Writing for Free, No; Writing for Charity for Free, Yes
I'm not a big fan of writers writing for free or of the various websites, anthologies, and (mostly literary) magazines which expect writers to write for free. No, it's not that I need the money to eat and it's not like what most writers get paid to write short fiction (5 cents a word is considered pro rates, a payment which hasn't, I believe, changed much in the last fifty or more years) really amounts to that much. It just seems to be an odd thing to write for free or for publishers to ask you to do. That doesn't mean I haven't done it and it doesn't mean you shouldn't do it--especially early on, it can be a handy way to build your resume and get some exposure. And, yes, I understand it can be a thrill to see your name in print. But I know some authors who are well into their years as writers who continue to chase down literary magazines and new small publishers and obscure websites to submit to and I feel like they are, quite frankly, being taken advantage of, and, worse yet, encouraging those magazines, websites, publishers, and their readers to expect free content. Yes, I also understand this may be a bit of a generational thing--I didn't grow up expecting my music or movies to be free--but I think a bigger part of it is that content is everything for books, movies, magazines, television, and music and to not pay for content disrespects the creative force fueling the whole entertainment industry. Rest assured, the internet hosting site, the paper and print provider, the production staff, the people who make the computers and microphones and film stock (if anyone even uses that anymore) and the people providing eats at the craft table (don't writers wish they had that!) are probably getting paid, so why shouldn't the ones providing the foundation of the entire operation? The writers, however, get little respect. They are seldom given credit for the success of a television show, they watch directors and producers and executive producers (including some EPs who don't really do much) get their names touted on movies, while the writers end up wrangling with the WGA and the director about getting "written by" credit. Copy-editors and cover artists on many books get their money up-front while authors may have to wait for royalties to show. Writers create not only clever lines, but complex characters and entire new worlds. They deserve respect. They deserve to get paid. Ok, enough of the Rodney Dangerfield whining. And, sure, its okay for an author to do a project free or cheap to build a resume or help a friend or create publicity, good will, or a viable loss leader. (Hey, nobody's paying me for this blog...) And, no, I'm not going to have the free e-Book discussion you've all already read elsewhere. One place I have no problem with writing for free is for charity. Whether it is rpg adventures for a charity convention, stories for efforts where proceeds go to disaster relief, or an assist to a writing or other organization which has helped you, your loved ones, or other writers, writing for charity isn't cheesy, it's cool. And, since 'tis the season of giving, here's a tip for a great place to help out as a writer or a reader. Spec the Halls is an anthology in which every dime not kept by Amazon, BN, or whatever goes to charity. Every dime. (Buy it at Spec the Halls website (www.specthehalls.com) or at the publishier (AlliterationInk.com) to maximize your contribution to Heifer International. My story, "Season's Critiquings," is one of the included stories this year. Spec the Halls is also a contest, with no entry fee and cash prizes to the best writers who write a winter holdiday themed story and post it in accordance with the rules on the site (www.specthehalls.com). Sure, you might be asked to contribute your story to next year's fundraising anthology, but sometimes writing for free can be good.