A few years ago, you’d never see the words “Huffington Post” mentioned on social media without someone getting in a dig that they pay their writers “in exposure”. Larry Correia made a point of it when fisking a HuffPo author (as is right and just):
I’m pretty sure the average HuffPo writer considers me a hack, but then again, I get paid, and HuffPo writers don’t (no, really, I was shocked to learn that HuffPo only pays in “exposure”).Larry Correia, “Fisking the HuffPo, Because Writers Need to Get Paid“
There’s a school of thought that says you should never write anything without getting paid, that getting paid is the proper endstate for a writer. I do not disagree. Art requires sustenance, and the mindset of “internet content is free” has nearly destroyed journalism in this country (among other things).
However, lamenting that attitude doesn’t really undo it. I have a host of content available for sale on Amazon.com. I get paid when someone buys one, or even reads pages of it on Kindle’s Lending Library (sales for Caligula were an improvement upon previous works). That’s a good thing.
But I’m not where I want to be. I don’t have a big organ blasting my product out to the masses. I have Twitter, and Facebook, and this web site. There’s thousands of authors in exactly my position.
And that’s why “exposure” is a thing. When you you’re trying to catch fire, you need oxygen, and a breath from a major newsblog (even one that hemorrhages money), can seem like a good idea, even if you’re earning that “exposure” for writing banal think-pieces. I don’t know how well it works, but I can see the temptation.
Not only that, but I’ve seen authors work the free-until-name path. Two authors I’ve mentioned here, Delicious Tacos and Zero HP Lovecraft, both spent years throwing content to the wall of their WordPress blogs before self-publishing. Most if not all of the content in Tacos’ books is already available for free on his website. The same is true of Zero, who just published a crypto-only collection of his works in hardback and paperback.
Let me then draw a distinction between “getting paid in exposure”, and “giving out samples.” Writing banal clickbait think-pieces for HuffPo is working for them, creating their content, and getting nothing in return but a promise of “exposure”. Posting your own stuff for free in various places, announcing your content, is you building your name (doesn’t that sound nicer than “brand”?). It’s the difference between serving others and serving yourself.
And that’s why I was happy to send a few of my poems to Terror House Magazine, where they happily published them. I got no money for this, but am entered into a prize contest. Would I like to be getting paid? Of course. That’s the next step.
And that’s why, very shortly, I’ll be putting some exclusive content here on Content Blues, free with donations accepted. I’m thinking a poetry collection, and a couple of collection of Unnamed Journal material that wasn’t in the Singles Collection. I can be on Amazon and building my own platform at the same time.
I feel, on some level, that Larry Correia would understand this. He has free sample chapters and short stories on his own web site.