Monday, August 17, 2009

Writing for Free?

I came across a great article by Jan Fields in a recent Institute for Children's Literature enewsletter. Jan's article, entitled Can You Profit From Writing for Free? made some great points about writing for free markets. Most of us, of course, prefer to get paid to write. Jan agrees, but she offers a few good reasons why writing for free can be a plus.

We all may have favorite places where we write for free - for a ministry or charity, or a low budget or friend's publication, among others. And of course, these and others are the places where we sometimes write to gain clips and get our name out there. Some places swap advertising for articles, not actual money perhaps, but not a terrible deal, either.

Pardon me while I step up onto the soapbox for just a second or two...

I agree with Jan, and am happy to gain more writing credits, but I still have to work to overcome my attitude about those markets that could, but just don't, pay. My thought is this: if it weren't for the writers, they would have no publication. I know, we make the choice to submit to these markets, but the injustice to writers still gets to me a bit. My husband, who is a self-employed finish carpenter, puts it this way, "What if I decided not to pay my subcontractors?"

Well, it's food for thought, but there's no use getting worked up about it. Either I trust the Lord to prosper me in my writing or I do not. How about you?

(Note that I've stepped down off of the soapbox:)

If you'd like to take a peek at Jan's article, here is the link.

As always, my friends, have a wonderful and blessed day.
Happy writing!


  1. Hi Karen!
    What a great topic of discussion. I, too, have been wrestling with this quesion lately.
    I'm in pretty good with one magazine I write for and thought I was with another then the editors changed and the new one doesn't buy anything I send. I've not written for free at all, even to get initial clips.
    But now, I am forcing myself to write for less or free to improve my name recognition. (Jan's 4th point in her article.) I'm hoping that way I can find more markets for my topics (homeschooling and homesteading mostly) and build my platform for the future.
    Another point I'd like to mention is turn around time. I sold an article to a major market, making a lot of money. But it took almost two years before I saw the money. Other stories I sent this editor, he would say he wanted, but couldn't give me a contract or a time frame and I waited for over a year while he sat on it. I think I'd rather make less and see the stories turn around faster than that. Maybe when the kids are all grown and I'm more productive I can afford to wait that kind of time. What do you think?

  2. I guess one thing I dislike about the writing business is the turnaround time with some markets. One publisher I work with pays on publication, and their schedule is often delayed. I actually just got paid for two articles, one that I wrote this spring and the other nearly eight months ago. It can be hard to feel productive as a writer when things are drawn out like this. And hard to convince others that this is worth it!

    And I agree, I would rather work for markets that might pay a little less, but turn around more quickly. I am a great believer in everything for a purpose, and have to trust that all this experience will open doors for us.

    I know many writers turn to copywriting to provide regular income. I have done this, and it is a good thing, but here again, the copywriting time takes away from the other writing time. I guess it is really easy to find yourself going in many directions - trying to build a platform, work on that novel, bring in some income, and stuff like that.

    I guess Jan's article appealed to me because on one hand it confirmed that writing for free is okay sometimes, even though we don't like it. On the other hand, it helped me realize that this will pay off over time. Writing just provides some different angles for us to work around. When I get it all figured out, I will let you know!

    Thanks for sharing, Carol!

  3. Thank you for visiting my blog! Love your site:) ANd as to not getting paid, I've done that so often just as you said to gain clips and that did help me.
    COuld relate to your husband's thoughts too as we are self-employed, well trying again in construction--and he would say the same thing.

  4. Hi Terri,

    Thanks for stopping by! Love your blog too, and enjoy visiting it. If we had a dollar for every free item we've written, we all might just have enough to meet somewhere for coffee or tea or something:)

    Blessings to you!

  5. Hi Karen -

    The one thing I insist with freebies is that I retain my rights. At least, I can offer them as reprints to other publications.

    Recently, I submitted something to a website for no pay. However, the site attracts a lot of attention among writers. It's great exposure, and that's a consideration.

    To write for free or not write for free: that is the question. The answer depends on your reasons and what the Lord puts on your heart.

    Susan :)

  6. Good points, Susan!
    Retaining rights is another great topic (you just gave me another blog idea:) And I agree, it is all in how you feel led. Thanks for stopping by.

  7. Karen:
    I had an outlet, a quarterly literary magazine, but the lady stopped publishing it. She didn't pay a lot but it was something.
    I have always felt it was not a good thing to write for a non-paying magazine. Now, I will rethink my feelings on this issue.

  8. You know, Cecelia, I think there are many facets to this issue, ones I've even rethought since writing this post. I want and appreciate payment, but also see the value in swapping for advertising, if we have something we want to advertise. I guess some of it depends on your situation, goals, etc., all in the Lord's leading. Thanks for stopping by!:) Blessings for your day.


Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. Have a blessed day!