Work for Hire Agreements: What You Need to Know

Illustrations, photographs, and the design of your book can make all the difference between a “good” looking book and a “great” looking one. But if you’re a self-publishing author who is hiring your own illustrator, designer, or photographer, did you know you need a detailed written agreement that must include certain elements?

Sometimes called a “Work for Hire” agreement, the document, signed by both you and the supplier, should include all the terms of the project, including:

  • Exactly what work is to be done: number of illustrations, photos, designs, or pages; detail level and style of illustrations; front and back cover designs, etc.
  • Timeframe of completion of the work: per illustration/design/photo or for total completion of project.
  • Revisions: Number of rounds of revisions that can be made; turnaround time for revisions.
  • Who will own the rights to all the work after it is complete: This aspect of the agreement is critical. In the case of having elements created for a book, the author should have ownership of all designs/illustrations/photos and the right to use all elements for anything related to publishing, printing, promotion, of the book. Usually the designer/illustrator/photographer will want the right to use the images to promote their services (often on their website or in printed marketing materials).
  • What, if any, credit the supplier will have in the book: Name on the title pages or copyright page; bio in the book, etc.
  • Acquisition of the source and production files. Source files are the program files used to make your book layout, graphic designs, or illustrations, from programs such as Microsoft Word or Excel, Adobe InDesign, Illustrator, or Photoshop, etc. Production files are those used to print the final cover and text of the book. Be sure to keep all these files in a safe place!

Work out all the details and ensure the document is signed before any work begins. You can also have a lawyer review agreements you have with your suppliers before signing.