Friday, January 25, 2013
Taxes, Dues, and Money
Speaking of reviewing, I was asked by the owner and managing editor of The Celebrity Cafe if I would take on reviewing CDs and books for them. I seldom listen to music, although that is changing, and don't feel qualified to review new music. I did explain that I wouldn't mind helping out with book reviews if he'd like to send me the list for me to choose from, and then I quoted the price I get for reviewing books from Authorlink. I haven't heard another word since then.
It isn't that I don't appreciate the extra attention from writing for their site, but as a professional I do expect to be paid, especially when the online entertainment magazine is getting all kinds of advertising and the regular staff is paid, and when they even pay interns $500 a month. I should be paid. I'm not some teenager or twenty-something wannabe writer anxious to write for anyone for free just for the experience. I have tons of experience, but I still cannot support myself on writing alone. To borrow a quote, This writer cannot live on exposure and experience alone. My creditors expect real dollars for their goods and services and I'd be out from under this brand new roof it took me 4 years to get in a heartbeat if I paid the rent with anything less than legal tender. I mean, really.
Any going concern lauded for their look, style, and publication that gets paid by advertisers and pays their regular staff can certainly pay me for my contributions, especially when they beg and plead for me to write for them all the time. I have a full time job, a review gig, a writing business, and my own projects I like to get done from time to time, not to mention a house to maintain and a mail carrier to fight with. I don't have the time. It's not like I toss off an article in 15 minutes; I research, write, edit, and add all kinds of little doodads and videos and links, and that takes time.
For instance, I wrote a top ten list of what people were Googling most in 2012, complete with doodads, videos, research, and links. The whole article took about 4 hours of my precious time. I enjoyed doing it and it was in response to a request from one of the paid editors to help fill their pages after the first of the year. They didn't pay me and the article went live after some adjustments on their end (they didn't tell me all they wanted me to do with it) and they benefited from the article since it was the most read piece in the whole magazine during that week. They benefited with advertising dollars, but I didn't benefit from anything by the byline. No pay. No thank you. No nothing -- unless you count them coming back and asking for more. Considering what I put into that article, I don't think so, especially not with everything already on my plate.
Oh, well, c'est la vie -- or in actuality -- telle est la vie d'écriture (such is the life of a writer).
The thing about writing is that there are so many amateurs and wannabes and hacks out there begging to be read that editors and owners of magazines, newspapers, etc. who need content will take advantage of anyone -- often without their permission -- and never pay the writers. That's fine for a kid still being supported by their parents or wannabe and amateur writers willing to work for free to get the experience, but I'm no amateur, wannabe, or hack, and I'm certainly not that anxious for exposure without being paid. I expect to get paid. I've paid my dues, now pay me, especially when you benefit from my hard work and experience. Quid pro quo -- or in more common terms -- Where's my money? Even the garbage man gets paid.
It's one thing to be inched out by lower paid writers at a business that I have worked for since 2003 and another to be used and abused while making money from my toil. I have begun to believe the way Harlan Ellison believes. A writer should be paid. I am a professional writer and I'm tired of editors begging me to write for them for the experience and exposure. At 57 years of age, I have experience and I've been exposed sufficiently for a while.
Well, I didn't mean to turn this into a rant, but it has turned out that way. When writers work for free they undermine the bedrock upon which we all stand. Write for free for magazines that have advertisers and circulation and cost money to get and you undercut the professional writer who expects to be paid for their work. The editors will dress up your words and make them look professional, but you still won't get paid, and you less the chance of professional writers who would have been paid.
Writing for free is the equivalent of corporations and businesses outsourcing jobs, and writing is a job. People who were willing to work for free or break through picket lines are called scabs by unions, and I can't say they're wrong. I understand that people will do anything for virtually nothing if they're hungry and desperate enough, and they don't care about the people who should be paid for their work -- or at least were being paid until management decided to walk away from negotiation tables. Still, I'm not asking for time and a half, cheap health insurance, more vacation and holidays, or even a chicken in my new crockpot. I'm asking for what I deserve and have worked for most of my life -- to be paid for my work. Four hours in the life of a working writer with a full time job (actually 2 full time jobs when you count writing novels), is a lot of time and should be compensated. Honestly, I don't know how The Huffington Post gets away with getting professionals to write for free while Ariana Huffington rakes in the bucks. Something is definitely rotten in Denmark -- and here in America when working professionals cannot get paid.
Well, some working professionals do get paid. Prostitutes always get the money up front.