Exposure doesn’t pay my bills
I’m a writer. Yes, you can laugh and judge and tell me I made a stupid career move, but guess what? Writers are a valuable part of society, so are photographers, artists, musicians etc, etc… I won’t bore you with the list, you know the list. I’m also young and understand I have to earn my stripes, but honestly – how many stripes do I need to earn before my work is worth even a scuffed up, mangled penny?
This little video was brought to my attention a few days ago and while it’s about photographers and not writers, it sums up everything I feel when publications who I know have money ask me to write for free: (it’s truly excellent)
Miles Franklin winner Anna Funder had a similar rant last week on ABC News. (Side note: read All That I Am, which is the reason she got the Franklin award and is an excellent novel)
I’d like to add to the debate… obviously, or why else would I write this post?
I’m happy to sometimes write for free, because I figure if there ever comes a point where I can’t write for my own joy, then I’m writing for the wrong reasons and I need to rethink my career. But that doesn’t mean I SHOULD write for free or ‘exposure’ or whatever you want to call it. Exposure? Hah! Many of the publications that offer me pay on the basis of ‘exposure’ aren’t exactly the Financial Review or Vogue, they’re small time publications who I’m not going to get noticed in. You know what? Just cos you can’t pay, doesn’t mean I won’t write for you – but the moment you drop the word ‘exposure’ as if it’s some kind of compensation, I’m out – because you don’t respect the fact that to be a writer I need pens, notebooks, a laptop, an internet connection… not to mention a roof over my head, electricity, food, transport, all the other things the average human requires to survive.
Small, poor publications, want to know how to get me to write for you? Inspire me, make me want to be part of your world, nurture me as a writer. I write this blog because I love to write. Furthermore, I write for at least three other websites/print publications that can’t afford to give me a single penny because they’re also penniless, but I write for them because I love what they do and they give me the creative license to contribute in the best way I know how and not being restrictive.
Having said that, I’ve also been offered ‘exposure’ from bigger publications, too. Um, your publisher is raking in over a million dollars a year and you can’t throw me a couple of dollars so I can live above the poverty line? No deal, big publications, no deal. I don’t want your exposure, I want your money, why do you think I pitched to you in the first place?
I’m not better than you, far from it – but I, and every other writer (and the other povo creatives), deserve to be paid for my work. You have asked me to write for you/accepted my pitch to you because you like what I can do and want to see it come to life. Or maybe it’s because you can’t do it yourself. That’s cool too – I can’t transplant a lung or build a bridge or balance finances, but I’m just as valid and make just as an important contribution to society. I keep you thinking.
So hey, publishers with money, try and find it in your heart to cough up a few pennies, me and my hungry belly would really appreciate it. What you call exposure just risks leaving me exposed to the elements out on the streets, and that’s not the kind of exposure either of us want me to end up with.
Oh and before I go… I’d like to end on one final note: to thank those publications that do pay me for my work and to say that the small, often struggling, publications I write for for free, I continue to write for because I want to, because sometimes it’s about more than the money and because I know you don’t have any money to give me regardless. I believe in what you’re doing so I contribute and I hope, that if you ever do get money, that maybe you’ll throw me a bone. (And you never offered me ‘exposure’, thanks for recognising that it’s insulting to offer me exposure.