On Saturday, I got a half dozen emails about a new tumblr called Who Pays Writers? From what I can tell, it culls anonymous submissions about which magazines, newspapers and websites pay what.
Today, it popped up in a Forbes.com piece about an idiot who says writing for money is “weird.” (Short rant: I’m sure writing for money is weird for someone who never had to work a day in her life. If anyone ever tells them this, share this Samuel Johnson quote, and ignore everything they ever say or do forever more, Amen. End rant).
While I think this is an interesting project, it shouldn’t be used as a marker of the freelance industry. Some entires are incredibly vague, like this one (I’ve written for some of those magazines and have been paid different rates than what’s listed here), and none encompass the delicate dance of negotiating that happens – or SHOULD happen – behind the scenes in regards to rates, expenses and rights. A conversation on Twitter broke out this weekend about how the New York Times pays $300 for Modern Love essays, and the reactions were along the “the NYTimes pays crap!” I’ve written for many sections of the NYTimes, and each one has its own budget and rates, many higher than that one column pays.
If you want access to detailed, flushed out databases, join Freelance Success, which has Pay Database, or the American Society of Journalists and Authors, which has MarketRate. These databases include rates and the specifics that go behind those rates: length of the project, turnaround timeline, payment turnaround and what it was like to work with that editor and that publication.
Perhaps Who Pays Writers? will get to that point. But it’s just not there yet.