So this past week I learned a few things:
1) Write up a basic contract and have it ready before someone shows interest in your work.
2) Have both parties sign the contract before you begin drawing. (Sample art included!)
3) Charge a fee for Sample Art.
It's common sense, I know. But when people start emailing you all interested and everything, excitement over a new project kicks into gear before the business cogs in the brain do. So when a potential client emailed me, and then called, asking if I would be interested in doing some Sample Art for her soon to be self-published picture book, I was totally thrilled! Of course I would do some art to see if my style matched her story! Of course I would do some character sketches!
Of course I would forget that this is work and takes time to do, and that a contract should be signed before I start drawing!
But no harm done, I did at least remember to send a copyrights contract before I actually sent my art. I know better than that, at least. I didn't think that the potential client would in fact refuse to sign the copyrights contract, and would also want to know before she signed such contract how much I would charge her should she choose to work with me. And that she would choose another artist after all, without even seeing my samples (or so she said. Doesn't matter anyway.)
I did get something out of all this, anyway. I had a real good reason to re-read the contracts in the Graphic Artists Guild Handbook for Pricing and Ethical Guidelines. Without having a case in mind, the contract section is a rather dry read, for me at least. And I typed up a nice little Sample Art contract for future use. So in the end, I've got some new stuff in my sketchbook that I wouldn't have thought to draw on my own, and one less week's worth of time I could have used for another project. I was lucky that things didn't go the real wrong way. That would have been bad!
So! Lesson learned. No harm done, and no hard feelings. :)