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Thursday, December 28, 2006

Writer rates and blame...My super powers...Lou Paun needs to start a blog...My Chief Joseph impersonation...

I have, or had, two super powers.

First, I have the amazing ability to carry several dozen full bags of groceries at one time. I can slide my hand through the handles of bag after bag, lift them and trudge up at least three flights of stairs, if necessary. When my family shops for groceries, it never takes more than a single trip from the car to the front door to bring everything inside.

Admittedly, that isn't the kind of super power that earns you a spandex suit or a mask, but it's something.

Second, I've had an uncanny ability to antagonize other writers with my opinions about writer pay rates. Although I think of myself as a generally decent fellow, I've usually been able to piss someone off within minutes of blogging about the state of writer pay rates.

I don't begrudge those who work in lower paying markets and I don't believe that collective writer efforts like those others have advocated have any chance of changing the price structure for online writing. That tends to hack some people off.

I don't think that one will get anyone into the League of Justice, either, but you take what you can get...

Deb Ng recently wrote a nifty piece that places at least a substantial portion of the blame for depressed freelance writing rates at the feet of writers. She argues that writers' willingness to work for low rates is part of the problem. Actually, her argument is a little more eloquent than that, and you really should read it.

I agree with some of what she says. However, I think there is more to the whole issue than what she addresses in that post and that not discussing some of those other matters along with the "settling for it" factor creates a somewhat misleading portrait of the situation. I was thinking about writing one of my long posts about different kinds of writing, different market segments, how price increases would influence buyer behavior at the shallow end of the content pool, and all of the usual stuff that seems to get people riled up and in a hate mail sending mood.

I know Deb wasn't trying to provide a holistic assessment of the market situation and I know from past readings and exchanges that she "gets it" even if we don't always agree on everything. I also know that my reaction to her post stemmed more from my concern that others might treat it as a comprehensive perspective, not that she did.

Nonetheless, her post provided an opportunity to start arguing the rate question again. And I was thinking about doing just that while reading the comments at Deb's blog.

That's when I tripped over a little pile of Kryptonite, courtesy of Lou Paun.

Lou comments here occasionally. We recently discussed the fairness and efficacy of relatively free market structures with respect to writing and other disciplines in the context of The Freelance Writers Manifesto and writer organization attempts.

I always enjoy Lou's comments and they always seem to contain some valuable food for thought. Little did I know that Paun would eliminate one of my super powers. Her remark finally convinced me to hang up my cape. Well, I don't have a cape, as that wonderful graphic demonstrates, but if I did, I would've put it in the closet.

Lou recognizes the inevitability of some form of exploitation in any capitalist construct, I'm guessing. The comment then frames that exploitation as a matter of choice and argues that one should be happy so long as their decisions meet their needs. Lou then advocates knowledge and understanding as a prerequisite for making the right decisions as a writer.

Here's the actual comment:

"When you agree to work for those wages, you agree to be exploited. That's an individual choice, and nobody should be shamed for making a choice that works for them (dishonest choices excluded, obviously). If you get what you seriously need from the choice, that's fine. If it inconveniences someone else who couldn't get what they need from the same choice, that is their issue, not yours.

I think the important thing is to make the choice after knowing everything that is involved. Many writers are hoodwinked into bad choices, believing that 1) the exposure will really help them, 2) this is a standard payment amount, 3) you have to start here because you're new, or 4)some other bit of nonsense. I can only hope that these innocents get smart fast!"

Suddenly, my ability to cause rage about writer rates began to wane...

Get smart. Assess the situation. Make a the best decision for you. That's a simple process that makes so much of the rate argument seem superfluous.

It also frames the rate question differently than many of us on both sides of the issue do. Instead of being a question of "fair/unfair" or "free markets/entitlement" or "justice/wishful thinking," it personalizes the question and provides enough room for everyone to mill around learning, thinking and deciding based on knowledge and experience instead of bloguments* about whether writers deserve more.

Which leads me to the two-pronged conclusion...

1. Lou Paun should start blogging.
2. I will fight no more forever.

That's right. I'm done debating rates. I'm not surrendering. I'm not abandoning my position. I've just lost the energy to have the discussion repeatedly when Lou's "Get smart. Assess the situation. Make a the best decision for you," is a much better advocacy than "agree with me" or "agree with them."

Oh, I will undoubtedly find ways to mention that a writer specializing in online topics can generate decent income with the right lower-paying projects, but I'm not going to argue about it anymore.

When it comes to the great rate debate, I am willing to supply my perspective and tales, but I am no longer in the intentional persuasion business.

I might go buy some groceries now...

*For a moment, I thought that I had found a new super power by inventing the term "blogument." However, I soon learned that others had come up with the term already.

Blogument: n. A nasty back-and-forth in the Comments section of a blog post. Serves as a mildly amusing, cautionary tale to those not involved. The worst examples involve extended rants that amount to nothing more than bitter semantics by the over-educated and ill-informed.

--Courtesy of Lucky Spinster