Hey Gentle Readers, its Jon here using the ninjatextophone over the interwebs.
I wanted to take time out of the regular glee surrounding the podcast to offer some explanations of a fairly weighty nature. Weighty to me at least.
So, over on iTunes we've been receiving week on week some really great reviews and feedback, which is just wonderful, and warms the cockles of my cold black flinty heart. Seriously, hearing that people are getting something out of our larking about and rambling story telling is really great. Just this week though the inevitable happened. We got our first negative review. Now this in itself is not a problem. I (and the other guys) actively encourage people to express any concerns they have about the show and offer any tips on how people think we can improve what we're doing here. And heck, everyone has an opinion and I think that's really important. I'd hate to feel we had some kind of happy bandwagon and no one dare say anything negative. Anyone who knows me will be well aware I'm far too bloody awkward to hold that kind of position!
So we got a negative review. It had to happen. But in this review there were a couple of points that I personally felt needed to be addressed. I would have been content to just pass it by without comment, but a regular listener had emailed me last night expressing concerns. So I felt the need to make some comment here. Not to engage in some battle of wits over the Internet with a stranger who doesn't like our podcast, but rather to reassure our regular band of listeners about a few things. Since we can't actually discuss via the medium of iTunes - negative reviews just stay there, unfiltered and undiscussed I've brought it here to the Scrolls. I'm at something of a disadvantage too, since the review was posted on iTunes US store, and I can't see it, being in the UK. Luckily I have been sent a copy. Using this format of the blog at least allows some two way communication.
Firstly the topic of Illodeli.com was mentioned as a very negative thing. And that since three of our panelists are owner/investors/exhibitors in Illodeli that makes us hypocrites for suggesting working for very low wages is a bad thing, since the prices for work on Illodeli are low. For those of you out there blissfully unaware of what Illodeli.com is, let me explain. Myself and a few other artists noted that we had a growing collection of work we owned the rights to, either from negotiating first rights deals with our clients, or by virtue of it being old practice work, or new experiments. Or just things we painted for the heck of it. At the same time we were all aware that there is a segment of the gaming and novel publishing world which has incredibly low budgets, and relies on paying freelancers very low rates or uses clip art. Also we noted there's a growing-pains area for such small publishers where they have a modest budget to spend but not enough to really pay for pro level cover work, for example.
So these two things dovetail together very nicely. Through much wrangling of code, huge amounts of testing and general toil we set up Illodeli.com. A site where publishers with low budgets can go and pick up non-exclusive, one time usage rights to these pieces, for a suitable low budget price.
Now in the review I'm addressing we have been accused of being part of the general downturn in illustration rates (which I'm personally not seeing by the way, but we'll accept that point for a moment) and worse that every time we sell non-exclusive one time usage to our existing work we do a freelancer out of a commission. To me this is not an accurate observation, though I do understand the concern. Firstly as a ground rule of the site we have never advertised directly where freelancers go to get work. That would not be ethical in my mind, since Illodeli is a very different animal to freelance. Secondly, and this is where I am at something of an unfair advantage having access to our customer records at Illodeli, our customers I can categorically state are not choosing between spending $600 to $1600 for a cover commission and Illodeli. People with that kind of money are my customers in my freelance capacity, and I certainly wouldn't want to compete with my own core business. There is no overlap.
Illodeli provides a place where I can point those publishers who frequently offer me very small amounts for illustration work. This has been an on going issue for me - getting offered $100 for cover work, or $100 a page for internals. Those rates aren't ones I can consider, and its been really nice to say "Hey, you don't quite have the budget to get me bespoke and exclusive, but check out this other work at prices which matches your budget". Rather than just "No".
That low budget market isn't going away. Its well established. Personally I'm not a huge fan of clip art for a variety of reasons, so we don't do that at Illodeli. I'm even less a fan of freelancers working to very low rates for bespoke illustration on a work for hire basis. I think its pretty distasteful and unnecessary for more reasons than I have space to go into here. So at Illodeli we're strictly non-exclusive, one time usage. And that doesn't suit anyone with significant budget to spend. If you have the quoted $600 to $1600 then you want bespoke work, you want at the very least first rights, if not all rights or work for hire. Illodeli doesn't provide that, and so doesn't compete in those markets.
I'm sorry that was so lengthy, but this is something we spent a great deal of time discussing at the project's inception, and continue to position in the most ethical way we feel we can. As professionals the market is important to us, and after much consideration we do not feel we are damaging it by offering what we offer. Rather it is a totally distinct business strand for a pretty distinct section of the market. Those publishers publishing on a shoe-string are not going away. And if we can both make a little coin from the work that would otherwise sit idle on our hard drives, and offer an alternative to employing freelancers on an utter pittance then we figure that is a good thing.
With that in mind it was probably a mistake for me to have ever mentioned it on a freelancing podcast. The context it came up in was the insight it has given to me with regard to the nature of unsolicited submissions to art directors. Rather than any kind of advert for the site. Seen in those terms I think it was a useful thing to talk about.
The second issue which I wanted to address, and congratulations to anyone still reading, is that we make the podcast to advertise ourselves. Now I can't entirely dismiss this. Of course getting your name "out there", and finding an audience as we have with some of the top ADs in the field is no bad thing. And of course the beauty of the net is that anyone can do the same should they feel the need. Its not like we're using up all the Internet doing this. Feel strongly that we're hogging the fantasy freelance airwaves with our misguided babble? Do your own one! That would be very very cool! That said, I can think of far far better, less labour intensive ways to advertise ourselves as artists. Primarily what we all as individuals do - send ADs submissions. I'd far rather write an email in ten minutes and send it to an AD I would like to work for than spend two hours recording, and three editing material which is arguably helping out our future competition. Really the podcast has a negligible impact as direct marketing. Sure, all these things add up - taking an active part in any community on-line increases your profile tiny notch by tiny notch. We're all making connections here. So I can't completely refute that we're loving the fame riches and numerous groupies that we have attracted over these 12 weeks. But come on. To suggest we only do this to cynically promote ourselves is way wide of the mark, and considerably unfair to boot.
Speaking for myself (and I know the other panelists feel the same, but I'll let them speak for themselves), I do the podcast out of sheer enjoyment. Its fun, its something of a hobby. I like goofing off with the guys and gals on the little stage we've built. None of us had come across anything like what we're doing for our little niche, and its fun. It is enjoyable to connect with all you listeners out there, its nice to feel like we're offering some insights, and maybe some help to our contemporaries and indeed neophytes. We have repeatedly mentioned how hard the market is, what a competitive field this is, and how some of us struggle. I don't think we're tricking anyone into becoming an illustrator, or thinking its an easy ride. Far from it. And this certainly accounts for our overwhelmingly positive response thus far.
Now those points addressed, I'm more than happy to accept criticism of the content, our voices, our opinions, the sound quality or anything else our listeners feel unhappy with! Engaging in this kind of endeavour is a two way process, and we want to know what you guys out there think, whether it is a positive or negative thing. I want to be very clear here that I'm addressing just the two points which I felt stepped into unfair territory, or general misunderstanding of what we're doing. I'm also motivated to take this up here where we can all have some input, rather than in the one way setting of iTunes reviews.
Ok, thanks for reading if you managed to find the necessary three hours to get through all that. This stuff is very important to me and the other guys and gals on the 'cast. I wish I could write with more brevity. And I'm sure you guys out there listening feel much the same when I'm speaking. Seriously though, this is important stuff, and I've chosen my words with care rather than to avoid verbosity.
Right off to edit the second half of the mighty Episode 13! "Ninja Acockalypse"!