Writing for Exposure: Is It Worth It? The Pros and Cons of Giving Away Your Work for Free
We've all been tempted, but does it work?
As a writer I'm sure you've come across the phrase 'writing for exposure' time and time again. At the beginning of your career it can seem tempting, for what is a writer without an audience? But time spent writing for free can be a trifling matter - we all have bills to pay, do we really have the energy to give our passion away for nothing? It's important to weigh the positives against the negatives before you sign away your creative rights for free.
Before we become established within the writing community it can be tempting to jump upon any offer that guarantees exposure, but often, the rewards for such a risk aren't worth it. You must ask yourself, 'Is this exposure guaranteed?' Do your research on where your writing will be published. Will it reach an audience that will engage with your other endeavours? Exposure for the publication may be guaranteed, but will they give you the opportunity to promote yourself, your other works, your website links, etc.? Having your work out there is always a good thing, but not only are you relying on the audience to read through your written piece, you're relying on them taking the extra effort to find your other platforms and commit to following you, whether it be on social media, a blog, or a webstore. In reality, only a handful of people are likely to go the extra mile to support the author behind the work, especially if the work you've produced is an outlier amongst your other written work. Exposure isn't a guaranteed benefit, and really only helps the publisher who has gained additional content for no extra cost.
There are times when exposure can be good, however. Helping nonprofits that you are passionate about not only helps the charity, but can benefit fundraising efforts for the cause, developing a positive chain of events that may not only benefit you in terms of exposure, but the charity itself. Publishing for free can also be an easy way to gain a readership if you consider writing a hobby instead of a career - it can be fulfilling to receive feedback from readers who consume your work out of sheer passion for the subject matter, and that fact shouldn't be overlooked.
But if you are serious about developing a career, be wary. If you want to earn a living from your writing talents, an exposure only agreement cannot guarantee success. There are plenty of ways to get your writing into the world as a beginner, and though profits may appear as pennies in the beginning, it is still better for you overall to gain both exposure and profit. To quote a cliche, if you're good at something, never do it for free. Believe in your abilities as a writer from the very start, and others will begin to believe in you, too.
There are plentiful ways a beginner can monetise their work from the very start. Submitting to competitions can be a good way to earn some money in your pocket and some pride - and if your work isn't chosen as the winner, you still own the rights and can submit to other competitions without getting in trouble. There are plenty of writing competitions out there that offer cash prizes for free entry, so make sure you do your research before committing to anything.
Websites, magazines and businesses are also likely to pay you to have your work printed or published through their services. No one would expect an employee to slave away for nothing in return, and often reputable businesses will give you monetary compensation for the work you produce. Shop around and find some businesses that tie in with your genre. It will often become clear as to whether they accept submissions of work in return for cash.
Ultimately, the decision is up to you. Writing for exposure is never detrimental, and if you can afford to give your work away for free, there is no reason why you shouldn't, if you want to. But never feel pressured to do so - we all need to earn a living, and exposure just doesn't pay the bills.
If you're looking to better your skills as a writer, check out my other post, 'How to Combat Writer's Block' for five easy tips to help keep the words flowing when you're otherwise stuck for what to say.