Just as agents understand the good, the bad, and the ugly about every artist they represent and prefer to offer the best talents for each assignment, editors prefer to go back to the well to hire talents who are proven commodities – easy to work with, communicate well, respect deadlines.
If you did a great job for them before, you’re likely to get hired again and again. Even an established pro is a risk for the editor who hasn’t used him and isn’t familiar with his work methods. And it’s smarter for the editor to give a small job, or a cover, or something with a long deadline, to even an established someone as the first job so the editor learns the talent’s rhythms.
Case in point: A colorist with some pro credits posted some pretty amazing digitally-painted sequential pieces online, and I reached out to him to discuss possible work. We had a nice discussion about family. Then we discussed his rate; he confirmed his availability and page-a-day speed; I offered a cover which was an interior splash that I wanted fully rendered, and a took the time to explain how and why. He received the high-res file and character color references (the colored interior version), reviewed it, said he wanted to do it.
Three days later, with not a word from him, I asked, “How it it coming?” He responded, “Oh, I didn’t know this was an assignment. Is it paying? Are you expecting a freebie test?”
He hadn’t begun the job, didn’t tell me he hadn’t started it, and didn’t ask any of the questions he obviously had despite our discussion. So I confirmed everything again, and he told me he would have the painting finished the next morning.
The next morning, it wasn’t ready. “It’s taking longer than I thought, I’ll have it to you in the afternoon.” Yet morning, afternoon, and evening passed with no sign of it – nor, for a first job, did he send an in-progress version to get feedback to make certain he was on the right track for what I needed.
The following day, the colored piece was in my inbox. As I studied it, my heart sank. Except for some wonderful flourishes of technique on certain secondary characters, he’s colored it like a regular comics page, NOT the painted style we’d discussed. It was different, but not significantly better, than the reference. I told him it looked nice but was way different than I was looking for. He typed back a thumbs-up.
I described in more detail why it wasn’t usable, that I needed it to reflect what we discussed originally, and asked him to take another pass at it. He refused, blaming it on the reference. “I shouldn’t have followed it so closely.” He said he was already tired of the job.
To his credit, when I asked for his PayPal address to send payment – I don’t expect work for free – he said he didn’t expect to be paid if I were unhappy. Yet the upshot of all this is, 5 days after I made the assignment, I still have no usable painted cover that I can use on the book.
So can you sense how many warning signs were packed into this five days, how many opportunities the colorist had to communicate and get it right?
And can you imagine how far off the rails this could have gone if her were hired to do a whole book rather than a single-cover test?