The Duchess Rants – You Can Die of Exposure

Anyone who works in the creative arts and crafts know this particular siren call:
“Oh, we LOVE [the area under discussion]. That’s why we want to be involved. And we would LOVE for you to be a part of it. But right now we cannot afford to pay contributors, but just THINK of the great exposure you’ll be getting…”
statue of man reading bookYou’ve heard it many times, if you’re a writer, an artist, a photographer, make music, design websites, make jewelry or quilts, or [fill in your activity here]…
I remember a story of a someone who contacted a creator whose work they loved (I think it was quilts; it was a while ago) and gushed about the work, and asked how they could get one of their own. The creator responded with a thank you note, and gave the inquirer a quote for the size of the object that they wanted – something in the region of $400.
The inquirer balked – “why so expensive??” The creator actually took the time to explain. THIS is how much the raw materials cost. And THIS is how much time it would take to create the item you want. And THIS is how much it is worth for the creator to spend that time, using the necessary raw materials. Materials +expertise +time +inspiration all equals THIS sum of money for what you specified you wanted.
The inquirer’s enthusiasm died away quite quickly when they realized that they would not be getting something gorgeous for a pittance, or for free. That seems to be a general state of affairs.

Think of the exposure

You quite often get the spiel “We are editing/putting together this online magazine/anthology. We want your stories/your art. Unfortunately, we aren’t paying anything at this time, but maybe we can stretch to a contributor’s copy. We just want the word ‘editor’ after our name, because that’s kind of cool. We’re playing, here, and we’re loving the game – won’t you help by donating your work to us…? Just think of the great exposure we’ll be giving you…”
I’ve written stuff for free – but only in highly specific circumstances. If a friend asks, for instance – or it’s a non-fiction piece on a certain subject in a publication which marks a significant issue or anniversary of something I care about.  But when I see calls for submissions, I would like to see that they are at least TRYING. Not all pubs, especially the smaller startup ones, can afford to pay the pros normal rates. But can you put up at least a token payment, giving your creators just a HINT that they are actually valued? Would you consider reining in your editorial impulses until such time as you are able to do that?
Woman suffering frigid conditionsMyth has it that some cultures used to put their elders on ice floes and sent them off to die; others have been known to abandon unwanted newborns on hillsides at the mercy of the elements. All too often, exposure can kill you.
It’s high time art was truly valued. You want art? You need to pay what it is worth, or at least give the impression that you understand the concept that an artist needs to pay for stuff to stay alive and producing art. ‘Exposure’ doesn’t pay a single bill.
The artists and creatives of this world are the soul of our species. Without ART ‘Earth’ is just EH. Cherish the artists. They are irreplaceable, individual, unique, and not fungible.
One is not the same as another; you can give the same story prompt to a dozen writers or artists and you will get a dozen unique interpretations of the concept; They are ALL worth so much more than just thin air and ‘exposure’.
You can die of exposure.


This originally was published at the Book View Café

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Statue photo by Cari Cerstrand