Why I hate writing, Part 12: Unpaid writing

Digital publishing has opened up opportunities for writers like never before.

In years past, literary agents and publishing houses were the guardians at the gate. A writer’s work was at their mercy. They decided whether a manuscript was worthy of being shared with the masses.

But all of that is changing. If you’ve got enough money, you can be a published writer. I’ve got mixed feelings about this. There are plenty of very talented writers who have now been given the opportunity to share their words with the world without having to pass the muster of an agent and a publisher willing to make investments in both time and money. And that’s a very good thing.

However, there are also many writers who perhaps publish before they are ready. Before their manuscripts are ready. And I wonder if they do their future work a disservice by offering a product that is substandard today.

Then there’s the matter of payment. Very few published authors make enough money at their craft to be able to write full time. To compound the problem, writing jobs such as weekly newspaper columns and short stories for magazines which used to garner writers payment for services rendered are now often written for free with the promise of “exposure to a wider audience”.

In the following video clip, Harlan Ellison has some very strong opinions about writers giving their work away. What do you think? Does working for free ever pay off, or do you think a writer should expect to get paid for his time and talent?

Warning: There is strong language in the following video which may be offensive.

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3 Responses to “Why I hate writing, Part 12: Unpaid writing”

  1. jake April 22, 2012 at 10:41 pm #

    I like this man. Also, you’re 100% right, but how do we change something like this? All insist on being paid? I wish- then again, that truly would weed out those who can write versus those who just want to, so maybe that’s a double-blessing? Maybe not. I’m generally adverse to crapping on someone else’s dreams… Regardless, many good points and I just rambled in response. You’re welcome.

  2. Matt Cannon April 23, 2012 at 9:46 am #

    Writing for free seems to have paid off for some people, but those seem to be few and far between. Not sure what the answer is, though.

  3. floyd April 23, 2012 at 1:38 pm #

    That guy was funny, pathetic but funny. I struggle to grasp the lack of wisdom of a mature person who admits he’s sell his soul to the highest bidder.

    I think doing something for nothing depends on the situation. In my business, and yours; decorating or special finishes, we often spend time preparing bids for potential clients, sometimes it works out, sometimes is doesn’t, but it’s a necessary part of the business. If the exposure could eventually help you sell work, I say it’s up to you, if a person doesn’t want to, that’s fine too.

    I could have gone out and self published my first manuscript years ago, but what would be the point if it didn’t get read? I know people who’ve self published and have a garage full of reminders of their failure. An e-book unread to me is no different. I’ll wait until an agent then a publisher think what I have has merit… until then, I’ll keep on writin’.

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