September 08, 2004
To Pay or Not to Pay...Fellow Writers By A Struggling Freelance Writer | printable version
With keen interest I read a letter written to Angela Hoy from a fledgling newsletter editor unable to pay column writers. Angela nicely but firmly advised the editor to think twice about that no-pay policy. She warned the novice that the seasoned and veteran writers would flame viciously and ruin the editor's reputation.
Not so. Writers write for free all the time and no one seems to care. Writers even write for other writers without the respect of a paycheck. What I've learned as a writer who likes to write articles about writing, is that writers are some of the worse paymasters in the world. And for some reason that depresses me.
But the irony continues to thrive. Writers complain about the insult of little or no pay for their talent, but when the shoe is on the other foot and they evolve into editors and ezine/website owners, the concept of paying a writer becomes foreign if not totally forgotten. As they sell their own wares, they take from their own. At the risk of sounding harsh, is this not a bit cannibalistic?
With a deep breath and heavy heart, I did some research into the pay rates of online writing magazines to see if my gut was right. When I mentioned to Angela what I found, she asked if I'd be willing to divulge the findings. The review of a few well-known writing sites revealed the following information, which lists title, website, word length, and current pay rate to its contributing writers. The list is ranked based on payment per word.
$50 for ~600 words (8.3 cents/word); $30 for success stories of ~300 words (10 cents/word)
$30 for 500-700 words (4-6 cents/word)
$40-$75 for 800-1500 words (5 cents/word)
$50 for ~1000 words (5 cents/word)
Write From Home
$25 for 500-1500 words (1.6 - 5 cents/word)
$20-40 for 500-2500 words (1.6 - 4 cents/word)
The New Writer
£20 ($36) for 1000 words (3.6 cents/word)
Writing for Dollars
$15-25 for 500-1000 words (2.5 – 3 cents/word)
$20 for ~1000 words (2 cents/word)
$10 for 500-1000 words (1-2 cents/word)
National Association of Women Writers
$10-20 for 600-1500 words (1.3-1.6 cents/word)
$10 for 800-1500 words ($0.007 – $0.013 cent/word)
$5 for 800-1200 words ($0.0042 - 0.0063 cents/word)
$5 for 800-2000 words ($0.0025 - 0.0063 cents/word)
These are confirmed paying ezines. So many others continue to say "we are a non-paying magazine, but as we grow we hope to be able to pay our writers." At the same time, many of these ezines sell books, display affiliates, and offer courses demonstrating they do earn an income from which they could pay writers. Some examples of these sites are:
Pays zero to $50 for 100-5000 words (0-2 cents/word)
We're putting this in the non-paying category because they only pay for "selected content." But, they don't tell you what that selected content is in their guidelines.
"The IWJ does not offer monetary payment at this time."
"FictionAddiction.NET is not currently a paying market."
They want writers to pay for a subscription...but they don't writers.
"Apollo's Lyre is a non-paying market at the moment."
"I can't pay you."
Newsletters and ezines for writers are not unique in offering little or no pay for contributors. Ezine editors in all trades pay less for bytes than ink on paper. But in these days where writers fight to have paper editors compensate them separately for electronic rights, why do we as writers slight each other and dodge paying our own kind for those same rights? We unite to fight the big editor but fail to emulate what we strive for – respect for our words in any format.
Many non-paying editors say they can't afford to pay writers, yet ads appear on many non-paying sites. In response to an editor seeking writers for no pay, WritersWeekly.com's Angela Hoy said, "If you can't pay writers, perhaps you should find another line of business. It never ceases to amaze me how many people start these little newsletters and websites with no money to pay their initial bills. You can't start a business without money and expect it to survive, nor expect to offer a high-quality publication. It's like asking people to support your pipe-dream, which is incredibly selfish and unfair to new writers who don't know any better."
Why don't editors write their own material until they have the resources to pay columnists or use free, canned articles given away for press and book sales? A few do, but most do not. Two reasons. First, the editors must use their time to earn a living, usually writing, and don't have enough extra time to write free articles. Second, the canned articles show up in multiple places making them old news, defeating the effort to be fresh and different from the competition. So once again, while many editors are trying to make money, they deny it to their cohorts.
No, I do not believe malicious intent is represented here. Most of these editors genuinely originated their publications to aid their friends in the craft. I believe it's a cycle and a rut. It's hard to take on a new business expense when free seems to work just as well. And writers submit their work for free for various reasons such as collecting clips, free advertising (versus purchasing ad space), and the instant gratification of a byline (quite a temptation indeed). And if the offer presents itself, an editor is going to use it. A good article for free is like finding a dollar on the street. Who can pass it up?
The point I would like to make is that editors should do the right thing by their peers. Considered more experienced and knowledgeable, editors should step up to the plate and offer payment to writers, even if only a token amount. By paying a writer, the editor raises the bar of the writing environment. As the editor's success climbs, so should the compensation to the writers that helped him or her step up that ladder. When times are lean, editors should write their own material. When times are fruitful, editors should reward writers appropriately.
Allow a writer to at least earn money toward a website, DSL connection, or printer ink by paying for a piece. Selling several of those in a month might make a novice but talented writer feel prouder and more motivated to continue. Writing for free makes the business only a hobby. To take it seriously, money needs to change hands. There is something about getting what you pay for that makes the whole profession, including these publications, more credible in the eyes of the editors, the writers, and the readers who are the customers for our words.