Wednesday, June 12, 2013

"Monsters By Email" Coming to an End? (Stock Art)

Nicholas Cloister does some amazing artwork. Recently, he experimented with the idea of a subscription for fantasy stock art. The art is amazing. Regretfully, the experiment is not as successful as Nicholas had hoped.
As it looks right now, Monsters By Email hangs by a thread. Before I actually started the subscription, I was able to gather enough interest every day, to make it look very hopeful, but since I started the actual work on the product, that has not been the case. It seems I need to promote MonstersByEmail full time to attract enough attention, but when I do, there is no time to create the content.  : )

The funds will last me two more months, but a subscription period is four months, so I’m very uncertain at this point, whether or not I should initiate another round, or go back to full-time freelancing, keeping MonstersByEmail in hibernation. The number of subscribers is about 1/4 of what it needs to be, and 1/8 of what I prefer it to be.
I love the art, but the restrictions on use are severe:
A subscription to 'Monsters by eMail' includes non-exclusive rights to 50% of the creatures received. Creature number 1,3,5,7,9,11,13,15... and so on (every odd number) - yes, you can only use half of the art you receive
You cannot publish the creatures visibly on the Internet, without my permission (just write and ask). This restriction includes displaying previews of printed t-shirts, book-covers, and other printed products online. Can't use the art on blogs or to advertise without asking for permission
You must wait at least one month from the point when you receive the creatures before you publish any of them. why does one need to wait to use it?
There are other restrictions, but these are the most onerous.

Great art, good idea but a failure to execute is due to the restrictions place on the use of the art, not the art itself.


  1. People have no idea of the true value in art, especially graphic design. Since everyone can scour the internet for free clip art they feel somehow entitled to the art. That is just not the case and the man deserves to be paid for the work rendered. I imagine that he is not really charging fair market value and does not want to give away his rights to his creations so that he wont be exploited. He just wanted a way to provide people with cool gaming pics at an affordable rate that will allow him to make a meager living at it.

    It is a shame people cannot see how hard that really is.

    1. the worst part is only being able to use half the art

      he would have been better off just offering the half of the art you could use

      personally, i think if he had allowed people to use the art on blogs and such he would have had a noticeable increase in subs

      i think the art is awesome and artists in general are underpaid. this could have made nicholas more money if the restrictions on use weren't as heavy as they were

  2. I don't care for his work but the restrictions are laughable.

    The worker is worth his wage, even an artist, but you can't have it both ways: either release the art in exchange for pay or don't. But don't try to half-ass it, have your cake and eat it, too.

    Charge what the market will bear. If you can't live on what you can charge, find something else to do.

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  4. And therein lies the problem. The RPG market itself is a depressed market with WOTC and Fantasy Flight at the top only offering what equates to "Work for hire" contracts with a bulk of clients in the indie space that have wildly varying stances on the seriousness of their endeavors. Most of those clients tends to have very small art budgets or none at all - typically because they have income elsewhere and don't consider producing an RPG as a business but rather as a hobby.

    So the artist in this market space has no right to "charge" as you say since the big dogs are already dictating rates. The smaller publishers are basically following the big dog's lead or are basically unsure what to charge but at the same time don't have budgets artists can live off of either.

    Your statement if followed unilaterally just lead to more cheap, boring stock art and more consumers complaining about why the artwork out their isn't "awesome"

    I applaud Nicholas for trying out this business model to make something profitable from a marketplace that is still learning about itself financially.

  5. Indie publishers constitute less than 20% of the Monsters By Email subscribers. Role-players (Game Masters) and Artists are the largest subscriber groups, and they have little or no interest in the publishing rights, which are included (but only a part of the contents) in the Monsters By Email subscription.

    The main reason Monsters By Email have hundreds, rather than thousands of subscribers at this point, has very little to do with the publishing rights involved. It has to do with the problem of reaching out to enough people, with a very limited budget and no staff. Having to produce the work and market it at the same time is difficult, and I'd like to add, that Monsters By Email is alive, and will continue until I decide to stop it, which hasn't happened yet.

    Subscription Round 1 is still active, and there is still time to sign up. See what kind of art Erik Tenkar loves, and learn more about he deal at http://monstersbyemail.com


  6. If it really is the case that you are torn between creation and promotion, you should consider using Greg Stolze's "ransom" model. Stolze seems to have had a lot of success with the Reign supplemental material by setting a funding goal, and if that goal is reached then everything becomes freely available for everybody. This seems to be reason for the licensing restrictions. If you are still expecting others to come along and pay, you have to restrict access their access to the images; the only way to do that is to what those who have already paid can do with it.


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