Monday, October 18, 2010

No, I Will Not Work for Free

Let me clear something up from yesterday's post: I have no desire to be a starving artist. I believe in paying a "content creator" or writer or illustrator or (fill in the blank here) for their work. I believe being paid is a sign of work well done.

But I also believe pay comes in many forms: a good review, a prestigious (if not well-paying) publication credit, the respect of colleagues. This example from Norman Partridge. (How bad ass would it be to get a letter like that?) Money is nice, too. Feel free to send some.

This is the point I was trying to make: I'm not in a place where I want to yield too much creative control for money. If a story I write doesn't sell, so be it. It goes in the "junk" folder. The junk folder is not in danger of starvation. What about "some day maybe" when an agent/publisher tells me to change a key element in a novel so I can get the book on the shelves of Wal-Mart? That would be a nice problem to have, but I'm not in a place to make that decision (nor do I foresee myself there any time soon). What is "too much"? Each artist/writer/what-have-you must make his/her own decision about how far they're willing to go. I won't pretend to make the choice for anyone else.

I can only make my own decisions. For example:
  1. I will keep writing.
  2. I will support markets which publish short fiction I respect/enjoy. Any writer who loves short fiction is obligated, in my opinion, to do so. Realms of Fantasy collapsed again, folks. Don't let this happen to your favorite pub. When every paying, well-respected venue for short fiction goes the way of RoF, what kind of "pay the author" conversation will we be having?
  3. I'm going to offer any book with my name on it (as primary author or editor) to libraries in the U.S. for free because a good library has always been an author's friend. I plan on hitting some librarian hangouts online and sending a few postcards. (or, if a librarian happens to read this...drop me a line aaron.polson (at)
Go forth an be awesome, dear readers.


Barry Napier said...

Honestly, I recently made the decision to no longer sub to for the love markets. I had my own reasons, but I'm sure many other writers may disagree with them. And hey, I have a junk folder, too. It is just about a max capacity...

Katey said...

I made Barry's decision a while ago too, not gonna lie. Lots of reasons, but yeah, might as well confess.

I'm not in a place where I want to yield too much creative control for money.
This is what I keep telling people about going indie. If you have a real story to tell, then that's why indie makes so much more sense--no need to tailor yourself to fit the masses. There shouldn't be--there are plenty of people who will like what you like/get what you get. And indie can get it to them, because they don't need to make millions to keep afloat. It's so beautiful, really.

And supporting it is the best thing we can ever do, you're so right!

I think it's possible, however, to make a conscious decision to write something that will be mass-market acceptable. In an ideal world, I'd pull that off and use it to financially support my work with--well, I guess it'd be called integrity. Relatively speaking.

Easier said than done, but still.

Natalie L. Sin said...

I think I call my junk folder "retired." It makes me very nostalgic to look at some of those old (and not so old) stories, and wonder what the hell I was thinking.

Aaron Polson said...

Barry - I guess I've made that decision too. By default, really...although, if I were more "literary" minded, I'd sub to some FTL lit journals with high prestige.

Katey - I know some folks counter the "support" argument by falling back on "money flows to the writer". Not the same thing. Writers are a large part of the small fiction audience. And on the integrity seems to work for Clooney.

Aaron Polson said...

Natalie - I'm to embarrassed to open mine.

Daniel W. Powell said...

Afternoon Aaron,

A couple of really interesting posts over the last two days. Because of the realities of the publishing world, in which a very few take the lion's share of the revenues (not complaining, but it's the reality), the reality is that it's not a lucrative deal.

I think most of us write to satisfy ourselves, those who like stories, and to leave some form of psychic legacy--whether that be an image or a moral or a narrative bruise.

In terms of the support, I sincerely agree. Writers need to tend the same garden they hope will bear their fruit. It just stands to reason. I have always tried to donate/subscribe/support the venues that have taken a chance on my writing because I want other writers to have the same experience. That, and I like reading stories.

Loved the discussions here. Keep up the good work...

Cate Gardner said...

I'm with Natalie, my junk folder is labelled 'retired' and I never open it. In fact, I need to lose the flash drive they're living on so I never mistakenly upload them.

Ditto Barry & Katey, I no longer sub to FTL markets - my reason, I want to improve, I want to fight every last word until they're good enough to appear in places like say 'Shimmer' :D

Cate Gardner said...

Ha! Plank (me, not you) - I got so involved in the comments, I forgot what I clicked on comment to say...

I agree 100% with supporting the small presses. The top shelf of my 'to read' bookcase are mass market books and they're gathering dust, the other 70-75% are small / independent presses.

Aaron Polson said...

Daniel - Those with deep pockets/power/what have you have always taken advantage of "content creators" (the modern "artists"). Artists are driven to create...but that's a topic for another post. Thanks for reading.

Cate - It's like we've all "grown up" (re: the FTL markets). Keep fighting for those words.

Demon Hunter said...

Supporting small presses is good. All you guys rock and someone will notice that soon enough. For all of us. ;-)

Cathy Webster (Olliffe) said...

We should be paid for our work. Otherwise it becomes expected that content will become free and we'll ultimately never be paid. I work for a magazine that rarely pays anyone these days. It's disgusting.

Rebecca Nazar said...

If I feel a FTL market has staying power, looks great, feels great, I don't mind not getting paid.

For example: I've written MonsterBytes for Innsmouth Free Press a number of times for nothing because I just LOVE the site--so supportive of H.P. It's a great exercise for me, playing pretend journalist. (They do pay for fiction for their quarterly issues, though, a respectable $10)

Yay! now they pay $2 for MBs. Sweet. ( Shhhhhhh, I would've still done it for free)

Aaron Polson said...

Thanks, Tyhitia.

Cathy - You are right (about content becoming free), but haven't we already lost a bit of that battle? I fear we have.

Becca - Innsmouth's MonsterBytes is a good example of a (former) FTL market with good credentials. Many literary journals frequently don't pay, but they usually have history and garner a lot of respect.

K.C. Shaw said...

I find I'm getting a little pickier about the markets I sub to. I'd rather be published in a low/no paying but highly prestigious magazine than in a higher-paying but unknown magazine. I just want people to read what I write. Typically, though, the more eyeballs on the page, the more money the author receives.

I've read a lot of small-press books this year and have been very impressed with many of them, too.