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Bill Wakes Up Cranky…

I get this kind of request a lot. Someone wants to use one of my images (or, more typically, several of them) in a book. They can’t pay me, but they offer me a free copy of the book once it is published in exchange for the usage.

I got one such request this week. A guy is putting together a book on a single theme…oh, let’s say it’s Frankenstein. He asked me if I had any Frankenstein or Bride of Frankenstein images he could use. Payment would be one free book.

Now I’ve created quite a few (of what I think are) nice Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein images during my long career. I asked him if he would like to use several. He showed enthusiasm for that idea.

I asked if I would get a book per picture. He said, no — just the one copy.

I just sent him this response:
So that I’m perfectly clear on this:
If I send you five images and you use them in the book, I still only get one copy of the book. But if five different artists send you one picture each, you send out five copies (one each) to them.

None of us get paid for our work (other than the one free book) or paid for our time involved in tracking down the images, in some cases, paying to have 4″ x 5″ transparencies converted into digital files (my work goes way back), and then uploading them and sending them to you and filling up pages in your book with images that will induce more buyers to purchase your book.

You should know the value of what you are asking for. When publishers approach me to reprint paintings I have done for other books or projects, they always pay me for the right to license my images (usually starting at about $500 per image but often much, much more).

You should also know that I make at least 20% of my annual income licensing my previously created images. Artists have mortgages, too.

The more I think about your (and your publisher’s) disrespect for what artists do and how we make a living, the more I think I’ll pass. Instead, I’ll spend the time I saved in not participating in your venture by creating new works.


Recently, Mark Hallett, James Gurney and I were approached on a similar deal. A book was being compiled that alleged to be a collection of works by the world’s greatest paleoartists (artists who visually reconstruct prehistoric life and worlds). In the proposal, we would each be responsible for providing the images and captions (and maybe even the text; I don’t recall) for big chunks of the book.

No payment, no royalties. The publisher refused to consider paying us for our time and imagery.

Basically, as I saw it, he was getting a free (and potentially very popular) book out of the deal, a book for which all the profits would go to him. Mark, Jim and I (certainly in the upper rungs of the Top Ten Paleoartists of the World ladder) banded together and refused this insulting and disrespectful offer. The book came out anyway and we were conspicuous by our absence.

One of the arguments so often made by these sketchy publishers is, “Think of the exposure!”

I’ll use my dear friend Harlan Ellison‘s response to this point: “You know, pal — people die of exposure.”

7 thoughts on “Bill Wakes Up Cranky…

  1. You know, after a particularly rough day (not the least of which was dealing with people who don’t “get” the art life) this made me actually laugh loudly. Thank you for sticking it to one of those unappreciative jackasses and PLEASE let us know if there is a response. (If there is, I think you can safely turn loose of the “holding back names to protect the innocent”. Give up the sacrificial lamb to us.)

  2. The disrespect of artists by certain publishers, and even by so called fans, is mindboggling at times. It’s entirely possible an artist could live their whole life never making a penny because everything they did was for “exposure.” (Although, they would end up with a shelf full of keen books apparently)

    Good call Bill, I don’t think it’s possible to speak of this without quoting Harlan.

    Wishing you well.

  3. Way to go! I am glad all three of you banded together to do this. 🙂

    Incidentally, if the book is a recent release, I think I may know which book it is. Walking into the local bookstore one day, I happened upon such a compendium of paleoart and was eager to see if either any of your art or James’ was contained therein. It was not. And since this is the situation, I am glad none of your art is in there as you, James and Mark deserve better.

    What a pity though to have a book claim to have the best paleoart there is to offer, and have none of the work of the three of you. Still, it was the right thing to do given the circumstances.

    Maybe you can band together to make your own compendium of paleoart. *hint hint* 😉

  4. Just one more example of those who bring nothing substantive to the table but want to walk away with the laurels and profits. Basically, “I’m building a vehicle for me by using the efforts of everyone else .”

    No better than 98% of the things posted on “freelance boards”. You know, I need 365 separate cartoons…budget under $250. Or, I need a five minute animated film of X….budget under $500.

    The pity is that they didn’t name all the names, so you could have contacted every paleo artist. I am sure the story they gave those guys lead them to believe that you, Mark, and James would be in there…and they wanted to be in good company and figured that if “everyone” was doing it, they wanted to be part of it.

  5. Hey Bill,

    We need more of these stories of crankiness. Very illuminating.
    I don’t get paid for painting and drawing but support my efforts with a day job. My motto has always been: Never work off the clock.
    Now go paint us some more dinosaurs! Jim

  6. I just wanted to say, if THEY came to YOU because you were already considered to be one of their “best artists of x genre”, then I think it’d be fairly obvious you’re good on exposure, and in fact are probably busy with your own projects. How insulting. I’m glad you are able to stand up to them. I know this is much harder for more amateur freelancers, who aren’t as well-known. Sometimes I think there’s too much of “well you work in a creative medium, which you’re naturally good at (even if you spent a lot of time honing that talent), why should I PAY you for doing something you ENJOY?”
    Well, if your plumber happens to like his line of work, does that mean you shouldn’t pay him?
    I’ve also ranted about how some people complain about the cost of handmade crafts and such, because they can go to Walmart and get stuff cheaper.

    If enough people denounce this, more people will stop thinking its ok. It also helps us when we doubt the value of our work.

    Thank you.

  7. I’ve been exposed enough that I’m worried about melanoma. Paying me shows a lot more respect for my work than anyone using MY “gift” to promote themselves and their efforts.
    These days it’s sunscreen and a wary eye out for those who compliment in lieu of actual currency.

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