I had a Facebook exchange about this today, thought it might make sense to blog about it.
It never ceases to amaze me how many people think that professional writers/editors should just work for free (or next to free). (I'm not alone in that sentiment, even big-name pros like Harlan Ellison frequently gripe about repeatedly being asked to work for free: check out this video to see what I mean). Just this morning I opened six different emails asking me to write stuff and/or edit stuff FOR NOTHING, and/or were complaints that rates I had quoted them for my professional services were too high.
Well, excuse me for fucking living, but I'm a professional writer, with a helluva lot of serious publishing creds, not to mention almost 20 years' experience being paid to write, either as a freelancer or an editorial staffer. I did not just fall off a turnip truck yesterday and hang out a shingle asking people to pay me to type and/or spew hot air. I have been published in major newspapers (Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, I could go on), have hobnobbed with high-level government bureaucrats, have published multiple books, have written speeches for CEOs, ad nauseum. If you want me to work for you, PAY ME.
Just because there are a bunch of clueless amateurs out there willing to give away their very questionable writing "services" for free does not mean that I should too. Just because you can hire some flunky in a Pakistani word-churning/plagiarism mill three cents an hour to fuck up your already unpublishable work (and make it even more unpublishable and/or illegal) doesn't mean that I should also charge only three cents an hour to do an actual professional, quality job. You wouldn't expect the guy ringing up your groceries or the nurse taking care of you in the hospital to work for free, so why should I?
And while I'm on the subject, before you decide that it's cool to criticize me for my choice of publisher/agent/tax accountant/level of writing income, perhaps it would be somewhat intelligent of you to first have some idea what you are talking about. (i.e., like maybe being able to claim you are a full-time writer earning at least $75,000 a year from writing, like I do). Just saying.
I am a professional freelancer who owns/runs a small business. I contribute to the American economy. I'm lucky to do so, and most (i.e., 95%) of the people who try to do what I do professionally will fail. But that's really not my problem. I'm a businesswoman, and I'm not running a bleeping charity. So don't ask me to work for free. And while you're at it, why don't you get off Fantasy Island and join the rest of us in the real world?
That is all.