Thursday, June 29, 2006

Another Warning Against Writing for Free

Japan MPC Five Cents 1960

Writing for free is the single most powerful element destroying all possibilities of survival as a freelance writer, as once again pointed out in the excellent weekly email newsletter. Writers Weekly. A guest columnist provides an introduction and then passes along a few email messages he recently received commenting on his previous column on the same subject. All writers were opposed to giving away their writing skills for free, aside from one surprising exception, Tim Leffel.

In my previous spew concerning sites that offer to place your blog entries in publications to give you more "exposure," I indicated that I was not comfortable with the concept of opportunists feeding off my carcass without benefit of compensation.

But, since this write-for-free debate is such a tired standby, I sighed and said maybe I was becoming the crab on the block. What do you think? I asked. My mailbox overflowed!

One writer, who is a top-rated contributor to one of the sites mentioned, commented: "Although it's very nice to have a star by my name and be recognized for my superior writing prowess (gag, she adds), the articles haven't done a thing for me professionally. The only thing writing for free has done for me is gain me a reputation as a generous spirit - or sucker - depending on your vantage point."

"This ties to my pet peeve, trawling for legitimate writing job links and instead, finding several advertisements looking for writers for 'no pay,' just 'Coverage, Resume building! Exposure!' ad nauseum," writes feng shui expert Katy Allgeyer ( "I actually emailed Craig himself. Much to my surprise, Craig emailed me back 20 minutes later and said they are working on the problem. I suggested they come up with another heading for these types of jobs. 'slave labor' comes to mind."

Betsy Crowfoot, a journalist and screenwriter for 11 years, says this controversy is being fueled by the existence of two camps: Those who are full-time writers and want/need to make a living at this profession, and those who want to be writers, but are making their living in another profession and don't rely on writing gigs to feed their children. (I would add those with working spouses to that list.) "Unfortunately," she says, "this gives editors/businesses the idea they don't have to pay writers or pay them on time."

"I can't tell you the number of times I"ve had these robber barons try to blow smoke up my rump with their lines about how they have helped writers by ripping off their content," writes DeAnn Rossetti. "I just read an ad yesterday on Craigslist that said, 'Do it for the love of writing.' Ha!"

Continues Rossetti: "These same people pay for everything else on their site, the hosting service, the website layout, and I am sure they pay a doctor when he has taken care of them. I doubt they tell him that by taking care of their health concerns, he is getting good publicity!"

Writes Kevin Murphy, author of Degrees of Murder and other books, "The only 'freebies' I ever do are for no-budget community organizations of which I am a member - and I do very few of those."

Writers Weekly Link

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