Working for PIE

In the book, My So Called Freelance Life, by Michelle Goodman, I learned of the term PIE. Paid In Exposure, or one could take it to mean Paid In Experience if you want. It basically comes down to working for free, very little, or the prospect of money later on, if the project becomes successful. It was working for PIE, that lead to me getting work at Marvel.

I had been getting a lot of compliments about my colors in my own work. Another cartoonist and personal friend, Tim Fish asked if I would color a 5 page short story for his next book, Trust/Truth, and I was happy to do it for him. It came out great, and I did get some exposure for it. Tim told me he was pitching stories to Marvel and wanted me to color one of them. That fell through, but Marvel asked if he wanted to write a story for their next Nation X anthology, a Northstar story.

When Tim mentioned this, I asked him if I could color it, and he said he would ask the editor, who it turns out was someone that I had meet once before. The editor saw the work I did for Tim’s book, loved it and wanted me to do the coloring for his Northstar story.

That was some good PIE.

I had some bad PIE as well. I heard through the internet of a published comics author looking for a colorist for his next book. We talked, I was familiar with his past books, understood the terms of the work process, which was casual, 2 of the 3 stories hadn’t even been drawn yet. I would get paid, but his deal with the publisher was advancement on delivery of final pages, and I would get 20% of what he got from sales over 7 years, paid once a year. Now that sounds like a great deal, and it is if the book does very well. But it was a book of gay erotic comics. Small audience.

I got the first story and started coloring. One thing he had made clear that I should put paying work before his, but this attitude changed, and the professional relationship came under strain and combined with other factors, I decided it wasn’t worth it anymore, and put him in contact with a few other colorists, who would actually like to work in erotic comics.

See, I really don’t have any interest in doing gay erotic, and I was going to use a fake name for this. I wasn’t excited about it like I was coloring Tim’s story or the comic for Marvel. I was enjoying it, and committed to doing the best job possible. At the time I started, I wasn’t doing anything in particular, and thought, I’ll make contacts after the work comes out, there could be some money too. But I couldn’t show my work, because of the nature of it. So I would have this awesome work, that I could only use to get more work doing the same. Work that I didn’t want to do.

So PIE needs to also something that you want to do. In fact, PIE should only be done if it’s something that you want to do, because otherwise you end up with work you can’t do anything with. The Exposure part goes out the window. Now if I did for the experience learned from coloring a long story, that would be a different matter.

But I can get that experience elsewhere, even on my own.

So if you get a chance to work for PIE, keep in mind, it has to be Exposure or Experience in a direction you want to move in, other wise you are just giving your work away for nothing. Don’t do that.

One thought on “Working for PIE

  1. vinnie

    An actor trying to make it has works for PIE all the time – it gets harder the longer you do it but, do it you must.

    I’ve given myself rules when choosing to work for free; I ask myself three questions – “Will I (a) learn something (b) get a write-up or (c) advance my career?” – if the answer to all three is a resounding “no” I choose not to do it.

    It’s been working for me


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