BRIDGET WHELAN writer

August is archive month. Posts from the past

When would you write for free?

Homespun Theatre Company is looking for new fairy stories for a fundraising eBook. This is an international opportunity… and a non paying one.
What do you get if you have  a tale of sword fighting damsels or a story about Hansel and Gretal on a housing estate to submit?

In Homespun’s words

our eternal love, a digital copy of the book, and who knows – one day we might ask you to help us adapt your story and take it on tour!

It’s a nice idea, but I’m wondering if that’s enough. What do you think? When is it a good idea to write/work for free and when isn’t it?

The ebook will raise funds to support Homespun’s 2013 tour of their first children’s show which debuted at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. This sounds fun and cuddly and I have no doubt the show is worth seeing. However, I wonder how they would react to an invitation to perform to help a struggling author self-publish, especially if it meant that the generously donated performance could never be repeated again, no other audience would ever see it.
Because that is what they are asking for, isn’t it? Most writing competitions stipulate that entries must not have been published elsewhere. Most magazines are only interested in buying first publication rights.

I’m not against writing for nothing. I’ve done it in the past and I will do it again but I think there has to be a good reason for the writer to give so much away.

To be honest I’m still undecided what constitutes a good reason but this is what I’ve come up with so far.

1) You’re not under cutting anyone else, No one else would be paid for the story, column, article.
2) It’s for a good cause. Sometimes you give money sometimes you give your time and your creativity.
3) It supports you as a writer in some way because it puts your name in front of a big/prestigious/interesting readership. Or because being published by these people says a lot about you as a writer. They are fussy, they only take good stuff, and the world will think better of you if they know you have their seal of approval….

What do you think? When would you write for free?

I don’t think it’s a clear cut issue. Authors are like actors. We need readers just as an actor isn’t really an actor if he or she only performs in front of the mirror in the bedroom. So that means sometimes  we have to look at non-paying markets.

(I’m not having a dig at Homespun Theatre. I am sure their intentions are honourable and I was going to post their notice as an opportunity that other writers might be interested in until I started thinking. Anyway, you make up your own mind and if you want to send a story – max 5000 words – send it in the body of an email to homespuntheatre@gmail.com by 5pm on FRIDAY NOVEMBER 16th.)

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7 comments on “When would you write for free?

  1. Jacqueline Pye
    October 30, 2012

    I agree with your points, Bridget. If a new venture is setting up, then writing for it for nothing is a donation which I do make from time to time, and equally for a charitable cause. But eventually one has to draw the line and I have my quill poised to draw it!

  2. bridget whelan
    October 30, 2012

    A lot of writerly things are done on a shoestring and no one makes any money and that’s fair enough, but – as you say – only up to a point. ….A great friend who is a performance poet often mutters darkly about event managers who know that musicians need to be paid but presume poets do it for love alone….

  3. Bel Anderson
    October 31, 2012

    I have been tempted to write for the occasional charity anthology, but the sad truth is that with such limited time on my hands I am selfishly drawn towards paid work. One day, perhaps! Nice to ‘meet’ you – I like the layout of your blog (you are much cleverer than me – I can barely make my way around mine!) Bel (new follower)

    • bridget whelan
      October 31, 2012

      Clever wordpress template – not me. And it can never be selfish to except to be paid…

      • bridget whelan
        October 31, 2012

        or even expect (that damn copy editor went out to lunch again..)

  4. aligeorge
    October 31, 2012

    Hi Bridget, thanks for bringing my attention to this article. I would like to address some of your points if I may.

    First off, a bit of background. I am a writer myself (and by necessity also an office temp, as writing is not the easiest or most lucrative profession!). The anthology was my idea to help Homespun Theatre, a company started by my sister and her friend who both work freelance in theatre.

    When Homespun went to the Edinburgh Fringe this year they invested six months of their time and over £2000 of their own savings to ensure the actors in the play were paid and had somewhere to stay in Edinburgh for the duration of August (something I understand most shows do not do). They did this because they believed in the show and wanted it to be the best it could be, and thought the best way to do this would be to pay the people involved (although they couldn’t pay themselves).

    Still, this investment worked out for them in the sense they have been approached to tour the show next year – but theatre funding is scarce and fiercely competitive, and as a brand new company it’s hard to make your voice heard (just as it is for new writers) so the thought was to come up with creative ways to raise awareness of the company and a bit of cash.

    In terms of how we would feel about “an invitation to perform to help a struggling author self-publish,” I am positive that if the company could physically manage it (with everyone involved working on different shows it can be hard to coordinate), we would. It would be a good opportunity for cross-promotion and networking.

    Having said all that, I do understand where you are coming from and I don’t think writers should make a habit of giving away their work for free. It can be demoralising and can make you feel that your work is devalued – at the end of the day if you do a job, you should be paid for it. Unfortunately we can’t afford to do that, which is why I made every effort to be as honest as possible about this project from the outset.

    I’d like to reassure you too that we aren’t demanding exclusive copyright of anybody’s work or anything like that. I basically just thought this might be a more interesting way to raise some money than a bake sale or a charity car wash.

    And now I think this comment is as long as your post – apologies for going on! Thanks for mentioning us, and I hope this explains it a bit better.

  5. bridget whelan
    October 31, 2012

    Thanks Ali for explaining how Homespun Theatre came up with the idea and why.

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