Last week a national magazine asked me if I’d write a short piece for both their print and online versions that would include quotes from my readers on the topic of pregnancy. The day before it was due I thought, Hmm, I wonder how much they’re planning on paying me for this? (I’m known for my guilelessness and trusting nature.) (No, really, it’s true.) Surprisingly, National Magazine revealed that they intended to pay me in “blog hits” — links to my site(s) from their web page. I perceived no malice in their request, their rationale was merely that I wasn’t writing that much anyway, that most of the piece would be quotes culled from my not-terribly-vast-but-highly-intelligent-and-also-stunningly-attractive readership, and that being in their magazine would get me noticed.
Despite their poignant logic, my next thoughts were as follows:
1. Okay, but I’ve spent nearly ten years building that readership, which is why you’ve even heard of me
2. Taking surveys is work
3. Writing funny-ish intros to online surveys is work, too
4. Despite the fact that some other bloggers have done this exact same assignment for no pay, Alice and Liz would kill me if I undervalued myself like that
And then, of course, being me, I started to overthink it and wonder if I should pay people for using their quotes. But I’ve been quoted, both with and without attribution, and no one ever paid me for it, so I’m pretty sure that when someone offers you a quote you’re actually not supposed to pay them, because paying them implies that they’ll say whatever you want, and that in a Free Country we only pay attention to people who speak for free, unless they’ve been flown in at great expense to address a roomful of executives while they eat lunch. (In this spirit, I’ll be glad to take anyone whose quote ends up in the final article out for coffee as thanks. Really.)
In the end, I told National Magazine I was terribly sorry but that I don’t write for “blog hits,” and guess what, they came back and said they could pay me. But the fact that at least two other well-known bloggers before me had done it for free led them to believe that (1) they could low-ball me, and (2) bloggers with substantial built-in audiences are still are worth less than people who Write.
Have you seen Alice’s new site design? It’s brilliant and I love it for a lot of reasons, but one of them is that it is clearly the Internet home of someone who writes in all kinds of different venues, and being a blogger beloved of God is but one aspect of her talent. Danielle did the same thing earlier this year and blew the Internet’s mind. They’ve certainly made me wonder what it would feel like to be less of a dork online.
A long time ago I edited a start-up travel magazine that had no budget for writers. It sucked responding to every query with the news that we could only pay writers in trade — 1,200 words would get you a free weekend in Cabo (airfare not included, but once you got there everything was taken care of, plus spa treatments!). Most professional writers understood and said they’d check back when our budget increased; writers with no clips were thrilled for the trade, and for the incredible amount of attention I paid to their stories. (Some would probably have preferred I didn’t go through endless Maxwell Perkins-like rewrites with them, but I had a lot of sublimated literary ambition to work through.)
I don’t even know what I’m talking about anymore, fuck. What is this, National Blog Posting Month? Damn.
I’ll let you know if the article comes out, they may read this and politely kill the whole thing.