“Why should I give my work away? I want to get paid for it. How am I ever going to get paid for it if I keep letting people have it for free?”
The question was asked by one tortured soul in the Shameless Self Promotion Seminar at the Ontario Writer’s Conference. The seminar’s leader, author Ann Douglas, had a sensible, balanced answer ready (so balanced and sensible that I’m pretty sure it’s not the first time she’s been asked this question). View it as a marketing expense, she said: an investment. You’re paying yourself for work which will help get the word out about the work you do want to get paid for.
The question is obviously one which haunts fellow writers: after Ann’s session I was chatting over coffee with a couple of the people who were in the same session and they echoed the sentiment. Why would we write for free? We should (it was put to me) respect our own work enough to expect to be paid for it.
I’ve got a lot of sympathy with this point of view. After I graduated (far too long ago now to mention) I was offered a ‘job’ at the publishing company where my mother worked. They couldn’t pay me (these days they call that an internship – back then we just called it cheeky), but I would learn the ins and outs of publishing, and it would be a start.
I respectfully declined, for two reasons: first, I had a number of job applications in, and was expecting to hear back about a paying job in journalism pretty soon, and second, it wasn’t a publisher whose publications I admired or respected. Turns out I was right – within weeks I had two job offers on the table – one from a company which paid me to go on a nine month Journalism For Graduates training course.
So I fully sympathize with people who take the point of view that writers should be paid for their work. But, on the other hand, which of us expects to be paid to write a job application? No, of course this isn’t exactly the same thing. The blog is a little shop window to the world. It’s not advertising, per se, nor marketing come to that. If that’s all it is, why would anyone read it? No, I think of my blog(s) as a place where my passions spill over, and opinions and ideas which I wouldn’t expect (or necessarily want) to get paid for, can be given an airing. Other people who share those same passions may be benefited, or entertained.
I wouldn’t put anything I think I could sell on my blog. Does this mean that what I post on my blog is just the off cuts? The work I don’t think is good enough to put anywhere else? Not at all. The things I post here are good enough (I believe) for public consumption, but not appropriate for any of the journals or magazines where I actually want to see my work.
It’s not even about money. I’m coming at this whole GIANT publishing adventure backwards, I now understand, having started writing a novel first. I now understand (thanks to a little research which I should probably have done sooner) that if I’m going to stand a chance of getting an agent’s attention when I come to start querying them about my novel, I’ll be a lot more credible if I have a few writing credits to my name. Not any old writing credits (I’ve got plenty of those, I was a journalist for 20 years or so) but credits for creative fiction in literary journals. So, for me, the point is not the money, it is to get published, and build a portfolio.
For that reason you won’t see my work in progress here. I’ve just had one story accepted for publication, and am sending out another, today, to a magazine which I think would suit it very well. I’ve also currently got two other pieces out on submission – one to a single journal and the other to five journals. I’m currently working on another short story which I hope to enter into a competition for ‘new’ writers. You won’t see any of this work on my blog until (and if) it gets published or I give up on submitting it. Not because I’d rather be paid, but because I’d like the publishing credits – it’s how a writer builds a career. One story at a time.