Shame on You AOL/Huffington! NO More Literary Booty Calls

Couldn’t think of anything more important to post today than this kick-ass article from Kristen Lamb. Huffington Post exploits writers in the name of exposure. Join #BoycottHuffPo

Kristen Lamb's Blog

Screen Shot 2016-02-18 at 6.39.59 PM Kristen goes FULL VIKING.

Okay, so I just about calm down then see something that fires me up. So yes folks, I put on my war paint. And Huffington Post? You have simply gone too far.

Enough.

Some of you may be asking what has gotten my panties in such a bunch. A friend of mine, Chuck Wendig, who’s a fantastic writer and legendary blogger brought this quote to our attention yesterday in his post Scream It Until Their Ears Bleed—Pay the Fu&%ing Writers. In Chuck’s post, it’s easy to tell what set him off. Check out this quote:

Um…bite me? Um…bite me?

THIS Folks, is what happens when we let FREE get out of hand. FREE has side-effects and one of the primary side-effects are hallucinations that the other person likes it and needs it and actually you’re doing them a favor.

Jackass. Jackass.

Before we go any further, yesterday I…

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37 thoughts on “Shame on You AOL/Huffington! NO More Literary Booty Calls

  1. Pardon my French, but this is utter crap from HuffPo and they are clearly seeing “featured on HuffPo” as payment in itself. That does not put food on the table or pay the bills.

    On the other hand though, writers need to stop enabling that behaviour. I get requests for freebies all the time. I am not a charity, I am a business and trying to make a living. The only place I write for free is my blog in a hope that it will drive people to my blog and eventually buy my books.

    In my professional work, people pay me for my experience and skills and they know they will get a superb job. The fact that I am being paid is trust in my skills to do the best job I can to the best of my abilities. When I get it wrong (and I don’t claim to be perfect) I do what I can to correct it. I don’t have a 99% approval rating at Upwork, and I don’t write for one of the leading environmental resource sites, by working for free.

    Grrrrrr! Not good HuffPo.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I 100% agree, MG. It’s ridiculous. While exposure is important for writers to get their foot in the door, we need to be paid for the hard work we put in thereafter. Huffington Post is just one sad example of a medium where writers should be grateful for the honor of writing for them — and that honor is supposed to be equivalent to fair pay?

      Writers are absolutely part of the problem. If we stop writing for free, then HuffPo and others of a similar ilk can’t get free labor. It’s time writers stand up for their rights. Thanks for your comment!

      Liked by 3 people

  2. I think MG Mason above summed up my views as well!

    I work in a subfield of archaeology that has its roots in the 1970s. It spent years undervaluing the services provided, especially since it was originally done practically “on the side” by academic archaeologists whose salaries were already paid by universities. While those of us in business settings are seeing better numbers these days, we’re still short of “pay equity,” if you will, with other fields that didn’t undervalue themselves in the private sector in the first place. But I see many writers today 1) falling into the trap of allowing themselves to be undervalued in hopes of getting recognition that might lead to pay and 2) failing to stand up for themselves by saying “NO” to giving themselves away.

    And, yeah, so long HuffPo! I’ve already been unimpressed by some of its other aspects, so this is an easy one for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Your example is a perfect one to illustrate the struggle most writers face. As a freelance writer/editor, I continually run into the problem of explaining to people why I don’t “work for free,” and I think it is because many don’t believe that writing is work. The assumption is that everyone can write, so why get paid for it. Non-writers fail to understand there is a difference between professional writing and writing because you can make a sentence.

      Writing is a skill. As long as we give away our skill for free, or for less than what it’s worth, we are just asking to be undervalued. Writers need to band together in this cause. Just a small number or writers willing to fork over their work for free in the name of exposure can make it very difficult for the rest of us to make a living as writers. This partly explains why most writers have to take on second jobs.

      I know a lot of writers who are probably feeling stuck over this, because they’ve likely gotten great exposure from posting on HuffPo. I still feel that it’s a matter of principle. If you know your fellow writers are struggling because of content mills and mediums like HuffPo, it’s our duty to help out. Because, bottom line, it ain’t right.

      Thanks for a great comment, JM!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m not sure yet how I feel about it, but I agree it was a strong–and brave–article. It certainly got me thinking. I’d probably feel stronger if I was a freelance writer. But as a novelist who might get more eyes on her work were a blog post published by Huff Po, it might not bother me as much. But the article makes excellent points for sure.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree with your stance in the sense that trying to get our novels in front of a wider audience is much easier through media such as HuffPo. There’s no question that, in the past, when I heard a fellow writer got their article published on HuffPo, I knew how lucky they were.

      I suppose if you wrote the article for HuffPo and you were able to post it anywhere else, that all rights to the article are yours and yours alone, and HuffPo has no right to reproduce it in any way, then that’s no different than writing a post on your own blog, or as a guest post on another blog.

      But, if you don’t “own” that article and if HuffPo has the right to use it however and whenever they see fit, then I don’t think that’s cool — no matter how much exposure a writer might get.

      I don’t know the terms under which HuffPo operates in this respect.

      I think what makes me sick is how the powers-that-be defend their actions. As though writers should be grateful for the privilege. I wouldn’t want to be associated with people who sincerely don’t give a rat’s patootie how the writers make out in the end. They’re running a business, and writers are the unpaid employees. Any other legit business wouldn’t get away with not paying their employees, and no employee in their right mind wouldn’t expect a paycheck simply because they’re working for an amazing, high-profile company, hoping that it pays off eventually.

      Either way we look at it, it’s revealing and eye-opening. I’m quite interested in seeing how it all pans out!

      Thanks for a great comment, Carrie!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Definitely agree with all that. From what I understand, Huff Po bloggers can post their articles on their own blogs. I’ve seen a few who do. So I assume the blogger maintains ownership. I would hope so, and I agree, if not, then they deserve to be paid.

        Liked by 1 person

      • That’s good to know — so important to keep our rights to our work whenever possible. And as long as HuffPo can’t use the posts (whole, partial, or otherwise) for anything other than what the writer intended it for.

        Like

  4. She’s so fantastic! I left a pretty long-winded comment over at Kristen’s blog. Writing being devalued is a serious problem…especially in our content-saturated world. Exposure is good and all, but companies are taking that too far. They’re using writers to build their brand awareness, and grow their revenue. There is money involved, it’s just that the writers aren’t seeing it.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I thought about you, Britt, when I read her article. I knew you’d have a thing or two to say! 🙂 Writers have to help each other out to break HuffPo. Those writers who are tentative to leave HuffPo’s claws will make it tougher for the rest of us to earn a living.

      There is absolutely something to be said for “exposure” — we see it succeed constantly in all kinds of ways, for all kinds of people. But there are so many legitimate sources we can tap into who will treat writers (creatives) fairly and above-board so that we don’t have to rely on sites like HuffPo. If every writer demanded to be paid for their work, then HuffPo would have no choice but to give in.

      So, I’m game. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks Kate for sending this! I wasn’t aware of how bad things were at the huffington post.

    On Sat, Feb 20, 2016 at 3:59 AM 4am Writer wrote:

    > Kate Johnston posted: “Couldn’t think of anything more important to post > today than this kick-ass article from Kristen Lamb. Huffington Post > exploits writers in the name of exposure. Join #BoycottHuffPo” >

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Tristan, I don’t know much about Huff Po other than that if you get an article published there, you’re a rock star. An unpaid rock star, but a rock star nonetheless! 🙂

      I just feel like things have gotten to the point where too many people want writers to write for free. I think we need to change things up now.

      Like

    • As others have mentioned, if writers get to post their pieces on their own blogs then it might be considered an even trade — visibility. I don’t know how one goes about tracking the number of viewers a blogger might get after his/her piece is published on HuffPo. How would you know if you’re getting views based on the fact you published something on HP?

      But for writers who are trying to earn an income, I think that HuffPo should pay for that work. I agree that this information dampens any positive feelings surrounding HuffPo.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I saw a similar rant on this topic over at Chuck Wendig’s blog (NSFW warning for his written language), where he makes the comment, “[B]e in control of how and when you write for free.” That is the point that resonates most with me. I enjoy putting my own writing out there for anyone to read, appreciate, and comment on, but that is very different from being taken for a ride by a large company with the funds to pay its staff if it so chose to do. Which it doesn’t, apparently. You’re totally right, Kate, that writing is a profession that takes skill; editing even more so.

    One unfortunate by-product of the Internet and its wide-scale access is that the standards for “professional” writing have really fallen off a steep, dark cliff. It’s not just in online publications, either. I’ve seen a disturbing growth of lazy, error-ridden text in hardcopy papers and magazines, as well. The quick delivery format of Internet news pushes outlets to seek the Next Big Thing Right Now, and – of course – creatives want to get in on that, too. So, they sell their skill without getting anything in return for it, in the hope that they can be first and thus get the exposure that the media-eating public deems so important. Huffington Post is feeding into that growing desire of people to be seen and heard. That doesn’t mean they’re not being despicable slave laborers – they are – but I’m sure it’s hard for writers who are struggling to get their names out there to turn down the offer of “just being seen.”

    Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Right on, Mayumi. Turn-around time for blog posts and news articles is frighteningly quick, and many writers, sad to say, don’t know how to edit their own work. With no time to hire a professional editor, they submit before the piece is ready and if someone likes it they’re so psyched they won’t care that they’re not going to get paid for it. Because they just got “in the door.”

      I’ve read some stuff through HuffPo, and I have been disappointed in the quality of writing in some cases. Now, this doesn’t mean that those writers shouldn’t get paid for doing a shoddy job. (I’m sure, just like you point out, they rushed it in order to be the first one to submit their idea.) Rather, they should be given the chance to edit and polish and if the piece comes back shiny, then HuffPo should pay the writers for the privilege of publishing.

      Getting “in” with HuffPo shouldn’t be the ultimate goal of a writer, but that’s what seems to be the case. If HuffPo is accepting mid-quality work, where is the pride in that? Let’s take our time to deliver high-quality stuff and then demand to be paid fairly for it. The exposure earned can only be that much sweeter anyway.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Writers should be compensated for their work. As a novelist, I do blog tours and provide free content because I am trying to get attention for my books. If it’s a one off, I can see how a writer would be okay with not receiving payment because they are trading visibility for their work. And as long as it’s their choice, it’s fine. But for freelancers who write articles for a living, this is really not fair. They should be compensated for their work, especially when they are providing content that the company uses to make money.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Carrie Rubin brought up the same point regarding authors vs freelance writers. Many authors offer freebies in an effort to gain visibility/exposure/readers. And you’re right, if the author is willing to work her tail off, and write articles for free in hopes of gaining readers/audience, then that’s the author’s call.

      I do worry, though, about the extent we’re willing to go to provide free stuff. This society is pretty darn greedy. And if we know something is going to be free, eventually, we’ll wait it out. This is bad news for authors because sales will plummet in a situation like that. As long as we keep lowering prices and offering free chapters and free gifts, then we’re only prepping a certain percentage of people to just hang tight, the whole thing will be free soon. Not all readers are like that, but a good many are. I fear they’re the ones who run the show. 😦

      Liked by 1 person

      • It’s definitely a valid concern. But it’s a collective action problem. It would be great if all authors agreed to charge for their work. It’s in everyone’s best interest to do it. But getting every single author to agree to it would be incredibly difficult. And the ones that don’t would continue to benefit. 😦

        Like

    • Hopefully, this news will spread like wildfire and get writers to think twice before submitting so eagerly to HuffPo and others like it. If you think you’ve written a solid piece that deserves attention, submit to someone who will pay you for your hard work. Unfortunately, this will take more time and more energy — and writers are very low on both.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Thanks for bringing this post by Kristen to our attention. I have read it nodding my head so hard in agreement that now I have a headache. Writers should NOT just give out their work for free. Yes, we need to promote our writing, but that’s why we have social media and blogs. Several people have suggested that I send an essay to Huff Po, but when I heard it’s ‘no pay,’ I said no thanks. There’s no respect when there’s no payment for our talent. We know how long it takes to write and edit and re-edit a good piece, whether blog post or story or novel. But many writers don’t realize how unique our talent is. Many of my friends (most, actually) are intimidated by putting together two sentences in an e-mail, much less writing a 500-word essay or post or story or whatever. We writers need to value ourselves more, and then maybe the money will come.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We need some respectable magazines and other media to swoop in and start offering writers money for their work. I understand that the money has to originate from somewhere, but we’re in a deadly cycle. The idea of “free” hurts us in more ways than we realize.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. The Storytellers’ Guild in Seattle makes a point of paying tellers for presenting programs. If the Storytellers’ Guild doesn’t value the talents and expertise of it s members enough to pay them, then how can they expect anyone else to be willing to? The same can be said of Huffington Pos. I am shocked and disappointed. Thank you for sharing this, Kate.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, exactly Naomi. The Storytellers’ Guild probably wouldn’t last very long if they didn’t pay writers, because there are too many unsavory venues with bigger names that will entice writers — the thinking being that if they can’t get paid, getting their names out there is the next best thing. Why we’re willing to settle for this is ridiculous. The market is already too saturated. Sure your name is on a HuffPo article this week, but everyone will likely forget about you in a month because another 50 writers have also had their names on a HuffPo article.

      Liked by 1 person

      • With the Storytellers’ Guild, the tellers would volunteer their services to support the organization that supports them, but by paying them anyway the guild is demonstrating to the world a respect for the art and artists it represents. Huffington Post is using and taking advantage of artists simply because it can, which is demonstrating to the world that anyone can take advantage of desperate dime-a-dozen starving artists, even the organizations that are supposedly supporting them.

        Like

      • What makes it harder is that writers will continue to submit their work to Huffington Post despite the long-term negative effects it has on the craft of writing and writers’ livelihoods. We’re perpetuating the problem.

        Sounds like we need more Storytellers’ Guilds!

        Like

  10. i saw something similar about Huffington post a week or so ago and couldn’t believe they were doing what they do or that people would contribute without any payment. More and more people are taking advantage of good nature of writers.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s a terrible cycle, Pete. It is up to us writers to stand for our rights. We need to stop allowing venues like HuffPo to use our work for free. If we don’t write for them, then they can’t take advantage of us, bottom line.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Huh! I had already taken the decision to only submit work to places that pay. No more freebie writing (unless I really like the publication!) I deserve to get paid. I want to get paid. I need to get paid. This has just strengthened my determination!

    Like

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