Friday, February 01, 2019

protecting your illustrations

I wrote and illustrated a picture book a while back, decided nothing was going to come of it, and let it languish in my portfolio for years.

A few weeks ago, I decided to dust it off and take another look. As expected, the illustrations are better than the words. I may revise someday, but in the meantime I started posting the illustrations on Instagram.

Looking at those old Illustrations, I've come to realize they work as a picture book without words a-la, Mercer Mayer's, "A Boy, a Dog, and a Frog". Not to compare myself with the great Mr. Mayer, it's just the best example I can think of.

So, here's the question: How does the copyright work for a book with no text? 

If I post the entire story, do I risk someone seeing it and using my story idea with their own words? Should I quit posting them? Is it too late? Am I being paranoid? 
Copyright doesn't protect your work from being stolen (plagiarized.) It provides a remedy for you if it happens (suing for damages.)

You can copyright visual material like you do text.
You copyright it with the US Copyright office like you do a book.

Here's an example of a visual materials copyright listing. It's for the illustrations for The Snurtch (text by Sean Ferrell), illustrated by Charles Santoso.

Notice that the registration number start with VA, not the TX you see on books (Visual versus Text)

You might look at other illustrators Instagram accounts and see how much they post of a book. My sense is that it's a page or two, not the entire book.


Craig F said...

My range of talents do not extend to picture books. Even though I do the opposite of advertising I understand some concepts of it: such things as teasers and trailers.

If I was to do this, I think I would create some work that points toward the work I want to sell, not expose it. Do a drawing of your world as a gateway to your MC(snurtch?)and you posed for the camera. Photoshop is an awesome thing for both good and bad.

The reason I say this is because of the mileage of the Alot. It has grown way past the pages of the books about it.

Craig F said...

i guess everyone else is still in the defrost cycle

Lennon Faris said...

Interesting. If OP is planning on querying/ traditionally publishing, would a copyright for illustrations be as frowned upon as a copyright for (pre-published) written stories? I remember that being sort of a laughable thing in the querying world among agents.

Panda in Chief said...

I would guess that the pre-registered copyright would be as much of an indicator of noobie for illustrations as it is for text, if you are hoping to get your work traditionally published. I also agree with only posting a small number of samples, or mostly preliminary sketches with one or two finished illustrations.

I would also point out that your illustrations (and text) are copyrighted from the moment you do them. Registering the copyright just allows you to sue for more money. I do make note on my paintings and on my cartoon blog that the work is copyrighted and all rights rest with me. People have some dumb ideas, like if they buy a painting they can do whatever they want with it, like use it on their Christmas cards or whatever, but they can't. Even many artists are woefully uninformed about that. If a winery buys my painting, they can't use it for their wine labels without express permission and compensation.

In the world f the internet, it is hard to control what happens to our work if we put it out there. I worry more about dying in obscurity than people stealing my ideas or work. Take reasonable precautions. Put a digital watermark on your posted illustrations, embed meta data with copyright attribution and post low resolution files that look good online, but can't be printed from, and call it good.

Worrying about it is not worth the effort.

Hope everyone is staying warm and safe!

Luralee said...

My comment disappeared. I’ll try again.

Thank you for answering my question.

At first, I just wanted to get the illustrations out of my basement/portfolio and where people could enjoy them. I wasn’t thinking in terms of publishing because I’d given up on the book. To be honest, I didn’t try all that hard to sell it.

Now I think I may want to redo it someday and try again so I don’t want to do anything that would make it harder to publish.

Is there a market for wordless picture books, and if so how would I query one?

Craig F said...

luralee: There is a market for picture book illustrators. I believe the average salary is around 55k but I have never checked on it as a career. Google would be a nice place to start.

Panda in Chief said...

I'd say yes and no for the market for wordless picture books. Some people love them, others, not so much. Look at some of the really great ones: Shaun Tan's: The Arrival; David Wiesner has written/illustrated some excellent ones. My favorite of his is Tuesday. Suzy Lee has done some wonderful wordless books.

You need as strong (or stronger) a story line for a wordless PB as you do for one with text, since the pictures have to tell everything. I'd love to hear what other people's favorite wordless PBs are. They are a real favorite of mine.

AJ Blythe said...

Fascinating discussion. As someone who paints like Picasso (really, my stuff is not recognisable and being colourblind the colours... need I say more!) I'm in awe of the artists amongst us.