Artists — how do you feel about someone who says, “Give us your ideas for free. If we decide we like one of them, we’ll use it for our own personal branding and for our own prestige. We will hire someone to make multiple images of it and that person will not receive compensation either. We have zero respect for any of you as working professionals.”
As of today, that’s the official message that the World Fantasy Convention just transmitted to all professional artists as the WFC searches for a new image for their World Fantasy Award. See their new “World Fantasy Award Call for Submissions”.
That’s right. Your ideas and your work — for nothing.
It’s an extremely unprofessional message, and it’s not one that befits experienced professionals. It says to all of its members — writers, editors, agents, publishers — that the organization doesn’t value its own branding enough to properly invest in it. That’s very sad to see.
Throughout my career, I’ve had fellow professional artists such as Michael Whelan, Bob Eggleton, and Greg Manchess take the time to point me in the right direction, whether it was toward a worthy opportunity, or away from a predatory situation. I try to do the same for others. Pay it forward.
This is one of those moments.
If you’re an artist who wishes to submit free ideas and free work to this process — don’t do it. Save your energy. Take your ideas and your hard work and channel them into conduits and clients where your work is valued.
Recently, the writer Wil Wheaton eloquently refused to trade his writing for ‘exposure’ from the Huffington Post. He’s a major celebrity. He’s presumably doing well financially. The compensation amount probably wasn’t a big deal to him one way or the other, but he knew better than to accept nothing for his work. It wasn’t just the wrong thing for himself, but it set a bad precedent for writers who are less advantaged than him, who are much more easily preyed upon, and who depend on fair compensation for their work in order to make a living wage. He took a stand. These acts matter.
I’m not Wil Wheaton. I don’t have his celebrity power. It’s important to say this though, and I hope it helps my fellow artists and the creative community at-large:
As a past World Fantasy Award winner and frequent attendee of the World Fantasy Convention, I encourage all artists to boycott this process and do not give your work or ideas to this convention for free. ‘Exposure’ and ‘prestige’ are not enough.
In fact, expect the best.
Keep working towards it every day. Don’t fall prey to an unprofessional overture such as this one. And if you see artists who are more established than you falling prey, ask yourself why and how you might approach the situation better. Don’t follow someone else’s example blindly.
As for the WFC, I’m sorry to see it inflict itself with this black eye.
It’s a convention with assets, even if it doesn’t want to compensate artists with money. It could have compensated all professional 3D artists who submitted ideas with a membership to a future WFC. It could have compensated the winning sculptor with a lifetime WFC membership. It could have found any number of creative solutions.
Instead, it chooses to send the message that artists’ work and ideas for a new World Fantasy Award are worth nothing, and in turn that the convention’s new image is worth the same.
Onward to better expectations and better days.