Monday, September 13, 2010

Writing ain't free

Once again, someone is on the ABNA (Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards) discussion board offering writers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: Write original fiction for me, for free, and you'll get . . . wait for it . . . EXPOSURE!

I can kind of see how people who don't write for a living would devalue the written word. They don't get it, because they don't know how hard it is. But for fellow writers to ask you to write for free? Shameful.

That's not to say writing for free doesn't have its place. Charity work, for one. Certainly, if you're giving back through your talents, free is cool. Another is "Guest Blogger" where you're selling yourself and expressing your opinions, or even a reciprocal trade.

But when you give work away, you're basically saying YOU yourself don't value your work, your labor, your creative ideas and talent. There is nothing that says professional like putting a dollar value on your work. Even if it's nominal, you have to give yourself credit.

Writers used to be paid by the word, and while that's not always the case any longer, you should still think of your work in terms of dollars. When you sit down, put a dollar figure to each word. Let's say 3 cents a word, for example. When you start writing each day, think of the dollars that piece is worth. A 500-word flash fiction mystery = $15. A thousand words on your manuscript = $30.

Seems kind of low, right? I mean, $15. Surely giving away $15 worth of fiction is worth the exposure, right? Not necessarily. If a Web site, magazine, blog, or other publication can't afford to pay you $15, are you really going to get $15 worth of exposure?

You wouldn't ask a plumber to come to your house and fix your sink for exposure.

Don't write for free.