Published May 2007, SCBWI NY Metro Newsletter
Last Metro Newsletter edition I wrote encouraging artists to check out and get involved in the Educational Market within our Children's Publishing industry. I am a big supporter of this area where we artists, reps, studios, publishers do what we all love to do and get paid for our labors!
Or do we?
A decade ago, a little eight page reader on a particular topic in a math, science, or language curriculum, - a basic bread-and-butter sort of job in the educational publishing world - would have paid $4000 (or $500 a page). Today some still do, and should, pay the same or more. But offers of $300 a page – or $2400 for the same little book – are becoming more and more common . The price of living goes up and the pay per page has gone down! This basic fact isn't probably news to anyone who works in this market, but why is it happening? I've talked with many studios/developers about their prices, and other publisher demands, and the key to the change seems to be in the BIDDING PROCESS.
A decade ago I would get a call from a representative/buyer from the actual publishing house. My illustrators would work with them directly. Increasingly, however, publishers outsource the day-to-day work of putting projects together. They bid out the work to studios and production developers who compete by making ‘blind bids': price offers on the total job, including the cost of illustration. Once a bidder wins the program they are locked into the prices they bid. This step saves publishers time and money, but with unintended consequences for illustrators (and their bottom lines) .
To win programs, studios or production developers try to underbid their competitors. The same price they bid last year might lose them the job this year! So, they bid lower. As the amount of money paid for each job goes down, so does the amount available to pay for art. The impact on illustrators couldn't be clearer. As one buyer said to me, “they often have no qualms about making the rate as low as the market can bear.”
We artists and reps are ‘bearing' these prices. You would think we could PUSH BACK by saying “NO.” Refuse the work if the prices for each piece are just too low to be worth the labor to produce them. Say ‘NO' if the time frame to produce the work is half what we know it will take to do a quality job. Say ‘NO' to ‘Work For Hire' that takes ALL our rights for the work away (even self promotion unless we get permission!), and push for ‘School Rights Only (SRO) .' The power is with US to say NO!
Or is it?