Wired Spins Spec

Actually, it’s worse than spec. Spec implies doing work with no guarantee of payment but, if your work gets selected, then you get paid. Wired doesn’t even mention payment at all.

Wait, let me back up. I saw a tweet from Stockland Martel this morning pointing to this new Wired “opportunity” called Assignment Wired. I’m really surprised that SMart would be promoting this as there is no real benefit for a photographer. Wired is “offering” assignments for photographers to shoot and report on and in return Wired will select, publish, and critique “several” of the submissions.

You grant them the right to publish online and in print. But then again, there are no clear terms–just that they get to publish them in the mag and online.

This is crowdsourcing at its worst because Wired has a cool cache and they spin the “opportunity” so well! It sounds so tempting, but strip away the bullshit and what you get is a publication (a Condé Nast pub!) getting free content. With the complete lack of terms for submissions (used and unused) it’s particularly dangerous for photographers to fall for this.

Why? Because the submissions will fall under the general terms of use for the site and in them you will find this:

Except as expressly provided otherwise in the Privacy Policy or in this Agreement, you agree that by posting messages, uploading text, graphics, photographs, images, video or audio files, inputting data, or engaging in any other form of communication with or through the Website, you grant us a royalty-free, perpetual, non-exclusive, unrestricted, worldwide license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, translate, enhance, transmit, distribute, publicly perform, display, or sublicense any such communication (including your identity and information about you) in any medium (now in existence or hereinafter developed) and for any purpose, including commercial purposes, and to authorize others to do so.

My advice? Stay away from Assignment Wired.

What do YOU want from me?

I’m going to be busy moving for the next few days and as I get things running back in San Diego I’d like to focus my reborn biz on your needs and wants. In order to do that, I need to know them. So, I thought I’d ask: what do you want from me?

Okay, that’s a pretty open question, but I think it’s best to start that way. I want to know what services you’d like from me. I’d like to know what things you’d be willing to pay for, of course, but also what you expect to get from me gratis. What are your expectations? Here are a few slightly more specific questions to get you thinking…

What specific issues or topics would like like me to cover here on the blog?

What could I add to the app to make you pony up for it?

Would you like me to come to your burg and give a talk? If so, on what topics?

What sort of information would you like on the soon-coming legal site I’m working on?

Would you like me better as a blonde?
(just making sure you’re paying attention…)

Feel free to post comments below or shoot me a private email at leslie at burnsautoparts.com if you’d rather not have the world know what you want.

Just Keep Swimming

I have received several private emails about my post yesterday and I am very touched by the kind and supportive words. I’m so moved so many of you care enough to bother sending supportive thoughts like that. There are a lot of good people out there; in case you ever think the world is full of nasty people, remember that.

Some people wondered why I would share so much intimate stuff like that. I mean, it is showing that I’m not bulletproof and I don’t always succeed in everything I touch. Who in her right mind would put that out to the world?! Well, going beyond any of the psychoanalytical possibilities (ha!), I really thought that others could learn an important lesson from my travails.

I did it because, as a consultant (and yes, now a lawyer), I’m supposed to know the answers. People come to me for advice and when they implement that advice, they expect positive results. And they should (and usually get them). But sometimes, no matter how right you do your work, no matter how much effort you put out there, there is some factor outside of your control that can put the kybosh on it all.

And when that happens, when something fails for whatever reason, you have to learn to separate your disappointment from how you feel about yourself. The project may have failed, but you are not a failure.

That last line is really important and what drove me to write the post, because frankly I forgot that for a bit. I was so overwhelmed by the spectacular failure of this LA adventure that I internalized it and beat the hell out of myself for a bit. Crazy, really, but as I got my head out of my ass about that I decided that if I can help any of you from going there when you have something fail in your life, I’d be a happy girl.

So, I wrote because I want people to know that none of us have all the answers and none of us can control everything. This is true in life and in business. There is so much outside of our control that we can only do what we can do and, in the magnificent words of Dory the fish, just keep swimming.

I got through law school and the Bar with those three words. Every time I hit a bump, I’d tell myself: just keep swimming (in exactly the sing-song way Ellen DeGeneres said it). It was a great simple mantra to help me remember that whatever happened happened, and to go on.

I knew a photographer who, years ago, was in a sourcebook and it didn’t immediately and obviously help his business. He never did it again. I’ve known others who refuse to send mailers because they didn’t get the results they expected. Others do the same with calls or emails or refuse to take a crappy image out of their portfolios because one person one time said s/he liked it, even though it pulled the book down as a whole.  These photographers stopped swimming.

If you are in business you must be able to roll with the failures. You must keep swimming. You need to be able to look at what you did right and repeat it; to look at where you could have improved, and work on that; and, see where you had no control on the outcome and let go of that.

You must take risks, try new things, push yourself out of your comfort zone, and be able to know that if something doesn’t work, it failed, but you are not a failure. Fix what is fixable, be objective in your analysis of what that is, but most of all, just keep swimming.

Starting Over

I’ve been mulling it–should I write this post or not. Finally, I decided I should. It’s personal, sure, but I’m hoping it will help you…
…and yes, me.

See, I think being open and honest is the most important thing you can be today in business. I think targets want to work with real people who don’t blow smoke. And if I’m going to preach that to you all, I need to live it myself.

So, here goes: I’m starting over.

Choosing to go to law school meant that I had to put my business on hold entirely for the first academic year, and then mostly so for the rest of the time. In other words, I’ve made almost no money from my business since 2008. I’ve had a bit of passive income from my book sales, but not even close to enough to cover my “nut.” I’ve been living off my savings and running my business off them too.

In the last year of my studies, I fell in love with a man who works mostly in films and so he lived in Los Angeles. As I approached graduation and taking the Bar, we decided to get a place together in the big city as soon as I finished. This was an exciting time. It was amazing that we found each other and everyone who saw us mentioned how great we seemed together. I felt incredibly lucky and happier than I had ever been in my personal life. We made lots of plans to work together on a book and series of presentations for photographers as well as building our personal life together. I had big plans for my business, especially for if/when I passed the Bar. He was very supportive and had big plans of his own.

As I studied for the Bar, still in San Diego, I started getting rid of a lot of my stuff. It didn’t make sense to move my stuff when he had duplicate stuff. So I sold some stuff like my couch and dining room set, and gave away a lot of other stuff like my bed and cookware and TV. It was wonderful to help others by handing over the items. And, the day after finishing the Bar, smiling, I drove up to LA to our new place and our new life.

I arrived on a Friday and by the following Monday, I was already back at my desk, posting on this very blog and shilling for work. I hit the ground running and was excited for the future.

I bet you can guess the next part: it didn’t work. For whatever reason, the magic we had for the months before the move disappeared. Living together was a disaster. All the dreams and big plans fell apart as the “us” did. Although the work of building my own business went on, I lost some of my direction as I lost my partner.

I was heartbroken. I had dreamed big and, despite my best efforts, it all came crashing down. I kept plugging on, but it wasn’t anywhere near the same. Moreover, I couldn’t make any big decisions until I found out about the Bar, so I waited.

Happily, I passed the Bar. That was a big weight lifted, but it meant I needed to decide on my next steps.

Having passed, I now can offer legal services as well as my traditional consulting. Good thing, because there are a bunch more consultants out there than there were even in 2008. Lots of talented people, many of whom were Photo Editors and the like who have been hurt (downsized) by the downturn, hung out their consultant shingles in the years I was studying law. I have a lot more competition than I did. But, as I have always preached, I’m not so much worried about them as I am focused on differentiating myself and my business from theirs.

Anyway, so, for my business, I face the challenges of lots of competition from other consultants; the fact that other businesses are offering advice that used to be the exclusive realm of consultants like me (and mostly for free, like Photoshelter’s helpful business pdfs); and, the fact that I’ve been mostly off the radar since 2008. Those are some big business hurdles.

Add in a somewhat broken heart (we really wanted to be able to live together), difficult living arrangements (we’re really bad at living together), and, well, things have been tough on many levels.

But, you can’t run a business on hope alone (nor a life, btw). So, I took a look at things and made some choices. As I said earlier, I’m starting over (sort of).

First off, I am moving back to San Diego. I have more friends there and I like the city better for living in than I do LA. Besides the health reasons (the air up here is terrible!), I like the community more in San Diego and look forward to being active in legal groups as well the the photo world. Don’t get me wrong–there are lots of great photo-world people here in LA–I meant the community overall, not just photo.

I’m sure I’ll be coming back to LA lots to attend events and visit, but I want to make my home closer to the ocean and in a place where I feel more at home.

It’s going to be interesting… moving twice in one year is expensive and now, for bonus points, I have to re-purchase some of the basics I shed (like a bed). I will be living rather frugally as I develop my business and legal services. In some ways, I see this as good–it permits me the opportunity to build my own life, on my own terms, and to focus my efforts on providing better services for my clients… you.

Work is also a great distractor–it helps me to get my head out of the feeling sorry for myself place that is easy to go to when a relationship doesn’t work out.

Secondly, I will be starting up a photo/legal-oriented website soon. There are some ethical issues surrounding having a website and being a lawyer so, to be safe, I’m going to be separating out this stuff a bit more (this blog will be more general photo/creative-related, the other more IP/legal). Also, I want to find a method of being able to provide legal services to photographers and other creatives without sending them to the poorhouse. It’s a complex problem but I’m working on it. That info will be posted on the new site as soon as I can get it developed. Stay tuned.

Thirdly, I am and will continue to be offering marketing consulting services. Some people think I’m not doing this work any more but I am. I love it and don’t ever want to stop. I could use getting the word out about this–please feel free to let your colleagues know that I’m still doing consulting work and am looking for new clients (as always).

I edit books and websites and make lists and make marketing plans–all the usual consultant-y stuff. And I get strong results. Tony Blei got his book called in before it was even ready (printed) after working with me, for example.

I’m not as cheap as the services offered by the bigger companies as add-ons to their traditional services (like the list service companies). I provide value and individualized attention you just aren’t going to get from them. For example, if I build your list using your Adbase or AgencyAccess account, it’s not going to take me 10 minutes and have 9000+ names on it because 1) I know there aren’t 9000+ potential good targets for anyone’s work; and, 2) I’m picky–it takes hours to pick out the right targets and built-in lists aren’t right for anyone; you’ll never get a “recycled” list from me.

Point is, I do this work, do it well, and want the world to know I’m not only back, I have even more to offer than before.


So why should this matter for you? What’s the point in reading this long tale? Well, mostly I want to point out that I tried something new and risky and it did not work. I want you to use this as an object lesson that risks don’t always work, but you still have to take them.

Look, I could sit around and say I’m not going to take any risks again or feel sorry for myself, but I’m not. I’d still take the risk I did because I never would have had the chance to learn what I have without it. It’s not all bad–I got to see, do, and learn a lot about the entertainment industry and new technology creative groups and the business of magic, and, well, just all sorts of stuff I never would have been exposed to if I hadn’t taken the risk. And I learned more about myself. Plus, even in the bad, I’ve learned I have an amazing resilience and great friends who care about me.

So yeah, it’s scary as hell to take risks. Some don’t work out as you imagine. No matter how much planning and good intentions, shit happens. You can’t control everything and sometimes you will not achieve what you envision. Sometimes it will go to hell in the proverbial handbasket.

But if you don’t take the risk, if you don’t try, if you don’t go for it full-on and with everything you’ve got, you’ll never get what you really want. Success will not fall into your lap–you have to risk to get it.


New Creative Lube

There is a new Creative Lube available for purchase here, for those of you who haven’t yet purchased the BAP2Go app (app-owners got it for free).

This episode is about important language you need to know and use in your business.

Of course, if you buy the app, you’ll get that podcast plus many older ones and each new one in the future, all for the cost of the app. So get off your butt and buy it already. Sheesh! 😉

I’ll stop shilling now…

Easy versus Right

Today we learned that Google has come out with Image Search. You input your image and Google finds it on the web. Sounds great–an easy way to find infringing uses of your work. Wonderful! Free! Huzzah!

Except, it really isn’t free. You’ll pay for it, just as you do for all things Google. It’s just not so obvious as getting a bill every month.

Remember, Google is no friend to creatives. In fact, I would go so far as to call it a full-on enemy to creative professionals. The laundry list of its abuses is almost endless: promoting pirated films on YouTube (even those not actually posted on YouTube); the evil book project and its rights-grabbing attempted “settlement”; selling its ads on just about any site out there, including aggregating “blogs” who copy content wholecloth and without permission as well as sites with pirated music or movies; giving money to groups which are against strong creators’ rights (like EFF and PK)… basically, Google doesn’t care what it does as long as it can spin it so that people will think it’s not all about the money while it’s all about the money.

Image Search is another such move. It’ll sell ads and make money off creatives (and regular folk) who use the “service.” It’ll use that money to continue to exploit and fight challenges by creatives who seek to protect their rights. Also, it’ll hurt legitimate businesses who really have photographers’ best interests at heart (like TinEye and others) because it does the ultimate lowball–free.

And just how accurate will the results be anyway? Think about it: Google practically controls search. It has promoted groups who abuse copyright. Do you really trust that it won’t manipulate the results of any Image Search so as to avoid hurting itself or its friends? I don’t. Maybe it’s a bit tinfoil-hat-ish, but having Google say “trust me” makes me immediately suspicious.

Finally, I can’t find how Google will use the images you upload for the search. All I can find is a link referencing its Privacy Policy, but nothing about copyright. That scares the hell out of me.

Sure, it’s easy to use Google. And the idea of being able to search for your images is compelling, especially for free. But is it right to use Google rather than one of the legitimate companies like TinEye or PicScout? I say “no.”

Vision = value

I sell (and I use that term loosely because I don’t promote them much and thus sell few) t-shirts that say that: Vision = value. You can get one here, if you are so inclined, but that’s not why I’m writing this post. I’m writing it because I wish I had a big, magical, cartoon-like mallet with this imprinted on it, with which I could smack some of you in the head and somehow get the concept into your thick skulls.

Harsh? Maybe, but said with frustrated love.

If you are struggling with your photography business, it is likely that you are not being a visionary. You must be a visionary because without having and being true to your own, individual vision, you cannot survive in the photo business today. So, if you are struggling, either you aren’t developing your own vision in your images or you aren’t promoting that vision well, or both.

Yes, it really is that simple at its core.

You can tell if you aren’t developing your own vision if you do any of these:

1) focus on your gear–especially if you buy new gear often;
2) get defensive about the gear others use, especially when one touts something like the iPhone as a legitimate tool;
3) follow trends like the HDR fad or tilt-shift or whatever is next;
4) try to make work like any other (more successful) photographer;
5) haven’t shot a self-assignment in over a month.

You can tell you’re not promoting the work well if you:

1) spend most of your time in social media land interacting with other photographers;
2) regularly spend more on gear than marketing;
3) have a website with a combination of categories including any variation on “people,” “places,” and “things”;
4) can’t name off the top of your head 10 top-priority targets you want to work with more than anyone and be able to articulate why you want to work with them;
5) haven’t sent a print mailer out in over 6 months;
6) haven’t made any calls to get your book seen in the past two weeks.

Neither of those lists are exhaustive, by the way.

Deep inside, you know if you are wussing out and not going for it full-on. Is it risky to make your work, only your work, and to put that out to the world? Sure. You will get rejected by some (many) and your ego will take a beating.

But it’s riskier from a business perspective not to.

You’ve got no chance to stand out unless you stand out. Again yes, at its core it really is that simple.

So here’s my challenge to you: look at your work on your site. Do you love it–all of it? Does it make you smile/get you excited/make you want to do more of it? Be honest–don’t look at it from its technical side and definitely do not ask “Do I think buyers will want this?” If you do, then look at your marketing.

If you don’t, then get off your creative butt and start making the work that you make out of love and that weird compulsion that makes you do this and not be a 9-5 “normal” person.

Remember, if vision = value then, by logic, no vision = no value. You don’t want to be there.

A Free Taste

If you had the new BAP2Go app, you would already have found new Creative Lube podcast on it. New content gets pushed automatically to you, via the app. In this case, it’s a bonus Creative Lube.

For those of you who don’t have the app yet, here’s your chance to see, er, hear some of what you are missing. This special Creative Lube, on ethics and fairness in our industry and in your business, is available for a free download, just click here.

Let your photographer and other creative friends know, please. Thanks!

And, of course, if you like the podcast, remember that you’ll get new ones for free, along with other free content, once you have purchased the app. You can buy it here, via iTunes.

Knowing Value

I just read this story, and I’m having a hard time corroborating it. I’m also having a hard time refuting it, so, because it sounds plausible, I’m posting it. But just know, it may be an urban legend.


In 1972, M*A*S*H debuted. It wasn’t expected to be much of anything but a chance to make a series, relatively cheaply, using leftover sets from the Altman film. It turned out to be the only hit for FOX (although it aired on CBS, it was a FOX production) at that time.

Three years later, FOX was in financial trouble again and two of the stars of M*A*S*H left, so, panicking, it decided to try to make some fast money. It offered local stations a deal: for a flat $13K an episode (non-refundable) the stations would have the rights to run the shows, years later, when they were syndicatable. Stations jumped at the chance and FOX made $25 million.

When the show could run locally, in 1979, M*A*S*H was still hugely popular and each of those local stations grossed over $1 million for each episode. That’s 168 episodes… so $168 million, per episode, made by the stations, for an investment of $13K (per).

FOX made nothing more.


The point? FOX sold something without respecting its potential future value.

I’m afraid too many photographers are doing this today. Think about future values. Consider negotiating deals where future value is a factor by accepting a low fee now but with more down the line. For example, structure a system for a small company with potential for growth, that wants you to shoot for their website. They’re growing, with the hopes of having an IPO in the future–build in a tiered pricing system where, if they hit X revenue or have their IPO, you get a bonus. That makes you a stakeholder in their success–part of the team–and gives them confidence that you are really interested in their best interests as well as your own.

Basically, be creative in your pricing, and don’t give it away. You never know when you’re sitting on a Nike swoosh or a M*A*S*H episode.

I celebrate and you get goodies

To celebrate my becoming a lawyer, I have a couple of offers running to help you save money while still improving your business.

First off, for the whole month of June, 2011, my books are available at a 10% discount on Lulu. No code, no nothing, just cheaper prices.

Second, and even better, I’ve dropped $15 off the price of my BAP2Go app! That deal, however, is only through June 10, 2011, so you have to get it soon.

I wanted to do something to thank everyone… I hope these offers help.