By Chris Gumprich. (Originally posted May 23, 2005)

It seems that every step in the self-publishing journey is another "insurmountable" hurdle, another excuse for someone to give up the trip because it's just too hard. For self-publishing writers (who can't draw), the need for an artist stops them before they even start.

Matt Maxwell is covering this very topic in his HARD KNOCKS columns (starts here), so there's no need for me to mention the various sites on the web where you can hook up with artists. Heck, there's another forum elsewhere in the lounge that has a thread specifically for that purpose. No, I'm here to talk about my particular journey, and the artist that I was going to find for Midnight Coder, my full-sized debut.

Before starting my search, I came up with a checklist for the sort of artist I was looking for. I had a set amount budgeted for a page rate. I knew what kind of style I wanted. And, ideally, I wanted someone in Canada, to avoid hassles with having to purchase an International Money Order every time I paid them - much easier to write out a personal cheque. With this in mind, I started my search - and found someone almost immediately. When asked, he sent me a few pages, I liked what I saw, and we started hammering out the details of an agreement.

Now, I was taking this self-publishing thing seriously. I created a business with myself as the sole proprietor, and went through the trouble of registering it with the Province of Manitoba Consumer and Corporate Affairs office. This was not a lemonade stand that I was creating here - this was a business. It was important to have everything set up legitimately, to avoid any possible headaches ten years down the line. And continuing this line of thought, I was determined to have a signed legal contract between me and the artist before one line touched paper.

It's a standard joke - nobody likes lawyers. But, and this is an important point, a legal agreement now avoids legal problems in the future. Yeah, the odds are against it, but what if someone wants to option Midnight Coder and turn it into a TV series? Wouldn't it be nice to have the ownership clearly spelled out beforehand?

The problem with needing lawyers is that you also need to pay them - and this is a lesson learned the hard way. If you can find someone - a friend, a relative, an acquaintance - who's willing to give some pro bono (or nearly so) advice on writing and signing contracts, by all means take it. In my case, I went with a lawyer recommended by my accountant father, and while the lawyer was good, he was also expensive. A hundred and fifty dollars an hour expensive. At the time, I didn't mind too much, because I figured that the artist and I had already worked everything out beforehand, it was just a matter of getting things written down and signed. As it turns out, my artist (who was getting pro bono advice on his side) wanted a few changes, so the contract needed to be rewritten. at a hundred and fifty dollars an hour plus expenses.

Nevertheless, a contract was finally written and signed, and it was time for the real work to begin. The deadlines were agreed upon (and included in the contract) - three deliverables, each about sixty days apart, eight pages per. It's nice to know my software development training was good for something besides arguing about PCs versus Macs - it taught me the value of defining a schedule with solid deliverables .

So now what do I do? I've already written the script, the printer's been selected, now nothing to do until the pages are completed? Not even close. I need to go buy some books to teach myself page layout and computer lettering (saving the need to pay someone else to do it), work up a solid marketing plan, and.

.I wonder if I can afford to get a professional artist to do the cover?