Monday, 5 December 2016

Writing for free?

Recently I've had a few queries on this subject and I know opinions vary. I've changed my own mind more than once. Please share you current feelings about any of the following –

Is it a good idea for newer writers to build up confidence and credits by submitting to non paying markets? And if so, at what point should they move on to paying markets?

Is giving away a free ebook (like this one) a sensible way to attract readers for your other books?

Are writers who work for free doing a diservice to those who hope to get paid?

Are you in favour of anthologies published to raise money for charities?

Do you think any non financial rewards for publication are worth having?

What about token payments? Are they fine as it's the principle which matters, or do you find them insulting?




26 comments:

  1. I've written for an anthology for charity. I've also written for a couple for free. And don't forget all of those guest posts we write online. All of it builds us up and makes us better writers.

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    1. I hadn't thought of blogging as writing for free, but you're right, Alex. We probably all do some unpaid writing, even if it's just facebook updates.

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  2. Hey Patsy! I know these subjects can be contentious, but I personally feel like there's no definitive answer for what's right--it depends on the specifics of the circumstances.

    I don't see anything wrong with new writers putting themselves out there, but I also don't feel like that's where they have to start. At any point in a writing career, I think it's up to the writer to do the research and decide where they should be submitting.

    I think ebook giveaways are great! I suppose like any giveaway, it's just has to be tactical and careful not to give away too much or too often.

    In some cases, yes, free writers are doing a disservice, but in other cases, I'll argue no. This is very dependent on what they're writing and where it's being published.

    For examples, if they're writing for free for an anthology to raise money for charity, that's cool. I'm cool with charity anthologies, as long as they're legitimate.

    Non-financial rewards--their okay-ness will depend on what they are. If I win a house or a car, that's pretty good (but unlikely). I think it will also depend on what was published and where and by whom. I guess there's also such think as an insufficient financial reward.

    I think token payments are only okay if it's a small or new publication that generally doesn't make much profit beyond what it needs for the next round of production. I'd be pretty insulted if I got a token payment from a big-name for-profit publication that has the resources to pay more.

    I suppose, I've worked for both for-profit and not-for-profit publications before and it was really interesting to see how each of them functioned differently. I'd like to think that in each case, that I would be okay with whether or not I got paid if I was on the other end of it. The for-profit publication paid both editors and writers a reasonable amount, while the not-for-profit publication paid neither, but we all got a free copy of the journal at the end while sales money went straight into the account to paid for the next production. I would have felt pretty bad I was getting paid as an editor when the writers weren't.

    It's all pretty contentious. But what are your thoughts on these questions?

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    1. I definitely agree with the 'it depends', Bonnee!

      One thing I have no doubt about is that if anyone is making any money from the writing then the author should be getting some of it. (With charity anthologies it's slightly different - in that case they've decided to donate their fee).

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  3. You hit my BIG issue...free books. The saturation of the market is killing the independent author. You don't EVEN want me to start.

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    1. I don't really know how much impact the availability of free books has on sales. They may tempt people to try new genres or authors, maybe even encourage people to read for pleasure who might not otherwise have considered it. Onthe other hand it makes sense that if people are reading free ones they'll have less time to read those books they have to pay for.

      What really worries me, Mac is that those regularly giving books away for free are unlikely to have paid out for editing and proofreading.They might not even have spent a great deal of time doing that themselves, so quite often the quality isn't that good. These poor quality books do nothing to make other self published books seem worth paying for.

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  4. I've been published in three anthologies, one for charity, and two paying. The paying ones are definitely nice! =)

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    1. I'm in some actual paying ones and some which are only theoretically so!

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  5. Hi Patsy - I'd be happy with anthologies for charity, or good causes ... but my own works I think I wouldn't give them away ... I'd keep writing and sharing my work around for a price, but a low one ... Interesting topic - cheers Hilary

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    1. I have given work away in the past (and still have a free collection available ). I don't regret that, but I doubt I'll do it in future.

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  6. I have never given away eBooks and do not believe I ever will. I have contributed a free story, several times, for fund raisers. On occasion I will give away books to book sellers or friends.

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    1. I hadn't thought of giving away physical copies, Neil. I've given some as gifts, but never considered it as a kind of publicity exercise although I know some people do it in the hope of getting reviews.

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  7. I've donated stories to several charity anthologies and glad to do so.

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    1. I think they are a different case, Teresa. The work isn't being given away, you've just chosen for the charity to benefit rather than yourself.

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  8. 1. Yes. Writers not yet established can gain a good backline by writing for free in respected publications.
    2. Giving away books or ebooks is definitely a good way to gain readers. I've found several authors that way.
    3. Non established Writers who do unpaid work are not letting the side down. Established writers normally charge - rightly so.
    4. I hear what Teresa says but has anyone researched how much money charities raise on this way?
    5. Forgotten last question...

    By and large, it's ok for writers building themselves up to write for free, but there comes a point when you should charge.


    Rosemary

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    1. Another vote for 'it depends' then? It can be OK in some circumstances, but not as a general rule.

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  9. When I first started writing, I joined writing.com and entered a lot of contests on that site. I didn't win in the beginning, but I learned a lot by reading the winning entries. Eventually, I subbed to zines and anthologies. I always subbed paying venues first, and if rejected, set my sights lower. I don't think there's anything wrong with getting your work out there via paying venues or not -- when it's articles or short stories. Novels shouldn't be given away unless it's the first in the series, and even then, it's better to write only a novella for that. After many years, I've discovered readers rarely appreciate what they get for free. (My books aren't even on KU.) Just my opinion though.

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    1. Some readers will probably only ever download freebies, Lexa but I'm sure a free offer does tempt people to try an author they wouldn't otherwise have read.

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  10. Charity anthologies might seem a good idea, but they rarely are. If 20 authors each donate a story, that's around £4,000 worth. Then people spend £5 - £10 on the book, congratulating themselves for giving that much money to a worthy cause when really only pennies will reach the charity as most will go on production costs.

    If the authors were to instead sell the story and donate half the money, and the book buyers were to donate half the cover price a lot more money would reach the charity.

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    1. Yes, but you're assuming that without the anthology the authors and readers would still have made donations to the charity. I'm not sure that's always the case. Charity anthologies do at least raise awareness of whichever issue they hope to support.

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  11. Hi.
    We are promoting ourselves AND a product. I believe that part of that promotion necessitates a few freebies to good causes. That should not mean giving away free books at random, but it might include giving a few away in the hope of obtaining an editorial review. We must consider that we are giving away the wholesale price - not the retail. I don't think that my giving away a book will prevent a reader purchasing the next Grisham or Patsy Collins novel, but it might just prompt a little bit of word-of-mouth.
    As far as writing editorials and articles, it is, perhaps, a different matter, because there is a clear area of exploitation available to the unscrupulous. If I pitched to my local paper at a rate far beneath an established contributor, I would see myself not as being successful, but as being a scab. Once again, I suppose it's each to their own.
    This is where the 'business' of writing has very different protocols to the 'pleasure' of writing!

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    1. PET, I agree that giving work away at random is probably a bad idea and that a targetted approach will be better.

      I also agree with your point about undercutting other writers. If the publication has a standard pay rate then any writer offering to work for less is doing themselves and all other writers a disservice. Thankfully I don't think many publications would be swayed by this.

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  12. Writing is communication, and so we need to be heard/read. That's the most important thing for me. But I have to confess that nowadays, I don't enjoy writing short stories nearly so much as I did before I started on novels, and so the few I occasionally write are in the hope of money! But does it matter why we write? Most of us,I suspect, write just because we have to. It's compulsive......isn't it?

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    1. It is compulsive, Frances and yes, I'd still write even if I wasn't going to be paid (I probably wouldn't bother with much editing, research, proofreading etc though).

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  13. It all depends on whether you write for a living or for fun. Our first anthology sold many more copies when we donated to charity. We still made a profit.

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    1. Our reasons for writing certainly play a part, Maggie. I can see that trying to earn money might reduce the pleasure for some people.

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Thanks so much for commenting!