Friday, January 07, 2011

Working for Free

Peter here. I have lost count of the number of times over the years that I have been asked to write something for nothing - i.e. without payment, or at the very least for some token amount. Because, after all, it's just a few words, isn't it? Easy for me, I'm a writer. And people are always so sure I will be happy to see my name in print.

Well, what's not easy for me, and never has been, is making a living as a writer. By some miracle I have managed to do just that for the last thirty years (and as a journalist beforehand). So I have never been able to figure out why anyone would feel they had the right to ask me to work for nothing - write a treatment on spec., write a screenplay to see if some producer can sell it (and pay me if he can), write a few chapters of a book to see if an editor is interested, accept some ridiculous advance because the publisher doesn't know if it will sell or not. After all would any of these producers, editors or publishers, like to forego their salaries for three months? I don't think so. But they are quite happy to ask me to do it.

I can hear some of you saying now... What a cranky @*^%^% that Peter May is. Well, maybe I am. But not half as cranky as Harlan Ellison. Watch the following extract from "Dreams with Sharp Teeth". Now THAT is cranky. But I can't help but agree with him! (WARNING: If you are offended by bad language, don't watch!)

6 comments:

Vicki Delany said...

Great stuff! I wrote an essay about two years ago for Type M called No More Free Events. Tired of being the free entertainment. People buy their food and drink sit down and enjoy your talk. And leave without even buying a book. No more.

Linda Leszczuk said...

Whoa! A lot of anger there. Of course, I don't disagree but... a lot of anger there.

Rick Blechta said...

It's not just writers. It's every profession. Sadly, it seems as if more and more, people want something for nothing. When it involves "show biz", it gets even worse. "Do it and you'll get noticed" is right. To often we jump at what is at best a specious offer, and at worse, a complete rip-off.

Robert Sawyer, Canada's major SF export has his Rules for Being an Author. Rule #1: Money always flow towards the author. That's probably also Rules 2,3,4 & 5 — or should be.

Donis Casey said...

Oh, mercy me. The man voices all our wrath and disappointment as artists of any ilk.

Joanne Carnegie said...

Saw this video about two years ago and I still love it. Watching it is a tonic. No wonder he's angry: who likes being asked to be a whore, and then taken to task for not agreeing?

Deardra said...

This country does not respect the arts. For some reason they feel industry and companies where folks push papers around is more valuable than folks who actually think. Writers create something from nothing, from the resources of their mind. Writers are originators but most cant get paid. People pass on you if you ask to get paid and they tell you, you are being publicized. You give a bunch of freebies and your name is out there but it goes to naught. What then. Finally, writers shut down Hollywood in order to demand better salaries. But even that went to naught, although they got their raise, because the majority of writers are still struggling to get paid. PAY US!