Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Should Smut Writers Work for Free?

How is this even a thing? For the last few months this thing--writers being offered work from for-profit money-making enterprises in exchange for exposure rather than pay--has gotten a fair bit of press. Nate Thayer's exchange with an editor from The Atlantic back in March put this topic front and center, but it's not anything new.

A few months later the issue made news again, when writer Catherine Deveny was asked to participate in a huge promotion by Equal (the little blue packets people) and was offered "exposure" but not pay. It's a bit of a different forum than a magazine, but it's still asking a writer to write for free. As Ms. Deveny said, exposure don't pay the rent, and she won't work for free for businesses.

And then last week urban scientist (her descriptor), science writer, and blogger for Scientific American Danielle Lee was called an "urban whore" by an editor at an online publication because she asked how much a gig she'd been offered would pay. A scientist, people. Who has specialized sciency knowledge that the average website editor does not have. A scientist with a big old Ph. D. behind her name. She was called a whore because she wanted to be paid fairly for the assignment she'd been offered.

Although I do plenty of freelance work for my non-sex blog related paycheck, I hadn't thought much about the freelance/exposure conundrum in the context of this blog until it happened to me.

Like many bloggers, I write my blog for free. Because I use the Blogger platform I can't solicit any advertising or affiliate benefits since Blogger prohibits this for "adult" blogs. I have written a few freelance pieces under the Liza pseudonym. I was paid for the couple that have been published, and hopefully the others will be published, triggering payment for those as well. Apart from a few commissions, I haven't sought freelance work related to this blog, but occasionally it seeks me.

Earlier this week it sought me. A major mainstream women's magazine (like, one of the first three you'd think of) approached me to write a feature for them. The editor acknowledged how difficult it is to find people who write frankly about sexual topics, but closed by saying, "[p]lease do let me know. I would happily give a full credit for your blog, of course." I replied professionally, and asked what rate they pay for this length/type of piece. And...crickets.

Some might wonder why I'm fine with letting Fleshbot run posts from this blog on their site without payment, but feel strongly that this magazine should pay for the requested piece. I can only sum it up by saying that the pieces that have appeared on Fleshbot originally appeared on my blog, and I wrote those for free, with no expectation of compensation. Having the same piece appear elsewhere never felt like something for which I should request payment, though it was important that my work be used with permission and not stolen.

But this new situation is an assignment from an editor at an internationally-renowned magazine that makes money by producing original editorial content. From my other work I know approximately what the rate for this piece should be, and that's what bothers me. Had I gone through the usual pitch process, I'd do so expecting to be paid the going rate, either per article or per word, should my pitch be accepted.

Some might say I should go for the exposure, get more readers, and maybe that will lead to paid work. As much as I'd like to write more and for more pay, I have no interest in helping to perpetuate a cycle in which writers are asked to contribute their skills, knowledge, talent, entertainment value and more without pay. But surely someone else will, hoping that all that exposure will pay off in the end.

Dear editor, you know who you are. And you know the quality I can produce. Don't you think it's worth a little scratch?


1 comment:

  1. If you good at something never do it for free. One of my favorite lines from batman. Exposure is good but $ is best. Like you have in this blog, exposure dont pay the rent.

    ReplyDelete

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