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This month, I will have earned enough money to support myself (and half of my daughter) for the first time in four years. (Coincidentally, she is also four years old.) The reason for this? I have cut down drastically on writing. Everyone knows this but it bears repeating:
Freelance writing for the national media (especially with a family to support) is financially untenable, unless one has a trust fund or a rich spouse.
When I was a regular columnist for a high-profile national publication, I was paid $800 per month for five pieces, most of which were very widely read and many of which required hours of research (and just as many of which created days of backlash).
Most reputable or legacy national/international outlets pay between $150-500 per piece; the fanciest (such as literary magazines) pay at the lower range, and the higher range is (for me at least) few and far between.
As a freelancer without a regular column, in order to sell a piece I have to pitch it. Crafting a good pitch takes time. That time is unpaid. I currently have fifteen hours of paid childcare per week. I can rarely afford to lose two of those hours to uncertainty.
Further, many pieces that national outlets want to print are time-sensitive, so spending most of a day's childcare crafting a pitch will mean that even if that pitch is accepted on the same day, I won't get the time to write it until at least the next day. This is often too late.
As the recent high-profile spate of layoffs demonstrate, many high-profile outlets do not value their full-time staff and instead rely on very poorly paid (or unpaid) writers to create all of their "content."
I am a talented and experienced writer. This is not a brag; it is a fact. My work is very good. I can no longer afford to do it.
So the next time you read something you really enjoyed, understand that it was likely the product of a profound sacrifice, or the creation of someone who is already wealthy. The media industry precludes most voices, especially people from marginalized groups and non-rich mothers.
(One final thought: I often get emails from people who want to leave/have recently left academia, and they want advice on how to become a "successful" freelance writer. These emails make me cry very hard.)
Cool cool, this blew up, in a perfect demonstration of...everything.
In conclusion BUY MY BOOK 😂 😂 😝 🤣
Also, not for nothing but (ironically?) I wrote a thing about why the current publishing landscape looks like it does -- for @Longreads, which paid me fairly. longreads.com/2018/10/02/web…
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