Where Are They Now? Creator Retrospective Part 1

It’s hard to believe it, but as of May 17, 2021, the Copyright Alliance has officially been operating for 14 years! For nearly a decade and a half, we’ve been working hard to educate, celebrate, and protect thousands of individual creators and organizations across the spectrum of copyright disciplines. Simultaneously, we’re also celebrating a second milestone—as of 2021, we have been publishing creator spotlight blogs for five years.

In honor of these two achievements, we reached out to some of the creators who were featured over the years to see what they’ve been up to since their spotlight was published, and we’ll be sharing their updates below as well as in a second post.

Dana Davis, Author

Dana Davis

How has your creative career evolved since we last spoke, and how has copyright helped to fuel your growth?

Hi and thank you for having me back! So much has changed since my first interview with you back in 2016. For starters, after almost ten years with my traditional publisher, I decided it was time for a new path, and I initiated a contract termination. We split amicably, of course, as I wanted more control over my books as well as higher royalties, which they just couldn’t provide. I wear more hats now, so it’s more work on my end, what with covers, formatting, publishing, and marketing falling to me, but it was the right decision for me at this point in my career. My husband took early retirement and helps me out. His MBA has come in handy for the marketing part of things and his computer engineering skills keep my laptop up and running. Because we can work anywhere now, we moved from Southern California to the Oregon coast, where nature offers a lot of creative inspiration.

I own the official and legally filed copyrights to all my books, so there were no issues getting my publishing rights back in a timely manner and republishing the books right away, meaning I could start getting royalties right away, which are very important when you don’t get advances. Submitting your work for copyright protection is very easy these days, since you can do it all online, and I file the appropriate forms as each new book gets published. As long as any changes to the existing books are superficial, like new covers or minor text updates, you only need to file once, which gives me peace of mind that my work is protected.

If you could pass on one piece of advice to other creators, what would it be?

Embrace learning new skills. Publishing is an ever-changing business. Just when I think I finally know what I’m doing, something tends to change or get added to the publishing or marketing mix, and I have something new to learn. When I started writing for publication in the early 2000s, print was still king. Apps and eReaders did not exist so people read electronic books, which many publishers did not provide back then, on computers. Today, I’m thrilled with how easy it is to purchase and download eBooks, as most of my sales are electronic—but believe me, it was a learning curve when that “new tech” began. Authors and publishers had a lot of changes coming at us in quick succession. We don’t know what the publishing industry will be like ten or twenty years from now, but it will change, and we authors and creators must keep up.

Marcus Manderson, Music Producer

Marcus Manderson

How has your creative career evolved since we last spoke, and how has copyright helped to fuel your growth?

Since we last spoke, I have been putting my art (music) out there more. The pandemic has provided great opportunities such as:

  • Building out a home music space where I can work on music projects throughout the week;
  • Providing network opportunities, as artists, A&Rs, music producers, graphic designers, audio engineers, and songwriters, etc. are responding to emails and social media messages more frequently;
  • Putting music out: I ramped up my postings on social media, posting almost daily to various platforms;
  • Learning about new digital spaces (such as streaming, crypto, NFT, etc.) and how music can be applied and used in these new areas; and
  • Brand building: In 2021, I set a goal to build my brand and not rely solely on social media and other platforms. I launched my website, DaFingaz.com, earlier this month and released a course about how to find, enter, and win music remix contests

The Copyright Alliance remains at the forefront of keeping me informed of changes regarding the copyright and creative space. Being informed and aware of what is happening in the space allows me to make well-informed decisions regarding my creative career.

If you could pass on one piece of advice to other creators, what would it be?

Put yourself out there. I can’t stress that enough. Share your art. Your music. Your poetry. Whatever it is. And when you share it, tag people. Tag companies you want to work with. Tag other artists. Other creatives. Use hashtags. Maximize the power of these platforms that are available. When you do share your creations, don’t worry about numbers. With consistency, the numbers will grow (and then viewers will also go back and look at your past stuff).

I hope this helps someone on their creative journey.

Lili Chin, Animal Illustrator

Lili Chin

How has your creative career evolved since we last spoke, and how has copyright helped to fuel your growth?

When we last spoke in 2017, I talked about experiencing frequent infringement of my copyrights—by individuals as well as by large corporate retailers. This was a battle I never thought I’d have to experience over and over again, and it has been both exhausting and educational.

During the past five years, I have been really busy and am still creating new work, selling my printed illustrations and gift products via retail and wholesale. I still illustrate for animal lovers, educators, and pet-centric businesses, and am currently working on a children’s picture book. I think, for me, as a creator/entrepreneur, understanding copyright is about having a sense of self-worth, setting the boundaries of how your work can be used by others, and having the right to decide and negotiate its value in order to earn a living. Copyright is also about creating new work based on existing work.

In fact, one of my posters—“Doggie Language,” illustrated in 2011 (which was also involved in a copyright infringement lawsuit)—led to my first published book last year in 2020. I am very excited about this little gift book and the wonderful reviews it has been getting. There are a couple of images from the poster in the book, but otherwise it consists of all new art featuring many different dogs, with more detailed information about reading dog body language.

Also exciting is that in January of this year, I was hired to present a one hour “Artist Copyrights” webinar for the Academy for Dog Trainers. It was an unexpected honor. I talked about what copyright means, and how creators are able to earn a living through copyright ownership and assignment/licensing, using my own work as examples. I wanted to show how essential copyright is to a creator’s ability to survive, grow, and have respectful relationships.

If you could pass on one piece of advice to other creators, what would it be?

This piece of advice comes from my lawyer and from personal experience fighting art theft: please register your work for copyright protection even if you don’t think anyone will steal it. You never know! In case of infringement, it will be very costly to find legal representation or have leverage in court without that official piece of paper. You can register works for copyright protection online through the U.S. Copyright Office, which is a good business habit to get into.

Yanique DaCosta, Graphic Designer and Painter

Yanique Dacosta

How has your creative career evolved since we last spoke, and how has copyright helped to fuel your growth?

I am not sure if my career has evolved much, but it has grown. It feels like it has continued to grow along an upward path.

Due to the influx of work in the past three years, I was able to increase the team at YKMD, my design firm, and remove myself from some of the more mundane or junior level tasks. YKMD primarily works with digital marketing agencies, real estate developers and health and wellness brands. Though we all underwent a lot of emotional labor in 2020, companies in these industries flourished and created room for YKMD‘s growth.

Our clients come to us for reliable and timely services with unique data-driven visual solutions that get them the results they need to grow their business. As we continue to grow, we will nurture young talent to use their skills in real world situations. In Summer 2021, YKMD will open its internship program geared towards real mentorship, full-time employment and our continued long-term growth as an agency.

If you could pass on one piece of advice to other creators, what would it be?

My advice for senior level creators is to focus on creating and let others do the rest. I know that is a lot easier when you are a full-time employee and not a freelancing creative or business owner. However, to get to the next stage in your career you will need to leverage the people around you for support. You can delegate things that you aren’t good at, or things that your time is too precious to be spent on. For example, if you are working on a project billed at $150 per hour, you may find yourself more productive if you hire a meal prep company instead of contemplating what is for dinner every day.

Want to learn more about some of the incredible creators we’ve featured in the past? Stay tuned for part two of this blog later this week, and check out our archive of more than 100 previous creator spotlight blogs. To be featured in your own creator spotlight blog, join the Copyright Alliance as an Individual Creator Member and email us at cawebsite@copyrightalliance.org.

Featured Image Photo Credit: iStock/YSedova

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