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    Should You Write for Free?

    The Ailment: As a new writer, should I write for free?

    The Cure: Ohhhhhh, here we have a hornet's nest of a question in the writing world! There are valid arguments for both sides of the debate and it really depends on what you are comfortable with which side you fight for. There are those who say that if you have nothing to prove that you can write, writing for free and getting published will give you clips to show potential paying markets, but then there are others who say that writers who work for free encourage publications not to pay their writers.

    My opinion is this. It is not unacceptable in most trades to expect to serve an apprenticeship. Many students straight from school work long hard hours for next to nothing. Yes, we call it exploitation, but it is how the trade is learned. Therefore, I don't think that the hour or so I spent writing a poem or short article for a non-paying market when I first started writing seriously, and that earned me publicity and a clip to show editors what I could do, exploitation. I thought of that hour spent as professional development. I still work for free for a number of other reasons, mostly because I want to be a part of a team for a publication that doesn't pay and I enjoy the work I do there. Most of the time however, I expect to get paid for what I write because that's my job.

    If you are happy with receiving nothing for your writing at present, then you have nothing to lose by going ahead and submitting to a non-paying market, but choose a high-profile one that will give you good publicity and a nice clip for your file. What I would advise however is that you check what rights the publication takes for your article/poem/story etc. If they are non-paying or even low paying, then they should not expect all rights, but there are publications that do. Do not submit to these markets unless you are happy that you would never wish to submit the piece to a paying market in the future.

    You must follow your conscience. Listen to all the advice you get, and believe me there will be plenty of it on this subject, and make up your own mind as to what is acceptable to you.

    Good luck.

    Copyright © 2001 Katie Gustafsson

    Katie Gustafsson is an English freelance writer/translator/poet who lives in Sweden with her soul-mate/husband (whom she met online), Mikael, and their baby son, Jake. Her writing credits include print and on-line publications in short stories, articles and poetry. Recent articles include work for Amateur Chef magazine, and Dreamguide.com where she is the guide for the USA for Foreigners section. She is owns the Wake Up Writing site.

    The Authentic Self: Journaling Your Joys, Griefs and Everything in Between by Shery Russ



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