Hey guys, today seems like a good day for another rant. In the past I spoke out against underqualified editors, if you are interested check out the post “Facebook Editors are Toxic.” Today I want to focus more on the industry itself. The crap I will be arguing against is how some “publishers” want to pay writers in exposure. While it might come in the form of, “this is something you can add to your resume,” or, “this will count as a publishing credit,” it is all the same thing, a scam.
Unpaid Publishing is a Scam
Focusing on these so-called publishers, what they are doing can be illegal in the United States. Essentially, if they give you deadlines, demand rewrites, participate in meetings, etc. then they are treating you as an employee which requires them to pay a minimum wage. For a better example of this situation, check out this article written by Allison Green.
Even if the writing is deemed as volunteer work, this itself is morally wrong if it is at the request of a for-profit business. The publisher will financially benefit from the writing and content THAT THEY RECEIVED FOR FREE. This is the intellectual equivalent of a sweatshop. If you accept a position like this, you are contributing to the problem.
—The Intellectual Equivalent of a Sweatshop
Moving away from the publishers, new writers often want that external validation that their writing is, “good,” and are willing to accept some bullshit that, “it is good enough to be published, but not enough to get paid for it.” Don’t be naive. No one that matters will actually count unpaid work as “published” material. You can say whatever you want to make yourself feel better, but deep down you know that it is a little shady. Even a job that pays below the professional rate ($0.06/word per SFWA) is better than being paid in exposure.
Writers Contribute to the Problem
Finally, writers who accept this kind of work devalue the entire craft of writing. The reason why it is so hard to make a decent living through writing is because there are countless people who are willing to do it for virtually nothing. This inhibits skilled writers from making a living because everyone thinks that they can write, and if they can’t/don’t want to, they shouldn’t have to pay for it.
Please do not accept an unpaid writing gig simply so you can say that you are published. Writing isn’t like a job where you have to start at the bottom. In fact, you should always start with the best markets. Yes, you will get rejected, but sometimes you won’t. If you submit an awesome story to unpaid market simply because you are new, they will still accept that story but not pay you a dime. Even if a massive publisher would have accepted it, you are now screwed. If you own a publishing business that that does this to writers, please light yourself on fire. Rant over.