Bento lunches are starting to attract a lot of mainstream attention outside of Japan, with bentos appearing more often in the popular media, new bento books and classes, panels at anime and blogging conferences, new and active bento forums, and an explosion of bento blogs. Great news, right?
On a concerning note, I’ve started hearing from talented bento bloggers who have been approached by authors putting together bento books compiling photos and recipes by people in the bento community, but offering little to no compensation for their contributions. Now, it can be flattering and exciting to get attention like this for the first time, and being published does give you exposure and opens doors. But make sure you don’t underestimate your own worth when entering negotiations! Remember that you’re providing something of value that the book “author” and publisher will be making money from, so make sure you’re properly compensated and legally protected with a detailed contract. Don’t be exploited and regret it later — go in with your eyes open and make your own decisions about what you find acceptable.
A prominent bento blogger, whose work has appeared in numerous books and magazines, recently approached me about this issue and offers the following advice so others can benefit from her experiences. She wishes to remain anonymous so as to not alienate publishers she works with, but I know and respect her work. (Read on for her tips and mine on protecting your work online, tracking where your posts and photos are being used, and how to file effective legal complaints.)