Okay, let me put my ‘Bardist’ hat on. I’ve submitted stories to free online ‘zines, participated in write-a-thons, and responded to writing prompts. Some friends are writers, some friends are editors. I’ve heard a lot of debate about the realities of art and commerce in the modern writing game.
At a certain point, I decided that if I was going to Write For Real, I had to be focused. I would confine my work to the places where my work had a shot at being paid for. People hear this and like to sneer, so let me try to explain in a cogent fashion why I only submit my work to places where it can be paid for. It’s a good thing, as you’re about to see for yourself:
- Professionalism begets professionalism – Want to be a professional? Hang out with professionals, it’s that simple. That happens to be true whether you’re a bartender, an actor or a writer.
- Paid stories are more likely to be read – Let’s face it, if writers weren’t worried about getting published, we would still be writing on bathroom walls, Medium, or Tumblr. We want our thoughts to be shared, we want our work to connect with readers. Platforms that pay for stories work so much harder to get their work in front of eyeballs than free services. When readers read you they’re also reading them! Much of the promotion work a semi-pro writer has to do is done for you.
- Money makes you take your art seriously – Doing anything for money carries an intrinsic standard of quality that you won’t find if it’s just a hobby. If you aren’t writing for money, you stop worrying about what you write or how often. “Don’t feel like working today? No problem, you aren’t getting paid anyway!” Knowing that there’s actual money involved makes you take the job seriously.
- Money makes people take you seriously – People only value what they pay for. Don’t ask me why this is true, but it’s true. Over and over again, social experiments have demonstrated that if you’re given something for free, you don’t value it as much as something you pay something for. I want to be valued, therefore I ask to be paid.
- It cost me something to make this story – Yes, it’s true. Creativity is fun, but it still burns calories. It still involves effort. I give up a lot of personal time and energy to write this stuff down. That’s not a bad thing, but it is time I could be spending on myself, my cat or my video games. If it cost me something to make this piece of art, then I need to value myself first, before I ask anyone else to.
So that, in a nutshell, is why I don’t submit free stories. It’s not to be mean, it’s not to be dismissive of those publishers or authors. They want to give their stuff away for free, god love ’em, and I wish them well. That’s simply not my path. If those reasons aren’t sufficent, you can find a few more by reading these articles:
- 13 Reasons You Shouldn’t Work for Free (Even if Oprah Calls)
- Why you should stop entering design competitions
- How Not To Get Screwed By Clients
- HOW AND WHY YOU SHOULDN’T WORK FOR FREE