Down the Rabbit Hole continued – The Effect of the Internet on Writers

…As a freelance writer for a traditionally published newspaper I have never been assured a paycheck or a given pay rate. I have always served at the whim of my editors, and I DO mean whim. Some editors are more generous than others. I have never been clear on how they determine the value of an article. There are, of course, less material returns. My work IS published. Some of my stories are a form of community service. Many of the human interest stories I write are likely to go unnoticed. I enjoy meeting a diverse range of people, especially the kids, and giving them a few inches of fame in the paper. I get no rewards from the Internet sites that use my stories without my permission or royalty payment. The Internet has caused me to lose control of my material. I’m not sure if there’s much recourse for writers.

I know people who write for online sites. These writers are getting fractions of cents on the dollar for their content.  One writer said: “I CAN tell you that hard word, talent, and an insane number of submissions to mags equals publication –and some small amount of recognition. I don’t even know if I register on the radar screen, but I am making a teesny-weensy blip somewhere. After something like 900 submissions last year (sixty acceptances.)… I know the world is stacked against us, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Just ALMOST impossible! You keep trying!”

You do the math. 900 submissions in 365 days. 60 acceptances out of 900 submissions. If Phoebe isn’t prone to hyperbole then she is writing her heart out every day with little reward. Her time spent writing is matched, I am sure, with cruising the Internet to find places to submit content.

Content has also been changed by the Internet. In this digital age people want quick reads. Articles are shortened. Language is morphing. There is more jargon, abbreviated words, less grammatical rules. It might be argued that this laissez fair world makes it easier on writers.

As the craft of writing is morphing into shortened forms, I wonder if there won’t come a point when our written language returns to symbology, becomes the modern equivalent of hieroglyphics. I also see video images replacing the written word. For example, I have noticed an increase in the number of video tweets on Twitter.

I think writers are in the midst of a free fall. Like Alice tumbling down the rabbit hole, we don’t know what lies at the bottom. I’m using this time to learn how to maneuver in the social media world.

I want to discuss the notion that in the not too distant future that all books will be digital, but in my next post I want to return to looking at the trials of self-publishing.

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Filed under art, editing, editors, on publishing, on writing, publishing, self-publishing, social media, technology, writing

4 responses to “Down the Rabbit Hole continued – The Effect of the Internet on Writers

  1. I think — but don’t have any quantitative evidence — that there must be a lot of former print writers now writing for the Web. I say this due to the collapse in many markets of the newspaper industry, and knowing that so many print journalists have worked in the field for years and don’t know how to do anything professionally, at least not in a satisfying way, other than research, write and edit. It is a difficult transition, both financially and style-wise, if I may offer my own opinion as a print-to-Web writer. I am always looking to read more about this! As for pay, you’re right: Articles that 10 years ago I could’ve sold for $50-75 to a print publication now earn me about $10 for the Web.

    • Pam

      I apologize for the delay in posting your comment. I just noticed it in the spam folder. I agree the Internet is demanding in terms of quantity of output it expects and the low return financially. As freelance writers we serve at the whim of those who buy our articles. I feel sorriest for the writers who aren’t flexible in their style or format.

  2. When push comes to shove: Is it not better to take on a day job to finance entirely self-controlled writing on a blog?

    (With the option of “going pro”, should popularity ensue.)

    • Pam

      As I have said since the inception of this blog, write because you love it. For people who are hoping to make a living from writing, I am offering my experience as a reality check. There’s no question a day job is needed until an opportunity for paid writing avails itself. Many of these opportunities, especially those on Internet sites, aren’t likely to provide sufficient return to replace a regular day job. Some Internet jobs may be resume boosters, others will not. It’s a Wild West situation for writers on the ‘Net. There are a few real job opportunities, and many that are money makers only for the people offering them. If writers go in to each opportunity with their eyes open the experience should be educational if not financially rewarding. And, if you are happy simply to write for the sake of writing and really don’t care who or how many people read your work then you have no worries.

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