Giving it away has critics

This is pretty astounding. An outgoing SWFA VP, sci-fi writer and apparent luddite Dr. Howard Hendrix wrote an essay in which he blasted writers who give away their writing for free online. He called them “web-scabs,” a poor use of the idea of a strike breaking worker, arguing that they undermine not only their own writing but that of other writers and the genre as a whole. We’ll just ignore that scabs are people who break a strike, not people who offer their services for less money.
GalleyCat has followed the whole affair really well, both with this original post here
and a follow-up here.
Dr. Hendrix’s obvious dislike of paradigm shifts and new technology is one thing. It’s ironic (he writes sci-fi, which, you would think, involves a certain amout of “looking forward”) and it’s short-sighted (the web isn’t going anywhere, and mainstream publishing’s inability to figure out how to harness it in a way that makes them money is a problem for everyone; writers suffer now, publishers will suffer tomorrow). What makes his reactionary claims even harder to digest is his complete lack of understanding about how publishing, or any marketplace, works. There are more producers of content than there are outlets. Therefore, those who control the outlets can name their price, and the content producers usually have little choice but to fall in line. I have had several stories published. I have received no money for most of them, and what money I have seen bought me a coffee and donut at Starbucks. According to Dr. Hendrix I have undermined the noble profession of writing by giving it away for free. Does it matter that my writing was selected by editors who don’t know me personally, who were professional and courteous and who chose my work over others? Probably not. My work was out there, for nothing, and damn me for trying.
This is, unfortunate as it is, a competition. I work as hard as I can on my writing because I know that there are so many great writers trying to storm the gates with me that if I sit by and just watch I’ll never get in. And one of the ways I have to get in is to share my work, and one of the ways I share my work is online. Blogging is part of it, the non-fiction part. The other part, for me is going to be sharing fiction online in any way I can. I have had some stories published at other sites. Most of them are gone. One isn’t (you can find the link to that story here). As a result I have stories which have been published online and are therefore unwanted by journals and other sites. That leaves me. If I’m going to show people what I write I have to put it up here. I’ll be doing that on 4/23, Jo Walton’s wonderfully named International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day. On that day I’ll have one of my older stories up here for people to download under a creative commons license, and maybe I’ll even have an audio version for download for people who want to hear it as they drive their car. I hope to share other stories in similar fashion. In any event, I am the only one who is going to do this marketing for me.
I don’t know who Dr. Hendrix thought would do it for me, or him for that matter.

2 thoughts on “Giving it away has critics

  1. I didn’t read the Hendrix article, but I really don’t care what the man has to say about it. Online is the future, in one fashion or another, and I have taken full advantage of it to work on my craft, and have even published a story to an online mag. New advances always leave a subset of people behind and pave a new way for the next generation to take advantage of. That same generation will be crying about the next wave to take hold once they have become accustomed to it.

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