Slow week this week, but that’s largely because I’ve spent it at my new day job. This is my first literal nine-to-five office job that pays a living wage ever. The bad side is that it cuts my writing time down a lot. The good side is: yay money to pay my bills!
Speaking of making money…
This topic comes up periodically in the writing community, and it’s a particular sore subject for me, and that subject is “writing for exposure.”
What’s that? you might ask. It’s when an entity, anything from a publisher to a freelance client, wants you to contribute your writing (or other art) to a project but makes it clear they’re not going to exchange money for your goods and services; they’re going to let everyone know that you, yes YOU, made that art, and they’re going to share your website URL with everyone, and your email address, your Amazon Author Central page, your Facebook page…or maybe, you’re just going to benefit from so many people seeing your creation, and those people are going to run right out to learn more about you, and what a boost for your career that will be!
This came up again last week when someone posted on a writers’ forum I belong to, soliciting submissions for a new startup genre fiction magazine that offered to pay for new material, but would only offer exposure for any previously published material. When I commented on this, un favorably, the publisher rather indirectly admitted that they don’t have the financial resources to pay every writer, only some of them — but hey, there were sooo many people interested in their brand-new, I never-heard-of-it-before STARTUP publication that the exposure they’d receive would be incredibly valuable.
Here’s my position on that, stated simply:
Working for exposure instead of money is BULLSHIT.
For starters, exposure has no real value, certainly not in the monetary sense. It can’t be spent, it can’t be exchanged for rent, food, utilities, medical bills, car repairs…it is worthless.
As a professional creative, you need to earn a living. You need income. Your art is your means of income — maybe one of many means, but it’s part of your overall personal revenue stream. You cannot afford to give it away for free — and once word gets out you’ll work for exposure, when the next person comes along wanting to tap your genius, guess what they’re going to ask you to do?
You bloody well should.
The last guy you worked for said, “Hey, I know someone who’ll do the job for free.” What makes you think this next guy is going to offer actual payment? And I can almost guarantee that if you stood your ground and asked for money, your would-be client would make you out to be the unreasonable one. How dare you want MONEY? For ART?!
But wait, you say. You’re not a professional writer, you’re simply a hobbyist, and money isn’t a big deal to you. You do it for fun, so you don’t care if you don’t get paid.
First off, the person to whom you’re providing free art is going to make money off of it, in some way, shape, or form. If they’re going to profit off your time, energy, and creativity, why shouldn’t you? Hobbyist or no, this is your art. If someone else stands to make money from it, you sure as hell deserve to make money from it.
And there’s a wider consequence to consider, and that’s the impact on other writers. Artists of all stripes are regularly devalued as unnecessary and inconsequential. We have chosen frivolous, selfish career paths instead of pursuing “real jobs.” And besides, anyone can do what we do, right? How hard is it to string a few words together?
Our efforts are widely considered as somehow universal, something anyone can do, so why should we be paid for that?
The reality is, what we do is not easy, it’s not something anyone can do. If it looks easy, it’s because creative professionals spent years of their lives perfecting their craft. The end user never sees all the time we dedicated to becoming skillful at our chosen art, they only see the result. We make it look easy because for us, it is (relatively speaking, of course).
When you give your art away for free, you reinforce the message that it has no value, that it’s something someone can obtain for free if they look hard enough. You do yourself, other artists, and art as a career a grave disservice.
Artwork is work. Don’t give your labor away.
Action Figures – Secret Origins: Audiobook recording underway, scheduled for mid-2021 release.
Action Figures – Issue Eleven: Draft one underway. Scheduled for a winter/spring 2022 release.
The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Elfish Motives: Final draft is done. Tentatively scheduled for a summer/fall 2021 release.
The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – book six: First draft finished.
APPEARANCES & EVENTS
- Convention of Heroes 2021 – June 21 – June 25. Join superhero authors for a series of virtual panels on writing superhero fiction and related topics.
The New England Speculative Writers group has a new preview book for newsletter subscribers. Pick it up and read the opening chapters to Well-Behaved Women – Awakening and other stories.
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