Thursday, January 9, 2014

How to Spot an Art Scam

I received this email a few weeks ago with the subject line "employing illustrators":
We are a publishing house situated in France “Paris”. We are specialized in the production of educational products forchildren, such as books, books with CD, puzzles, cards, posters and different other products. We have a large daily needs in terms of illustrations, since we have many projects under development.
we are looking for illustrators to illustrate for small children under the age of 9 years old.
Please try to respond as soon as possible on in order to have an agreement and to start a long work relationship with us.
We are looking forward for your soon reply.
Best regards.
I recognized it as a scam and ignored it. Later, I saw other people on Deviantart and LinkedIn who had also received this email and were wondering about it. Here's how you know it's a scam:

  1. They don't address me by name, meaning that this is probably a template email they've sent to many illustrators, trying to get anyone they can. Reputable publishing houses don't mass email illustrators.
  2. Spelling and grammar errors. France "Paris". Products forchildren. Your soon reply.
  3. If they're located in France, why are they contacting me instead of French illustrators?
  4. The sender never names their company.
  5. They want illustrations for small children under 9, although my style is more suited for older children.
  6. Their email address uses gmail, rather than a professional address.
  7. They're already talking about starting a "long work relationship."
  8. They're vague about what they want.
It's just like any other spam email: poor spelling, vague wording, premature promises. None of these on their own are a proof of a scam, but altogether they raise a lot of red flags. I Googled the email address and found that they have been posting comments on various art and design blogs with this message. In another variation on their email, they quote absurdly low rates - $10 to $20 for "simple level of illustration."

I didn't respond, so I don't know what these people are trying to gather - money, personal info, who knows. It's just particularly mean to prey on the hopes of aspiring illustrators.

Professional publishers don't talk like this. They won't be vague or evasive or have questionable English skills or send emails from gmail accounts. When you get a legitimate email from a publisher, you'll know. When you get an email that feels like a scam, it's probably a scam.


  1. I got the same exact e-mail. I responded and only asked the name of the publishing house and this is what I got back.

    "Hello we are Athariya-Jeunesse editions :),

    First of all thank you for the response and,
    We are making chapters for our books, so we need you to illustrate with the same style in the picture on the attached file, of course if you would like to :) and it doesn’t mean you have to use illustrator or we don’t have a deal No!! Your talent and style and the tool you are using is what attracted us from the beginning.

    We will use PayPal to pay you for your great illustrations and you will have 50 %upfront before starting any project because we'll not have a contract with you so you could trust us.

    Here are the prices and they are a little low for great illustrator like you because you will notice that the face details are not needed and you should know that half of the profits are for charity houses to help orphan kids by providing them with gifts and books…etc. So help us to draw a smile in their faces. :)

    The prices(per one single illustration)

    - A Level illustration (the simple level of illustration): from 20 to 30$

    - B Level illustration (the average level of illustration): from 30 to 60$

    - C level illustration (the complex level of illustration): from 50 to 70$
    Of course the prices are negotiable so you are free to give all your opinions about it so send us your prices and portfolio."

    Needless to say, I never replied back...

    1. Thanks for posting this, Kirk. I like how they say you can trust them because there isn't a contract. :P

  2. Scammers indeed have terrible grammar. I wonder why they always space out their commas too.

  3. I receive this morning the same email, so I asked them for which publishing house are they working and Vat number. I don't trust them very much. Let's see.
    Elisa Paganelli (illustrator)

  4. I went even further than this, negotiated the $'s to £'s which was still very cheap, provided a few illustrations (which I never normally do) and was offered a job with them to start after Christmas. I haven't heard from them since, so definitely a scam and at least we all know. Or maybe not, found an illustrator on Elance who has put it on her CV, wonder if she has actually got any work from them.


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