Their first email :
Trust this e-mail finds you well. I write to you on behalf of XYZ Magazine. For our Anniversary Issue, we are doing a special project involving fashion designers, bloggers, and visual artists. We’d be sending across different kinds of products to be reimagined for our big anniv issue.
We’d love for you to be a part of the same. Please do let me know if we can discuss this further.
My response :
Hi <name>, thank you for writing to us 🙂 Please tell us more about what will be required of us specifically. We are always happy to collaborate with XYZ.
Their second email :
The concept we have in mind is for you to use the product in question in a way that’s totally whacky, fun, creative and artistic. For instance, hang a shoe from a wall and paint around it! Take a necklace and drape it across a table lamp and photograph it. The main goal is that you have fun with it, and come up with something that’s both creatively out of the box, as well as as visually appealing.
We will make sure the product reaches you by <date>. We would like it if you could send us both the hi-res pictures of artwork and the product back (in reusable condition, because we have only borrowed them for the project) within three days of you receiving it.
PFA the reference pictures for your better understanding.
My response :
Thank you for the details <name>!
We’d request you to kindly clarify how we will be compensated for the content we create for XYZ. Sorry but that part is not clear to us. Cheers!
Their third email :
Hey! We don’t usually compensate artists we feature in the magazine because usually coverage is compensation enough, please let me know if you’d still like to be a part of the story 🙂 Also this feature will be published in XYZ Mag’s nth Anniversary.
My response :
Thank you <name>. We’ll pass on this. Cheers!
Sometimes, I’m not sure if I need to even write anything to explain the absurdity of things like the above. But someone actually wrote that email based on a project their team came up with and someone gave them the go ahead to pursue this. So clearly there are those who don’t understand what is wrong with the above picture. All in the name of public service you see. I have to explain.
“We don’t usually compensate artists we feature in the magazine…”
Firstly, you’re not “featuring” me or my work here. You are asking me to create the goddamn project FOR YOUR PUBLICATION. So don’t fucking tell me that it’s a “Feature”. And you’re admitting that you’re assholes? That you don’t pay the people who create that very same work for you that helps sell your magazine to advertisers? The magazine has employees – one does hope they are getting paid. Oh, by the way, thanks for putting it in writing too. For my records.
You want to do me the favour of featuring me or my work in your publication, I will be happy to give an interview and provide images to support that interview and my profile. But don’t you dare try to get work out of me and try to pass it off as a “feature”. The number of publications that have been attempting to do this is embarrassing. And the number of idiot “Artists” who actually fall for this is also embarrassing. Why would you do work for free for any organization that is going to then use that work for profit and has the cheek to tell you that you’re being “featured”?
“…because usually coverage is compensation enough…”
And you would know this because you’re an artist and you’ve been “featured” in how many magazines now? Oh wait. You draw a salary, as does your editor and you couldn’t possibly be arsed about how artists make a living now could you. How do you know what is “compensation enough”? Dare I ask that question? What is the magazine’s circulation? How many copies are actually sold? What is the profile of the people who are buying the magazine? What is the profile of the people who are buying AND reading the magazine from cover to cover?
Oh but I cannot even dare to ask those questions because “it is compensation enough” that the publication deemed me important enough to work for them for free. Or they deemed me stupid enough to agree to work my ass of without compensation, for a project that will get THEM advertising money. I should be so fucking flattered. OMG! XYZ magazine wants to “feature” my work! What are you people smoking?!
I’m supposed to conceptualize a photo shoot with a product that I also cannot destroy – sometimes the best visuals are a result of being able to do anything with the product being photographed. But no, I have to worry about “returning” the product as well. This is more of an artistic grouse but on top of “work for free”, it’s salt.
What makes you think that being featured in your publication is an “incentive” for me? Apart from the fact that I’ve probably been around a decade more than you have, what am I getting in return? The privilege of working for free? Hah. You haven’t ever followed me on Twitter or listened to me rant have you? I’m the “fuck you pay me” QUEEN. Get your head out of your “I’m an international print magazine and being featured is compensation enough” ass and look around. Evolve or die. And no, I will not let you shoot your gun from my shoulder. Because that is what it will be if I agree to participate in your unethical work practices. You will use my “example” to persuade younger artists to give you work for free. I will NOT be that person. You pay your employees, so you fucking well pay me.
The arrogance of “being featured is compensation enough” really – REALLY – got to me. I let it get to me. As must you – if you’re reading this. DO NOT WORK FOR FREE. Learn to recognize what is work and what is a “feature”. The market might be flooded with pretenders and charlatans but there ARE bloggers and editors of substance who run publications of substance. And they stick out like beacons in an otherwise mired-with-unprofessionalism marketplace. I might not name the publications in my series but I am more than happy to share names if you ask me in person. We MUST talk about this. Not as a way to point fingers but as a way to understand that such practices are harmful for all of us – regardless of whether we participate.
Fuck you. Pay me.
But I doubt you can afford me.
Meanwhile, kindly continue to provide fodder for my weekly WTFNaina series!
( This piece – or any of the other pieces in the WTFNaina series are NOT aimed at the individuals who composed and hit “SEND” on these emails. In all likelihood, they are merely toeing the line set by their seniors from the “old guard”. I don’t blame them – although I do hold them responsible if they are not, at the very least, questioning their bosses and their work practices. At the end of the day, it is YOUR name that is the “sender” of that email. If it makes you uncomfortable, there probably is something worth looking at. )
More anecdotes and stories in the #WTFNaina series. ( These are all inspired by true stories. Some written emails, some from face-to-face meetings. They have all been piling up for years now and I’ve decided to put them to use! )