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What It Takes

What It Takes

Protect Yourself: The Contract

By Callie Oettinger | Published: April 24, 2015

Would you do this without a net? Photo credit: George E. Curtis image of Maria Spelterini crossing Niagara Falls. Source: Wikipedia.

Working without a contract is like walking a tightrope without a net. Doable, but risky—with the potential to do real harm if you slip (depending on the height at which you’re walking and the conditions awaiting below).

Working with a contract you don’t understand is just as risky. There’s an ever-growing list of bankrupt artists with wealthy publishing/recording/etc houses, of artists who have lost ownership of their work because they didn’t understand what they were signing, or who went unpaid because their contract didn’t protect them/their work.

For the above reasons, my advice to young artists, particularly those slogging through BFA’s/MFA’s, is to balance their art courses with business and law classes—and if they’re not in school, pick up a few books.

This side of the creative coin is the one that often sends artists into hiding, but the reality is that even if you have someone who can handle legal/business for you, you’re putting yourself at risk by not learning the basics. Would you know if you were receiving a fair shake? Or how to protect your work?

When I opened my own shop almost 15 years ago, one of my first investments was in a contract. Hands-down, its provided the greatest return to date. I wanted something that was fair for my clients, but also something that would protect me/my work. Based on experiences with previous staff jobs, the items at the top of my contract list were:

• Signing Fee
• Kill Fee
• The Unexpected
• The Rights

Posted in What It Takes

What It Takes

What It Takes

Readers First

By Shawn Coyne | Published: April 17, 2015

Greg Mistler's well travelled copy of Gates of Fire

[Join to read more of Shawn’s Stuff]

Here’s something I think is true.

It’s a riff on my 10,000-reader rule, which I think is the magic number of readers per title a publisher must reach before she can be satisfied that she’d done all that she could.  After exposing 10,000 interested people to a book, she’ll either concede defeat (for whatever reason the book just didn’t generate enough word of mouth to survive) or she’ll start reaping revenue from the title year after year.

What’s important isn’t selling 10,000.  What’s important is having 10,000 people read the book!


Posted in What It Takes

What It Takes

What It Takes

Exile Revisted

By Callie Oettinger | Published: April 10, 2015

Winslow Homer's Veteran in a New Field

Two weeks ago I wrote about Dave Danelo’s book The Return and “Exile,” which is to The Return what “Resistance” is to The War of Art.

Last week, Shawn wrote about the “Groucho Marx Syndrome,” of an author spooked by the possibility of success, of actually achieving what he wanted.

This past week, a friend e-mailed about an artist friend of hers, asking for suggestions to help share his work. Upon receiving my ideas she replied with doubt, that she didn’t think he’d go for it. He was an artist and just wanted to create.

The artist Shawn wrote about and the artist friend of a friend have Exile in common. I used to think it Intellectual Snobbery because the reasoning for their actions often rambled along the lines of “only art is pure and I don’t want to be untrue to art, therefore I won’t do anything I deem as below my art,” blah, blah, blah … That might be true for some, but after reading The Return and Shawn’s post, I wonder if Fear and Exile aren’t the driving forces instead.

In the “Exile is Normal” section of The Return, Dave wrote:

Although Exile is particularly acute in returning veterans, it isn’t restricted to them. Exile is the letdown that follows any triumphant, climactic victory. It is the theoretical happily-ever-after that never arrives. It is an enduring, empty frustration that you’ve lost the one skill you knew you possessed; the one life you are trying to move on from, but which you can never go back to. And now you don’t know where you belong.

New mothers call it the baby blues. Freshly minted PhDs call it dissertation depression. Olympic athletes call it medal mourning. Buzz Aldrin, one of the only humans to walk on the moon, described Exile as “the melancholy of all things done.”

“I was petrified of losing the one thing in my mind I was good at,” said British swimmer Cassie Patten, talking about her life after the Olympic Games.

The artist has battled through his work. She’s finished her novel, painted her masterpiece, completed her album. And then what? Then there’s the return from this battle, of coming down from the high of the artist’s accomplishment—or of never returning because it is easier to keep fighting than to move on.


Posted in What It Takes
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