Asked $800 for a Book Cover?!
Ever since I became dare I say 'moderately known' since being picked up at number one in 'The Best of Spring Reading 2020', it's astonishing how many people have suddenly started to message me offering their services - but not as astonishing as being genuinely asked for $800 for illustration work!
The Difference Between a Pitch and a Proposal
I am not a famous author - that is very clear to me and I never pretend to be one, so the fact of the matter is, I am not swamped with e-mails and messages day in to day out. Before I got listed, I received maybe one message a month but since March I have started receiving ten times that number a month. Yeah, I know that's still not a mountain but it's a big uplift. Most of these emails and messages are from people who at least claim to be 'in the business': editors, publicists, promoters, illustrators... and I am happy to read every single one! I spend a lot (and I mean A LOT) of time on social media and I have lost track of the number of times I have responded to people who say they are having issues with acquiring these helpful professionals. My response has always been that they are approaching it the wrong way and it is far easier to attract their attention when you are in a position for them to be seeking you for their portfolio and not trying desperately to fit theirs - in many ways, I've built the rod for my own back. Yet, the sad fact of the matter is, that I say 'no' too far, far more than I say 'yes'. In fact, I have said 'yes' to one out of twenty so far and that isn't because I am especially discerning, that's because a lot of them don't know the difference between 'a pitch' and 'a proposal'. Honestly, it's a little shocking but in case you aren't clear on the terminology, a 'pitch' requires investment whereas a 'proposal' does not.
A Bee to the Honey Pot
I personally read every message I am sent, even when I am fairly sure it's been sent by a bot. I would hate to think that I missed out on an opportunity simply because I didn't check my junk folder or the title wasn't evoking! Sadly, most of the e-mails run like this: "Hey, I'd like to propose an opportunity." Oh, fantastic! How so? "Please give me money and I will (delete appropriately) give you: a) reviews, b) publicity, or c) an edit of 'X' many pages. This isn't a proposal. To be fair, some of them aren't that blunt in fact the most recent 'proposal' I was emailed as exceptionally professional and very nicely written: Dear E S Stephens, I would like to make a proposal regarding your novella The Last of His Name. I am an illustrator who has worked in the industry under a number of high-end graphic novels and I am working on furthering my portfolio. I feel your novella would fit very well with my style and I can tell that you take a lot of pride in your work... etc. etc. etc. Oh, don't look at me like that! Everyone like's a bit of praise now and then right? Of course, I was happy to listen to this proposal and checking out his attached online portfolio, so far I have to say, his art was pretty impressive - there was some obvious talent in this guy. I replied straight away: "Thankyou! (One must always be polite) I'd be happy to look at this. When did you read my books? The Last of His Name is a limited release." I waited eagerly for his response - boy was I surprised when It came!
$800 For My Art!
"Oh no, I haven't read it (yet!)" - Is genuinely what started the response! I had to read it a couple of times to make sure that I hadn't miss read it. This individual was making a proposal, had said that my fiction was in line with his art style, complimented me on the attention to detail in my work, and then hadn't read it?! How did he know that this was the case? Still, I do list myself as a fantasy-horror writer and his style was very gothic - it was still a good pairing if by luck perhaps more than choice. There was still potential here and truth be told I rather liked this guy, so I was inclined to a dash of leniency. I read on. The proposal was attached as a PDF (how professional! A properly presented pack.) When I downloaded it I was wowed. It was nothing short of beautiful! Website development, graphic novel layout, illustration, cover art, this guy was definitely no slouch! Until I reached the end - $800! I send an email to confirm that there wasn't a typo or that the wrong pdf had been sent. The response I got went something like this: "I don't know if it is different in your country, but I do have to recuperate the costs of the equipment and programs that I use to do this." Seriously? You want $800 for ONE book cover and an 'intuitively' designed website that I wouldn't even be able to amend without ah yes, inevitably paying you more money. I was so disappointed.
Artists Should Be Paid For Their Work!
I fully believe that you should always pay your artists. However, a writer - an author is no less, is an artist. Not only did this illustrator want me to pay him $800, but he also stated that he wouldn't be breaching my copyright and thus did not need to pay me for my work! Now let's be clear - I definitely do not expect someone making fan art from my books to pay me for the privilege but this wasn't the case. This guy was using my work to further his own portfolio AND had contacted 5 others to do the same. Of course, I can't speak for the reaction of these other writers but I feel quite strongly that if you are going to use me professionally, I should at the very least, expect a small reimbursement. This was no longer a proposal, this was a pitch and in our final emails, he expressed no interest in realistically either buying any of my books or engaging in a mutually beneficial creative agreement. Yes, I was disappointed that he had turned out to be another professional looking to make a buck (honestly, how much do they think we make?!) I have to hand it to him, he knew how to present and part of me would still be interested in starting up a new communication on a freelance basis. However, to all those authors and other publishing professionals out there, I guess the moral is this: If you are going to offer a 'proposal' you asking to enter into a partnership. I am not saying your time is not worth money, but neither is mine. I am as much of an artist as you and I am NOT free so you can improve your standing within that portion of the industry. You should ALWAYS pay your artists.
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