“There’s no pay but you’ll get plenty of exposure,” it’s what writers and other artists are told all the time. And it is said in such a way that we should be thankful for the opportunity to work for free for the person. When questioned or the invitation is declined, the argument becomes ‘you must not be serious about being a writer’ or other type of artist. The entitlement that these people feel to someone’s work is maddening.
It’s true in the internet era, the average pay for writing has decreased significantly. Whereas magazine article writers used to make up to $2 a word, now breaking $0.50 is a big deal. Part of this is the increase in consumption on blogs and the internet, and while there is a huge market, advertisers are not paying the same rates they once did.
The decrease in pay is concerning and a deterrent to some people, but those of us who are brave enough to muddle in deserve to be compensated for our work. There are some good sites that pay, Vocal and Medium, are among them. But there are just as many that think a writer should just write for them and not worry about money. Apparently, they don’t know how capitalism works. Or they do and just hope the writer doesn’t. Either is possible.
The current line for people who offer this writer ‘exposure’ for a piece is, “Exposure won’t buy my Titos and Doritos.” The person offering hates it, which makes it gold. Sadly, it is used multiple times a week. Often by the same people who are rejection junkies. Or their kindergarten teacher didn’t tell them that no is negative. Perhaps both?
This is an issue that matters to artists everywhere. We don’t want to sound unkind, and we do appreciate fans of our work. However, there comes a point when we also have bills to pay. On Facebook, there was a suggestion that a person who offers exposure to an artist (in this case a writer) should go to their employer and offer to work for free. Not just for a day but for the length of a project. The amount of people who got bent out of shape over that suggestion was beyond amazing. Yet, they are the ones who think an artist should bend to their will and accept exposure as payment.
Their argument is artist love what they do. The other thing they love is being paid to do it. Landlords rarely accept exposure as payment, unless it’s a porn and that is something else altogether. Again, this argument of exposure being payment enough is nonsense. Where did it come from?
One school of thought is it may have in part started because writers were asked by various members of the media to weigh in on a subject in which they were the expert. This led to an increase in sales if their work and thus more flowed into their coffers. Here’s the flaw in the argument, when that happened, there were 3 (maybe 4) networks and they had a lock on the news. There were hundreds of thousands of viewers captivated, and since there were so few outlets, being chosen was a big deal. In todays world, a website is lucky to reach tens of thousands of views every day. The audience realizes the term expert has lost meaning and in most cases probably means the one who did it for the cheapest or for free. Thus, the increased sales are not likely to happen.
Exposure is a great thing, but it should be a benefit of a job well done, not the payment because the client is too cheap to pay. Some may need to be reminded of the old adage, “You get what you pay for.”