|The late Aaron Swartz, who co-created the RSS web feed system
when he was only 14, believed that in the Internet age there
should be no need for anyone to pay for the information they
"Information is power," said Swartz. "But like all power, there
are those who want to keep it for themselves."
I don't want to keep my information for myself. But given the
time and cost required to create my publications, aren't I
entitled – just like any other working stiff – to be compensated
for my labors?
"The world's entire scientific and cultural heritage, published
over centuries in books and journals, is increasingly being
digitized and locked up by a handful of private corporations,"
By "a handful of private corporations" I think he means
publishers and other content producers. Publishing is a
for-profit business, like any other.
"Sharing isn't immoral," Swartz continued. "It's a moral
In every case? I don't believe the U.S., for example, willingly
shares its military secrets with its adversaries.
Nor do competitors within an industry share all their trade
secrets with one another. Are they morally corrupt not to do so?
Swartz concluded: "Only those blinded by greed would refuse to
let a friend make a copy."
I don't consider myself greedy, but I do not allow my customers
to copy my e-books and give away those copies to their friends.
That would be a copyright violation; they would be stealing from
If their friends want my e-book, they can pay the same $29 per
copy everyone else does.
The Internet has encouraged what author Harlan Ellison told me
is a "slacker mentality."
It has also caused more people to take the position that all
information should be free – which conversely and necessarily
means authors and other content creators shouldn't be paid.
I find this position patently absurd.
No one expects her dentist to fill her cavities for free … or
her dry cleaner to press her skirts and pants without charge.
So why should writers, designers, programmers, composers, and
other content creators be required to work for free — and give
up any chance of making a living from their craft?
It is unfair. It makes no sense, Swartz to the contrary. In
America, in a free market, workers get paid for their labor.
Already, the Internet has created a marketplace where content
writers in particular are expected to work for peanuts.
A recent article in The New York Review of Books stated that the
average Mexican journalist gets paid a paltry $5 per article!
When I started freelancing in the early 1980s, the going rate
for article writing was $1 a word.
How can you survive as an author or content creator in the
"information should be free" Internet mindset?
Here are my suggestions:
1-Do not become a commodity writer. If a thousand other writers
could write the piece you are working on approximately as well
as you can, you are a commodity writer.
2-Those most in danger of being commodity writers are content
authors who are generalists – that is, they write about a broad
range of topics, moving from subject to subject based on their
mood and the jobs available.
3-You can increase your worth in the market by specializing in a
niche. That specialization can be by task (e.g., web sites),
audience (e.g., writing for baby boomers), or subject (e.g.,
writing about oil and gas exploration).
4-The narrower and more specialized your niche, the easier time
you will have getting work and the more you will be paid.
5-Alternatively, focus on writing projects whose purpose is to
generate leads or sales for your client; e.g., e-mail marketing,
direct mail, landing pages, banner ads. Reason: clients whose
projects generate leads or sales view writing as a profit
center, not a cost center.
6-You can maximize your compensation when you handle assignments
where the increased revenues your sales copy generates can be
precisely measured. That way, the value of your copy is beyond
7-Create an overwhelming demand for your writing services
through proactive marketing that generates inquiries and
self-promotion that establishes you as an expert in your niche.
P.S. For more information on marketing writing services, read my
book Secrets of a Freelance Writer; for more information or to
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