Sure, there are plenty of times when someone asking you to write for no payment is a straightforward rip off, to be avoided. I’ve written about these scams before. More than once, in fact. Exposure and credits aren’t currency you can use to get a round in or book a plane ticket. Sure.
But it’s worth remembering that, to some people, some of the time, exposure is actually worth having and represents a fair return. (Contributing your skills/talents to a charity fundraiser is a separate issue, obviously). Women’s sex store Sh! recently launched a project called Creative Juices – a section on their website featuring erotic stories. That’s a fun idea, I thought – and sent in an extract from Rule 34. Sh! has a lot more followers than either Dirty Sexy Words or me, personally, so it was a way of waving that book in front of people who might not otherwise be aware of it. And it was only a few minutes’ work to call up the edited manuscript and pick an extract. Colour me perfectly happy with that for a deal.
Some people, however, weren’t so happy, and started saying so. Yeah, everyone has the right to their opinion, no matter how dumb, but here are the reasons why what Sh! is doing with Creative Juices is totally OK and a nice thing.
- It IS good promotion, for anyone with a book newly out, coming out soon – or out but not reaching as many people as the author would like. Writers of erotic fiction post extracts on each other’s blogs (out of which no one is making any direct cash, anyway) all the time as a way of showcasing themselves to a wider audience.
- It’s open to new authors who want to try their hand at erotica writing. Putting up a short piece and seeing what kind of response it gets is good practice for the newbie – and a lot less of an investment in terms of time and than self-publishing your novel only to find out that no one wants to read it and you actually need a bit more practice at your craft.
- Sh! are not profiting off these pieces of erotic writing. There is no rights grab, They are not charging people to read this section of the website. They don’t need to pad out their website with erotic fiction to lure customers in.
It remains true that there are too many websites asking for ‘content’ from authors while offering nothing of value – start ups with no followers will not give you any exposure in the first place; sites which want to retain all rights in perpetuity for no payment can fuck off anyway – but pretty much everyone who has had any success in a creative field (writing, photography, stand up comedy, music, etc) would have made a few of their early efforts available free of charge to showcase what they could do. If you are a live performer, better an open mic gig at a busy venue where you have to buy your own beer than an expenses-paid performance to three bored regulars and a dead dog in the back end of nowhere.
Self-published authors, also, are frequently advised to make at least one of their titles available free on Amazon as a way of attracting more readers willing to pay for their subsequent books. Giving away an extract which will appear on a site read by thousands more people than you could reach by yourself is an even better way of boosting your sales.
If you don’t like the idea, you are at perfect liberty to steer clear. But it’s worth considering that genre fiction, as a category, is like dick: abundant and (often perceived as) of low value.
Actual publicity addressed to your target market is, in fact, something you might be expected to pay for, rather than expect payment from.