Mind Your Business: Your Art Isn’t Worth Shit…If You Fall For This!
The editors of NYT want the finest cartoonists in the world to spend their valuable time doing spec work every week. Spec work should be considered only for those who have not already proven themselves in a creative field. The cartoonists who were emailed by the NYT are all seasoned artists who not only should NOT have to do spec work, it’s an insult to their achievements to ask them to do spec work every week for one of the world’s largest newspapers. Shame on you NYT!
Even staff cartoonists are not asked to spend valuable time finishing numerous cartoons before getting input from editors. When I was an editorial cartoonist, I would roughly sketch out 1-3 ideas, go over them with my editor and spend the time completing just the ones which were chosen for print. The NYT seems to want anywhere from 50-200 fully completed cartoons from a large array of artists in order to choose just one.
Plus, the NYT wants to pay only $250 for a custom editorial cartoon. The assumption here is that they want one that has not been printed anywhere else and I would also assume that they will not want to run anywhere after the NYT prints it either.
The customary fee for a cartoon to appear in a publication the size of New York Times should be between $1,000 and $2,000. However, when the chances of your work being chosen is as low as it is in this case, the fee should be even higher considering each artist may have to complete 50-200 cartoons before one may be chosen. If you look at it that way, the per-finished-cartoon rate is pitiful.
$250 is low even for a reprint price. Reprint rates are lower because the artist would have been paid a real fee by another publication first.
Cartoonist Dana Summers summed it up nicely to me on the phone, “It’s just crazy!”
And then there’s the NYT dictated timeline, “…if it is selected, please be prepared to correct any typos (if any) on Friday. The final file will be due by 4 p.m.” In the entertainment industry, and many other industries, if you want someone to hold time aside for your project and potentially decline other work so that you are available, it is a pay or play deal. You have to pay for the value of their time to make sure they are available just for you. I don’t see the NYT offering to pay for those 80 cartoonists to sit by the phone every Friday for the slim prospect of being chosen that week’s ‘winner’.
The irony is that their approach and fee schedule says they do not value the work of a great cartoonist. However, they WANT first-publication rights and they are only approaching, and thus WANT, the best cartoonists in the industry which says they do value great cartoons.
You can’t have it both ways. When you want something, it therefor has value, and the value in this case is MUCH more than a pitiful $250.
Evidently enough cartoonists DO value their work and made themselves heard. On Friday, February 17th, the NYT editors sent another email to the editorial cartoonists:
“As I'm sure you all know, we got a lot of reactions to our request for cartoons for a new feature in the Sunday Review -- much of it negative. Your very good questions and criticisms of our process have forced us to take a second look, and to reconsider. We are going to postpone adding the cartoon to our section until we can figure out a process that is fair to cartoonists and also works for us.”
The good news is that the cartoonists made themselves heard and the NYT realized in just a few short days that their selection process was more than just a bit flawed.
The bad news is that they have cancelled adding the cartoon, at least for now.
I congratulate every cartoonist who stood up to the New York Times. Your combined strength proved that artists can stand their ground and win against a large entity.
I call on all cartoonists, and artists alike, to not give an inch. Even a couple of artists giving in to these terrible conditions hurts all of us. Companies often wait until any furor dies down and then try again. We need to keep a vigilant eye.
For every company that successfully devalues the work of artists, three more will use that company as an example to do the same or worse.