Exposure: that dreadful word that signifies potentially wasted time. Its evil stench lingers on the writing world like a hobo at a back alley dumpster behind an Italian restaurant. You wish it wasn’t real, but it is.
Here’s the thing, exposure isn’t going to kill you anymore than watching hobos eat out of a dumpster. Should you take every little thing that comes your way and do it for free? Absolutely not. However, it is advertising, and it all counts towards effective frequency. I get that your time is valuable, and if they are coming to you, then they must either like you or your work, but it’s still one more place for people to find your name out there. So, what I submit to you is to do selective exposure gigs.
Personally, I’ve done a number of them. I’ve made book covers, short stories, ghost writing, writing advice (hey, you should probably break this paragraph up to speed up the pacing of your action), comic book lettering, and the occasional photo manipulation job, all in the name of exposure. Why the heck would I do all this work for nothing? Well, I’m not doing it for nothing. I’m simply thinking beyond the next project. This is about the long game.
All these projects will get done – either by me, or someone else. By me doing it, I have my name out there on one more thing. That is my biggest requirement. If I’m going to help, then my name is going to be on it. By my name being on it, others will see it, look into my existing publications, and hopefully buy something. It’s advertising for my skills, through word of mouth, and for my products, through simple web searches. I look at it this way: I have a very limited budget when it comes to advertising, so I need to do absolutely everything I can to in order to get my name out there. Maybe I’m not getting paid monetarily for my services, maybe I won’t pick up a new fan through this new project, and it is likely that I won’t be offered a paying gig off of the freebie. But, it is possible I might make friends with someone with a skill I don’t possess, who can, in turn, help me complete something using their abilities. What I see here is an awful lot of maybes that wouldn’t exist if I kept to myself, and only concerned myself with payment.
Again, I’m not saying take everything that comes your way. I currently do, but I’m crazy and everything that has come my way lately has been something I think will be fun to do. After all, isn’t that the whole point of all this? Writing isn’t about making money. If it was, there would be far less of us doing it, let alone in the indie world. This is about making something and having fun doing it. I don’t think the concept of working for exposure is as horrible as the current trendy perspective makes it out to be. Had I accepted exposure work the way most people do, I wouldn’t be lettering my own comic right now (the artist is working for free, being paid in comic sales), I wouldn’t have been the artist, a la digital manipulation, of a comic (I was paid for after the fact, which surprised me as it was not part of the agreement), I wouldn’t be in the middle of creating a graphic novel, co-writing a novel, or sitting here writing this article right now. I’m not tooting my own horn – clearly, I’m not famous, and I’m certainly not making a living doing any of this, but my name is out there far more than my nine books and a handful of short stories have gotten me. Slowly, but surely, paid work, or trade work, is coming through the pipeline, all because I said yes to some exposure jobs.