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.”