Financial Expectations for Working Writers

My friend Andrew has a great post up about the recent McSweeney’s comic contest debacle and why writers should take notice. In very short, McSweeney’s ran a contest in which the winner would get to run regular, bimonthly feature on Internet Tendency for a year (so 24 total posts). But there was no monetary compensation, and 24 separate comics is a lot of work. There was an uproar among comic artists, and McSweeney’s ended up pulling the contest. Andrew notes how this might not have happened for a writing contest:

“I don’t mean to suggest that McSweeney’s hasn’t done great things for the publishing industry, and for writers, and for schools, and for the community. But it seems like a dangerous precedent to admit that contests of the sort they run—hell, business models of the sort they run—can be “used for the purposes of exploitation.” If it’s exploitative to ask graphic artists to produce work on spec, why is it not exploitative to ask the same of writers? Are we not also creative individuals trying to make an honest living doing what we love?”

Frankly, I think this would be a great opportunity for McSweeney’s to look at how it acquires content and what it can do for its writers. Most writers, even really successful ones, don’t make enough money from writing to have it be their only job. Not that McSweeney’s can save the day, but they can certainly take a step forward in fostering artists of all kinds.

2 thoughts on “Financial Expectations for Working Writers

  1. I think 24 is an awful lot, but I don’t see that it’s much different than making guest posts on someone else’s blog in order to get your name in front of a wider audience. Perhaps 6 months would have been more reasonable and would have seemed like a prize, rather than working for someone else for free. (And if it turned out to be really popular, the site could have commissioned the series beyond that.)

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