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Fantasy Art Tutorials in the FARP Section

Getting Published

Collected by :-) Thomas F Abrahamsson

So, you want to get published?

Most of us aren't satisfied with only publishing our art or fiction for free on the web. There are money out there available for published stories and artwork. However, there are a lot of things to be careful about when approaching a publisher. The goal with this article is to mention some of the more well-known traps.

Note that this is written by amateurs and laymen, and the information found here should is used at your own risk.


Getting published...

First of all, where do your material fit? Where do you want it published? Go through all these boks and games, and see where you art might fit.
Places where scifi/fantasy art is appreciated:
- Role playing games
- Fantasy/Scifi themed card games
- Computer Games
- Other games (board games, etc)
- Fanzines about scifi/fantasy.
- Magazines about scifi/fantasy.
- Book covers.
- Other covers (CD's, Tshirts, Calendars)


Getting seen...

A good on your quest of making yourself a name, might be to offer your art (or stories) to various fanzines. These are small magazines without any larger circulation, and they do not normally pay you anything. However, they are often accepting material from amateurs and its always good to have some printed references. Note that a few magazines/fanzines only print black&white, making inked art ideal.

Another way of getting seen is the web. Set up a homepage and display your work there. The problem with the web is that its so incredibly huge, that only a few people will ever fnd your homepage, and you cannot expect any publisher or potentional buyer to just wander by. This is where sites like Elfwood comes handy. Collaborative and larger sites reach a larger number of visitors. Getting pulished at Elfwood is a very good first step, and will generate much inerest in your art. (If its good enough)

Finally, there's conventions. This is a good place to go to get a good idea on prices and policies. Aask publishers what they pay. Conventions give you a chance to talk to working artists and learn the ropes. Most are more than willing to help new talent get into the business!


The portfolio

A portfolio is a collection of your best work. Chose your best pieces (of course, they must all be your own), and try to get a wide range of techniques and themes. Be sure that you have a unified natural style of your own throughout the samples. Don't be plagiarist, art editors have a very good memory for visual images, and will most likely spot any attempt to make versions of other peoples work.

Try to get atleast 10-12 really good pieces.

'If you haven't got ten really good ones, you almost certainly don't have enough to stand any reasonable chance of success'
    -- Ron Tiner, The encyclopedia of fantasy and science fiction art techniques


The portfolio is used when you're approaching publishers and buyers of your art. This is the way you present yourself, and therefore its important that your portfolio is well planned and prepared. The portfolio should not include the originals (if you are about to mail it to someone, that is), colour photocopies are cheap and are perfectly adequate to show. Don't forget to clearly write your name and address on the back of each copy -- in case they get lost at the publishers desk / etc. To sum it up:

  • Do not send original artwork! Original = The actual drawings themselves, send copies of the art.
  • Print or type your name, address, and phone number on all submissions.


Approaching publishers

'You are also told the fee - and this is almost never open to discussion or bartering; you must accept it or decline to undertake the job. Only top-line artists can negotiate'
    -- Ron Tiner, The encyclopedia of fantasy and science fiction art techniques

Well, this might not be entirely true, but there's certainly something in it. If you approach some major firm, like TSR, this is most likely the case, but if you're going to work for a minor upcoming RPG-company, you haven't anything to loose from atleast trying to negotiate. (IF you're really unlucky, they might tell you to go away, but then - they're not worth dealing with anyway)

When you're mailing publishers, don't forget to include a stamped self-addressed envelope. The first contact might be simple, a short intro of yourself and a question if the accept work from new artists. Offer to send them your portfolio with the samples of your best art. Don't forget to mention any previous publishings or awards you have recieved, but keep things short, don't write your full life story to the stressed Art Editor (No matter how interesting it might be :-).

Another way to make the initial contact is by phone. Keep in mind to introduce yourself carefully, be polite and don't ramble about non relevant stuff. If they are interested, offer to mail your portfolio and more information.

An alternative to going directly to a publisher is to go via an agent. Agents act for artists, helping them to make contracts. They secure your work and negotiate contracts, for this they usually require a 30-35% percentage.


Various quotes/comments:

There has been some interesting mails about this topic posted on the Elfwood artist mailing list. I have collected some of them that are of general interest, posting them here (In no special order).


Some interesting notes from Michael:

(Editors note: This chapter is written by Micole and was originally posted at the artists' mailing list. It is re-posted here with his kind permission.)

A while back, in 1994, I was looking to publish my Role Playing Game.  I did some research and found out that hiring a name artist is very expensive. For instance a famous artist very cool to me and his rate (for me) was $2500.  Some other less known artists offered to do it for $1500 and $1250 respectively.  They were all cutting me a break because I knew them, for instance The top line artists often charges $5000 or more for original commissioned paintings with publishing rights.  Unfortunately, I could not afford any of them despite their kindness, and settled on another professional artist and friend.

It comes down to the following things:

    1.  How much do you think your art is worth?
    2.  How much do you think your name is worth?
    3.  How much difficulty/time will the project entail?
    4.  How much the commissioner can really afford to pay?
    5.  What is the commission going to be used for, and by whom?
    6.  Are you truly able and/or willing to do the project to the commisioner's satisfaction.
    7.  What legal rights are being given/bought/assumed or used?
    8.  Will there be follow up work, or will the same piece be used for multiple different publications?
    9.  How much bull are you going to have to go through to make them satisfied?
    10.  Finally, Who ends up truly owning the original piece?

For beginning artists (like all of us here on Elfwood) our name does not mean much, so that is rarely a consideration.  But you should find out exactly what this commissioner wants and work from there.  See if the piece(s) are really your type of work.  Often, people love your work, but want something out of your scope (I know, as I kind of did this to Lew). This can make a project much harder for the artist.  Example:  If you are an artist who does Conan type stuff, and the commissioner wants furries, you might want to bump up the price because this will mean extra research and work for you.

Number 9 (above) is near and dear to Lew and I, and is a major thing to consider.  Small press companies aren't as bad as the big guys in this. You can get about 10,000 +royalties contract from XXX (name removed by Editor) to produce a card deck.  I was to write the book. Talk about jumping through hoops!  Lew spent two months drawing twenty+ versions of the same card before they approved one, then they changed their minds twice after that!  He spent almost $2000 on art suplies and shipping. Two months ago, after 14 months of BS, he was finally done, and he shipped the art to them.  Now, they are not sure if they want to do the project. That hurts as $4000 of the deal was 'on publication'.

Another thing IS:  When are you going to get paid!  Example:  A person saw my work on my Elfwood site and wanted me to illustrate his game and web page.  Fair enough.  He wanted 8 paintings, 2 big maps, and 12 city maps (I do maps BTW).  He offered a total of $1200.  That's pretty low, but I considered doing it to help the guy out.  Remember, a lot of these starting companies are people like and me-- they are broke!  Problems started when he said he would not be able to pay me until a year after publication, and it would be a year before he got published.  I told him that's way too long to wait for payment, especially when I AM giving him a break!  That deal fell through.  Many companies will not pay until publication.  That means they do not pay when they get the art from you, but that you will have to wait until the product hits the shelves.  That can take a painfully long time!  If you are dealing with a company that works this way-- JACK UP YOUR PRICE!  Negotiate to as high as they are willing to pay, after all you ARE going to have to wait for your pay!

The bottom line is research and negotiation.  Stephanie, If the book is to be mass produced (like an RPG, Graphic Novel, or something like that) ask for $1000 to $1500.  Make it clear that while they have publishing rights, you maintain the original and print sales rights.  If they want the original and/or print sales rights, raise the price by, say $500 for each concession.  Make it clear that you are willing to negotiate and work with the client.  I mean, if it's obvious the guy can not afford such prices, you can lower your rates.  Keep in mind that once you quote a price, you can only go down in price.  You also need to figure out how much your time is worth to you.  I mean, if you decide to do the project for $250, will that really satisfy YOU?  If you can knock out the piece in a day, then maybe that's a good price, but if not....

If the book is for limited distribution, say for a poetry society, you might want to charge much less.  Say $500 for the piece and negotiate from there.  I call these 'charity' commissions as they don't pay much, but they really boost your reputation!  Which is something to consider:  Say this guy can only pay $300 for the project.  If he does actually get the product on the shelves, guess what?  YOU ARE NOW A PUBLISHED ARTIST, and can now command higher rates!  So, in this case, you may be parleying cash for exposure.  Your best odds come from doing thorough research into the commissioner's project.  Just how likely is he to succeed?  If the likelihood is great, then stomach the lower price and do it anyway.  If not, then either charge him a rate you are happy with, or don't accept the commission.  In this case, it's a little like playing poker, and it's a big gamble. 

One thing you should do is get all details in writing.  Keep all corespondance.  Have the person provide a written document outlining his business plans.  Ask questions!!!!  Find out if the person is serious and has the tools to really get his work (and your art) published and marketted.  Or is this guy merely a wanna be who has no clue about the business he/she is entering.  What do they plan to do with the art?   If they are legit, and have their stuff together, they will provide you with what ever you need to get the project going, and if you are really what they are looking for (and if they are what you are looking for).   It would really suck if your work appears on a XXX porn magazine and you oppose such things (it happens, trust me! *smiles*).  If you do reach a deal, have a written contract from both sides.  Try to get some up front payment-- many places pay half, if you can.  Follow up on payment!  If they say the will pay you when they get the art, make sure they pay you when they get the art.  Harrass them, if you have to, and, what ever you do, don't let it slide.  Sometimes you will get screwed-- every artist I know (including myself) has done something and not gotten paid!  It happens, and doing some detective work on your part can really lessen the chances of being ripped off.

Royalties are never paid for covers unless you make a contract for a book series.  Even Michael Whellan does not get royalties for book covers. Projects with multiple art assignments can be another matter, and should be negotiated for.  If the project involves some major cash, or potential, an attorney might be a good investment-- it was for Lew in the US Games Systems thing.  Fortunately, at our level, this is rarely a problem! :-) Most commissions come from folks with a dream who generally mean well.  You just have to work with them or decide to go seperate ways.  That is one thing:  If you have reservations for any reason (pay, rights, subject matter, etc) about a project, let the commissioner know up front.  Spell it out!  If either side can not accomodate each other, then break it off immediately!  This will save you grief, and possibly, legal hassles later. Also, if royalties are the only payment option they offer (sometimes they diguise it as profit sharing) BEWARE!  That's business speak for, 'We don't have the money now, but we will pay you later. Promise!'  These promises are seldom kept, as I found out in my dealings with Silicon Dragon, Inc. as their main cartographer.  I bought their song and dance and did several projects for them.  They went bankrupt and I never ever got paid the entire time!

That was quite a lesson, and where I learned what I'm sharing with you all here, that and my dealings with Lew, many artists, and Disney/MGM studios. The big thing I can say is CYA-- cover your ass!  Do your home work. Evaluate, and if it all looks cool, take a chance-- after all, you have to start somewhere! :-)  One place to go to get a good idea on prices and policies is to go to conventions, and ask publishers what they pay.  E-mail or write them!  Conventions give you a chance to talk to working artists and learn the ropes.  Most are more than willing to help new talent get into the business.  I know; they have helped me! :-)

Sorry about writing a novel here (Hey Steph, do you want to do a cover for it? *LOL*), but there is a lot to know, and I've barely scratched the surface.  I hope this helped, or at least, pointed you in the right direction!

Some good hints from Matt

(Editors note: This chapter is written by Matt Harpold (mharpold@zipcon.net) and was originally posted at the artists' mailing list. It is re-posted here with his kind permission.)

Folks, ANY of you who are even remotely planning on selling your work EVER, go out and find a copy of the Graphic Artists Guild Pricing/Ethical Guidelines handbook. It has ALL the contract, usage rights procedures, pricing, and so forth you will need. It's much more than a book of suggested prices. It has pretty much everything you need legally to be in business, short of the business laws for individual states. I'm pretty sure it applies to any country (not just the USA) that recognizes international copyright and trademark law. There's no excuse not to have it, it's the most important book a working illustrator will ever own.

Cari's comments

(Editors note: This chapter is written by :-) Cari M. Buziak and was originally posted at the artists' mailing list. It is re-posted here with his kind permission.)

>   A question have raised when some people who will purchase some
>   pictures i'll do for them,asked me about the rights over the
>   pictures.This is,what they can/cant't do with them.I roughly
>   know the spanish legislation about it...This is,when a intellectual
>   creation is purchased,the copy rights over it are not transmitted
>   (this is,although you buy a Microsoft W95 copy,you don't have the
>   right to copy it,for Microsoft is still the copyright holder).
>   But,what i wanted to know if how this is handled in other places
>   to give a precise answer to this people (who acted very nicely,
>   btw).
> Jose
> Gallery 3

-So far as I know for both canada and the states, the original painting, and the rights to the painting are separate things. Usually, an artist will sell the painting but *not* the rights, unless specified. Rights to a painting are not automatically included with the original! In almost all cases with professional artists I know, they never give up the rights to a painting when they sell the original, in the case of fine art. For commercial art, like doing someone's logo or something, you should specify or ask what is included or not. I did one logo for a company that wanted to own the rights to their logo, so they could copyright it and be the only ones who could use it. They of course paid for this priviledge. ;-)  So, you can sell the original painting, but not the rights; sell the original, and the rights; or sell the rights, but not the original to someone. The more they have included in there, the higher the cost usually. If rights are being discussed, be sure to make a small invoice somewhere, or a contract, stating *what* rights they have bought. All rights, as in they can do whatever they want with it, Printing rights for a single run, printing rights for multiple runs or uses, or whatever. The more rights they buy, the higher the cost, usually.

-For instance, Joe wants to publish your painting, 'My Dragon', on the cover of a book. They are only printing the book in 5,000 copies for the first run. They of course don't need the original, as they'll just be using a *picture* of the painting, so you sell them the Rights to Publish. Usually you put into the contract the amount of copies that will be in the run ('Joe has purchased the rights to print 'My Dragon' in a single run of 5,000 copies'). You would either take the painting in yourself to have a negative made, or you'd send it to them to have it done, and they'd *return* it after. If there were variations on this theme, you'd include it in the contract. If Joe decided later that he really liked the painting personall, he could buy the original from you, but that still would not give him the rights to print or publish it, unless you included that in there for a fee.

-If the book sells well, and Joe decides later to make another run of the book, he will have to contact you again about rights to print for another run. *getting the rights to print once, does not mean they are automatically allowed to use it for other runs, or different jobs*! (if Joe decided to make greeting cards as well as the cover with the painting, he'd have to pay again)

-remember that folks have only paid for the actual painting, or the permission (rights) to use it on something. Selling a painting to a friend or person does not mean that they can now make postcards of the painting. All they have paid for is the priviledge to hang the art on their wall. You can have prints made of the same painting, and sell them yourself, or sell the rights to someone to publish it on their book cover, without conflict of interest with the person who has it on their wall.

What I do is with every painting sold, I make up a little invoice that says the name of the painting, the price it was sold for, and who it was sold to, and underneath I put 'Artist retains all rights' and I give a copy to them and keep one for myself. Most folks don't care either way when they buy it, but this way way at least it's written somewhere.

Anyway, this was more that I wanted to say, but there's the law for Canada, and I think it pretty much applies as I have it here for the States as well. Slan!
Cari :-)


Max's little resumé

(Editors note: This chapter is written by :-) Max MaxBert Bertuzzi and was originally posted at the artists' mailing list. It is re-posted here with his kind permission.)

If you sell non-exclusive right for publication, they usually can publish it on magazines, manuals and so on. But you still retain the right to sell the pic to others ( You won't sell it too soon or to companies too close as a marketing area, or as they tell you their preference )

Exclusive rights cost more and give them the exclusive right to publish the pic on whatever they want. They'll gain the copyright for future publication, but you can still sell the original to anyone who asks it. This is what used to do TSR with its artists for example, or Marvel Comics to its artists when they draw a story that was written by a writer and has copyrighted characters. ( You will want to have more money from 'em )

Selling the original makes usually loose all of your rights over the pic other than personal exhibit. You will want to have MUCH more money in this case :)

At least from what I know, this was a little resume. Hope it helps out. Maybe someone else knows better about times, etc. In general if there's a contract, all terms will be written there.

g.A. Priest's notes on stock and rights-free art

(Editors note: This chapter is written by :-) Geoff Priest and was originally posted at the artists' mailing list. It is re-posted here with his kind permission.)

Stock art isn't so bad in that you get a percent of sales of reuse but there are still many tricky things which you must watch out for in the contract (rollovers, certain production costs, etc.)

Rights-free art can be downright evil.  Basically, rights-free art is a collection of art placed on CD-ROM for which rights are sold outright.  The artist is typically offered royalties on sales of the original disk but anyone who purchases the disk may use the art contained on it for whatever and however they want--kinda like clipart.  In other words,  Joe Shmoe could buy the CD compilation, take a liking to one of your works, then use your work for whatever he desired, including advertisements, product placement, even characters in feature films.  You won't see a single cent from these extended uses.  Plus, purchasers can freely alter any of your work for their own use.

There's loads of great info on both stock art and rights-free art in the GAG handbook (Graphic Artists Guild Pricing and Ethical Guidelines 9th Edition http://www.gag.org) pp.88-93. 




Important info about these articles

As we are talking money (Dangerous stuff) here, we better emphazie the legal disclaimer here: The information provided at the Elfwood FARP pages is provided 'as is' without warranty if any kind. The elfwood project and the authors of the material on display here disclaims all warranties, either express or implied, including the warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose. In no event shall Elfwood or the contribution editors, authors and artists be liable for any damages whatsoever, including direct, indirect, incidental, consequential, loss of business protits or special damages, even if the web site viewers have been advised of the possiblity of such damages. Some states do not allow the the exclusion or limitation of liability for consequential or incidental damages so the foregoing limitation may not apply.


References, web links to known publishers.

(Big thanks to g.A.Priest for contributing with links)

Book recommendations
   "Fantasy Art Techniques" by Boris Vallejo, Foreword by Isaac Asimov.
I'd recommend this book even to those who seem to dislike the subject matter and style of Boris' work. Only a fool would deny that the technical execution of these paintings is superb. The artist takes you through the creation process, complete with illustrations, tips and step-by-step descriptions. If you want to succeed at painting in oils, look this one up and read it.
[More info!]

   A comprehensive encyclopedia of fantasy and science fiction art techniques.
First published in 1996, this A-Z features professional tips and step-by-step instructions for a variety of styles, from horror to heroic fantasy and creatures to characterisation. There are entries on all major tools and techniques, such as acrylics, airbrush, animation & computer software, pen & ink and explanations on how to apply each one.
[More info!]

In association with Amazon.com

FARP Article Guestbook

21 Jun 200245 Tanya 'Tan-Chan' Tolokh
This was an interesting read! Thanks! ^_^ Although I still have many years until I can think of publishing any of my art, this was helpful. It sorta gives me an idea of why the crappy arts that i saw at an art show were worth so much. *mutters* 50$ for a 2x2 inch scetch of a tractor... pft!
21 Mar 200345 Anonymous
I can not find any body to look at my art work ? any help here?
31 Mar 200345 Itsumi the odd
This is really helpful, I've never really thought of selling my art before.(mutters: if you can call it that) Now I've actually got an idea about what I might do.
23 Apr 200345 Jeffrey A. <philiabomb@yah...ca
very interesting read.. my art's not exactly fantasy (which is why it's not here 10) but it's all still very relevant..
10 Dec 2003:-) Nastasia 'Paine Lhia La'Luna' English
Intresting I am planning to sell and publish my novels and art sometimes on a later time when I am not busy with work. Any ideas on what I should do to make Art Prints and where is the best place to use.
17 Mar 2004:-) Terrell M. Smith-Dorfeo
What publishers do you know of who will publish a book of your own art? (example: The Art Of Amy Brown). Although my latest art isn't up, I still am "in the hopes" of becoming published in book form (artwork)someday.
25 Aug 200545 Amanda L. Collins <
*gulp* Ok, I am soooo glad you guys have this page here, because Spellbinder just contacted me asking for a cover for a book. They say it's a competition between me and 3 other artists, and are offering $200 to the winner. Now I realize that is horribly low (I knew they were looking for a price break, just didn't know how much), so I have to figure out what to do now. If only I had a good contract to use. *sigh* Guess I'll have to try and write one up myself using what info I can find on the web.
Thanks again guys!
5 Mar 200645 Anonymous
I'm guessing English is not your primary language.
6 Apr 2012:-) Dakota M Knutson
This didn’t really help me but it was pretty interesting.
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