There is a somewhat disturbing trend these days, of taking media for granted. Once-respected newspapers fire photography departments and send a new team of interns with cellphone cameras to grab their visuals. Pretty much anything on the Internet is assumed to be free for use or modification. Of course, this also extends to the long-standing tradition of abusing cheap labor in favor of paying fair wages, especially to those who know their craft and its worth. Unlike the interns, those just starting out, they are known and also know that ‘exposure,’ that is getting their names out there, isn’t pay.
Exposure doesn’t keep you warm in the winter, cool in the summer, get you to work, buy you lunch or cover your medical bills. Beyond that, many of the places who undertake this approach to persuading the unwary to use their creative skills on a company’s behalf for no compensation don’t have that great of a distribution in the first place. Exposure is limited if no one is looking.
Of particular interest to me in this vein is the group of small publishers who are so poor that they can’t pay their own fees on sites like Submittable or just generally want to milk authors for their cash as well as their words. If you can’t support the charges for a service, the purpose of which is to make accept a large flow of submissions easier… You probably don’t have enough submissions to warrant using that site.
Sure, some people write because they love it, and they have a day job which needs to supplementing to get by. Bully for them. I do love writing, at least parts of the process, but I also need to try to make a bit of money in the process. Per an argument made by the folks over at Stop Working for Free on Facebook, and to come back around to my opening remarks, the more people provide content for free, the less it is valued, by the publishers, by the readers and viewers, by society. The farther we go down that road, the fewer people will be able to find work creating art in any form.
This is how we get to Hollywood. The true artists get edged out by those who can mass-produce crap cheaply or worse, for free. Would the Sistine Chapel be visited today if someone just slapped a couple of coats up there because nobody cared enough to support Michelangelo as an artist and they hired their nephew to throw some color up there because he was cheap? How many of the great works of art and literature would have been created if those who made them had to do so after a long day in the office or hanging off the back of a garbage truck?