Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Hard work vs. bribes


Bear with me here.

There's an episode from Spongebob Squarepants where Spongebob and King Neptune have a Cook-Off to see who is best at making a crabby-patty. (I forget the reason why. Do we need a reason?)

They do this Roman Colosseum style, as befits a Great God Of The Sea, to a huge crowd of spectators. There is elaborate set-up. We see King Neptune raising his arms and two magic seahorses descend from the heavens and grid him in his cooking-apron. (Spongebob puts on his hat.) King Neptune raises one hand and wheat springs from the ground, and with a zap turns them into burger buns. (Spongebob places a bag of store-bought buns on the table.) King Neptune levitates great sacks of vegetables and calls upon a school of swordfish to slice them to perfection. (Spongebob, with great care, makes one tomato slice with the edge of his spatula.) King Neptune zaps his burgers on a mighty, shiny grill. (Spongebob rubs two sticks together to make a campfire.) And so on. In the end King Neptune makes hundreds of crabby-patties, sufficient to feed everyone in the crowd. Spongebob just makes the one.

The kicker though? King Neptune's patties taste awful. The crowd spits them out after one bite. Spongebob's patty, eaten by King Neptune himself, causes great choral music to sound. Clearly superior. He concedes defeat.

I'm hoping real life plays out this way in the area of proposals/manuscipts/portfolios. I have seen some very well-designed, beautiful self-promotion materials in those books and magazines where one can find such things. I have also seen beautiful-yet-rediculously-over-the-top-things, like custom milled soaps in biodegradable packaging.

I mention all this because this evening, on a Very Well Known Publisher's facebook page, I saw a superbly ridiculous book proposal delivery, which involved treats, poetry and a singing telegram.

On the one hand: I get it. If I were in charge of inquires at any publishing house it would certainly be tedious to sift through the massive volume of hopeful submissions, and it would therefore be very thrilling to get a little gift or something weird. But mostly, it makes me -- the small time newcomer on the block -- feel very, very small when I see stuff like this. I don't have the budget to hire a singing telegram. I don't have the budget to make custom-print envelopes. I print my own business cards on my fancy art-print printer. (On the paper I paint my illustrations on, actually. I don't think you'd know if I didn't tell you. The look pretty professional.) I am amassing what I hope is a concise business identity for myself. I am making delicious pictures to stuff my portfolio with. I am also working a lot.

I hope all of this can somehow stand out over a singing telegram, but it's hard to know sometimes.

I commented something more succinct to this effect on the publisher's facebook page where I saw this, but I deleted it because I am a Coward. And because I do want to submit work to these people, and want to be taken seriously, despite my lack of singing telegrams and baked goods. I want my work to be celebrated for being good work, not because I bribed someone into celebrating it.