We’ve talked before on this blog about the worth of the writer, and lamented about places that expect writers to provide content for little or no money, often trying to entice new writers with the idea of gaining clips and getting ‘exposure.’ Paper mills and content mills (like Helium) suck writers, desperate to be published and earn a living at writing, into their stables, often paying pennies or less.
Now comes James Frey (yes, he of “A Million Little Pieces” fame, famously scolded on national television by Oprah) with a new scam. If you haven’t already heard, he’s been trolling the MFA program at Columbia for his YA publishing venture, offering possibly the most ludicrous, shady contract ever seen to anyone who will sign on. There are three very fine blog posts about this already that I’ve read, from John Scalzi (which is still smoking, I think), and don’t miss his open letter to MFA writing programs, Maureen Johnson, and Sarah Rees Brennan, to which I can add nothing except many ‘Huzzahs!’
So why is it not ok to take these flaky contracts? Why should writers demand their fair share? Why not write for nothing while building a name, a brand, a portfolio?
More to the point, why SHOULD you? Rose Fox at Publishers’ Weekly’s Genreville said it best:
Stories are so important. If they weren’t, there wouldn’t be so many people trying to steal them.