[This is a guest post by Lee Skallerup Bessette, who teaches in the English department at Morehead State University. Her blog is College Ready Writing, and you can follow her on Twitter at @readywriting. --@JBJ]
Recently Brian Croxall wrote a really helpful piece on setting your fee when you are invited to speak. The comments, too, were really helpful, and I was struck by this particular comment by Curt Rice where he states: “I think so much work done by academics is invisible and uncompensated, and I think it adds dignity to the work to nudge a bit forward into the realm of the visible and acknowledged.” The piece in general and comment specifically really resonated with me because of my own recent struggles in trying to figure out how much my writing is worth.
This is a touchy subject for academics; part of our compensation is for doing research and publishing (just ask fellow ProfHacker writer Adeline Koh), and as Sarah Kendzior reminds us, there’s an strong cultural norm stipulating that academics will write for free. But as contingent, alt-ac, and post-academic positions are increasingly becoming the norm and especially as many open-access journals charge writers to publish, we need to start talking about how much our writing is worth. Given the drive that many scholars have to make their work not only more public, but accessible, it makes sense to have conversations about how much to charge or accept for our writing.
The Internet, of course, has changed everything when it comes to the value of the written word. Outlets like The Huffington Post who don’t pay their “bloggers” for content (instead insisting that the reward is “exposure”) are the norm. Also problematic are sites that coopt content from graduate students and POC without any sort of recognition, let along compensation (see Tressie McMillan Cottom on her personal blog and Trudy on Gradient Lair for examples). Not only our words, but also our experience and expertise are valuable and deserve to be compensated.
Recently, I published a piece of public scholarship on The Atlantic‘s website. I pitched the piece almost on a whim and was shocked when they accepted it. But it was made very clear to me that they only paid $100 for pieces on the website, non-negotiable. I spent a few hours total on the piece itself, without mentioning the hours I spent researching and writing about the book previously. I’m glad I did it (nothing makes the non-academic family and friends prouder than publishing in a forum they’ve actually HEARD of), but I’m not convinced that I would do it again for so little money.
Having said that, I’m doing this particular guest post for less (and have written guest posts for ProfHacker in the past for free, too). This post has taken me less than an hour to write and is being written for friends, in the honest hope for getting a conversation going in the same vein as the one on Brian’s post. Complicating the equation for me is that more frequently we are publishing in media outlets that are making money off of our words. Of course, freelancers are very aware of the issues of charging what they are worth for their work (and please, if you are a freelancer, feel free to share your going rates!). How do you decide when and where to publish and how much money you will accept?