It was an exciting day yesterday when Eater heard that Federal Donuts is working on a book. It’s set to debut Fall 2017, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, the same publisher behind Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking. Yesterday CookNSolo sent out a call for submissions — due in by June 15th — high-resolution photos of donut-inspired artwork of nearly any kind. In exchange for submissions Federal Donuts is offering a FedNuts gift card (amount unspecified), and artists whose work is selected for the book will receive "page credit in the published book, recognition in Acknowledgements, and a signed copy."
The response from Philly’s art community hasn’t been gravy, however. The Facebook event page is flooded by comments calling this a request for "spec work", creative work that is essentially uncompensated, and pushing the restaurant group to offer artists fair compensation and appropriate licensing fees for the use of their work. One user summarizes it succinctly: "Pay your artists. Exposure and gift cards are not forms of income and art is a business and a livelihood." Another chimed in, "Do you pay your employees in donuts as well? High fives maybe? No. Then why is it okay to do that with artists [sic]". Many commenters expressed that they would love to see their work as part of this project, but only if fairly compensated for it. Some pleaded the company to change their stance, lest they be forced to buy donuts elsewhere on principal.
In light of this discussion, Federal Donuts is reconsidering their call for artworks. Their official statement makes it clear that they’d like for us to think of this is a my-bad moment:
"When we were offered the opportunity to write a Federal Donuts book, we immediately knew that we wanted it to reflect the kinship we felt with our fans and customers and friends.
In our excitement to get started, we failed to consider the impact of what we were asking. Although it was never our intention to take advantage of the artist community (our intent was to celebrate it), we realize now that our plan was poorly conceived.
We want to say thank you for opening our eyes to the issue of artists being asked to provide work for free. As donut artisans, we understand what it is like to be asked to give our work away for nothing. It happens to us literally every day. Somehow, though, we failed to make this connection. Please know that we did not set out to take advantage of anyone. We just want to make a good book.
So we’re taking a do-over on this one. We still want the Federal Donuts book to be a collaboration with local artists. We still want it to reflect the story of a business that was born in, and raised by, the City of Brotherly Love. Only now we want to pay for it. So we’re offering $250 for every photograph of an artwork that is selected for the book. It may not be much, or represent the value of the works, but it’s what we can afford, and it’s up to each individual to decide whether it’s worth it."