Where do you stand on this?


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Funny you should post this Ed - a friend emailed this morning saying "You have to read the piece in NYT... it's about you.."

Yes, the internet and those who write for free - including all those who wrote for Huffington at no pay - have ruined us.

My income has declined 75% after 30 years as a freelance writer and author (and occasional photography sales) - and i don't see it getting any better. I feel terribly bad for the young one's coming out of university - one of my former interns now works in clothing sales, another was an au pair, another back at home and working for her father - - i feel almost worse for them than myself. At least i was able to earn a living, buy a home, keep up a good credit rating and put food on the table - on top of that, my pen was like a magic carpet that took me all over the planet on assignment.

BUT ....If the nuclear rods aren't taken care of at Fukishima (not to get off point) it won't matter anyway.... they are saying the clean up is like "nuclear pick up sticks". UGH.

I think he says it all correctly and not without a sense of dark humor.  I also mourn the loss of the things that Mr. Kreider mourns.  In centuries gone by, it was a matter of "publish or perish", but in our own time it's become a matter of "publish and perish".  Bleak indeed. 

P.S.  Please - don't anyone bother to lecture me about "embracing change".  The type of change involved here to "embrace" is nothing short of a creative Hari Kiri. 

My answer is always the same: if you're silly enough to give it away, why wouldn't they ask? 

The other question I pose to writers and other creatives starting out - or in a mid-career crises - is if people don't believe your work, your copyrights have value, why do so many people want them?

The only way it gets better is when everyone learns to value themselves and their colleagues and say no to these invitations.

Maybe the action is that the next time you're asked to work for free you contact that person's/publications biggest competitor and contribute to them - for a modest fee. How better to get the attention of non-payers than to help their competition build a better product that everyone (readers and advertisers) want?


I don't mind donating a few words or images if it's a good cause, but it does get tiring when people ask you to write an essay, ad, press release or other something similar as a favor.

Writers and photographers are often a misunderstood lot. When I go to my office/studio, which is in a building about 20 feet from my house, people haven't a clue what it is I do in there. No, I'm not listening to music, watching TV, reading magazines or mindlessly surfing the net. I'm working. On the phone. Interviewing people for stories. Doing research. Banging out words on my Mac. Editing photos. And when I emerge six or eight hours later, I'm often bushed after a day of work. But people don't seem to recognize that as a form of employment. It's just a mystery.

I'd agree with the message in the New York Times article. My plumber, electrician, doctor, lawyer, all of them send me a bill for their services. ALWAYS. Bottom line: Giving it away for free is a mistake.

So true, so sadly true.

I can still remember reading through my first copy of Writers Market almost 40 years ago. Pay ranged from copies to 1-cent to the rare $1 a word. Read through it now and you find a very similar pay scale. What isn't there is "exposure" which is today's version of free.

I didn't pitch those penny publications then and I don't seek exposure opportunities today. If I am writing for free it will be for my own (or occasionally a friend's) "products"  - blogs and websites for which there is a possibility of some remuneration. 

Were I not at the end of my career I would be incredibly depressed. Thank goodness for the years of newspaper staff jobs and lucky investments. 

I think pay for writers has always been the elephant in the room...as long as people can get away with not paying or paying a pittance to anybody for any service, it will happen.  Just focusing on travel writing, a small subset of the writing profession as a microcosm, we can see everybody else drawing a fee from the advertising budget...PR firms, tour guide operators, tourism bureau reps, etc..  How is it OK that a writers compensation is rarely factored in?  The vast majority of writers are frequently not on paid assignment yet media outlets operate under the blanket assumption that a writer's time is already paid for.  How else do you explain Bootsnall's latest rant about writers taking gasp...free trips?  I don't see people so shocked about other professionals being reimbursed for business travel.

But how to turn things around and come up with a new paradigm? The democratization of writing and platforms means there will always be a steady stream of beginners willing to write for free. In the old(er) days they simply wouldn't be published in decent media until they'd paid their dues. Now, anyone can get published, almost anywhere. The landscape has flattened (and that's both good and bad).

So is freelancing or writing for decent pay a thing of the past? What are the new avenues of income opening up for experienced writers? And do they even have anything to do with writing?

Hi Leyla, To answer your questions, I think it depends how much the market values good quality content. Now more than ever, the value is huge due to Google's evolution (i.e. Author rather than page rank) and how people prefer rich stories produced by talented writers.  Panda has assured that content farms are dead.

Again, I go back to other professionals included in an advertising budget.  I don't see beginner PR reps doing work for free. Frankly, I think the justification for little or no pay boils down to the so called concept of objectivity.  If a writer is directly compensated via an agreed upon rate and/or free trips, the results are somehow "biased". That's a myth because traditionally, a marketing campaign has relied on writers who are already on payroll with an established publication/outlet (i.e. NY Times) who have their own advertising agendas to answer to.  Now, that is increasingly not the case.  The new model has to overcome this aversion to direct writer compensation, otherwise content will continue to be substandard and fail to engage readers.

I'm not disagreeing at all with you, Steve - I'm just wondering how it can come about now that the pool is so large it includes plenty of people who are willing to go the free route, some of whom are good.


"The market..." - is it really useful or even valid anymore to use a term that infers one vast media landscape where everyone on the editorial/publishing end has the same agenda and everyone on the creative/writing end has the same talents/media they're working in/career objectives?  Personally, I just don't think so.  I think the reality now is that there is a market consisting of many variations where different writers are pursuing different objectives and working from vastly different backgrounds towards very different objectives.  That's where the money issue comes in - because some who write for nothing are largely Millenial generation who early on subscribed to the current notions of (a) writing has no inherent value, in fact nothing creative has any value, (b) content should be free to access online therefore contributions should be only that, contributions, or (c) they had maybe one day job in media, and got laid off in the recession, and so they had to reinvent themselves on a Monday morning after getting their ass kicked on Friday afternoon, or they graduated journo school circa 2008 and the day media job wasn't even there by then, so they are angry at "old" media for "doing this to them", meaning anyone over 40 is by definition a convenient whipping post since they represent the good old pre-recession days that Millenials never got to enjoy themselves. 

Totally depends on the publication. I would write for free if it helped me grow my Google presence. It has to be a strategic decision.

I wonder why HuffPost gets a pass...


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