After our recent call for scenes for a cover image for the book, Wenzel, Greg, and I received an email that said, paraphrased, “You’re selling a $100 book and asking artists to work for free to model a scene for the cover? All of the artists at my studio are talking about what terrible people you all are for trying to exploit us while you get rich from your expensive book.”

This is a fair topic to bring up, and so I figured that a broader response would be worthwhile.

First, I get the sentiment and I understand that artists are often asked to work for free “for the exposure” or whatever. (Ask me sometime about acquaintances who have killer app ideas and just need someone to code it up for free.) If you’re working in 3D modeling and see no particular value to this particular book, that’s fine, though I might ask you to see what the folks who write your renderer think of it.

There is not much money to be made in academic publishing. After the distributor takes their cut and then the publisher, there’s around 15% of the cover price left for the authors. We have three of them, and then there are a variety of expenses (e.g., hosting the free online version of the book runs about $1,500 a year, since we use Google Cloud to serve it, ensuring low latency and high bandwidth for people all around the world.) When it’s all said and done, it’s net a few thousand dollars a year left for each of us. Dollars per hour, serving fast food would be more profitable.

We have always been happy to pay for the efforts of professionals in the production of the book—layout, copyediting, proofreading, indexing, and the line art figures are all done by professionals, and that is money very well spent as far as the quality of the final result, which matters more to us much more than those costs. Our time spent on the book is in the service of education, disseminating knowledge, and doing our part to try to improve the state of the art in rendering. Having fewer of those few thousand dollars to do that more effectively? It’s a no brainer.

In the past, some excellent 3D artists have been happy to offer scenes for the book cover in exchange for the distinction of being known for having created those scenes. We would nevertheless happily pay an artist for their efforts in creating a scene for the cover of the 4th edition. The value of an excellent scene would be more than worth it.

If you think you could model something amazing for us and would do so for payment, please do get in touch with a proposal: it’s authors@pbrt.org.

The trade-off for payment would be in credit, and in this case we would require a license that allowed us to use and redistribute the scene without acknowledging its source.

Fair enough?