I may be opening a can of worms with today’s post. Here goes.
Perhaps I have the wrong sort of attitude, but I have a problem with publications, websites, etc, which say ‘We’re not in a position to pay you for your work, but we can offer you exposure’. I’m thinking in particular of the ones who demand that you send in only your very best work, published nowhere else before, not even on your blog because that counts too, formatted to their specifications and conforming to their word count.
As someone has no doubt remarked before, you can die from exposure.
It’s not that I think the people who promise exposure alone are making a fat profit from writers. I’m guessing that most of the magazines and websites are run for love, as side projects.
It’s that writers should be paid for their work.
Of course there are caveats. I’ve written and subbed stories which I knew I wouldn’t be paid for, but I had what I think are good reasons; supporting National Flash Fiction Day, or contributing to a charity anthology. I write and send in flash stories to contest sites like Flash! Friday, too, where the only reward is a winner’s page and a badge. However, I consider that as practice, a chance to experiment and stretch myself. And even though those stories are published online, and therefore ineligible for various markets, some of the reworked versions have found their way to paying markets and been accepted.
I get the point of writing for free as a strategy; putting a taster of your book out for free, or releasing free short stories set in the same world, to lead people to buy your book. I also get the point of making the first book in a series permafree as an ebook. These are a means to an end. Heck, this blog is unpaid writing; but it’s also a gateway to my publications, and a sort of journal, and I’ve met and got to know lots of interesting people and their work through it. In my view that’s an excellent return.
I also get that, for a lot of non-writers, writing doesn’t seem like work. I mean, all you need is a notebook and pen, or a laptop. You think of an idea and some characters, you write your story, you publish it. Job done. They don’t see the planning, the editing, the tinkering, the formatting, the submitting, or all the side activities like keeping up with writing markets and deadlines, re-editing, resubmitting, etc.
I know no-one forces writers to write. But if you can write stories that people will pay for, either to publish or to read, don’t give them all away. If you don’t need the money, give it to charity. Support writing as an occupation which has value, and deserves a tangible reward.
Here are links to a couple of Guardian articles which outline the state of things. Hat-tip to Alex Hurst for the US article (go and read her blog if you don’t already, it’s fascinating).