Don’t Fall for the Art in Exchange of Exposure Trap

“I’m writing this amazing book; I would like if you could do the illustrations for me. But perhaps you could tell me if the exposure you get from my book will be enough or do you have to be paid for the work too?”

This is what we were asked recently when we happened to be at a comic convention. Like a lot of you out there, I have heard this a lot of times in my career, but I can’t help but be shocked every time someone uses the exact words, art in exchange of exposure with me.

Wait there, you want me to work for you… and that too for free? Who are you? Some kind of an award-winning writer whose book is going to become the NY Times bestseller and I will get famous because I did the illustrations for it?!

That’s absurd, but it totally happens. And this scene is more common at comic con because a lot of struggling artists attend this particular convention and get themselves tables desperately and understandably so, in hopes that they will be noticed by any publisher. And here these unscrupulous people actually target them to provide art in exchange of exposure.

What these unscrupulous people don’t understand is that if you provide them with art in exchange of exposure, it is okay because it’s an exchange of services. You give them art and they get marketing for you and your brand. But what they fail to understand is that most of the times, I’d say 99.9% of the people who actually want art in exchange of exposure can’t seem to deliver on their promises and their end of the bargain.

Here’s why you should NEVER go for art in exchange of exposure

  1. People who want you to provide art in exchange of exposure do not understand this industry at all. If they did, they’d know that they have to pay you. They don’t have an idea about how to get their project rolling and therefore they won’t be able to provide you that promised exposure in exchange of your hard work.
  2. If they promise you exposure, know that they lack the capital to market their own product and there’s an unlikely chance of success.
  3. Someone who asks you to provide art in exchange of exposure lacks respect for your creativity and your profession in general. Steer clear from them.
  4. Providing art in exchange of exposure is not only insulting for you, but for your profession as well.

If you take upon such work, you are supporting a manipulative and corrupt market. Perhaps if you offer art in exchange of exposure, you don’t value your creativity and skills yourself. It is a corrupt mindset which is devaluing the art of illustration. And those who practice it are being dehumanized by these “cool writers” whose projects fail to even cover the costs 99% of the time.

Remember if their project was so great and is definitely going to be so successful, they can perhaps sell it to an investor and he can then put up money with them to pay you a fair rate. You should only agree if you are getting paid! It’s your right!

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