This week: Getting Published Isn't EverythingEdited by: Kittiara
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Many writers would love to get published. Sadly, some companies take advantage of this. Be careful out there.
This week's Drama Newsletter is all about what to avoid when you seek a platform for your writing.
Once upon a time, in my early days as a writer, I picked up a leaflet at my local library. It was for a poetry competition. The winning poems would become a part of an anthology and that appealed to me – if I managed to make it through the judging process, I’d be a published poet! Right? Well, sort of...
I did make it through. Imagine my joy when I received the letter! Except, if you wanted a copy of the anthology you’d have to pay a not insignificant amount of money for it. And whilst this was during a time I didn’t have the Internet as I was between country and house moves, once I did get online I discovered that the company behind the competition had figured out that there were many naive poets just like me, overly keen to get published, so they’d basically publish anything whilst counting on a good percentage of newly “published poets” to hand over a nice amount of cash to see their name in print.
Looking back at that poem, it genuinely was terrible. There’s no two ways about it. To add to my embarrassment, before I realised what was what I’d told my old high school English teacher about my success, and he’d asked for the poem, and yeah...
That company was dodgy, but there are many others who will make use of the same eagerness writers can feel to get their work out there. Some are well-established newspapers. They’ll offer writers a platform to get their name out there, and people will go for it because you never know. You never know who might see your writing. You never know if big opportunities are waiting around the corner. What it comes down to, though, is that you end up working for free whilst the company makes good money out of you. And you still have the deadlines and the pressure that paid writers experience.
Then there are those who do pay some money for your pieces, but you lose editorial control over your work. I’ve been there and done that, writing political comment for a big publication. It was an interesting experience, but an annoying one, too. Once I had submitted my item I’d be told whether or not it would go out. Then they’d edit it and sometimes it’d turn into a terrible read, sometimes my points would get twisted, sometimes evidence I’d included to support my case would be removed and what would be left would be what suited the publication's agenda – every newspaper has one, all across the spectrum. I wouldn’t like the end result, yet it still had my name attached to it and I would be the one receiving horrible comments and even threats from some of the readers. All for $100.
But even that experience is not as bad or soul-destroying as those sites where you get paid pennies for producing writing for companies. The demands are often complicated and highly technical, and sometimes you have to bid against others to get the work, driving payments down even more. You end up with a few dollars for writing quite a lot of work, to difficult deadlines and unreasonable expectations. And sometimes they don’t even pay. A couple of my friends have tried this route, and it’s not good.
It is natural to want your work to be read. But not at all cost. Ask yourself... would you take on any other job for a company making millions of dollars a year, for free? I’m not talking charities here, where you’re doing good and it’s all non-profit. I’m talking big corporations. Would you take on any other job where the products you create get turned into something ugly yet get sold under your name? How about an unsatisfying job where they pay far less than the minimum wage for your efforts? I don’t think so. It doesn’t make sense to do it. Just like it doesn’t make sense for us writers – just because we’re in the creative field doesn’t mean that these things do not apply.
Writing is a work of love and passion and dedication. It’s worth more than a pittance. It deserves respect.
You deserve respect. It’s important to remember that. When you are looking for a place to publish your work, look at how the company treats it writers. If it’s anything like the above, my advice is to stay well clear. The time will come when you’ll find somewhere that suits you.
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The Drama Newsletter Team.
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