Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Ain't Taking Shorts No More (Writing for Free)

NPR's Morning Edition ran a piece this morning titled "Is Writing Online Without Pay Worth It?"

Listen to it. (Or at least read the summary) Then read David Carr's original article at the NY Times, "At Media Companies, a Nation of Serfs".

Yes, they're talking, in general, about non-fiction (sort of...I guess). Hell, just commenting on an article online is offering content for free. Some irony there, considering some of the comments on Carr's article. According to Carr, your Twitter feed and Facebook profile are forms of writing for free. Yikes... Facebook has learned how to cash in. Twitter isn't there. Yet.

Look--this isn't new. I occasionally listen to sports talk radio. I know, it might seem a little "out of character" for me, but it is entertaining. And you know what? The callers provide much of the content (and they are weirdos). No, it isn't a new phenomenon at all.

But is it scary? Yes, especially to anyone who wishes to write for money. Is there a corollary to fiction? Hell yes. I read a good deal of fiction online for free. Yes, many of the markets are well-paying (Apex*, Clarkesworld, Fantasy, etc.), but I'm not buying copies of Fantasy and Science Fiction or Asimov's when I'm spending my limited reading time with Redstone SF or Lightspeed online for free. I currently have subscriptions to Shimmer, Space & Time, and Necrotic Tissue. I try to spend a little money on small press every month (books, etc.), but the writing, I think, is on the virtual wall.

Will I stop blogging? No. Will I stop commenting on others' blogs, tweeting, or any of the other content-creating exercises? No. Am I going to throw an old-school Harlan Ellison rant about paying me? No.


Not yet.

And writing fiction? I'll quit when I'm dead. (but hopefully not from starvation)

*okay, so I did sign on for the Apex subscription, but I could read it for free.

9 comments:

Rabid Fox said...

How dare you embed a video featuring Harlan Ellison without offering proper financial compensation. Prepare for the hellscape, my friend--or not.

This kind of reminds me of a time last year--or maybe two years ago--when an author solicited me to review his book.

I said sure

He then gave me a link to Amazon, expecting me to go buy it.

I wonder if he was an Ellison devotee.

Aaron Polson said...

I'll send him a buck in the mail. ;)

As a marketing technique, that particular author failed.

Cate Gardner said...

I should start charging per twitter...hell, I'd be rich in a week. :D

Aaron Polson said...

Cate - Maybe an extra royalty if you are retweeted? Think of the riches...

Natalie L. Sin said...

Necrotic Tissue kicks ass : ) One of my goals is to get into a print issue!

Aaron Polson said...

You will do it, Natalie!

Daniel W. Powell said...

Nice post, Aaron. It's a simple truth of the new technology--everyone gets a platform, but that ubiquty devalues the very content. It's all about monetizing the content (or doing it because you love it--which is its own reward, of course), and chasing that next dangling carrot.

In terms of the online markets as opposed to the print, I think the best ones (and the three you cited are just great stewards of the work) online actually have an advantage over, say, the big three in print. That premium is access. They'll keep the story in circulation as long as the magazine is a going concern (or until the Morton Agency hits the reset button on the internet)...

Benjamin Solah said...

I've recently decided to stop providing so much writing for free online and to focus on submitting to places that pay, but no one is paying for my rants about capitalism or how no one wants to publish me. I'll keep doing that.

Bobbie Metevier said...

I write so few shorts that this hasn't been an issue for me. I've been in print and online. There are benefits and drawbacks to both.

Oh, to have a crystal ball and see what the future holds for publishing . . .

Read my review of the Green Hornet Chronciles at Amazon. Harlan contributes a story to that anthology . . . well sort of . . .