Writing for Free – Version 2.0

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I’ve blogged about this before, and its been a whopping six years since, hence I believe its worth my visiting this topic once more as I’ve learnt quite a bit since then.

In the world of literary journals and short prose, there are less than half that pay, and even fewer that pay respectably, i.e. enough to put a roof over your head. Therefore, if you write short prose, including creative nonfiction and flash pieces, I’d say – expect to give away your work for free more often than not. Its difficult to score paying markets for every story or essay that you write, and if you hold out only for those it might be years before you see your name in print, or even between two publications. This has been my experience, of course, and I wouldn’t discourage new writers from aiming for the moon but just warn them to not feel that pang of disappointment if they miss the target.

For those who write informative nonfiction articles and journalistic pieces that require research and reporting, I’d suggest to never write for free, unless you’re in the initial stages building up your name and even then, you could find paying avenues.

In all cases I would advise writers to seek out top paying markets first and not let the big names scare them. The worst that could happen is a rejection and once you have tried then you can move on past it.

There’s also one more problem for writers of short prose: if a literary journal doesn’t pay, it doesn’t mean that no-one reads it or that it publishes work of sub-par quality. Some of the best journals out there don’t offer payment but they’re as tough to get into as, say, The New Yorker.

As for me, I’m sending out my work to the venues that are the best fit, even if it means there’s no pay attached.

What is your opinion on this topic? Have you changed your stance from one to the other at any point in time? Let me know in the comments!

5 comments

  1. Depends what free means. I do write short stories for competitions, and I publish them on my blog if I fail to get in. My novels keep going in circulation until they get rejected by the major publishers here in Southeast Asia.

    I also wouldn’t mind putting up informative and journalistic pieces for free. Maybe it’s because I already write for a living, so I’m not really bothered what happens to the writing I do on the side.

    Thanks for this thought-provoking post!

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    1. Thanks for sharing, Stuart. Yes I agree it depends what free means and what you’re getting out of giving up a piece of writing for free. There are definitely situations where writing for free has intangible benefits

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  2. Honestly, I write for free before for a publication because of the kind of views my article could get on their platform and visibility. I mean it depends and like you said on research, one should put things clear to being paid well. I also charged paltry early in my career but am planning to explore the wild jungle of freelance writing. I believe that every work must be paid in terms of respecting the time taken in doing the piece. I still do book reviews for free but if someone offers to pay me, I wouldn’t refuse.

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