Last year I designed book covers for a couple of different small publishers. I figured out one publisher would not be paying enough for the time I put into the projects, so I told the publisher I quit. She understood and we parted on good terms.
I had already started several cover options for one author, Jeff, who pulled his project out of this company and went with another. I told him I’d finish the cover for his book for free, which I did. The original publisher would have paid me, but I didn’t think that was going to happen, so since I quit, I didn’t think it was fair to the author to charge him an unexpected fee.
Anyway, the point is, it was my decision to not be paid for the project.
So when I read Wil Wheaton’s post on his blog on this subject, it reminded me that if someone thinks my talent is good enough to use, it’s good enough to buy. With money.
If some company making millions and billions of bucks every year ever called me and asked to use something I’ve written or designed and tried to convince me that the exposure alone, and no compensation whatsoever, was all I’d get, I’ve decided I would them down politely. On the inside I’d be imagining myself ripping them a new one and planning how to badmouth them on social media.
I mean, I hate that. I hate when an organization like The Huffington Post which has enough money to pay even when they say they don’t (it’s called budgeting, folks), asks a well-known celebrity like Wil Wheaton to use something he’s written but not pay for it? Jerks.
I would never ask a professional in any other field to work for free. “Hey, doctor, can you give me a free prostate exam?” or “Hey, counselor, can you psycho analyze me just for fun?”
It reminds me of a similar situation I read about last year in which a mainline cable network asked graphic designers to donate their work for a contest. What is that? It’s insulting, demeaning and patronizing, that’s what it is.
I plan to publish four mini-novels soon, and a local graphic designer/illustrator who’s done work for me before says she will illustrate the covers. She’s fantastic. Now I don’t have as much money as the Huffington Post or Showtime, but I still plan on paying her. And yeah, I hope she does get some exposure, but she’s still getting paid for it.
Saying that, I do believe there are times when it’s okay for a person to not get paid for their creativity—but only on rare occasions:
- When that creator, not the client, decides to do work pro bono for whatever reason;
- When an established non-profit is the client (occasionally);
- When the creator does just want the exposure;
- Special circumstances, whatever they may be.
Okay, I’m done pushing venom. Got it out of my system.