Thursday, June 8, 2017


This morning I found a long rant in a LinkedIn group, about a national magazine that doesn't pay all of its writers. How evil! I suggested an easy solution to this problem: If they won't pay, you don't submit there. Problem solved.

Of course, this answer won't satisfy many aspiring authors. They want the byline, to be sure, but they also want the validation that only a paycheck can bring. I get it. But there's a bigger picture here that most won't even consider.

Me, I've worked for free many times over the past 12 years. Every free gig has gained me recognition. Followed by multiple paid gigs. I've also had my blog posts lifted more than a dozen times (once by a national news magazine), without permission or payment. And in every case, those rotten thieves left my name on it, and a link back to my blog. With this, I gained tens of thousands of new viewers. (Google Analytics tells me so.) Some of them called me to offer paid work. Among that humber, some became repeat customers who then sent me referrals. 
I couldn't have planned this better if I tried.

I just checked online, and it looks like this scurrilous mag has a circulation of over 1.3 million (which, statistically, probably equates to over 2 million readers). I can't speak for you, but I would LOVE to get my writing seen by 2 million people, with or without a paycheck. My experience tells me that multiple paychecks would follow.

In the course of my career, I've met and corresponded with hundreds of editors and literary agents. Each of them receives hundreds of submissions per month, and in that pile there are sure to be a handful of worthy projects. Good writing, great stories, worthy messages from fine people. What keeps most of those books from getting published?

Often, it's because the authors have no platform. That is, they have no experience, no public profile, no following, no name recognition in the marketplace. Which (for the publisher) will surely make their books much harder to sell. In this environment, the gatekeepers can surely afford to wait around for an author who DOES bring that complete package.

Some people work in "normal" occupations such as accountants, engineers, fry cooks, and airline pilots. Others are creatives such as actors, singers, sculptors, and writers. We think of our work as a calling, not a mere occupation. For this reason, we often assume that the economy should treat us differently. But frankly, we're not so different. We work in a buyer's market where experience counts. Even more so, because we've CHOSEN the risky route of self-employment.

If you think it's beneath you to write for free, you don't know what you're missing. Every industry reserves its best opportunities for those who bring demonstrable experience and achievements. Two million sets of eyeballs, is a good place to start. Do you really have something better to do?

In the immortal words of Mark Twain: "Write without pay until someone offers pay. If nobody offers within three years, the candidate may look upon this as a sign that sawing wood is what he was intended for."

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