A Note to You, Should You Be Thinking of Asking Me to Write For You For Free

Because apparently it’s that time again.

1. No.

2. Seriously, are you fucking kidding me?

3. Did you wake up this morning and say to yourself “You know what? A New York Times bestselling author who has been working full-time as a writer for two decades, who frequently rails at writers for undervaluing their own work in the marketĀ and who is also the president of a writers organization that regularly goes after publishers for not paying writers adequately is exactly the person who will be receptive, through lack of other work or personal inclination, to my offer”? And if you did, what other dumb things did you do with your morning?

4. If you didn’t know that I was that guy in point three, and just asked me to write for free for you because, I don’t know, you heard I was a writer of some sort, although you couldn’t say what kind or what I had done, then what you’re saying to me is “Hey, you’re a warm body with an allegedly working brain stem and no idea of the value of your work — let me exploit you!” I want you to ask yourself what in that estimation of me would entice me to provide you with work, starting with the fact that you didn’t do even the most basic research into who I was. Rumor is, it’s not hard to find information about me on the Internet! Just type “John Scalzi” into Google and see!

5. If you try to mumble something at me about “exposure,” I’m going to laugh my ass off at you. Explain to me, slowly, what exposure you possibly think you could give me with your Web site or publication. Please factor in that this Web site gets up to 50,000 visitors on a normal day — with spikes into the hundreds of thousands when I write something particularly clicky — and that it’s regularly ranked one of the top ten book sites and top 100 entertainment sites on the entire Web by Technorati (at this moment, number five and sixty four, respectively).

6. If you try to mumble something at me about “Huffington Post,” I might smack you. Yes, there are some people writing for the Huffington Post for free. They typically are a) People in the 1% who aren’t working writers who don’t already have a well-established way to get their meanderings out there on the Internet; b) Writers and/or other creators promoting a book/album/TV show/whatever. I’m not a) and when I am b) I have a publicist who handles my media requests; talk to her and be aware I am picky. You’re probably not Arianna Huffington in any event. And if you were Arianna Huffington and asked me to write for free, I would send you over to points one through three. I might let Huffington Post reprint something I had already written here, if it amused me to do so (I’ve let Gawker’s sites do that a couple of times this year), but something new and original? Fuck you, pay me.

7. If you try to mumble something at me about writing for free on this site, I might feed you to wild dogs. When I write here, it’s me in my free time. When I write somewhere else, it’s me on the clock. Here’s a handy tip to find out whether I will write for you for free: Are you me? If the answer is “no,” then fuck you, pay me.

8. If this is your cue to complain to me how this attitude of mine suggests I am selfish, you’re right. I am very selfish with my time. This is all the time I will get in this universe, and I’m going to spend it how I see fit, and this does not generally include writing for free for people who are not me. There are lots of people who will pay me to write, which allows me to eat, shelter my family and otherwise live a tolerable life on this planet. I’m going to write for them instead. This plan has worked pretty well so far.

9. If this is your cue to complain about how this makes me an asshole, ask me if I care. Go on, ask!

10. But now that you mention it, saying “fuck you, pay me,” to you does not make me (or anyone else from whom you are hoping to extract actual work from without pay) the asshole in this scenario. It makes me the guy responding to the asshole, in a manner befitting the moment.

Update, 12/10: Some followup notes, plus a free gift.