Authors Behaving Badly: Give it to Me Free!

I’ve been fortunate to get my manuscripts picked up by publishers. Not that I don’t want to dabble in self-publishing. I just don’t have the money to invest and you really have to be careful with claiming a loss too often or your writing career becomes a hobby.

What I do realize if I should self-publish that I will pay an editor and if I don’t do the cover art myself, I will pay to get a cover made. I fancy myself a part-time artist and have working knowledge of a few graphics programs. Plus there’s the whole Wacom tablet that makes working on a computer so much smoother, especially when I’m left handed yet use the mouse righty.

rumpledbetweenthesheets1lSomebody insanely talented made the cover art I’m featuring in this post. If I was to hire someone to do my cover, I’d save my dough to have her do it. Seriously amazing work. She got to do something I never had the money to do–go to art school to really perfect her technique. I’m still a jack of all trades and probably will always be. I love bouncing from one task to the next. And rambling. Lots of rambling. *cough* I want to finish something just to get her to do my cover.

So now imagine, if you will, you’ve spent countless hours and funds to not only go to school for your craft but decided this was going to be your bread and butter in the world. Just like it’s a writer’s dream to make a living on their work, so goes for an artist and even editors.

So what is that worth to you?

Free is a great promo tool if you’re starting out, I suppose. Yet I’m not really sure on the return on investment. How does tossing your work out like candy net you the funds to pay for the next cover or editing? I can see a short story or two on a blog but a whole novel on your first shot? If you’re the artist, are you going to give the impression your all for pro bono work? Editors could give the illusion that for a few dollars they’ll spend countless hours for peanuts.

I’m here to say doing this is total bullshit. You got to pay the piper in more ways than one. Cutting corners or thinking yourself above doing the right thing is going to have you go into a potential shark tank in a string bikini–on your period.

Don’t have the perception that offering a free copy of your book is equal to what a cover art does is insane. If I’m getting that email, I’m thinking if they wanted free cover art, they didn’t pay an editor as well. Yikes. Who wants to read that hot mess? Please, just get over yourself in thinking what you do is worth something for free.

I’ve done artwork twice for money or the equivalent. One was a book cover art and she paid me with something I agreed on. It wasn’t green money but for me, it was gold. The other was beer logos for my brother in law. He paid me hard cash for it and paid well. If my family values my work, then a complete stranger should pony up too. I’ve tried doing free work and it’s just not worth it. The time sink alone was taking away from interests that actually make me money so, yeah, no more.

So, my rambling point to all of this is stop asking for free shit. If you don’t want to pay for it, there are plenty of free programs out there but bear in mind you have to pay for photo stock–just like a professional. Steal someone’s stuff and you’re going to be in a world of hurt like nothing else. It’ll make passing cover art for 150-300 dollars each seem like the biggest mistake of your life.

Pay your dues means more than the countless hours at the keyboard. Fucking learn it.