Wednesday, March 6, 2013

We need to talk about kill fees

Now here’s a topic that never fails to get our hearts racing and our collective book-designer feathers ruffled. Just the name is enough to make the most thick-skinned of our kind, a tad miffed.

There seems to be a general rule of thumb that if a designer doesn’t come up with the goods after a minimum of two attempts, they can be paid off with one of these little mongrels. The torture-me-slowly-fee is often a measily $200.

This first stage of designing a book cover, is often the most arduous and creative in the whole dang, beautiful process. To get to the stage when a designer is ready to submit their first concepts requires hours of manuscript reading, hours or more typically, days of picture researching and several days of flat-out designing. We may have bought props to photograph. We may have done a canvas or two. We may have gone to an exhibition for inspiration or pawed through our reference library. We may have hand-drawn some new type. It’s a rare job that goes smoothly without at least some of this lead-up.

I absolutely believe in the publishers' right to be able to 'kill off' a designer after a time if things are just not working, if they’ve simply been unable to answer the brief – assuming they’ve been given a brief in the first place. But I think this low kill fee is simply too low. Kill fee, schmill fee.


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