Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Professional Writer Wants Artist to Work for Free on His Project

Above: a writer chasing the spec dollar.

You remember that piece I wrote last week, right? The "I'll work for exposure if i want to, and you guys can keep sitting around waiting for your cheque" one.

So, the same day I posted about a fellow who proudly draws cartoons for free, I got this email from a professional author. He told me he mostly writes greeting cards.

Pro author to me:

I have a manuscript that I would like to publish and wonder if you'd be interested in a collaboration. My copy and your art at a 30/70 split with 70% going to you for illustrating my [book]. 

Okay, I don't think that he actually read my blog that day, so he didn't get how ironic it all was that he emailed me that day.

I wrote him back.

Me to pro author:
Thanks for your email and offering me the opportunity to be part of your book pitch.

I would have to charge you for any drawings I did to help with your pitch. I hope you understand. If you are looking for someone who will do the work upfront for free, then I am not a good match for you. If you are interested in paying me for my work in advance for some drawings, we can have that conversation.

Wishing you much good luck.

And Pro author wrote back to me:

Thanks Mike. If the idea were to be sold to a publisher you would get 70% of any sales. If that's not enough then it doesn't look as if we can do any business. Sorry to have wasted your time.

Here's me writing back:

OK, here's the thing: I can't ignore paying gigs. I think it's the same with you, right? What am I saying? It's the same with anyone. Ha ha!  
You're a pro. You have deadlines and contracts and things to write that will pay the mortgage. Any non-paying projects would have to be constantly back-burnered until there was free time.  
If you want my time, then you have to pay. Your offer is fine. I don't have a problem with the offer. 70% is way generous, but, you know, 70% of nothing is nothing. You are not just looking for an illustrator. You are looking for a partner who is willing to spend untold free time on an unsold project. I am just saying that I'm not your man. 
His polite and short reply was:

My entire greeting card writing career is based on spec. I appreciate your offer but I'm still looking for a publisher. Thanks.

Should we all change our ways and be more like him? I mean, should we all work 100% on spec? How would that work? 


1 comment:

Pat Achilles said...

'No' to 'spec.' I get inquiries like that, and I say as politely as possible, "I don't work on spec, but if you want I can give you the names of some artists who are just starting out, they might charge less." I hope to help them make the connection between experience and value.