Cyndy Aleo

Four Little Bees Writing & Editing

author, freelance writing, editing, and a little bit of web development, helping clients with content development, book editing, and blog set-up and customization

Who's going to pay for these words?

I cringe as I write this, because I'm having to stop typing every few words to knock on my wood shelves. 

If you look at my LinkedIn profile, you'll see something pretty horrifying: every company for which I've had a regular writing and/or editing job or gig in the past is no more. 

I ghostwrote for a celebrity gossip site. For a couple of shopping sites. For a how-to site. I wrote for several tech blogs. 

And behind me is nothing. A blank space of shuttered sites, of clips grabbed hastily before online archives were deleted, or worse, from other sites that scraped the content when I couldn't grab my clips in time.

I feel like I'm the curse; hire me and kill your site, but in talking with another friend who's been through these ebbs and flows in tech, she noted: "I bet a lot of writers have CVs like that."

I've been freelancing a long time now: 15 years. And if I could find a full-time job in an office at this point, I probably would, and never look back.

There is an expectation that content should be free, or at least close to free. We want 99-cent books and free online news and yet no one seems to be willing to pay for it.  Content farms and the dirt-cheap e-book writers made money in the short term, but failed to look at what it would do to an industry. Want to know why that book you're reading has a whole bunch of typos? Because there are people with little to no experience editing for pennies -- literally. 

We pay CEOs millions of dollars. We think nothing of spending $8 on a cup of coffee. We see movies for $15 a ticket where the stars make millions as well. But when it comes to words -- those things that scroll across your phone or on your Kindle or in that magazine you pick up and leaf through at the WiFi-less dinosaur of a doctor's office, where do you expect them to come from if no one is willing to pay?

We utter words like "sea change" and "keeping up with the marketplace" but the reality is -- if people and companies can no longer make money from creating those words you're reading, will the written word eventually die out? Will all movies and television become reality programming? Will writers cease to exist as we know them? Will books and blogs and greeting cards disappear?

How much are you willing to pay to be able to keep reading?