GrubWrites

Why Writers Should Support Each Other

This blog post is part announcement, part call to action. The announcement portion is that The Drum is now paying its contributors a small honorarium, and we are doing so before our fundraising machinery is guaranteed to support us beyond one year in this project. We are taking a risk. The call to action is that we writers should do what we can to bring the literary marketplace (in which we work) into the actual marketplace (in which we pay our bills). There are lots of ways to do this--buying books, subscribing to magazines, buying tickets to events, etc. We should begin to think twice about all the literature we consume (and produce) for free.

 

When I founded The Drum, I envisioned a magazine that could someday support itself and could pay its contributors. The plan was to charge for premium content, implementing the kind of paywall that a few newspapers and online magazines had already, in 2010, put in place. But I hated to hide material behind that paywall, as I saw that with so much content already available online for free, potential readers/listeners would simply turn away from The Drum and go elsewhere for their literary entertainment. So I made everything free and decided that, at least for a while, I would unfortunately be unable to pay contributors--except in the currency that so many writers are compensated with: exposure.

 

In the meantime, I hoped that I could pull in donations and grant support--though when you're working for free, there's a limit to how much time you can and will devote to fundraising on spec. It is the Vicious Circle of The Literary Magazine (at least of the literary magazine not supported by an academic institution). In order to pay your staff and writers, you need a whole staff to raise money to pay a staff and writers.

 

This past month, we at The Drum decided to make a change. Given that we value creative work and believe strongly that it should be paid for with the currency of the real world (cash!) [since writers have to live in the real world (bills!)], how could we continue to compensate our contributors with nothing and continue to expect our staff to work out of the goodness of their hearts? And how could we expect our readers to feel they should pay for what The Drum offers if we didn't pay for it ourselves?

 

Rather than wait for conditions to be perfect (an income stream for the magazine, grants in place, etc.), we decided to take the first step now. We had enough in the magazine's bank account to fund one year's worth of contributor honoraria, provided we kept each identical honorarium to a small but, we think, noble sum.

 

Plenty of literary magazines offer honoraria, and some offer significant amounts that are many multiples of what The Drum will be able to pay. I'm not writing this blog post to blow The Drum's own horn (really) but to say again what probably bears repeating at regular intervals--the way National Public Radio repeats its pledge-drive messages at seasonal intervals. If we value what we do, it's a good idea for us to find ways to demonstrate that value in real-world terms when and how we can.

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About the Author

Henriette Lazaridis' debut novel The Clover House was published by Ballantine Books in April 2013 and was a Boston Globe best-seller and a Target Emerging Authors pick. Her work has appeared in publications including ELLE, Narrative Magazine, Forge, Salamander, the New England Review, The Millions, The New York Times online, and the Huffington Post and has earned her a Massachusetts Cultural Council Artist Grant. She has degrees in English from Middlebury College, Oxford University where she was a Rhodes Scholar, and the University of Pennsylvania where she earned a Ph.D. She taught at Harvard for ten years before leaving academia to turn to writing. In the summers, she runs the Krouna Writing Workshop in northern Greece (www.krounawritingworkshop.com).

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The Writing Life

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