Write for Free? I’d Like to Decide That for Myself, Thank You.

UPDATE: I’m pleased to report that the article that was republished without my consent has now been removed from the offending website.

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Before I turned my attention to novels, I had a fairly successful freelance gig writing for magazines. I wrote short fiction and some pretty personal non-fiction, which I sent out for sale. At times, I was also commissioned to write feature articles on predetermined topics. Things were kind of sweet…until hard times hit the magazine industry and the work slowed to a bare trickle.

I remember receiving an email one day from a regular client. It read, We value your work but due to the current downturn, we are unable to continue to pay for it. Saying that, we hope you continue to submit to us because of the valuable exposure it will give you. Or something along those lines.

Exposure. Like none of my previous paid work did that? Like anything I now write for free will suddenly put my name up in lights?

Um, thanks but no thanks.

That was a number of years ago and I haven’t submitted to them since. I haven’t given them much thought either. Until today, when I found out they have published my work on their website:

  • Without my consent. No one approached me to ask for permission.
  • Without rights. They only ever had the right to publish the piece in question once, in one print edition of their magazine. Which they did, like I said, years ago.
  • Without any further monetary payment to me. Not a cent. Yet they are using their website as a means to make money, through advertising revenue.

Now there are times when I write for free, for example, for blog posts (like this one); in emails, tweets, Facebook and Instagram posts; for non-profits and charity events; in diary entries, love letters…you get my drift. Writing that I don’t intend to make money from.

But if my writing will be used by someone to help make money for them, I expect to be paid for it – Okay, I know social media sites make money from ads but I use their platforms to make friends, build community, etcetera, so I see them as providing something to me in return.

What I’m trying to say is that if a magazine or other publisher wants to use what you have written to help them make money, they SHOULD pay you for the right to use it. And if you do sell them the right to use your work, they should only do what that right specifically says they are entitled to do.

If we, as writers, don’t expect to be treated as professionals, no one else will see us as professionals. Treat yourself as one, and don’t let others treat you as anything less.

As for the piece that’s been republished without my permission, I’ve sent the company a kind but firm request to remove it from their website.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Rebecca

Do you write for free, and have you ever regretted it?

Has your work ever been used without your consent, and did you do anything about it?

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