Sunday, October 27, 2013

"Exposure" is something you die of when you can't pay the rent

I saw an interesting article in the NYT today, called "Slaves of the Internet, Unite."  A quick double-take, because I read the last word as "Untie," which actually makes sense in context.

But anyway. This is something that I've seen in my legal career, and as a writer: people expecting stuff for free. I first wrote about it back in November of 2011, in the context of people seeking pro bono legal help.

In today's NYT article, the writer begins: "I received, in a single week, three (3) invitations to write an original piece for publication or give a prepared speech in exchange for no ($0.00) money." He goes on to say:

"People who would consider it a bizarre breach of conduct to expect anyone to give them a haircut or a can of soda at no cost will ask you, with a straight face and a clear conscience, whether you wouldn’t be willing to write an essay or draw an illustration for them for nothing. They often start by telling you how much they admire your work, although not enough, evidently, to pay one cent for it."

Which is sort of the point I made two years ago, right about the time I got my first publishing deal. Who knew I was taking on two careers where I'd be expected to give it away for free?!

I myself have been invited to submit articles/short fiction to organs that don't pay. The response, to me and others, when we decline is uniform:

"But you'll get exposure!"

Which is a good thing, of course. Except, my view is that if people value what I do then they should value it enough to pay the market value (which ain't $0). For another, wonderfully foul-mouthed, opinion on this subject, read this by John Scalzi.

Going back to the exposure point. Imagine this to be the conversation:

"Hey Mark, would you write a short piece for us, for free, please?"
"For free?"
"Yeah, you'll get good exposure, we have like two hundred people who read our blog/magazine/whatever."
"Well, okay then."

Two weeks later.

"Hey, Mark, thanks for writing that piece, it was awesome."
"Oh, you're welcome."
"And you got some exposure, eh?"
"I did, yes."
"Not really. Fifteen people asked me to write stuff for them. For free."
"Wow, awesome, think of all that exposure!"

Hey, I wonder if the Statesman will publish this blog entry - a couple of years ago I agreed to let them do it, for free, and I never withdrew that permission. Think they will?

Nah, me neither.


  1. You are hilarious as always but you make an excellent point. Very interesting.

  2. Dyslexics of the world, Untie!


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