Muzzling the Ox: Writers Don’t Get Paid


Tim Kreider posted an opinion piece at the New York Times complaining about people who ask him to write things for free. He’s a writer by trade, and he thinks it’s appropriate to get paid for his work.

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.

Pieces like this have been cropping up more and more frequently. Those of us who populate the internet with “content” seem to be getting a little bit restless. A while back, Nate Thayer publicly complained about The Atlantic. In a Twitter conversation, Alan Jacobs told me to stop writing for people who don’t pay. It seems that even non-internet writing is no longer worth money, and Philip Hensher tried to shame someone who asked for a free forward for a book.

Can you blame authors for circling the wagons? Writers want to pay their bills. Writers want to feel that their work is valuable. We pay for what we value, but the internet is all about freebies.

We’re told that the “exposure” will be worthwhile. When I hear the word “exposure” I automatically think of a hard-working sherpa freezing to death on the side of Everest as he’s helping a wealthy European up the mountain.

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