I’m going to make this straight to the point. There are a few reasons for the saying “starving artist”and one of those reasons is the common exchange of doing work for exposure. Often this is exposure given by a big name company so the opportunity seems amazing for the artist because of all the traffic flow to their website, store, or album. But exposure doesn’t pay the rent, put food on the table, or gas in the car. Exposure doesn’t pay school loans or put clothes on our backs. Exposure is good, yes, but you need to demand more.
Musicians, painters, writers, and creators need to stop accepting exposure over money if we are ever going to be able to collectively lift ourselves out of the shadows and into the limelight. Author and blogger Kristen Lamb recently posted about encouraging a boycott of the Huffington Post and I’m right on board with her. Here is a company who makes millions of dollars a year from advertising off the backs of unpaid contributors… and they are proud of it. Something’s gotta change! I have my own soap box on this topic, so here we go…
Self-publishing authors, this is to you – stop listing your books for so cheap. You took time and energy to write your novel, novella, poetry, whatever; you invested your own money into the project. By permanently listing your books for free or at $0.99; you are bringing the whole literary world down with you. Stop it. Stop it right now. Put it on sale for cheap, that’s fine, but why should you discount your work all the time. Demand more and value your work more. Please, I beg of you.
When we sell ourselves short by listing our work for free or at 10% of the cost of big name authors, musicians, artists etc. for the sake of exposure, we become our own worst enemies. It’s like the real estate market.
Your neighbor has a house identical to yours and they are each worth $200,000. He puts his house on the market for $150,000 because he wants to sell it quickly – guess what that does to all the houses around him? It brings their value down. Who would want to buy the house for $200k when they can get it for $150k? No one. So because one guy wanted to sell his house fast, he’s screwed the value of everyone else’s property. Don’t be that guy, artist. Don’t be that guy!
I know that on this website I post other writer’s creative works as often as I can and I do pay them in exposure dollars. But that’s only because I haven’t anything else to give them at the moment. It’s a mutual benefit because their work, links, and information are offered to my readers while my website is offered to their friends, family, and fans. I don’t charge a penny for my time reviewing, posting, or advertising their work. And I don’t make a penny from it either. See, I am repaid in exposure dollars, too.
If I’m lucky enough to start earning sincere ad revenue to where I can take this website on full time and leave other work behind, then yes, I will definitely re-examine my rickety business model to compensate my contributors. That is a promise I make to you all right here and now. But until then, us little guys need to stick together and build together.
The bottom line – what I really want to tell all of your artists and creators out there – stop selling yourself short because even if you don’t believe in your own value, respect the value of others. Stop giving your work away for free for the exposure you get from big names recognizing you. They are paid millions of dollars a year in advertising and you are helping them make that money. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being paid what you’re worth. Like your mama always told you – don’t give the shop away for free.