The lesson I think I've learned --- as late as I am in getting around to it --- is that not every person (editor, producer, agent, etc.) asking you to write something for little or no compensation is a crook looking to exploit you. Sometimes, the risk of writing for free is one well worth taking.
The Nate Thayer/Atlantic piece that got the ball rolling is here:
From the Atlantic:Thanks for responding. Maybe by the end of the week? 1,200 words? We unfortunately can’t pay you for it, but we do reach 13 million readers a month. I understand if that’s not a workable arrangement for you, I just wanted to see if you were interested.
I have a rule of thumb that makes this an easy question for me: is the person who is asking me to write, or wants a piece I have written, intending to make money from it? (Beyond overhead costs for their zine, etc.) If so, then they have to pay me something. It should be proportional to what they can afford, but if they're planning to profit, so should I.
Perfect example: The original version of Thuglit published one of my stories online. I got a tee shirt. (A nice tee shirt. i still wear it regularly.) I was delighted with it.
Several month later, Todd Robinson (one of my favorite people in the writing biz) let me know the story had been selected for the annual anthology. He paid me. Basically a toekn amount, but money was going to be charged for my work, and he volunteered payment. To me, a perfect solution.
Almost everything I write is for free: my blog, short stories, novels. (I've never had a contract in advance.) I've given away stories and reviews to small web sites that were operated as labors of love and been happy to have been chosen. it was good practice and good exposure. Anyone who comes to me to write something for them (or allow thm to publish what i wrote on spec) and plans to make money from my work is going to have to pay me. Period.
Agree with King.
I write because I love it and because I have a day job that pays the bills.
But the Atlantic surely must have the money to pay its writers, and I can understand why those who write for the magazine expect compensation. If the Atlantic is short on cash, then maybe they should re-evaluate its business model.
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