can be, before you start dealing with them. WHat rights you are selling is also a big factor in how much compensation to expect, since the more rights you sell, the more money you would get. There are all-rights, one-time rights, etc. It is important to understand the differences.

I think really it comes down to whether you want this published just for the sake of having it published or whether you are looking to earn income from their use of your work. THen it is easy, either tell them you want credit and let them publish*** or start negotiating for a price for rights. Whether it is beneficial to have something published is hard to gauge. It all depends on what your goals are. It certainly couldn't hurt. If you are an illustrator, then you want all the publishing credits you can get to build your reputation. But for fine art, it is a little more nebulous.

Most illustrators are out seeking work and it is very tough right now, so you are lucky (potentially) that you were sought out with no effort on your part! Also, because this job is for an existing piece, no further work will be required from you and this could be bonus money with no more energy expended by you!

good luck


01-02-2004, 11:24 AM
I edited my letter and sent it late yesterday afternoon. This morning I recieved this:

"Dear Mr Maxwell
We are Wolters Plantyn Educational Partners and we will publish your work in a schoolbook for secondary education, to be published in March 2004. The book is in full colour, will have about 65 pages. The image will be used on less than a quarter of a page, that is in the inside. Print run: 2500. Normally, we pay
about 750 EUR for this kind of illustration.
We look forward to the contract and thank you for your cooperation.
Kind regards
Nancy Auwelaert
Wolters Plantyn

Any input as to my next move would be appreciated.

01-02-2004, 11:42 AM
Great Rob! How much does 750 euro equal in USD?
THey are expecting a contract from you? You can get one from the Tad Crawford books, or if you want further legal advice, go to www.theispot.com and post your question in the legal easel part of the forums. You will get great and correct advice, probably from one of the arts lawyers that frequents that.

I would think this would call for a limited rights contract, meaning that if they reprint, you would get more $$, but I am not sure about this, esp since I don't know what the dollar figure means.
Lots of times the edu pubs want all rights. THey have smaller and more limited print runs.

You might even just email and ask them what rights they generally are paying for, at that rate.