The Devaluation of Writing

fuck you pay me goodfellas writing

MAYBE IT’S THE proliferation of social media; 140 characters on Twitter, as many as you like on Facebook. Maybe there’s a valid reason? Maybe, like oil or energy, it cannot be replenished. Well – no. No maybes required. The devaluation of writing is through sheer greed and a lack of regard for art and the product of creativity.

The worst example to date is the Huffington Post. No matter who you are, no matter what you write and how much of it you write about, they do not pay. Well known persona? Doesn’t matter. HuffPo worth $400m will not pay you a cent in any currency. Get this. As the content provider, you are expected to live off exposure. I know people who have died from exposure literally and figuratively, because you can’t withdraw exposure from a bank machine. Hey barman, don’t worry, yeah, I know I owe you, but I’m getting some exposure next week. Put it on the tab. Also check out Chuck Wendig and Will Wheaton’s brilliant responses on the topic.

“If I was paying someone to write something because I want it to get advertising, that’s not a real authentic way of presenting copy. When somebody writes something for us, we know it’s real, we know they want to write it. It’s not been forced or paid for. I think that’s something to be proud of.” – Editor in chief of Huffington Post UK  , Stephen Hull.

^Can you believe the gaul of that piece of shit? The keyboard slave master. Repugnant piece of work. And he’s proud!!! 😐

Writers used to (and still are) paid by the word, often ranging from 0.03c to 0.06 ($15/$30 for 500 words). Not exactly Lamborghini money, but still funds that can buy things. Add them up over a month and depending on your output, it’s a decent chunk of money.

Likewise, short stories can be per word, but are commonly by the story, say $50 for a 2000 word horror piece. You’re not going to feel the pristine sands of St.Lucia between your toes from it, but again, you can make some decent money provided you have found some good publishers. But short stories aren’t like producing a blog post (which HuffPo relies on). One is 100% creative, the other relying on facts and information and then some lesser creativity to weave a news item together.

How did it get this way?

With the advent of fast internet connections, downloading media in all its forms became ridiculously easy. There was MegaUpload and Pirate Bay (still), providing free music, films and software. Over the last 15 years a certain generation in particular, has become accustomed to free. Free everything. ‘Yeah, I love such and such a rapper’. Did they buy the album? No. ‘Have you seen Kill Bill? It’s amazing!’ Did they buy the DVD? Maybe.

Has writing sunk to that level? Whereby everything should be free? Although writing hasn’t suffered the same fate as music and film in terms of illegal downloading, I don’t doubt there are sites where scumbags do just that. Loosely estimating, it has taken me 250 hours to get to the end of a fourth edit of my manuscript. Even if we discount any further editing, time spent by beta readers, or an editor, it is a huge amount of time spent crafting one book.

It utterly fucking saddens me, that appreciation for art is being eroded…actually wait a sec. Art is still appreciated, but the concept of payment is not common enough, to the point where artists behind the work are not appreciated. A scenario similar to that packet of mince in your fridge. People want to eat, eat and consume, but they do not care where it came from or how. They want it. NOW! They sure as fuck are not paying for it if possible. What are they a sucker?

Writers can still make a living. Books still sell, Ebooks sell. Magazines online or otherwise still attract subscribers. Online  websites still require writers. You can still sell your short stories. But reality is hiding in the shadows ready to karate kick you around the pus (Scottish for face) because despite the outlets and need for writing, creative or non-fictional, the alphabet we use to create it is being tragically devalued. People want free scripts, free blog posts, they want everything FREE. It can’t continue. I hope.

Conversely to Stephen Hull’s comments, this blog post would have been more authentic and I would have enjoyed it much more if I’d been paid for it. So, sorry for the lack of heart and shoddy writing…

20 Comments

  1. Nice piece of venting. This lack of respect for writers has actually been with us since the time of Dickens. As a long-time magazine writer, I could never understand why publications couldn’t simply pay me when they got the article and decided it met their standards — instead of three or four months later. Whether or not they ultimately had the space for it, or whatever, was not my problem. Don’t order it if you’re not going to use it.

    It would be like calling up the local pizza delivery place and saying, “You know, it turns out I’m really not hungry. Could you come over and pick up your pizza?” Or telling a plumber: “Hey, nice job with the sink. I’ll send you a check in, oh, I don’t know, a couple of months. Whenever I get around to it.”

    As a former magazine editor/publisher, I always paid on acceptance. It’s the way the rest of the world works. If you can’t afford to do that (or can’t afford to pay writers) maybe you shouldn’t be in business.

    1. Great analogies. Simply doesnt work elsewhere. Why the weird double standards? Something to do with lack of respect surely? People think, writing, i can write, i’m paying as little as possible whenever possible…anyone can do it!
      It’s really messed up.
      On a side note editors paying or otherwise, will say up front about fiction submissions – ‘can take 4-6 months to read and accept’. WTF? Thats absurd. Then if you dont get pblished they wont say so. Total runaround.

    1. When i see a well known affluent publication that doesnt pay, I think, realllllly?
      It’d have to be a very prestigious mag for me to send a submission, or one I respected for whatever reason.

      1. Me too. That just means more money for the editors or whoever owns the publication. Imagine doctors and lawyers not being paid…
        Exactly. At some point writers need to draw the line. Exposure isn’t exactly equal compensation.

  2. Don’t go to HuffPo, but writing seems devalued because of ease and access and the sheer volume of crap that leads to. It’s the same in most artistic endeavours. For every Ansel Adams you have a million “selfie artists” on Instagram. For every Bob Marley you have a hundred thousand guitar maulers on YouTube. That’s the unfortunate way it is.

    1. Yeah I never go on it tbh and defo won’t be now.
      A million pretenders? Yep, that’s certain. You what the real issue is hatnagar? Too many people can read and write and have access to dangerous things like laptops and internet lol

      1. 😀
        As I always say, the Internet has laid that old Chestnut to rest, that a million monkeys on a million typewriters could eventually type out the entire works of Shakespeare….. 😀

  3. The adage, “You get what you pay for,” still holds for the most part. How many “book one of the MyBrilliantTrilogy series” have you seen where there is never a book 2? Writing is hard work. Except for the personal blog, I don’t think most writers are inclined to produce material for very long if they’re not going to get paid.

    What’s changed most is the barrier to entry. It no longer exists. But the barrier to income is still there. How many books do you think are sitting on Amazon that haven’t sold in 6 months? A year? 5 years?

    I recently saw a promo blog for a book that looked kind of interesting. It was free, too. OK, no risk there. Didn’t even make it through the first page. Saw another one that caught my eye. Great reviews. Cost 3 bucks. Started reading the preview. Didn’t make it through the first page there, either.

    Today, I don’t think money is the issue as much as time. We’re not trying to get people to part with a few bucks. We’re trying to get them to part with their time. And to get them to do that, it comes down to the same thing as it’s always been: a quality product.

    You lament about the Generation Free. I lament about Generation Crap. There’s too much stuff out there that isn’t worth my time to read. A lot of it is free. I’m still not buying.

    1. You address a key aspect I failed to mention.
      Free=useless when something is a waste of time, totally. And sadly the story market is inundated with subpar drivel diluting genuine talent.
      Maybe as a result people are more cautious with their money AND time when buying fiction.
      Ebook publishing is great, but the price to pay is that the quality is often questionable. Most of the time if something is free its not worth buying anyway.
      Thanks for droppign by.

  4. I don’t like HuffPo anyways so I would never write for them, even with a gun to my head haha.

    Exposure is nice, though, but the problem isn’t just in “everyone wants it free.” It is also a very inundated market, overflowing with authors and artists trying to get their moment to shine. And the Internet of Things design concept isn’t helping that at all…

    But! Hopefully, eventually, everything will begin to turn tide once all these new generations start realizing that their greed keeps them from actually making money in their own forms and things will start to change. Hopefully.

    1. Yeah thats a good point about the market overflow. No matter who or how good someone is, there’s a pool of effluence to swim through to get noticed. That makes the pre-internet authors fortunate they didn’t have that to deal with.

      1. Yeah, like Steven King. If he had started today the same way most authors do he probably wouldn’t be such an iconic author, at least so I would think. Traditional is hard to get into thanks to the IoTs and influx of free books and such.

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