An Open Letter to a Freelancer

As you may know, I, along with ten others, am being featured in a crowd-funded fiction anthology. More than enough money was made to get it printed and pay the authors, and so The Editor got the idea to hire illustrators to do their takes on each of the stories. The talent works with each other at their own discretion, because really, it’s the publisher and not the author who contracts and pays The Artist. 

There appears, in my story, a small “twist” that feeds into what I believe is the overall theme of the work; the problem is, it’s actually kind of a challenge not to spoil that twist. I reached out The Artist and mentioned that this was something I was worried about. The Artist didn’t respond to me … well, The Artist sort of did respond, but only sort of … more on that below, in the text of the letter. 

The completed piece arrived, and it was a snapshot of a scene, with a major error, as well as a flagrant blowing-off of that request I’d sent off a day or so earlier. I sent an e-mail that reads (edited for secret content):  

I like the style of the piece[*], but I have two problems with it. 1) the first scene takes place [not in the setting you’ve presented]; and 2) I’ve gone through a lot of trouble—including the story description I wrote and the short excerpt I picked out for indiegogo and my Facebook campaign—to hide [the spoiler]. [This] is a very important part of the story for me. 

The first half of the response I got from The Artist consisted entirely of quotes from my story—not even a hello—followed by an explanation of why I was totally wrong about [spoiler] and the setting of the scene that I wrote. In the story. That I wrote. The letter wrapped up with: “Lastly the editor is the person who contracted me on this project and she has given the final stamp of approval and paid me for the work.” 

This really upset me, like, a lot. I told The Editor that I refused to work with The Artist, and I demanded that this piece not be associated with me. The Editor handled it like a boss, so it’s not my problem anymore. However, that e-mail pretty much ruined my day, so I wrote a letter I have no intention of sending to make myself feel better. And it worked. 

***

Dear Artist; 

I’m a freelance illustrator. I get what it’s like when you turn in a piece and the client isn’t happy with it. I get that I’m not your client. And I get that this is a work-for-hire piece that doesn’t pay very much.  

Clearly you don’t care about the piece you just completed. It was a paycheck. This much was expressed in the way you answered the email I sent you while you were still working on it, in which I made a request about the content—a request I considered “very important.” Actually, you had your spouse answer the email by asking if I was being sarcastic, and letting me know that both of you had barely read my story. 

Here’s the thing: I care about this project, and I care a lot. I spent countless hours writing it, and I am personally invested in how the art turns out. It’s not your job to care, but you could at least pretend

You had three options to respond, all of which could have made you look like a professional: you could have changed the art in some way to reflect the concern I had expressed to you before you turned it in (from a freelancer’s perspective, this is the least desirable option, but it still is one); you could have explained that we had different interpretations, but the art was approved and you can’t make any changes; or, if my criticism pissed you off enough, not respond at all. You chose a fourth option, which was to behave like a thin-skinned tween.  

I don’t expect this letter to affect you in any way. You have a business, and it has somehow continued to function despite your communication skills. More importantly, your response to criticism leads me to assume that you don’t like to consider the perspectives of others. I don’t think you’ve even made it this far, unless you’re rage-reading. 

I’m writing this for me, because my feelings were genuinely hurt by your thinly veiled contempt for me. I’m trying to soothe my anger at your behavior by spelling out just what it was about your email that pissed me off. And now that this is out of the way, I can express my initial reaction much more succinctly: 

Grow the fuck up and be nice to others for a change, you narcissistic prima donna. 

Sincerely, 

Jeremiah Murphy 

Writer and Artist 

_____ 

* I actually didn’t, but I wanted to work with the person, because The Editor seemed to think it was a good match. 

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