The Australian Book Designer’s Survey 2018 (And why you should take part)

A post by ABDA member Mary Callahan (who instigated the survey idea originally)

I’ve had hunches.

Hunches about how hard freelance book designers work for often meagre rates.

Hunches about how many of you are asked to produce huge numbers of concepts for a fixed fee.

Hunches about how some of our beloved publishers could tighten up their briefing processes to help themselves and you.

Hunches about publishers breaching copyright with your creative work.

Hunches about how many designers don’t know how (or are too afraid) to have conversations about money with their clients.

Some time ago, at the 2015 ABDA AGM, I tentatively began a discussion around these issues. At the table that night were many of Melbourne’s most experienced award-winning designers. Inevitably, the discussion widened to encompass issues of design briefs and how often designers are made to produce multiple versions of covers.

I was curious to know, from the assembled freelancers, how many of them that worked full time in book design were able to make a decent living. I also asked of the group if they understood copyright law with respect to the work they produce for publishers.

Unsurprisingly many people weren’t comfortable talking openly about such issues. However, once the meeting was finished and we were milling around and chatting, I was approached by several designers eager to share their horror stories about how many cover design versions they did for a particular title, or how they discovered a cover they’d designed had been sold to an overseas publisher without their knowledge.

So it was decided that it was time to survey ABDA members to gather real data on a wide range of topics. That was almost three years ago, and now the moment has arrived.

For the very first time, the ABDA survey will:

  • measure the health of our local book-design community
  • show if there’s more that ABDA can do to support you
  • reveal if there’s better ways we can work with publishers
  • start a conversation about issues relevant to book designers
  • generate data that will give us a picture of what issues designers face, what difficulties they encounter and where efforts can be directed to improve conditions, etc.

You have the choice to remain anonymous or to provide ABDA with your details. Providing your details will allow them to contact you for more information on any particular point. I would encourage you to put your name on the survey because it will mean that the results have the potential to be a lot more accurate, but if it doesn’t sit comfortably with you to reveal your identity, then that’s fine too. The most important thing is that you have the opportunity to provide open and honest information.

If you do give ABDA your details, they remain private and will not appear in any subsequent reports or papers.

Here’s your chance to tell ABDA about your experiences, your difficulties and your suggestions. Once the survey has ended, the plan is to gather the data and produce a ‘white paper’. This document will be an extremely useful tool for ABDA to have.

Grab a coffee, put your phone on silent, and click on the link below to share your experiences and your suggestions, so we can get a picture of your life as a book designer that’s based on facts, not on my silly hunches.

Get to it people!

To enter the Australian Book Designer’s Survey 2018, head here. The survey will be open for all participants from 1-28 February, 2018, with results to be published publicly soon after.