While I see lots of “employment” ads each week asking writers to write for free, I can count on one hand how many people have approached me directly, asking ME to write for free over the past decade…because most people know how I feel about writing for free.
Last week, I ran a link to a video showing Harlan Ellison talking about how insulting it is to ask a writer to write for free. So, I was shocked when the owner of a writing blog wrote to me this week, asking me to write for her…for free. I’m going to share our exchange with you below but I’ll paraphrase her emails since she refused to give me permission to publish them.
HER INTRO EMAIL
She says she’s gearing up for a month of non-fiction blogging. (I checked her blog and it’s been dead since April…though she’ll probably quickly update it after she reads this article.) She says she’s looking for experts to guest blog for her and asks if I’m interested. She says I could do one about self-publishing or on something else. She first asked me to do two but then says I can do only one if I want. She then says, “I don’t pay. It’s just a service to writers.”
I’m sorry but I don’t work for free. If you can’t afford to pay writers, you should not ask them to donate their time to your hobby.
She wrote back saying it’s not a hobby, it’s a service. She then feeds me the it’s “a nice opportunity for you to get publicity” line that we’ve all read more times than we care to remember.
If you can’t afford to pay writers, your website isn’t successful enough to give anybody any useful publicity.
As writer Harlan Ellison says, try the “publicity” statement on somebody who just fell off the turnip truck. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mj5IV23g-fE
SHE RESPONDED AND THREATENED TO STOP PROMOTING WRITERSWEEKLY
She tells me fine, but I don’t need to be rude. (I wasn’t being rude – just completely honest.) She then says she’s promoted me to whoever is reading her blog, but then says maybe she’ll stop.
I guess she thinks threatening to stop promoting me is going to make me want to write for her for free???
I don’t want someone promoting me who tries to get writers to work for nothing. Nothing says “I don’t respect writers” like feeding them the “I’ll give you exposure!” line.
THIS IS WHEN IT GOT INTERESTING. SHE SAID:
“I never work for free, Angela. And I don’t encourage other writers to do so either.”
She then adds her blog is her way of giving back to the nonfiction writing community. She says it’s sometimes good to just give and that there are people who are happy to give their time.
She then again says she’s going to stop promoting me.
If you never write for free, and you claim you don’t encourage other writers to do so, why did you ask me to write for you for free? And, why are you trying to get other writers to contribute to your website for free as well?
The capital letters below are hers, not mine.
She says she’ll say it one more time – that her blog is meant as a “SERVICE.” She then says her blog is a way to “GIVE to other writers.” She asks other experts “to GIVE.” She says, “This is not about PAID writing. I see a DIFFERENCE.”
She says we have different opinions and says she’ll “take back, or alter” what she said. She then adds she encourages writers to write for pay on “MOST” occasions, that it “behooves” them to write for free, but that she wouldn’t encourage it on a regular basis.
She then goes into a spiel about how “in this day and age” writers may choose to do a fair amount of writing for free to build their platforms.
Her statements here are in complete contrast to her earlier statement: “I never work for free, Angela. And I don’t encourage other writers to do so either.”
She then says she has no desire to continue our conversation.
In case you’re curious, this is the blog, dead since April, that will offer me such great “EXPOSURE”: http://writenonficinnov.blogspot.com
You know, I could ask writers to write for free for WritersWeekly.com, which would give them substantially more exposure than that tiny blog. But, I don’t. I pay for every article. Even when writers write articles to promote their books, I pay for them. Why? Because it’s the right thing to do. There’s nothing worse than a hypocrite…except a writing-related company that asks fellow writers to write for free.
You see, this person is using her so-called “service” blog to promote her own company, Copyright Communications. So, any writing you do for her potentially brings in readers and then business (money!) to her company. You could say she’s using free writing from others to benefit herself. So, in my opinion, her “free service” spiel is a pile of horse manure.
Let’s face it. When somebody asks you to write for free, you can bet that, in the vast majority of cases, they’ll benefit financially in the end. Why should you donate your time while they’re laughing all the way to the bank?
Fellow writers, if you’re going to donate your time to your church or a local charity, that’s one thing. Donating your time to a company that is ultimately profiting from your blood, sweat and tears is ridiculous.
Respectable companies pay all professionals for their time, products and services. Only amateurs or jerks ask for charity while they’re quietly making money from your hard work.
Try asking your doctor or lawyer or electrician or ANYONE at all to work for you for free. You’ll get a blank stare and then probably a belly laugh. They’ll think you’re joking and, when they realize you aren’t, they’ll be deeply offended…or stunned by your stupidity.
You’re a professional, right? Why should your response to the “will you work for free/exposure?” request be any different?
Angela Hoy is the publisher of WritersWeekly.com and the co-owner of BookLocker.com.