A designer from a reputable book publisher contacted me sometime last year(July?) to work on a big project. It was a book cover for a new young adult fiction novel; about a girl who is essentially stranded on an island. The designer claimed to be a fan of my work, so even though I knew the schedule would be intense(2 weeks, give or take), I was determined to make it happen. This publisher was also overseas at the time, so working around the 6hours ahead/6hours behind schedule was a valuable lesson in time management.
I was told to redraw the boat near the deadline and ended up submitting both of the above for approval.
UNFORTUNATELY, I was not paid. I worked solely on this project during that time and ended up working for free. When I sent the high res files, the publisher and designer became elusive. When I finally got in contact with the billing department, they gave me the run around, eventually told me I would be paid. Months passed, follow-up emails unanswered I painfully accepted I was screwed.
A few months later I found they didn't use the image for their bookcover, but I could argue that they stole the color scheme and the general feel of the piece for the final image they used. Unfortunately, it's an "idea" and those are generally up for grabs before execution or incredibly debatable. My time spent was severely undervalued.
In the end...
NO MATTER HOW NICE SOMEONE APPEARS TO BE-- SIGN A CONTRACT.
Even if it's your Mom. I'm serious.
That said, I'm avoiding mentioning the publisher in this post because honestly, burning bridges isn't my thing. I'll leave the rest to Karmic retribution.