Friday, May 25, 2012

Us Writers Deserve To Get Paid

My recent experiences with trying to build up The Prancing Laggard Pub have caused me to butt up against a long-standing frustration I've had with the online writing business. You see, my main goal for the publication is to pay my writers a living wage.

"Oh, that's so noble of you," you might say to yourself as you clasp your hands and flutter your eyelashes, with or without a heavy dose of sarcasm.

No, it's not noble of me. If I was in the habit of cursing online, I'd do it here, but as I try not to do that too much I'll just say this - it's freaking my duty as a person in this industry to make sure that people get paid what their work is worth.

Now, my writer friends, repeat after me:

"I deserve to get paid a living wage!"

"I deserve not to have to resort to getting paid $2 an hour!"

Feels good, doesn't it?

Here's the issue: the internet is all about free information, and I think that's a good thing. At any time of day or night, I can instantly find out how many Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes there are, or what color an amoeba is. People happily write about a lot of these things for free, with absolutely no desire for compensation, and that's cool. I appreciate their efforts.

On the other hand, when it comes to entertainment, there are a lot of people who would like to be paid for the time, effort, and especially skill that goes into their creations. Sure, entertainers often don't create "tangible" things, like a car you can drive or a frozen dinner you can microwave, but that doesn't mean they don't provide value. Entertainers have always been paid for what they do. Troubadours received coins in their lute cases. Peasants and aristocrats alike bought tickets to watch Shakespeare's plays. And we all know it takes more than happy wishes to fund organizations like the RIAA.

It's where entertainment meets the Internet that things start to get tricky. Artists like Louis C.K. and Aziz Ansari have come up with some interesting business models by funding their work themselves and selling it directly to eager fans online. For the rest of us, especially those who deal with online publications, the sale of ad space is what provides us with the funds that allow us to keep bringing you the delicious escapism you desire, instead of having to go out and dedicate all of our time to "real jobs."

Readers are still "paying" to consume our content. They're just doing so in a roundabout way. They're suffering the annoyance of increasingly aggressive ad delivery systems in order to get to the tasty, humorous content filling of the sites they visit.

But like with tolls on the freeway, one has to wonder - isn't there something better we can do so that the people we want to serve don't have to put up with this eternal thorn in the side? Isn't there a way that we can have a more honest relationship with our readers?

Isn't there a way we can say "Hey, guys, I love bringing you fun and entertaining stuff every day! And I'm glad you're enjoying it! Just so you know, it's taken me a long time to get this good, I put a lot of hours into my work, and I need to make a living."

I'm not sure yet what the answer is to this conundrum, but I'm working on it. In the meantime, see if you can find new ways to support your favorite writers today. And writers - remember that your work provides value to the world. Give your best quality, and believe that you should be rewarded for it. It's just plain weird that in this so-called "Information Age," the people whose job it is to convey information are less valued than they have been at any other time during history, and it's something that needs to be resolved.
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