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RMHuffman said:
"Author shall serve as Art Director for all visual materials created for the Work, including cover art/design, interior artwork, website art and other marketing materials."
Actually, this is the first read flag for me. I can't imagine an experienced publisher agreeing to this unless they had already worked with you in an art capacity in the past. There is no way in the nine hells that I would hand over all marketing materials and website art to the author. Most publishers are very careful about their own brands, and turning over creative control in this manner puts their brand at risk if your vision for your specific book contradicts the company's overall brand. For example, if the company normally does subdued covers and you come up with a hyper-sexualized one (not that you would, but just as an example.) Or if the marketing material all shares a similar theme and color palette, and you come up with something completed contrary. Also, the PA has a point about the cover artist getting conflicting information. The cover artist is ultimately responsible to the person who cuts the check. As a publisher, I don't want the cover artist to be in a position where they are being told one thing by me and something else by you.

My assumption is that the PA is probably not privy to your actual contract. So arguing with the PA over it was pointless. You did what you should have done and talked directly to the publisher, so hopefully it is resolved. I would never say to just roll over and do what they want, but you need to have a frank conversation with the publisher regarding what "art director" means, because the two sides are obviously not sharing a definition. It is a poorly worded clause because it doesn't actually clarify what being art director means and what the limits of your authority are. Without reading the entire contract, it is hard to know.
 

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RMHuffman said:
In fact, this is a very new, very small press. I'm inclined to think that your advice to "respect the lines of communication that they prefer," at the expense of the contract's language, does a disservice to me and anyone who might find themselves in my position. If you'll read my responses, i do plan on keeping everyone in the loop with this.

In general, I'm hesitant to take any advice that recommends that I simply do what the publisher is accustomed to doing (which, in this publisher's case, isn't an established process anyway), despite the language of the contract. I guarantee that "art directing through an intermediary" will NOT lead to the result I want. Anyway, I suppose some of that sounds defensive, and it might be, but I do think authors need not subject ourselves to publisher (assistant) pushback just because it's "how they do things." We create the product. We do the primary work, and everyone here knows how to do the secondary work too. Publishers ride our coattails, not the other way around. (Ra ra, brave new literary world, etc.)

But yeah, I think the issue's resolved. I'm definitely more guarded from here on in though.
Yes, it does sound defensive.

Perhaps you shouldn't ask people for their thoughts if you're predisposed to completely discount anything that doesn't completely align with your view on a given subject.
 

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Some small presses are well run. Others, a nightmare. In my mind, I wouldn't suggest working with any small press in this day and age. There are legit reasons to go with a bigger publisher, but there's nothing a small press can do that you can't do yourself. Ten years ago, sure. Not today.
 

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MichaelWallace said:
Some small presses are well run. Others, a nightmare. In my mind, I wouldn't suggest working with any small press in this day and age. There are legit reasons to go with a bigger publisher, but there's nothing a small press can do that you can't do yourself. Ten years ago, sure. Not today.
It depends on the small press, and what you're publishing. I've got a few things coming out in anthologies with a (very) small press. And it's been a consistently effective way to get my stuff in front of the other authors' fanbases. They can also do things that I could do myself but probably wouldn't want to, such as events that would be beyond my budget as a solo act, where they can show up with a whole bunch of books. My experience is basically that working with a small press can lead to a bit of a marketing collective developing, and there are other creative advantages associated with working with a bunch of other authors in this way. Mostly these advantages involve drinking beer and talking about story ideas in a relaxed environment.

Having said that, I do have a story in a forthcoming anthology which, by the time it appears, will be two years behind schedule. And even that's an optimistic forecast, if I'm being honest.
 

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I would say anthologies are different, as well as limited time things like box sets. I'm mainly thinking full length work, where you sign over exclusive rights to distribute it.
 

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MichaelWallace said:
I would say anthologies are different, as well as limited time things like box sets. I'm mainly thinking full length work, where you sign over exclusive rights to distribute it.
Fair enough - even there I'm pretty relaxed. I've done a full-length translation for this same company, part of a series of early 20th Century pulp French novels. I've been pretty happy to sign that over to them, as they're getting another chap to help out with other translations in the same series. I get (hopefully) all the benefits of building an audience through a series of books, without the hassle of actually having to write more than one myself.

But broadly I'd agree that if I'd need some pretty heavy persuasion (ie, a lot of money) to put an original full-length novel their way.
 
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I don't see where the publisher did anything wrong. You might wanna first think of the amount of money you are making them and then look at the amount of man hours you're costing them. You want to do the work of the publisher and I think you're wrong. If you want to do it all yourself, self publish. It's unfair of you to waste their time, tell them they do a lousy job and cost them money. They are spending money on you in ADVANCE, and which they hope to recuperate by selling a book with a nice cover! You write, let them sell the book. That's what publishers do.
 

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drno said:
I don't see where the publisher did anything wrong.
They accepted a clause in a contract and then ignored it. If they can do that, there is reason to at least suspect they are not entirely trustworthy.
If they didn't want an author cooperating, or as you put it, wasting their time, they shouldn't have accepted the contract going in. This publisher
isn't a charity case. They are spending money, knowing they will reap the benefits in full. Advising the author to shut up and be grateful seems a little condescending.
 

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In my experience, over the years, the small presses who actively sell their image as cozy and relational turn out to be the ones who have the worst communication and comprehension.
 

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Discussion Starter · #30 ·
Katharina said:
They accepted a clause in a contract and then ignored it. If they can do that, there is reason to at least suspect they are not entirely trustworthy.
If they didn't want an author cooperating, or as you put it, wasting their time, they shouldn't have accepted the contract going in. This publisher
isn't a charity case. They are spending money, knowing they will reap the benefits in full. Advising the author to shut up and be grateful seems a little condescending.
Hear, hear. :)

After a conversation and some emails, I suspect that this was a case of an eager PA who hadn't been fully informed of her role or mine. If this doesn't turn out to be so, then I suppose I'll be just one more cautionary tale...
 

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alawston said:
This sounds like a very large small press. My own perception (and indeed experience) of small presses is that they tend to be either one man (person) bands, or a one person (man) band that delegates a bit, but who still treats the company very much as Daddy's (Mummy's) train set.

I think it's very likely that within the context of this company, you are very much being treated as their AD would be in that you're being consulted, but ultimately everything remains under the publisher's control, and they like to hold the reins of communication. This attitude would very much be in line with other authors turned publishers who I know.

As to whether you're being a diva, I'm afraid I rather think that you might be. You started quoting the contract very early on in the exchange, which always puts people's backs up. And while you put that clause into your contract, I don't see anything that details how that Art Director role is going to work contractually with this company, which means you're pretty much tied in to their way of handling things.

Moving on from small presses, even in my day job in magazine publishing, I would not want an external writer going away and talking independently to an external designer about a product that was coming out under my brand, without at least being kept in the loop of the conversation. That kind of thing leads, very often, to designers going way over budget with multiple drafts, etc. It leads to logos being put in the wrong place, to house style guidelines falling by the wayside. It leads to trouble, to put it simply. And as the publisher is the one footing the bill...

You've moved from a self-publishing scenario to a much more collaborative model here, and I think you do need to respect the lines of communication that they prefer.
I would have to agree with this as well, though I think the fault is ultimately the publishers for including such a vague line in the contract. It's more than likely they thought you merely wanted final veto power, or more input than usual, rather than direct control. If you think about it, it's wildly inappropriate to hand over a business relationship to a complete stranger (you), whose track record, skills, and professionalism they have little experience with, and trust you a) to do a good job, and b) not to ruin their relationship with the artist. It's a completely different scenario then an in-house art director who would be part of the company, immersed in the larger picture/brand of the publisher, a direct representative of the publisher for communication with contractors, and readily available for collaboration with the editors.

In the end, it's the publishers error and they have to live with that. I'm glad you got it sorted out to your satisfaction, and since you have art director experience, I'm sure things will work out nicely. But I do hope the publisher learned their lesson!

M.W
 

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Discussion Starter · #32 ·
Midnight Whimsy said:
I would have to agree with this as well, though I think the fault is ultimately the publishers for including such a vague line in the contract. It's more than likely they thought you merely wanted final veto power, or more input than usual, rather than direct control. If you think about it, it's wildly inappropriate to hand over a business relationship to a complete stranger (you), whose track record, skills, and professionalism they have little experience with, and trust you a) to do a good job, and b) not to ruin their relationship with the artist.
Several assumptions here, and in the post you quoted, that I'd like to clarify:

- This is a brand-new publisher, and my book is their first experience with fiction, either as publishers or authors. They have no relationships with contractors beyond what they're making now, as far as I'm aware.

- Before we signed a contract, we had several in-person meetings which included at-length discussions of my experiences in graphic design and illustration. There was no question that I wanted direct control of graphic material creation. In fact, I assured them that they'd be part of the feedback process along the way, and that they'd retain ultimate veto power.

I'm wondering what strikes you as "vague" about the relevant part of the contract I quoted. Your answer might shed light on what their confusion might be. Still, I find it difficult that the clause could be considered "vague" with such a specific list of materials. Art Director isn't exactly a confusing term either, unless one is unfamiliar with what an AD does.
 
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