Working for free at an expense


Melanie Espinal – Special to the Southern News

When it comes to publishing professional writing for free, it is hit or miss, said Chelsea Green. The work can either hit really big – or fail miserably. A lot of websites like Huffington Post pay writers little or nothing at all, and technology has a lot to do with it.  

Green, an English literature major who is going into the professional writing industry upon graduation, said she publishes novels and stories she’s written for fun.

“I don’t consider it working for free,” said Green, “because I enjoy it.”

She said she uses the words publish very loosely because she uses online free sharing websites with small viewership, to make them available to anyone who wants to read them.

One of the websites she said that makes it really easy is Amazon. Through Amazon Direct Publishing a book can be prepared in a three-step process, according to the website.

“On those websites you don’t have to worry about all the fees of publishing,” she said. “It’s a lot easier to publish now then it was way back then.”

Ryan Myer, a senior creative writing major, said writing has always been an interest of his. Myer said the easy access to publishing is very helpful. From a creative writing standpoint, he said submissions being online have cut the waiting time by a fraction.

Writing has become all promotion, he said, an independent author, or a professor might not get the pay they would expect.

“You’re paying for your name to be out there,” he said, “which is priceless.”

“You hear people say all the time that you won’t benefit from having an English major,” Green said, “but I think you do. An English major can give you the skills to analyze papers, think critically, and think creatively.”

Professional writing on the other hand, Green said, is not so much working for fun. Green said that her stories are something she’s motivated to do on her spare time, while professional writing is hard work, and she refuses to do technical writing for free.

“To be professional writer today,” Bob McEachern, a professional writing professor, said, “technology is unavoidable.”

McEachern said that not even a basic understanding of Microsoft is going to work anymore. Depending on the job there might a requirement of an understanding of more specialized software and many need social media knowledge as well.

“The [job] outlook is a little bit mixed,” said McEachern, “there’s much more writing that needs to be done – but a lot of it is unpaid.”

McEachern said many websites are hungry for content but their business model does not allow them to pay writers hardly anything.

So most of writing is done for free, he said, like The Huffington Post, who has openly acknowledged a majority of their contributions are made from unpaid authors.

“Even artificial intelligence,” McEachern said, “is slowly replacing writers.”

He said the course ENG 316, taught by Jason Lawrence’s, also focuses on where artificial intelligence stands in the professional writing industry.

“Writing professionally is hard because now writing is a whole lot faster,” McEachern said. “It’s a lot more independent, you used to be able to go to your editor and say ‘hey, look this over for me.’”

“But now,” said McEachern, “They just have to get it sent out.”

It is hard to make a living as a writer, he said, but according to the government there has been a 10 percent increase in those jobs in the next 20 years.

“The more technology there is,” he said, “the more people needed to explain that technology.”                                                     

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