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I recently read this article, about writers being asked to write for free.

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. “Unfortunately we don’t have the budget to offer compensation to our contributors…” is how the pertinent line usually starts. But just as often, they simply omit any mention of payment.

This is partly a side effect of our information economy, in which “paying for things” is a quaint, discredited old 20th-century custom, like calling people after having sex with them….Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again.

I empathize.

I’ve been asked, more number of times than I care to remember, to write for free. Till date, I haven’t written non-fiction for free. Fiction, though, is another matter. Some of my published stories were included in anthologies for free– some of them for charity (which I loved) and some just like that (which I went along with, because these are lit-zines with not much money). A few were paid for, but at a much lower rate than what my clients pay for my non-fiction articles. Apparently, there are very few markets for literary short stories, and most of them don’t pay much, and are notoriously tough to break into.

So far, I’m okay with it, because, I really write fiction as a passion, the way I keep aquariums or garden. Only, I’m much, much more passionate about fiction, both reading and writing, than I ever will be about my fish or plants. So, I’ve never considered making a living by writing fiction any more than I’ve thought of earning money by rearing fish or plants– I’m not saying that’s ideal, just that it hasn’t bothered me so far.

So, should I insist on getting paid for my fiction? (Naive question, some would say.)

As an author, have you written fiction for free? If yes, why? If no, why not? And if you’ve been paid, was it enough to pay your bills?

As a reader, do you ever wonder about whether the people whose work you enjoy get paid? Why, in your opinion, is there a stereotype of a starving artist or writer, but a surgeon, accountant or plumber is never expected to work for free?

Do you think an author should give away free stories like musicians give away free music? Is writing for free ‘good promotion’? Have at it in the comments– I need your opinion here! One randomly selected commenter will receive a copy of Tom Benson’s short story collection Smoke and Mirrors …which brings me to my regular monthly feature:



As part of my pledge in my A to Z Reflections post, and Supporting Indie authors I’ll be buying and then gifting books by Indie authors to all my three Recommended Blog Friends today the 16th of June, just like I did on the 16th of May. The idea is to simply pick up books I like, by Indie authors I like, and give them away to folks I like, each month.

These are the three bloggers I recommend today, and I’m gifting them tokens of my appreciation…books that I like!

Blogs you must read!

Blogs I Recommend

         MICHELLE STANLEY:  I can’t say enough about how supportive and kind Michelle is, and also an amazing writer. She is just the reader I can think of for One Beautiful Child, superbly crafted stories by Annalisa Crawford, my blog friend from Amlokiblogs.

              GARY PENNINCK : a dear soul and kind friend, who, while berating the A to Z Challenge has given it more publicity and love than many who have participated in it.  I’m gifting him a copy of The Path Through the Eye of Another by Davey Northcott , a supporter of this blog. Gary is just the sort of guy who would enjoy a lyrical book, full of emotions and a passion to survive, and a ‘good fight for what is right’ kind of story.

             M. L. SWIFT:  a good blog friend, a wonderful writer, and terrific blogger. He has recently come back to blogging after a short hiatus. To him a I gift Smoke and Mirrors a collection of delicious short stories by Tom Benson, another of my supportive blog friends, and a prolific, versatile author.

To all three of you, thank you for your support and I hope you have tons of visitors on your blogs this coming year. I don’t expect you to do anything with the book other than enjoy it, and if you want to support Indie Authors, too, buy a copy for your friends or family!


Dear reader, what are your thoughts on the questions above? Do you know any of the bloggers I recommend?

Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her literary crime thriller series, the Blue Mumbai, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency. Both The Blue Bar and The Blue Monsoon were published in 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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  • whitelopezsm says:

    I don’t think you should give it away for free, after all it’s your time, the question is, how much do you value your time? So, if you feel you should, then you Should 🙂

  • Reblogged this on The Oddity Writer and commented:
    Damyanti is one of the latest followers to “The Oddity Writer”, and it was an honor to get her attention. I’ve been following her for awhile, and I enjoy reading about writing, as much as I enjoy writing about writing (which is why my first piece of fiction was metafiction).

    Personally, I would write for free- I used to be teeming with ideas and I always need to think on them or scrawl them in a notebook later on, or just tell someone about them. Although the stream of ideas isn’t as smooth anymore, producing content is still something I love to do, and I don’t know what I would be without it.

    Thank you for following me, Damyanti, and welcome aboard! I hope that you look forward to more content from me…

  • Ron says:

    Yes, I do write for free, and I do write to get paid as well. I guess the question can be sourced from different angles. Most writers (beginners and aspiring) do write for experience and approbation, that would suffice in the interim. We all know that professional writers get paid for their works, but there’s always an adhoc situation when they just write because they are inspired to share what they have in their soul and brain, and no monetary activity is involved.

    You posted a great question. And I know that there are equally great answers from your followers.
    Thanks for sharing Damyanti.


  • Nan Sampson says:

    Interesting question. I will discount books for a promotion, and give copies for free, but as a rule, my time is worth the small price I charge for my work. That’s just me – I don’t denigrate anyone for the decisions they make. If people want to give their work away, that is a personal choice. Blogging, on the other hand, I do for free. Blogging is just a way to a way to share what’s going on in my life and in my head. 🙂 I don’t think that’s worth much. If I make people think, or give them a laugh, that’s payment enough for that stuff!

    That picture at the top of your blog is gorgeous! Where was it taken?

    • Damyanti says:

      If you mean the picture in the header, it was taken somewhere opposite the Cedar Avenue between Moto-Hakone and Hakone-machi– in Hakone, Japan. That sunset wasn’t the best I’ve ever seen, but the light certainly was beautiful– I clicked this one on my phone, and cropped it.

  • Ranju says:

    Firstly, I love your name. 🙂
    Secondly, love your style. I am no one to judge and I have just stepped into the writing world. But i believe in appreciating.
    About writing for free, I believe in law of Karma. No artist, musician or writer can be asked to give away their creation for free.

  • leamuse says:

    Thank you for choosing to follow one of my blogs. I hope you will continue to enjoy the posts.

  • viktoryarch says:

    Thank you for you interesting blog.

  • Well, I concur with you when you say the market for fiction is pretty constricted. Fiction enthuses me much more than any other realm and knowingly, I pursue the trails just to get that aplomb of having done something worthwhile. 🙂

  • Yes, and no. It depends, but ultimately comes down to it being MY CHOICE. I won’t be compelled or guilted into writing for free for anyone, and “free exposure” just sounds kind of kinky. (This inspired another blog post on my blog, by the way. You have a habit of doing that.)

  • My friend and I have talked at length about this because we both write fanfiction. The whole premise of fanfiction is based around the fact that you don’t get paid, and you can never publish anything you write because you are stealing someone else’s characters. You get reviews if your story is written well. That’s it. And because there is no money in it, and fanfiction does nothing to increase your exposure to the literary world, it can feel a bit frustrating when people read but don’t review. For every hundred hits I get about 1 review. And my story had like 65,000 hits on it. So I don’t really mind writing for free. Heck writing original fiction feels so different because I can actually publish it. My 200,000 word fanfic will always remain something I can’t publish. But I learned a lot about writing from fanfiction, and it gave me a lot of practice. So yeah, I don’t really mind writing for free. I just want others to read my stuff, lol.

  • DianeTiwana says:

    As a new writer (at least calling myself a writer), I worked on several platforms….4 months into it, I gave it up. I felt used, abused and undermined as well as underpaid. So I’ve given it up. Whether I will write for free, I don’t know yet. But what I know is that I’ll never write fiction for others that underpay me and then get credit for it.

  • vanmaniac says:

    Yes! Even some well known writers have written for free one point in time. Writing for free can lead to more work. Though it might lead to more writing for free, it will open up work that pays. Getting your name out there, credits to your name, works in your writing portfolio open doors.

    My current work is free. The Five Kingdoms of Severi can be read online for free. It will be turned into a book towards the end of this year and finally earn me and my publishers money. But in the year that it has taken to write and edit it all the work has been done for free on both ends.

    Two flash fictions I wrote for free gave me the credibility and confidence to write a book and submit it. Even though I had written three novels before then they sat in my computer to gather dust.

    As a writer one doubts their worth and at times it is those that are free that accept your work. For a beginner and even someone who is well known it is good to write for free once or twice. Get that confidence, get that published work added to your list, and expand your writer’s platform and then move from there.

  • This is not in answer to your thought provoking questions, but rather to express concern that you did not give an attribution or credit for the rather long passage you quoted from someone else’s article. Or did I miss something? It’s an excellent quote and not only would I like to know where it came from, but I’m sure the author would appreciate proper acknowledgement. Thanks for signing up to follow my blog. I hope I prove worthy. I think you have a marvelous blog and I’m so glad it has come to my attention.

  • As friend and fellow novelist mournfully said on this subject, “Writing fiction for a living is a fool’s career. The problem is that humanity’s got us by the balls; they know we can’t NOT write.”

    I’m not the sort of person who needs to have compensation for every piece of art I pour out into the world–or even for most of them. But as I do want to write (mostly fiction) for a career, I am going to have to figure out how to convince a great many people that giving me money in exchange for some story of mine is a fantastic idea… and idea I know I’ve been on the buying side of many a time, so at least I know it’s not impossible. ^-^

  • jnitro519 says:

    i dont mind.. writing is love for me. 🙂

  • FlaHam says:

    Damyanti, you continue to visit and I continue to appreciate each of your visits. The only writing I do is for my blog, I have never gotten a penny for any of the 300K words I have posted so far, and don’t expect to be. But you poise an interesting question. I was/am naive, my expectations are that if it’s offered in blog form I don’t need to pay, but if it’s written in another type of forum, and I wanted it, yes I should pay. I have an IPod that has over 1500 songs, and I have paid for every one of those in one way or another. If I were a budding novelist and wanted to get known I do believe I would share my work for free just to get it out there, but as I developed a readership, at some point my works would have to be bought. I know my response is all over the place and for that I am sorry. Smiling maybe that’s why I don’t expect to be paid. Please take care, Bill

  • Adan Ramie says:

    While I agree that most doctors, bankers, and mechanics wouldn’t work for free, and that artists have a terrible reputation of dying hungry, crazy, and alone, I still sometimes write for free. If you visit my blog, you’ll see I have a whole category of flash fiction that I just give to whoever wants to read it. My intent is to give readers a taste, so that when my first book is published, they’ll want to put their money down on it. Will it work? I’m not sure. But it’s worth a shot.

  • clara_w says:

    I do believe in writing for free to generate traffic to my own blog and business. I made the mistake of writing a short-story for free once. Never again. : /

  • I was a commercial designer, illustrator and writer for many years. I learned very quickly that giving my premium skills away was a bad idea.

    The recipients will come to expect it. And. bluntly, they may not respect your work that much because you are willing to give it away.

    There’s always a way to arrange something: contra, payment in kind; even something purely symbolic.

    Usually when business people at the top of their field head a government department in a time of war they are paid a symbolic amount — one dollar.

    This is a recognition of the true value of these people’s contribution.

    Doing things for yourself for free is a different matter. I have a free blog and I write for myself.

    But when a weekly approached me last year about regularly reposting some content from my blog onto theirs, even though I’m for all intents and purposes a non-working bum, I negotiated a small flat fee and credits and such because the newspaper is a commercial business, even if their website isn’t monetized.

    Thanks for the follow.

  • geogee says:

    I don’t think Bloggers or Writers should give away premium word for free. Should they make a short term investment ie free as in (guest posts, opinion articles, excerpt admission / authorization) to publications that can provide long term gains (a job, paid writing gig, more exposure etc.) yes.

    But if a specific request is made to author a specific type or piece of content, I believe the author should be compensated along with an agreement to receive any future residual royalties.

  • PrairieChat says:

    I would take your premise even further. Not only are people unwilling to pay for creative material, they are unwilling to create for themselves, For example, how much on Facebook and social media is a blatant repeat or theft of thought. How many conversations involve only the word “Like”.
    Please people for heavens sake, contribute to life. Take a risk and share.

    • James Lyons says:

      I completely agree. We are so concerned with ownership and getting what’s due to me. In the end we selfishly hoard our ideas away that in reality will probably never be published. It’s just a truth of percentages. If a company approaches absolutely try to get what you can, but creativity is a gift that should be shared and promoted.

  • Fascinating read and I too have written for free on many occasions and am currently working on a site were I can post that work. But I have to say it’s harder to write articles unless you have a niche you know inside and out ^_^

  • barn7777 says:

    Like other people have mentioned, as a blogger, I write for free. I would not want to write for free long term because then I would not be able to make a living and devote my time to writing. I guess I would not mind writing for free occasionally if I was writing for something I valued, I was going to get exposure, etc. Great topic!

  • barn7777 says:

    Reblogged this on Writer's Bounty and commented:
    A good question to think about…

  • James Lyons says:

    Should authors be paid for what they write? Of course, but unfortunately the written word, along with all other forms of art is not something that the majority of people feel like they need in life. They see it as an added bonus, but not an essential. So only those jobs that fulfill some sort of essential need, like food, or clothing or shelter or insurance, pay people an honest living.

    The other thing that is strange about art–at least I think it is strange–is that people’s standards are higher for art then they are for essential needs. There are plenty of just OK restaurants out there that make plenty of money for their owners and staff. I don’t know very many authors who are paid for their work, or published for just being decent.

    I don’t know, but maybe art needs to repackage the way it is sold to the public. For instance, if we could convince people that reading makes you more attractive, I bet us authors would be in high demand. We wouldn’t have to beg for tuppence (e.g., $99 for our novels on-line), we could charge by the word. Imagine that.

  • Kyle Towns says:

    Hi there 🙂 Thanks for following. As someone who took that naive step to expect payment for writing fiction, your post interested me, and I’d like to contribute 🙂

    Is it naive to expect payment for fiction when there’s so much of it available for free? It’s been a personal matter of principle to expect payment in the past. I was debatably naive a few years ago when, not having terribly many practical skills but a gift for words, I set out to become an established author. Write enough words, for long enough, don’t let the world beat you down and eventually you’ll get there… that’s essentially the message from all those who succeed. But perhaps there is an element of chance. There are no doubt millions of fiction novels out there, more all the time, that is a giant market to compete with.

    But say you manufacture a weird ass candy. You organise to have it placed in supermarkets. No one notices it. The candy sit on the shelf past the expiry date until they’re taken down and replaced with new stock.. this repeats for months until, on a whim, a child picks up your candy and begs their Mother to buy it. Mother says yes. Kid enjoys candy. Kid forgets candy.
    Had you given in and given them away, you would never have sees a profit. In fact, obviously,, you’d make a loss. ‘But people like free stuff!’ They also don’t respect it.

    I think we’re expected to give stories away because we do it for “fun.” Being creative is seen as a hobby, not a serious pursuit. Writing is also a form of communication, and people tend to expect communication to not come with a paywall. I would expect most people, like myself, to become annoyed at the newspaper article someone has linked you to that’s inaccessible, behind some banner hawking a monthly subscription. And then there’s the internet, as you described, the economic end for art, perhaps. Books, and perhaps albums, are likely to be sentimental purchases, I think. Our last hope is the book lover, as long as we can get them out of the secondhand book exchange where they’re only paying $1 per book.

    ..There’s also perhaps the fact that we learn communication skills from birth, so it is far easier to be an eloquent adult than a plumber, or an electrician. Communication skills are ubiquitous, good writing less so, but practical, wealth-generating skills which have a place in industry? Well those skills are constantly in demand, and sometimes at a shortage. Fiction is a luxury item, not a necessity for doing business.

    There’s no easy solution ..unless you’d like to slaughter a lot of writers and burn some old books to corner the market.

  • jlennidorner says:

    Isn’t blogging writing for free?

    As for free books…
    I have a Keurig coffee maker. Folgers came out with some new flavors. They sent me a sample box for free. Because I enjoyed the samples, I was inclined to buy more.
    I went to a music festival a few years back. The local rock radio station was handing out a free CD with 25 songs by new bands. I fell in love with Kill Hannah and Anberlin because of that CD. I have bought their CDs, MP3s, concert tickets, etc because of that free CD.
    I’ll grab a free Kindle book if the description catches my eye. If I enjoy the book, I’ll check out what else the author has (not for free, but at normal $6 to $15 prices, or whatever).

    Does Stephen King need to pass out a free book? Nope. He’s famous.
    Does “Jesse Newb” perhaps need to pass out a free book? Unless the publisher has the author booked on every talk show, mentioned in every magazine, a billboard up in every major market, bonus merchandise sitting by the check-out at every big bookstore, and Hollywood calling for the movie rights….. yeah, a freebie to turn me into a fan is probably smart.

    But what if there is only one book? What if I became a fan and wanted more, and there was no more? The buzz would die.

    And that is why Folgers will send me a sample of a new flavor, or a decaf version of an existing flavor, in a year or two.
    And that is why Anberlin and Kill Hannah will go on tour again, probably teaming up at some point with other bands for bigger events (ie: Warp Tour, Rolling Rock Summer Stage).

    Writers don’t have that. We do have blogs though. Blogs, where we give away writing for free while working on writing something that won’t be free.

    And that’s my take.

    Nope, I haven’t heard of those blogs before. But I shall stop over and have a look now. 🙂


  • I finally figured out how to comment, so I will.

    I don’t write fiction, but I do try to make something for the nonfiction I write. I think the main reason many people think art or writing should be free is that they have no idea of the effort and personal cost involved in the creative process. It’s also true that for many people, art and literature are not essential to their lives. A doctor, dentist, or plumber meets and urgent immediate need. If you can’t get one when you need one, you suffer pain or great inconvenience. If I can’t afford the next book in a series I love when it first comes out or the library doesn’t have it, I may be frustrated or disappointed, but a toothache or heart attack makes medical help essential or I will hurt or die. A plumbing emergency can ruin a house or water supply.

  • aiyshah2014 says:

    There are many things in life I would never do for free, but I think writing is something that in my mind I have to think that I am doing it for free otherwise I wouldn’t write what I truly believe, I would think that because someone else is paying me, I would feel pressure to please them somehow. So for me, if I get some money from it, all the better.

  • Susan Scott says:

    Such an interesting post and the questions too. And the comments. I suppose there could be times when writing for free would be of value as eg as a way of becoming known and breaking into the market of paid writing. There are times when a doctor does pro deo work and perhaps a plumber or accountant may also on the odd occasion. Musicians often get asked to perform for free, or animators to run up something quickly for free. People seem to think that artistic work can be got for free because it’s not ‘real work’. Huh???

  • Dear Damyanti,

    First of all, humble apologies for my late arrival. You know how it is, the hectic life of us celebrities 🙂

    You pose some interesting questions. I come from a slightly different angle of writing and publishing. Because my writing is a therapeutic resource, I willingly offer whatever I write for free. I’m blessed to get a lot of acknowledgement even though I’ve never been a paid published author. Yes, my writing aquarium is akin to watching my words floating around in a gold fish bowl for all who wish to see it.

    I’m deeply honoured that you would bestow, The Path Through the Eye of Another by Davey Northcott, to me. Yes, my dear friend, I can relate to revolutions within and without. I’ve always appreciated your good natured banter in regards to my satirising the alphabet challenge. We both love the irony that I actually promote the darn thing!

    I’m privileged to know Mr. Swift. I shall duly check out Michelle. Thanks again, Damyanti. You are remarkable.

    In kindness and gratitude,

    Gary 🙂

  • Hemu Saini says:

    Everything which seems free is not a free deal. Some do it for money and some do it for reputation. You have many examples, who are writing for almost stories or novellas for free, but later charging the money. One of most popular cases, Paulo Coelho, is being charged with to distrubute online copies for absolute free, his publisher urged him to stop doing and to delete those illegal download links. I think you have got your answer, its your choice basically, some do it for money and some for reputation.

  • I’m new to the writing game, but I’ve had some album/concert reviews and various music-related articles posted on ezines and in local entertainment rags. I haven’t been paid for those, but those publications are free in the first place. I’ve had one short story accepted for a start-up anthology ran by a friend of mine. We haven’t talked money yet, but I’m not too concerned. I more or less volunteered for the gig.

    Over the past week I’ve actually been approached in regards to my writing (which is cockle-warming and all) for a review here, an article there, etc. My policy for the time being is that if the publication is going to be making money off my work, then I’m gonna be asking for payment. As a musician, I don’t do gigs for free anymore unless I’m performing my own original music. And even then, I’ll find a way to merchandise it and make some coin.

  • I consider fiction blogging to be writing for free. I post because I’d do it anyway and it’s a great way to connect with other writers. I hope that one day I get good enough to do it for a living, but for now I look at it as sweat equity to get better. I look at myself like a busker in the park, playing a guitar and hoping people drop dollar bills into my case. If they do, great. If they don’t, I put some good practice time in.

    I can’t begrudge surgeons and plumbers for getting paid more than we do. Anyone, really. No one’s life or comfort is at stake if I don’t write. I would write anyway. Musicians perform a service that takes years to master and they have one shot to get it right in front of an audience and knock their socks off.

    Should we give away free stories? Hell yes. My Kindle-published novel averaged 70 downloads a day during a three-day promotion. It’s sold a handful since then. Freebies will get your voice out there faster than insisting on being paid ever will.

    Should we ask to get paid? Also yes. We should work hard to earn it. Raising the bar for yourself to get better, to the point that people are coming to you because they want to read your stuff. That’s a good goal.

  • “…the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius…”

    Speaking generically, the seeds of “everything on the Internet is free” lie not in capitalism, but in its polar opposite, the flower power communism of Haight-Ashbury in the 60’s. “Diggers” were expected to work for everyone else, who then could sit on their collective (!) butts and consume without paying. “To each according to his needs…”

    Capitalism works well, despite its imperfections, providing a high standard of living for most of us. We live like kings. It works well enough, in fact, that many survived on what fell from the table, without having to work. Unfortunately, the economy has taken a downturn at the same time that the crumb-pickers have multiplied and now consider the main course, provided by the work of others, of course, to be their legacy. Free. Now to particulars:

    Writing without pay (or almost without) has always been a problem for creative people. Yes, the Internet’s vulnerability to theft had made things worse (I almost said ‘exacerbated,’ but I’m doing this comment for free, so nyah!) Now, there seems to be a sort of Gresham’s Law of prose: Bad writing drives good writing out of circulation. Without a platform, you could write a novel of the level of, say, Catcher in the Rye, and not find a publisher. Upon self-publishing (via Lulu, for example), you discover that your book is lost among the plethora (oops, dang) of self-published shiterature.

  • Thank you for the unexpected mention and gift!!! You are a great writer and that’s why I always look forward to reading your posts. I do write a few content for free, and take satisfaction in doing so. The comments from readers are worth it. I also get satisfaction when I’m paid for my work too, as I earned every cent for each letter I typed on the keyboard. There are persons (non-writers) who don’t understand my reason for working free at times, and even for writing for a living, but I tend to ignore their negative comments.

  • atempleton says:

    I have posted my novel on my blog site, so it is essentially out there for free. I’ve gotten something back in the sense that posting every Friday instilled a discipline I can now rely on, and I’ve gotten enough good feedback to now push for its publication. I’m starting my second novel (yes, I should get the first one settled, put the story’s pushing hard to get out), and the question for me is should I blog this one as well.

  • Austa Gio says:

    I think that writing for free is wonderful, so long as it’s solely the author’s choice (the same goes for all types of artists.)
    I would be rather offended if someone approached me and asked for a free story or a free painting (if the person was not family.) It takes hard work to create such things, and I’m certain that these people are aware of that fact, since, if it was easy, they could write their own stories or paint their own masterpieces for themselves. That’s why I find it offensive, because they respect your craft enough to ask for a part of it, yet not enough to offer anything in return… And unless you’re in a stable financial position, which I am not, the promise of recognition and publicity are simply not enough to convince me to work for free.

  • Deficio says:

    I write fiction that I post on my blog for free ( For two reasons, 1) to amuse my one and only; 2) in the event that I never get a novel published, at least a few perfect strangers will have read my work and there will be a record of my existence. I doubt that I’d ever be asked to write for someone else for free, and that if I were, I would (meaning I wouldn’t).

    That said, people, don’t commodify writers; pay them!

    • Damyanti says:

      Writers yearn to be read — and this is another reason why they might decide to go without payment.

      I hear you on that. And yes, to readers who like something on the written page, consider rewarding the writer.

  • fireflyin says:

    I wouldn’t write for free. It was offered to me once, and I wondered how the person managed to ask with a straight face. It’s not an internship. I’m not learning from you. It’s a job without a paycheck. So… no, it’s not even a job.
    Sorry. This topic gets me riled up. No, I don’t write for free–unless it’s a as a favor to a friend. And even then, don’t take me for granted. 🙂

    • Damyanti says:

      I can see that this topic evoked reactions in loads of writers– I applaud your attitude. I’m thinking in terms of emulating it 😉

  • Well, my surgeons friends will tell you they often work for free. As a vet, people expect me to work for free all the time. And plumbers, I’m sure, will have stories coming out of their ears! (Hairdressers, obviously, too, from the comments.)

    People always want stuff for free and everybody has their sob story and the truth is sometimes you do it gratis and other times you have to insist on being paid, and it’s a judgement call you’re bound to get wrong from time to time.

    Writing is a peculiar market because you don’t need formal qualifications and there are so many passionate hobbyists which makes it hard to gain exposure for quality work in paid markets (and a big factor driving that is the amount of rubbish writing some people are apparently prepared to put up with in order to ship copy – you’d never lower your standards that far in the case of your surgeon! but I see poorly-written and poorly-researched articles which are nevertheless good SEO on the internet all the time and the fact is they do “work” from a marketing perspective).

    • Sorry, one addition: you definitely have to weigh the non-monetary benefits. Sometimes when you do things for free you don’t get money but you get the nice feeling of having helped out/get to advertise/build PR/etc and so you do get “paid” after a sense. It’s a bit different when people are just trying to take advantage.

    • Damyanti says:

      Writing is a peculiar market because you don’t need formal qualifications and there are so many passionate hobbyists which makes it hard to gain exposure for quality work in paid markets (and a big factor driving that is the amount of rubbish writing some people are apparently prepared to put up with in order to ship copy – you’d never lower your standards that far in the case of your surgeon! but I see poorly-written and poorly-researched articles which are nevertheless good SEO on the internet all the time and the fact is they do “work” from a marketing perspective).

      You say this so well. I think part of the modern aspect of ‘free’ comes from this.

  • If you are making a living as a writer it is difficult enough without working for free. (On the other hand if you have another day job and you can only write nights and weekends then you don’t have time to write handouts!) The only times I have given away freebie stories was to get my name out and in one (the first!) case to get published. I have written science newsletters where you don’t expect to get paid and also articles for the local newspaper to promote the environment, but I’m less interested in that now. Fortunately I haven’t been asked for a year. I’m a slow writer and would like to concentrate on my own work (which I procrastinate enough about without added excuses and distractions!)

    • Damyanti says:

      I so hear you, Cinda. I’m a slow writer on some days, and having to do free work makes me upset at those times.

  • tmgibbs says:

    I write because it helps me process the world. It’s been a coping mechanism since I was a child. That being said, I write for free all the time. I have self-published some work, but it’s not about making money at all. I hope people get something positive out of my work. I also share a lot through my personal blog, so I’m pretty open access in that way.

    • Damyanti says:

      It hasn’t been about making money so far for me either. I’m just toying with the idea of changing that perspective.

  • Brennan Reid says:

    I’ve been paid to write, though I’ve yet to be paid for full-length books. Does it pay the bills? Hah. Of course not. Does it feel good to cash a small check worth a day’s work for dozens of hour of creative freedom? Yes.

    • Damyanti says:

      Does it feel good to cash a small check worth a day’s work for dozens of hour of creative freedom? Yes. Oh, yes. That.

  • At the moment while I’m still learning my craft, I write for free. Something that can be difficult when there are bills to pay, but I’m managing. I read and support other writers in the hope that when the work is good or even strong enough I will be able to support myself. But until then, I am trying to foster relationships with other authors so that I can learn from then, hopefully as much as they are learning from me. And if anyone has any hints or idea of how beginning writers/poets etc can create some sort of economic engine for their work, do drop me a line at Today, You Will Write. Thanks for the thought provoking post!

    • Damyanti says:

      I think the only paying fiction markets are for genre fiction– so I guess you could try your hand at that.

      • thanks, I am currently engaged in writing young adult fiction besides writing poetry. It has taken me a few years of submitting poetry to finally get something published and then now as I am getting a better feel for what some of the markets require, I have started to send out to paying markets as well. What I am learning from doing this and reading different novels is that publishers are looking for different things. Their writers seem to present their work with a certain slant, and like with the poems, if I can find a match between my work and one of these markets then maybe I will have a better chance.

        I see that you give away a lot of indie material on your site and I admire this. Two of my friends have recently produced this one, or at least the first did and the second is now going through the process. Their only problem comes though with marketing, there are not many bookstores here who will push self-published work. By chance do you have any idea of how it is/was done for the people you promote, or is it like this, through word of mouth and just getting the work out there.

        Thanks for the response and the interesting pieces.

  • Very good post with a very good question.

  • Reblogged this on Kentucky Mountain Girl News and commented:
    KMGN: Would you write for free?

  • liamiman says:

    In my neck of the woods, it seems that if you’re “published” you’re likely to get paid – not what you’re worth, but paid nonetheless.
    If you make the approach, you’d probably get paid for a feature article, but they won’t cough it up for a regular column. If they ask you – then you can demand your fee.

  • I have recently began writing for my local South Asian Newspaper – for free. At first it kind of bothered me as all the other columnists I share the two pages with are most definitely paid. However, I realized that they are giving me an opportunity to speak out about things which matter to me and make a difference in my local community- and that my friends is more valuable than any paycheque!

    • Damyanti says:

      Yes, sometimes we need to evaluate what we want from our writing — and I agree– nothing beats having your voice heard.

  • It’s a tough one. In an ideal world, a writer would be paid for their output just like anyone else would be for their work. However this isn’t an ideal world, and for most people it’s extremely tough to get paid anything more than a nominal amount (if anything at all) for fiction. It’s a simple matter of supply and demand – more is being written and published than every before, by more and more writers, and readers therefore have a vast choice, much of it for low or no cost. Even work by established writers from big publishers is often virtually given away for promotional purposes. Furthermore, the boom in self-publishing is largely unregulated in terms of quality, anyone can publish anything, and, so frankly, much of what’s self-published isn’t really worth paying for. And although much of it does have worth, it’s hard for the reader to find and recognise that. The dross devalues everything.

    As an unknown, self-published writer I do value my own work and would rather I was paid for at least some of it. But how do I get to that position? I can only hope that, by giving away some of my work, it at least gets read and hopefully positively reviewed. You have to be incredibly lucky to make a fortune from fiction, and for every headline-grabbing rags-to-riches story there are hundreds of other writers who bump along the bottom. Even the traditionally-published don’t usually strike it rich.

    • Damyanti says:

      You have to be incredibly lucky to make a fortune from fiction, and for every headline-grabbing rags-to-riches story there are hundreds of other writers who bump along the bottom. Even the traditionally-published don’t usually strike it rich.

      That’s the absolute harsh truth. The sad part is that some very shoddy writing earns a lot of cash based on a name alone. Publishers don’t easily invest on new names— and yes, in such a climate, to hope to earn potfuls is just not realistic.

      But the question is whether good writers deserve to make a living– and if yes, how do they go about doing that?

      Thanks for taking the time to make such a well-considered comment.

  • writingpalm says:

    Another Reader’s perspective: I don’t think only writers have this problem, As a young professional I, too have problems getting paid for what I do.
    R.J. has a point, in that you need to decide how you deal with the situation. I get asked for help often (writing, cooking, layouting, general IT stuff).
    I fdecided that people can sort of “try me out”, if they would like more of the same, we figure out a rate that’s confortable for everyone.

    • Damyanti says:

      if they would like more of the same, we figure out a rate that’s confortable for everyone.

      Good for you for insisting on that. The politics of free is too wide-ranging. If there’s a barter at least, things can work more smoothly for those looking to earn a living and have creative freedom.

  • Dalton White says:

    Your post motivated what follows. With your approval I will post it on my blog… (apologies in advance for the length of my comment)

    …Damyanti, a blogger I follow, published a piece which definitely struck sensitive sinew. Titled “Would You Write For Free”, I scanned her post and have returned to reread it. My first reaction, rhetorical question. Everything important to me has been for free. Writing is no exception.

    I will turn sixty this year and I say thank you everyday I’ve had the opportunity to write, and only write, since late 2007. Superficially, writing for free is a no brainer in my circumstance. Then comes you younger human beings who have to consider things like bills, children, careers, or combinations of those distractions.

    When I view writers’ websites and touch the enormity of their output I’m at once intimidated and hugely relieved I need no longer impose those pressures on myself. I’ve learned some things along the way, most pertinent to this discussion is slow down. Deceleration for me has proved the sole provider of words worth recording or space where stories evolve. Think geologic time.

    The irony of the Internet age remains quality suffers proportionally with output. Aside from “quaint notions like paying for anything”, the Internet offers it’s share of opportunity. Since I hail from another paradigm I remember being single and complaining the only place to meet a woman was at a bar. Never had much luck in that setting, don’t recall once agonizing over whether I should make a call the next day or not. Same as it ever was, there exists so much opportunity out there the real question spans many paradigms: why haven’t I been able to connect?

    It’s so easy to feel like a victim. Connection seems so vexing, accidental.

    I don’t have aptitude for connecting with readers or writers, let alone lover’s. Social graces? Forget about it. There are days––weeks and months––when I want to turn off the computer and turn it into rock with which I can cover the hole I’ve crawled into.

    In my defense, I keep writing, daily.

    I see pictures of my grand daughter and I’m sobered how quickly she grows. Since I live a continent away, maybe I write so someday she’ll have an idea who her grandfather was, really was. Maybe that’s payment enough.

    In addition, the free stuff is exactly these blog posts. Little snippets from the heart, could be an opinion, could be a little story, or a germ of a story. I always hope somebody out there will like what I write, even bits and pieces. I hope if I can make it entertaining enough some of them will remember something I wrote. Maybe through the blog or the website. I have faith those longer term interactions will provide motive to read something more. Maybe sometime soon I’ll have a book for sale. In the meantime, probably better to get it written than concern myself with selling it. Along the way, however, I’ll remain thrilled anytime another human being follows my blog or signs up for my email list to read free stuff.

    My motive in offering writing for free is about building connections: relationships. If I can build a relationship with a reader I receive a gift every time a human being reads something I wrote. If they remember me they might buy my book someday.

    Having an audience, even of one, is a big payout. Maybe not if the stomach’s empty but better than the heart.

  • I have my reserve on giving my fiction for free and till date, I’ve never been asked. Few stuffs I am paid for but for others, I contribute freely for the exposure as well as looking for long term benefits. But it’s also true that we need to value our work coz if we don’t nobody will.

    • Damyanti says:

      Value your work — cos no one else will.

      That’s such an important thing.

      Problem is, it takes time to develop confidence in the quality of your work.

  • Julia Lund says:

    Feeling very ‘un-talented’. No one has ever asked me to use any of my skills, free or otherwise!

    • Damyanti says:

      I’ve read your work, Julia, and you’re anything but untalented :).

      You should count yourself lucky no one has asked you to write for free yet ?

  • ccyager says:

    Ah, yes, that age old question of whether writing is a vocation or an avocation, or in your questions, paid for or free? I wrote about it here:

    What have I done in the past? I wrote ad copy for free, or “on spec,” to break into advertising copywriting. I only wrote gratis once or twice though, and I told the client up front that I expected payment the next time if they asked me to write again. This worked for me. I write my blogs for free although I have ads on my “Eyes on Life” blog (nobody clicks on them so I don’t get paid). I am now receiving payment for essays that I’m writing for Classical MPR. I think now I can insist on payment for my nonfiction going forward.

    My fiction? Well, I am earning royalties for my e-book novel. This is the first time I’ve earned anything from my fiction. I do think it’s necessary to write for lit-zines or journals for free for a while to establish creds — the more the better. There is a limited market of paying journals for literary short stories, but more paying markets for genre fiction. Most magazines don’t pay a lot, but every little bit helps. If you’re a prolific short story writer, perhaps it’s possible to send out enough short stories to earn a living income on a monthly basis. I don’t know.

    I supported myself with the ad copy jobs in conjunction with a part-time job. That’s the only time I’ve earned enough with my writing. I believe it’s necessary to build one’s writing career an d audience as one builds the earned income stream.


    • Damyanti says:

      Yes, a freelance career needs time to build, and with some skill and monumental discipline it is possible to make a living, but only just.

      I hope your ebook brings you tons of royalties!

  • As a newbie, I am writing for free. But I enjoy the process. I won’t mind it unless someone uses my writing to earn money when I am not paid anything for contributing.

    • Damyanti says:

      Yes if someone exploits you, then you definitely shouldn’t write for free — wishing you success with your writing career!

  • I write for free, though at the moment it is only for myself. If I were ‘commissioned’ to write something, I’d do it for free for my church, a charity or for a friend, but I’d expect to be paid by a business.

    Still, Robert Kiyosaki said that you have to be willing to work for free in order to be successful, so…

    • Damyanti says:

      I agree– I would write for free for a cause, or I would write for my own pleasure–the more I look at the effort that goes into each story, the more I think I need to start exploring paying markets.

      I’m not looking to get rich, but some compensation would be nice.

  • murmoor says:

    Yea, the asking people are weird. And stupid. Like my boss. She thinks some encoders code programs for free, wordpress is completely free with full service. She thinks there exist e-mailing programs where you can use 20k contacts and send them your newsletter for free, because someone is running servers for her completely for free. There are copywriters writing our PR articles and publishing them at PR websites for free.. Some people UNFORTUNATELY stil believe everything what looks ‘free’, works for free. And the most terrible case in this situation is when your friend is asking. Or an acquaintance.. or ex.. or friend of your friend.. It’s silly, because they mentally force you to feel like an idiot, if you will refuse, because they are friends of course!

    • Damyanti says:

      I hear you. Everything that’s free comes with a hidden cost. We’re increasingly sacrificing our privacy for free services.

  • Traque Lyfe says:

    I have never fathomed the thought that someone would ask a writer to write for free. I have written for free before, but that was because I wanted to. When I was in college I use to write for Readers Digest and they paid a college wage at the time lol, not much, but I was happy just getting my writings out there. Now that I on plan making this some what of a career I would like to be compensated for it. But I think I yearn of leaving a legacy more. I am new to blogging and I’m pretty much writing for free here sooo….I guess to answer your question, I am writing for free.

    • Damyanti says:

      We mostly write on our own blogs for free– but to what extent a writer should give away for free is the question here.

      The boundaries are different for different people, which is as it should be.

  • danihadaway says:

    After college, one of my creative writing buddies asked me if she could publish one of my short stories in our college’s literary magazine (I don’t recall the magazine title). I was so excited to finally be “published” that I didn’t even care that it was for free. Nowadays, I feel awkward saying that I’m a published writer, like I’ve won some contest without the prize or medal since I wasn’t paid. I feel personally for me like it didn’t count. Now, having said that, I know for a fact if I hadn’t rushed off to grab my laptop and email my friend the top three short stories listed in my documents I’d be kicking myself in the face right now. Sometimes I think writers need to give their work away at the beginning in order to get their name out there. Just knowing that someone is actually reading my work is payment in itself.

  • As a storyteller (vocal tradition) I sometimes get people expecting me to perform for free and often at reduced rates. It’s important to be flexible of course but it’s equally important for me to have principles and not set my standards too low, otherwise I undersell myself and other storytellers in the process. Storytelling is a skill and not everyone can speak in public with confidence and relevance to their audience, therefore storytelling by a professional deserves to be paid. Equally writing may be undervalued too. It’s tricky because there are so many people having a go at writing nowadays and not all may be of a high standard, but generally I would think a writer too deserves to be paid. The only exception I have made with that is when having a story published was good for exposure after having a break from writing. So I have been both paid for my (fiction) writing and have had unpaid work published too.

  • As a reader, it never occurred to me that the author of the story I am enjoying may not have been paid. I just naturally assumed that if it was published in a book or magazine that the author received compensation and that if I am enjoying it on a blog that the author has advertisers that help with compensation. This was an eye opening post.

  • Ana. K says:

    I do think that writers should be paid for their work, however it’s not easy to be paid when many paying publications do seek writers that have some type of publishing history behind them – the Catch 22. Over the last few years I’ve noticed that while many of the major publications of fiction (for example) will opt for writers who are known or commission work from household names, and it is difficult to get that foot in the door. So at the moment I’m writing for free to accumulate a writing CV and am also considering publishing a lit journal as well, in a strange way to help other writers. A few years ago I was paying writers for their work, a token amount, as much as I could afford, as I was working full-time and could afford to do that, but after being made redundant and having to return to further study, it has been difficult to do that, but that difficulty -the way I see it- shouldn’t annihilate a goal to write or publish. That being said, I wouldn’t plan – if I published other work online – not to pay in the long term. At some point there would have to be some change, but I also notice that there are sites that do earn money from advertising or sell their magazines through Amazon, iTunes, etc and they still don’t pay their authors. What can be said about that? It’s disappointing.

  • R. J. Nello says:

    I am new at authoring, and haven’t worked “for free” since a university internship…. uh, longer ago than I care to remember. My view overall is everyone needs to eat. If you choose to self-publish, you therefore must choose to see yourself as suddenly “self-employed” and behave accordingly.

    In any new venture you have to make money eventually from your product or ultimately you go out of business. Or it becomes a hobby. Everyone’s life position is different of course, but I don’t think anyone should take on writing based on an assumption you will earn gazillions and sell bazillions of books in the near future. However, I do think if you produce a good product and treat authoring as a career, there is a chance down the road that you will see some money for your efforts.

    Writing for charity is fine, but I wouldn’t generally “write for free” …. for someone else to earn the money. I write for myself and think that the effort I have put into what I do (months of work) warrants some payment – if someone wants to pay. Just like a plumber.

  • suecoletta says:

    This exact thing used to happen to me when I owned and operated a hair salon. Everyone just wanted “a quick trim” for nothing. To answer your question: No. I would not write for free, if asked. Yes, it is a passion. But, unlike some people think, I do not write as a “hobby”. I need to write, but that doesn’t mean I need to give it away. Although I’m not surprised people would ask. I would have to just politely decline. That said, I do write short stories for my blog, so I guess that’s giving it away.

  • Cee Jay says:

    As a musician, I often get asked to play for friends and families weddings. Nice for them, a free service, but it means I miss actually being ‘present’, I don’t get to see the bride walk in, and often depending on the positing of the instrument, sometimes see nothing of the service either. So I can empathise with people being asked to write for free.

    • Cee Jay – this is even worse really: you’re working while your friends are partying. It would be nice if there was a “back-up” musician friend (or paid entertainer) so that you could enjoy part of the festivities. People really DO appreciate the musicians though – you are contributing to making a occasion memorable.

  • Some interesting conversation going on here.
    I haven’t really thought about the remuneration aspect.
    However here’s something interesting.
    I was invited to submit a proposal to start and manage a writing club, at the high school where I teach English part-time. This will be in line with the introduction of an Accelerated Learning Programme at the institution. Since it’s more-or-less carte blanche, as a medium term goal, I plan to introduce a writing blog for the club.
    Looking long term, I plan to take this idea to one or two other schools in the vicinity and then link the schools.
    (The idea is still a work-in-progress… but the initial proposal has already been submitted…)
    This will mean the negotiation of a new and improved salary. 🙂
    Not really compensation for writing per se…? But the spin off from such a project is priceless. Who knows where this could lead?

  • Gargi Mehra says:

    Great question, Damyanti! I’ve been pondering this question of late myself, without reaching a conclusion. I’ve had a few short story publications, and for all but one I’ve managed to get paid, even if small token amounts. A friend inspired me to aim for the paying markets, and I did so. What I find is that this is a fairly time-consuming process, because most literary mags take more than 3 months to respond, and at the end of all that time it may lead to a rejection.

    Seth Godin says that when you’re building a portfolio you should do free stuff readily. But I agree with what you’ve written in a comment – But where does the giving away stop and the earning begin? I’m not sure of the answer at all, but I hope to some day!

    And Damyanti, with 20k followers, you should write a novel! With those numbers I think you will snap up an agent easily!

  • Dave says:

    I think I see it like an internship?

    As in, you receive no (or very little) pay while you are learning the ropes, understanding the whys and whynots, and developing your craft, finding some readers and gaining exposure. Then, when you truly know what you are doing you’re more able to charge a wage or fee; and the greater your ability the higher the fee.

    But, even then in that fictionally-heady scenario, there would still be occasions when I would offer something for free, particularly to help out someone or a publication who would be seeking the exposure I craved as an intern, and if I were more of a “name” could then help them.

    For now, I try and get paid, but am happy to let something be used for free if I like the person/publication, and/or if I think it will help me regarding exposure or in better understanding my craft.

  • uniqusatya says:

    Well fair enough for a prose writers to question that.
    I doubt if we can compare blogging to freelance writing.
    Anyways for poets,its a dreaded dream …heres a statistical survey report 🙁

  • I’m pretty new to writing but so far my one and only published story has been for free. So I can’t really answer the question, even though the subject is VERY interesting. The magazine were I was published said that part of its revenues will be given to the authors at the end of the year (it’s just started you see).
    I believe a writer should get paid for work that he himself deems it’s worth paying for. It goes without saying that the work has to be worth paying for, no matter how subjective that is 🙂
    On the other hand, those of us who write because we like it (be it blogging or short stories/novels or non fiction) by default we write knowing very well that only a part of what we write will get paid. Otherwise we would have to pay to read our favourite authors’ websites, bloggers, news etc. I think that would cause anyone who writes to end up with no readers or very few at best.
    Some work needs to be paid for and some work needs to be seen as a way to make ourselves more open to the public.

  • I write non fiction for free all the time. I am a mindfulness coach and nutritional therapist and have columns in several magazines. It used to be a trade off, I would write and get free publicity and subscriptions but most places no longer give free subscriptions because of ‘the climate.’ I have never actually tried to sell anything, I am approached frequently. Somebody, somewhere must be making money if magazines are selling. I am new to fiction and at the moment write for the love of it.

  • wraxdec says:

    I think writers should be paid for their work but, of course, my blogs are written for free – and for fun. My Indie book, ‘BLACK STOCKINGS, WHITE VEIL -A TALE OF ADVERSITY,TRIUMPH AND ROMANCE’ ( which, incidentally, was A Finalist in the 2009 Indie Book Awards) has been selling well, and, of course, people are buying it. I was also one of three Editors for An Anthology from my writing group called, our Women’s Work, which has recently been named a Finalist in the Indie Book Awards Womens’ Issues section – this, of course, is also for sale, though none of the contributors were paid. We paid A$500-00 upfront for food and the first drink and sold enough books at our launch to cover costs and make a modest profit.
    I also write poetry & have had it published in small poetry magazines, without payment- most are struggling to survive. As my skills increase I’ll enter Competitions, which do pay should one be lucky enough to achieve a win. It seems that writers seldom earn enough to survive on that income – unless one has a Best Seller.

  • neelkanth says:

    I believe in sharing but so far as writing free is concerned I am not for it without any incentive.

  • Damyanti, you are right. I’m tired of this thing in my freelance work. Why? Don’t I need to pay my bills?


  • maximusaurus says:

    I DO write for free, as a volunteer for the NGO I work for, supporting people with autism.

  • I think it depends on what you really want in return. Sometimes I write for free for friends because they want something on their site, most of the times I get paid for it. Getting paid for it also gives you an internal boost that can help you perform better. I think that way.

  • eduzmi says:

    Your piece is quite thought-provoking. I make a living out of writing web content and academic papers but am yet to earn a cent from fiction per se. First, I’ve just started doing fiction, so I don’t have much experience. I mostly write short stories and am yet to publish a book. Second, I hven’t found a ready market for my fictiction stories, so I just write for fun. Nonetheless, I hope to earn from it once am able to publish.

  • I’ve never been asked to write for free. I’m not that famous, yet. If asked, however, I would carefully weigh the use of my time against the exposure I would receive. If I felt it would benefit me – even for ‘free’ – then yes, I would write for free.
    Second, I have written for free. I wrote three tutorials to accompany my MathTools software which is open-source, hence free. That is my passion and my payback (or pay-forward) for all the mileage I’ve gotten out of open-source software in the past. If my software ever takes off and becomes popular I’ll write a HUGE reference guide (think yellow and black cover for those old enough to remember those books) and charge for it but my software and tutorials are and always will be free.
    Third, and the reason i opened this comment, was to say that people don’t only expect computer geeks to write code for free. I know from personal and secondhand experience that people are absolutely HORRIBLE to tech support. They expect the poor tech to give up nights or weekends to spend hours working on their computer so they can check ebay or do spacebook. Then, after those hours of work they are absolutely insulted if the tech expects payment.
    This phenomenon is universal! If, say, an accountant asked a tech for a free fix-up and that tech spent eight to ten hours working on it not only would the alleged professional not want to pay, but if the tech suggested the accountant do his taxes for free… That response would register on the Richter scale!
    It boils down to this: That which has no cost has no value. I don’t know who said that originally so I can’t cite it but I can attest to its veracity! As a writer the question to ask yourself is this: “What is my time worth?” If it’s worth it to you, personally, to write for free by all means do so. If, however, writing puts food on the table or power to the computer… Food and electricity aren’t free so neither should be your writing!

  • Just going by the number of comments you have generated by this post shows that the issue of payment for writing riles everyone. I am a new blogger with no published work but I have dealt with writers on a daily-basis when I worked in television production. If I were to sum up what I have learnt then –
    1. For a person willing to pay there are too many writers going around. A client looking for a non-fiction/fiction writer is like a princess who has to kiss many frogs before landing the prince. If you think the client likes your work, ask to be paid. You will get the money. Everyone likes it free, the trick is to not give it free.
    2. A writer’s work does not generate ROI. You cannot turn around and tell anyone – See you got so much money because of me, especially if you writing non-fiction for companies. But that is their problem so ask for money.
    3. If you do not write for a person/company because there is no money in it, someone else will. There is no Guild where writers can unite.

    If I were a full-time writer like many of you here, will I write for free? No. If it does not pay the client, whoever he/she be (with artistic/non-artistic temperament) does not believe in you. And, that I think should be most important for a writer.

  • Bob says:

    Being creative? Like you said about fiction V.S. non-fiction. The question is personal. Are you going to be true to yourself and be creative in hopes of making a living at it or are you going to make a living at it? To be or not to be, and at what price are you willing to pay before others are willing to pay.? I do not have an answer, I just keep trying.

  • Capt Jill says:

    I’ve never been paid (yet) for anything I’ve written. I wrote a couple of articles for the Womens Maritime Association newsletter. I recently got an article about what it’s like to fly to work in a helicopter in the Maritime Executive magazine. I wrote about it on my blog too. I write a lot for my blog. I’m doing as much as I can for ‘exposure’. I DO hope that eventually (soon) I will be able to earn something for my efforts. 🙂

  • Nima Das says:

    Most people i know write for the sheer pleasure of writing,like a passion thing that you mentioned(plants,garden and fish)But i suppose if your writing is appreciated so much that you can demand a price for it, then go ahead and sell your work ,what is wrong in that? Its all about marketing your talent i guess.

    • Damyanti says:

      Hm. Marketing your talent– I guess that’s part of the story– some would say, the crux of the story. I’m good at marketing others, but I guess I suck at marketing myself. 🙂

  • Reblogged this on The Icognito Writer and commented:
    I would, maybe, sometimes.

  • Thought provoking as always! Two thoughts. 1. As performers, my partner and I get asked to perform for free. Sometimes we do so as community service, barter (which isn’t exactly for free), and so forth, but we carefully assess each request. When people say ‘it is good exposure’ we try to remember the adage “artists (and writers) can die of exposure.” 2. Always balancing the conundrum: To be publishable you need to be published. So I do certain writing (non-fic) to bolster the resume. My blog is for free, much of my radio commentary, my journal articles, etc. Tis a balancing act, it is! But my creative writing is for my storytelling biz and is not something I give away – I need to it to put food on the table (but if a publisher wants to pay me…. 🙂

    • Damyanti says:

      Thank you for your thoughts– they do coincide a fair bit with mine– and quite a few of the commenters here. These discussions are why I write my blog 🙂

  • misfit120 says:

    2009……that’s how long I’ve been writing my daily humor blog. I always post a “donate” link in the hope that someone, anyone, appreciates my efforts to bring some humor into their lives. Donations in 5 years….2. I’ve accepted that everyone wants something for nothing. So when I write, I basically write for a sense of accomplishment. But…..that said….I keep posting my donate link. Just like I play the lottery.

    • Damyanti says:

      Lol– I wish I wrote a blog well enough to post donate links– I mostly provide a forum for folks to get together and enjoy the interaction. I guess that’s payment enough for me :).

      I do get offers from companies to sponsor ads on my blog– I’ve refused dozens of them so far– because I think my readers shouldn’t have to worry about being bombarded by ads when they visit this space.

  • I have written short stories for free. I’m also a social worker and before finishing school, I did years of volunteer work for my resume. I also worked for 24 hours for free at the job I do now. I guess you could think of it as resume building.

    • Damyanti says:

      Resume building is part of the culture of free. But where does the giving away stop and the earning begin?

      But on the other hand, I’m getting a variety of perspectives here– and I think that’s paying for the time I spent writing this post in full. 🙂 So I guess it also depends on the payment we’re looking for, which is not always seen in terms of money.

  • kearnsarah says:

    Ive never been paid for any of my fiction work. Anything Ive submitted anywhere has been for literary magazines and things of that nature. I’m no professional and I’m nut even sure if I have the capacity to be, so for now, I give my work willingly to anyone who will read it! For me, its more important to get my stories out there and see if any of them are worth pursuing. Hopefully someone someday will pay for the things I write, but until then, I’m willing to write for anyone willing to read! Its a nice exchange, and a lot of times, the reader has something to share with me. Perhaps that counts as a payment of sorts, an exchange of stories. Wish I could make a living off that!

    • Damyanti says:

      We all wish for a living like that– but I guess, as others here have pointed out before, reading and writing fiction are things folks can do without, unlike medical care or legal services.

      So the demand is lower. Add to that that the supply of writers like you and me outstrip demand, and you get why stories don’t get paid for, much.

      • kearnsarah says:

        It’s a shame the demand is so low. But I’m glad I found this blog site. It gives writers an opportunity to approach paid writing in a trading sense of payment. I get the privilege to read your posts and share with you mine! It may not be paying the bills, but its surely an enjoyable exchange! Thanks for asking that question, it really got me thinking, and appreciating these blogs!

        • Damyanti says:

          I think what we as writers fail to do is talk to our readers– blogging becomes a cliquish thing at best, where writers just nod at everything everyone else has to say.

          I try and visit a variety of bloggers with different interests, so that I get perspectives not just of writers, but readers as well.

  • Diana says:

    For me, it very much depends on whether or not who/what I’m writing for is going to make money from what I’d contribute.

  • jeanryan1 says:

    Oh my yes, I write for free, both non-fiction and literary short fiction. A publisher’s acceptance, maybe a contributor’s copy, is what constitutes compensation these days. I also post essays on my blog, and though I spend much time researching and composing these essays, I am not paid for them. I do receive an occasional like or comment, for which I am disproportionately grateful. Here’s a post I wrote the subject. Thank you for providing this forum.

    • Damyanti says:

      Jean, Thank you so much for the link. I agree– for literary short story, publication and a contributor’s copy is all the compensation a writer can hope for. I’ve often been paid a token sum as well, most of which I’ve either given to charity, or exchanged the payment for contributor copies.

      • jeanryan1 says:

        Hello again,

        As always, I am enjoying your posts and consider you a go-to source for writing advice. My question is, do you think there’s a market for collections of essays that were originally published on a blog? My short nature essays seem more substantial than most blog posts, and I have been considering removing them from my blog and putting them in a single manuscript for submission to a publisher. Most publishers I’ve researched do not accept previously published
        material, even blog posts. Any guidance would be appreciated.
        Thank you.

  • I write for free always but I would probably never write anything someone asked me to write because I only do what I want. I also don’t care about how much money anyone makes for anything, except the obscene amounts they pay executives and the opposite obscene amounts they pay teachers.

  • I write for free on my own blog and the blog I share with my husband, and will continue to do so. I’ve also written for another big blog that was not my own. I won’t do that again without being paid. When you write for someone else, ultimately you give up a level of control. There is VALUE in control, and that value should merit a dollar price. Don’t give away your writing to someone else, unless you’re also willing to give away control.

    • Damyanti says:

      This is why I love blogging– because commenters come up with interesting perspectives all the time– I hadn’t really considered the issue of Control. But now that I think of it, that’s been the reason I’ve refused publication of my stories a few times– because the publishers wanted to do stuff with the story I didn’t want done– like abridge it, publish in a text book, and not let me retain the right to publish it in my own collection.

  • I’ve imagined that I’d write something compelling enough to be paid for it, but, so far, that idea is just as fantastical as my stories. I’m too much of a novice in the writing world, I suppose, to expect payment for services rendered. Why? Because I’d just be thrilled to have someone say, “I’d like to publish that.” It’s a naive and quaint way to look at it, but, at the same time, I publish my own writing for free every time I post a blog entry. I do this because my blog is primarily for poetry, and I’ve always thought that there’s no money in poetry anyway. If a poetry or lit magazine or journal or some such contacted me and asked to publish one of my poems, I’d probably do it just to get my name out there. I guess I’d have second thoughts on a short story, but I’m still testing the market, finding my voice, and gauging my audience. Who knows?

    • Damyanti says:

      Absolutely understand where you’re coming from. I’m only beginning to explore the monetary side of fiction writing, myself. And that when I have a bunch of published stories already.

      • I read several of the previous comments, and I agree that the Internet has produced so much really polished, compelling amateur short fiction that publishers don’t seem to have a need for it. I have a great deal of respect for writers, like you, who can produce quality literary non-fiction. It seems to me that even the best of that group have to produce long form works to grab the public’s attention and make any real money.

  • HemmingPlay says:

    The problem for those who could make a living is that the internet has flooded the market with way more people who are willing to write for free than there are those who could/should be paid. The customer is used to getting everything for free, and there’s no economic incentive to change that. Bad money drives out good. I think we’d need to invent something like the old medieval guild system and charge admission. That’s the only way to control quality, and increasing quality will eventually drive up the prices customers will be willing to pay.

    • Damyanti says:

      I wish there were such a guild– I wish writers of the world could unite, like some TV writers have done in the past.

  • I’m a photographer and have to put up with this, too. This is never about publicity for me; it’s always about free work for them. I shot a few weddings for very little money to build up my portfolio and never got paid work from any of them; I’ve barely gotten a thank you. I still donate my services to non-profits occasionally, but if someone has a budget and wants me to work for them they can pay me.

  • I’ve wondered the same thing. Why do some people expect writers to work for free while teachers or lawyers are never expected to?

    • Damyanti says:

      Teachers work a lot, for free,– if they didn’t our education system would come crumbling down. All the teachers I know do tons of stuff after hours 🙁

      • They do but for the most part, teachers still get paid for some of their work. Also I feel that a lot of people value teachers more than writers. On the other hand, many writers work just as hard if not harder and they do stuff for free, especially if they aren’t well-known or famous.

        I’m most annoyed because I constantly hear that teachers make more money than writers. 🙁

        • Damyanti says:

          🙂 I don’t know if most of the people who join the fiction writing profession do so for money– it is almost always a passion, and any money is bonus. Which is why publishers and retailers have it so good 🙂

  • LAMarcom says:

    “Do you think an author should give away free stories like musicians give away free music?”

    I’ll let Joni answer that one. Cheers,

  • Amaya Ells says:

    I share my own writing for free, but I’ve never written for someone else and had it given away for free. Then again I only write for fun, I have another career in the works (university studying currently) that has very little to do with my creative writing. I don’t wish to pursue my creative writing as a career, only as a hobby.

  • aizacksora says:

    i think it all depend on you.Whether you want to be paid or not.But most important thing is we love writing and nothing can stop us,right?

  • I charge $1.00 a word, so you now owe me $8.00 . . . by the hour my rate is $40, so you now owe me $4.00 more . . . I type slow! 🙂

    • LAMarcom says:

      Laughing out loud!
      Love it!

    • Damyanti says:

      Lol, your check shall be in the mail, soon. Stuff I hear from some editors ( when the check never shows up)! 😀

      • On the serious side, there is the barter of the content and the exposure. In a very real way writers acquire advertising. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, if it works. From what I’ve seen though, it seldom works.

  • It is an interesting question you bring up, “Why…is there a stereotype of a starving artist or writer…?” It is a stereotype that feeds on itself. People assume, if you become an artist or writer, you know you are going to be poor so you deserve low pay. People don’t pay so artists stay poor. I work for a surgeon. I would never tell him or anyone else at my 9-5 that I have a poetry blog. They are the type of people who drive the stereotypes.

  • Dan Antion says:

    I haven’t ever been asked to write fiction or non-fiction for free, but I’ve been asked to write computer code for free. I’ve also been asked to make furniture and to perform household renovations for free. I even had one man say “I know how much you enjoy woodworking so I thought I’d have you make this instead of buying it” without any mention about the cost of the materials. My daughter has been asked to take photographs for free and I have a friend who has been asked to produce video for free.

    I’m not sure what it is about people that make them feel that creative activities can be requested for free but I think it’s a common thing. Good question.

    • Damyanti says:

      As long as there is some kind of exchange, or barter system, I can understand if people ask for free help in creative fields– but not when there is no exchange at all.

  • april4june6 says:

    Actually I haven’t been payed very often for writing untlil now: or let’s say that the occasions on which I have been payed are not very numerous. But this is also because other people have been doing things for me, for free. This has allowed me to construct something that I know feel ready to share. Should this continue? I hope not, although I value a lot the importance of a gift. To use an example, is it not a gift to help a child grow? In both directions. But then when this child has grown, things change. There are many ways to get payed, and probably all are necessary at some point and in different temporalities;

    • Damyanti says:

      To use an example, is it not a gift to help a child grow? In both directions. But then when this child has grown, things change. There are many ways to get payed, and probably all are necessary at some point and in different temporalities;

      That’s an interesting perspective.
      I agree that writers need to grow and the stuff they produce at the beginnings of their writing careers is often not top quality– so it is perhaps still ok to not get paid for a while.

      But if you see the article I’ve quoted, the author is one of the top journalists and still gets offers to work for free.

  • HemmingPlay says:

    Most of the comments here contain a variation of ‘I do it because I must’. No buyer of anything is going to turn down ‘free’. What’s that old saying about buying cows when the milk is free?

    This business model depends on us being easy. The question is what would change the equation? Supply and demand?

  • Andrew says:

    Well, I don’t think musicians should give away music for free, either. I think the expectation that entertainers should do it for free is wrong.

  • mgm75 says:

    I am a freelance writer and I get asked all the time to write free stuff (usually with the “if I like your work I will hire you”). If that’s the case I make it clear that if they use it I will expect payment. If they are not willing to pay in retrospect then they are not permitted to use it.

    It is easy to file a DMCA to get work taken down from Google – i have used it and not afraid to do so again.

  • I write for free. For most bloggers, it remains a non-paying activity. I don’t mind it.

  • I would say writing for free is indeed very good promotion. Say blogging for instance – if you accumulate many followers and have people who enjoy your work, that is good promotion. It gets your name out there and you are recognised as such as having a certain ‘writing talent’. If you were to insist on getting paid by other outlets or companies for your writing, then you can use this (and any other instances where you have had stuff published for free) to a massive good advantage.

    It’s all about getting your name out there. If you’re recognised as good publication material and have a following, then some companies would be a lot more willing and compliant to pay you for it!

    • Damyanti says:

      I have about 20,000 followers on my blog– don’t know if it has helped me get any work as a writer. i blog because I get to interact with so many cool folks, and because they teach me so much.

      If I were looking to publish a non-fic book, I guess a platform would be nice– but not so sure about fiction.

  • aliabbasali says:

    I frequently write fiction that no one reads, so asking for money is a long way off. Some blessed souls paid real cash money legal tender for my books though.

    • Damyanti says:

      I don’t have a wide readership either, and so far, have been pretty content to just keep writing my fiction without pay.

      • LAMarcom says:

        Well, yes. I concur.
        I write too, but it is non-fiction so somebody gonna get paid, just as soon as they stop suing me and then they will have the happy challenge of getting blood out of a turnip.

  • Beth Dahleen says:

    Great topic. Journalist writers are very taken advantage of these days. A dime a dozen. Published and re-published in other areas with little to no profit going to the actual writers. I guess because we are all writing for free online or willing to do so for pennies because we love it. Supply and demand maybe? 🙁

  • clarissa415 says:

    I write for free because I love to write, but I had a full-time job before retiring and that took away from my writing time. Pretty sure that was unwise. People will pay doctors and plumbers because they cannot perceive living without them, but unless one is a writer or devoted reader, people must feel they can live without reading. I cannot do that. I cannot understand it. People need to eat, maintain a house, drive, watch cable TV (I guess) so they will pay whatever price is asked. Most people feel they do not have to read so writers are often not paid. Sigh……

    • Damyanti says:

      “Most people feel they do not have to read so writers are often not paid.”
      I think that’s the crux of it.
      A lot of people want to write, and produce a huge body of writing. There aren’t enough people who read, or consume this writing. Some of my friends tell me books help them sleep , so they keep one by the bedside, and sometimes finish one book in 2 months.

  • toconnell88 says:

    I’ve exclusively written for free — not by choice; that’s simply the reality of the game. Thus far I’m okay with it. I’m building a portfolio, so view it as the necessary evil required to gain exposure. It certainly isn’t fair, though. Some of these stories have hundreds of hours of labour invested in them. Art is just so undervalued…

    • Damyanti says:

      Yes, building a portfolio is another thing we’re told we’ve got to do before we get any ‘real’ work. But sometimes that leaves me doubtful– when does this probation period end? I’ve written loads of published stories for free– I’m wondering when it will achieve the dignity of being paid for, if ever :). The amount I’ve so far earned through fiction writing has barely paid for the amount I’ve spent learning the craft.

  • rod says:

    I have not written for free for anyone other than myself.
    I have written quite a lot I have made no attempt to sell.
    In my very limited experience, giving writing away for free
    is not an effective method of promoting work.
    In this context, real freedom is not having to make money from your writing,
    however encouraging it is when you succeed.

    • Damyanti says:

      “real freedom is not having to make money from your writing.” I guess I have that, and I’m so privileged and grateful to have it.

  • Some excellent blogs to feature!
    I’ve contributed to three anthologies for free and two were for charity.
    There are markets out there. Milo James Fowler has made a career out of selling short stories.
    Should people give away a free story for promotion? If it leads into a larger body of work, I can see why an author would do that. But after all the effort to create it, I don’t think that’s something I would want to do.

    • Damyanti says:

      I have to look up Milo James Fowler– could be an inspiration to many of us.

      I understand people who give away their first book for free with their new book in a series for a limited period (or even forever) — that;s like the 40 % teaser from a book on Amazon. I’m just wondering what can be done to help more people think about paying/ paying more for the books they read?

  • writergurlny says:

    I would love to be paid for my writing, but it’s not happening right now. So I write because I love to and I need to. One day, hopefully. someone will pay for my writing.

  • Yeah, I am paid to write in my daily life, so the things I write for fun I write for free because, well, they are fun. However, I think this is a huge dilemma that we as writers somehow need to wrestle to the ground. And I’m not sure how to do that. You have some wonderful thought starters here.


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