Literature & Technology: Justice for Writers
I’m not a stranger to the blank expression I get from people when I tell them I studied creative writing at university, and then tell them I’m a writer. ‘You’re a writer,’ they say slowly. ‘So…you want to end up teaching English? What do you do?’ No. I don’t want to teach English. If I wanted to teach English, I would have studied education. What do I do? Well, doesn’t the very word “writer” imply that I write? The implication here is, sure, I understand you’re a writer, but what do you do for money? Because surely writing isn’t a profession.
With all the debate surrounding writers being paid for their work recently, it could soon well be the case that writing is no longer considered a profession, but Rosemary J. Kind, editor at Alfie Dog Fiction, is determined to do something to change this mentality. She has started a campaign, ‘Justice for Writers’, to encourage readers to be willing to pay a small fee for quality writing. ‘Alfie Dog Fiction was set up because of increasing concern about the decline in paid markets for short story writers,’ Kind explains. ‘Whilst we cannot afford to pay our writers advances, we believe they should earn a fair income for their work.’
Kind believes that writers should make informed decisions before offering their work for free, and do their research on publications which promise to ‘raise the author’s profile’ before submitting. ‘For writing to be regarded as a profession, it is essential that writers are able to earn a living from their work. The days of bartering are largely over. If you ring an electrician and ask him to repair the wiring in your house, on the basis that his profile will be raised with visitors to your house, it is unlikely that he will keep his appointment. In the writing world it goes much further than this, not only is the writer not paid by the original site which will raise his or her profile, but very often he or she will not be paid by the magazines or sites with whom his profile has been raised. It is a vicious circle.’
Furthermore, this cycle creates an expectation in readers that they should be able to access quality writing online without paying for it. ‘Another serious risk is that by undervaluing their work writers are changing the perception of the reading public and editors alike to believe that all writing should be free,’ Kind says. ‘If this is followed to its logical conclusion then at some point in the future there will be no professional writers.’
Alfie Dog Fiction carries over 800 stories by more than 220 writers across the globe, and if you feel like a fix of short fiction you can find the stories at www.alfiedog.com, which can be downloaded for most e-readers or as PDF files. ‘Whether you buy your stories from Alfie Dog Fiction or elsewhere, we are calling on the reading public to join our campaign for ‘Justice for Writers’,’ Kind says. ‘Be prepared to pay a small fee to read quality writing. In the long run it is worth it for both reader and writer.’
While Lip is a completely volunteer effort, from the editors to the writers and the website designers, we have relied on our readers to support the magazine to help Lip get back into print, and the magazine will continue to need support from readers to ensure Lip can stay in print. If you’re a reader who sees the value in what Lip offers its readers online for free, please continue to support the magazine by buying the print editions, too.
There are, of course, some people who happily write for a hobby. But the same can be said for artists, interior designers, photographers and many other professions, too. There are also writers who do it for a living, and who deserve to be properly compensated for their work. All I ask is that the next time you are looking for something to read, consider seeking out publications who reward their writers with payment, even if this means paying for the content yourself. Just because the internet exists, doesn’t mean that writers should be expected to write for free.
Editor’s Note: It should be pointed out that, thanks to fundraising efforts conducted last year through Pozible, Lip was able to pay contributors to Issue 23, which will be released in coming months. However, we can not guarantee that we will be in a position to pay writers for future issues, or for the website in the near future.