Feminist, Fictionista, Foodie, Francophile

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The word you're lookiing for is "pay"

Samuel Johnson once famously wrote that "No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money." These days, writing for non-paying markets is just part of the landscape of marketing your work, and there's no shame in it.
My attitude toward the issue of paid versus unpaid is embodied in a quote from the movie Honeysuckle Rose. "I did it for the love, but I was not above the money." (And if I'm not ashamed to admit that I paid money to see Honeysuckle Rose, I'm certainly not going to blush at admitting I sometimes give it away.
What annoys me, however, is the way some sites try to sugar-coat their non-paying status. My favorite is when, rather than admit it's a "4-the-Luv" kind of a deal, they point out you'll get "lots of exposure" and virtual "clips" you can then use to get a better (one that pays) gig.  I'm not talking about a site like BellaOnline, which doesn't pay but which does provide its editors with incredibly useful training, a lot of support for their side projects, the opportunity to put advertising on their pages and much, much more. I spent a year as a BellaOnline editor and it was a fantastic experience and I'll do it again if the right topic becomes available. (Right now BellaOnline is looking for editors to cover dozens of topics from adoption to African-American lit to Water Gardens and Women's Sports. If you're interested, go here to learn more.)
I'm talking about the brand-new literary magazines that promise pay as soon as the revenue starts rolling in. In the meantime, though, "we can't afford to monetarily compensate you." 
Whenever people use two big words in place of one small one, I start to worry. (And don't get me wrong. I am a huge word snoot. I delight in the more ornate words out there and relish precision of their use. But often, when overly flowery language is used where plain speaking should be, the writer is a) trying score points by making whoever they're talking to feel dumb; b) trying to hide something. (It's the old "baffle 'em wiht bullshit" ploy.)
If you want to say that you don't pay your contributors, just say it. You don't have to use fancy words. I'll get the message.


  1. Just ask any other professional to do free work in exchange for a great recommendation...
    Oh, the plumber won't fix your sink for free?
    The dentist doesn't fix your teeth for free?
    Why should we, who have spent many years learning craft give away our time and expertise?
    Harlan Ellison said it best: "Pay the Writer!"

  2. I love Harlan and have seen him do the "Pay the Writer" rant live. If I feel I'm getting something out of the transaction, or it's for charity, or if it's just something I want to do, okay--take it. There is plenty more where that came from. But it's the ads asking for "hobbyist" writers to fill an actual writing job that make me go insane. And don't get me started on Huff Post, former home of my serial novel NoHo Noir. They should really be ashamed of themselves.

  3. I've had some experience working for AOL also. (AOL owns HuffPo and a number of other online thingies.) Won't sign such a contract again.

    There are lots of nonpaying online magazines, and some of them are pretty good. But I've made a commitment to writing as a profession (in spite of my limitations) and my intention with any piece from now on is to make it worth paying for, and to get a little sumpin sumpin for it. (Excepting for my own fiction blogs and also Schlock Magazine; they're nice people, and I'll probably keep sending something their way now and then.)