Low-Pay Writing

Low-Pay Writing: Guest post by James A. Haught, author of Blasphemy For Thinking People

Guest post by James A. Haught, author of Blasphemy For Thinking People.

Low-Pay Writing

Low-Pay Writing: Guest post by James A. Haught, author of Blasphemy For Thinking People
Moliere said:  “Writing is like prostitution.  First you do it for the love of it.  Then you do it for a few friends.  And finally you do it for money.”
Unfortunately, many of today’s writers can’t attain the level of a self-supporting hooker, because markets and communications have evolved into strange new territory.
A colossal Niagara of writing occurs in this astounding new Cyber Age.  The Internet now has two billion websites, and 500 million of them are blogs written on every conceivable topic.  Each day, millions of words flow.
But few of the authors earn a livable sum for their work.  Most do it just for the joy of offering their ideas to the world, while relying on other income.
As a retired newspaper editor, I’m a weekly blogger on three sites.  The Good Men Project and Canadian Atheist pay me nothing for reprinting my previously published essays.  Daylight Atheism at Patheos pays me two dollars per thousand readers of new or recycled skeptic tirades. 

Low-Pay Writing: Guest post by James A. Haught, author of Blasphemy For Thinking People
To mark Haught’s 65 years in news biz, Gazette artists created this rendition.

At D.A., I average near two thousand readers per posting.  So far, I’ve gotten two checks, one for $158, the other for $98.  I’m delighted with my hooker pay.
Right now, around 300 of my essays are in cyberspace at CounterPunch, Free Inquiry, Church & State, Secular Web, PeaceVoice, etc.  After I’m gone (I’m 87 now), I hope they remain online, giving me a bit of immortality.
Bottom line:  I’m quite happy to write seven days a week for almost no pay, just for kicks.  I can afford to do it, because I live on a fat newspaper pension and fat Social Security.
However, for younger writers trying to earn a living, the story is much bleaker.  An Authors Guild survey of 5,000 full-time and part-time writers found that their average 2017 earnings fell to a pathetic $6,080, far below the poverty line.
Apparently there are so many write-for-nothing authors like me that the market doesn’t need to shell out big money to get quality prose.
Looking back through history, there were plenty of writers who went hungry.  Edgar Allan Poe reportedly earned only a few hundred dollars from his immortal work.  But others cashed in.
When I was young, plenty of paying markets existed.  In its heyday, Penthouse paid me $4,000 and $3,000 for a couple of pieces.  But paper publications barely survive today, wrecked mostly because readers switched to cyberland, where nobody needs to pay for subscriptions – and advertising followed the readers.

Low-Pay Writing: Guest post by James A. Haught, author of Blasphemy For Thinking People
Haught, right, with acquaintances.  White House photo, 1994

Many voices lament the collapse of writer pay.  Authors Guild President James Gleick said:
“When you impoverish a nation’s authors, you impoverish its readers.”
Vice President Richard Russo added:
“There was a time in America, not so very long ago, that dedicated, talented fiction and nonfiction writers who put in the time and learned the craft could make a living doing what they did best, while contributing enormously to American knowledge, culture and the arts.  That is no longer the case for most authors.”
Guild member T.J. Stiles said:
“Poverty is a form of censorship…. Limiting writing to the financially independent and the sinecured punishes authors based on their lack of wealth and income.”
Well, I don’t know any cure for the pay decline.  Society and technology evolve constantly.  Changes often inflict harm on people who previously were secure.
All I know is that the Internet teems with unpaid and low-paid authors, and compulsive writers like me are neck-deep in the new reality.

Low-Pay Writing: Guest post by James A. Haught, author of Blasphemy For Thinking People
James A. Haught
James A. Haught was born on Feb. 20, 1932, in a small West Virginia farm town that had no electricity or paved streets.  He graduated from a rural high school with 13 students in the senior class.  He came to Charleston , worked as a delivery boy, then became a teen-age apprentice printer at the Charleston Daily Mail in 1951.  Developing a yen to be a reporter, he volunteered to work without pay in the Daily Mail newsroom on his days off to learn the trade.  This arrangement continued several months, until The Charleston Gazette offered a full-time news job in 1953.  He has been at the Gazette ever since - except for a few months in 1959 when he was press aide to Sen. Robert Byrd.
During his six decades in newspaper life, he has been police reporter, religion columnist, feature writer and night city editor - then he was investigative reporter for 13 years, and his work led to several corruption convictions.  In 1983 he was named associate editor, and in 1992 he became editor.  In 2015, as The Gazette combined with the Daily Mail, he assumed the title of editor emeritus, but still writes personal columns.
Haught has won two dozen national newswriting awards, and is author of 12 books and 150 magazine essays.  About 60 of his columns have been distributed by national syndicates.  He also is a senior editor of Free Inquiry magazine, is a weekly blogger at Daylight Atheism, and was writer-in-residence for the United Coalition of Reason. He is listed in Who’s Who in America , Who’s Who in the World, Contemporary Authors and 2000 Outstanding Intellectuals of the 21st Century.  He has four children, 12 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
His books include Holy Horrors (1990), Science in a Nanosecond (1990), “Holy Hatred” (1995), 2,000 Years of Disbelief (1996), Honest Doubt (2007), Amazon Moon (2007), Fascinating West Virginia (2008), Fading Faith (2010), Religion is Dying (2014), Hurrah for Liberals (2016), Blasphemy for Thinking People (2019, plus a 1992 art book featuring lovers depicted by master artists, to refute both bluenose censors and crude pornographers.
For years, he enjoyed hiking with Kanawha Trail Club, participating in a philosophy group, and taking grandchildren swimming off his old sailboat. He is a longtime member of Charleston ’s Unitarian Universalist Congregation.


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