Wil Wheaton: “You can’t pay rent with unique platform and reach”


I want to discuss an article I read a few weeks ago, in which actor Wil Wheaton writes about the indignity of compensating writers for their work with exposure over money. On the whole, I agree with him. Unless you have the good fortune of being related to someone who already has a platform – imagine being JK Rowling’s kid! – then you will be starting your career from the ground up, having little to no choice but to accept offers of free publicity, because you haven’t built enough of a name for yourself to guarantee media traffic with your name alone.

For many of us, myself included, free publicity in the form of a guest post on a well-known blog IS the payment. With luck, that “payment” will become monetary if the traffic leads back to my own site, where new readers eventually purchase my books. But writers have bills to pay like everyone else, and we can’t keep giving our work away for free forever. There’s just one teensy problem I have with Wheaton’s article.

Wil Wheaton can afford to complain about being paid in publicity over money. Because he’s Wil Wheaton (at least he acknowledges this). When he writes a book, all the Big Box stores are begging to sell it, because the stores know they’ll make enough in sales to compensate him (or rather, his publisher, which trickles royalties down to him). But if I want stores to sell my book, I have to approach them myself. And I have paid for the chance to have prominent shelf space for my books, because otherwise they’d never get noticed. I consider that a worthy sacrifice.

It’s not always a bad thing to be paid in exposure. The real question is when we stop accepting this form of payment and demand that we deserve more. It’s the same logic of a college graduate with several resume pages of unpaid internships that were accepted under the pretense of “earning experience” to impress future employers. At what point do you start turning them down? You don’t want to miss potential opportunities, but you also need to, you know, live.

The Huffington Post can damn well afford to pay guest writers. As Wheaton said, if you’re worthy of being published, you deserve to be paid, no matter how successful you are already. It’s not about making a rich person richer, but respecting the hard work of the artist.


7 thoughts on “Wil Wheaton: “You can’t pay rent with unique platform and reach”

  1. Pingback: Top ten most popular posts in 2015 | Sarahbeth Caplin

    • Hi Beth

      I always wondered what had happened to the actor who played Wesley Crusher in STNG! I assume this is he ? It’s true though, a famous name can get you quickly published. But also the downside is already being (semi) famous can lead critics to be very critical. For example pippa middleton published a book and the critics were harsh. Is this because of her fame as the sister of the heir to the British throne ? I dunno if Chelsea Clinton has published anything but I bet there’s some people who’d be griping “Oy she got published because she’s the sister/daughter of …. more famous relative”


  2. Yes, I think that’s what gets to me most. That the Huffington Post can damn well afford to pay writers. Just as The Moth can damn well afford to pay storytellers – or at least not demand that they pay for copies of audio and videotape of their own stories.


  3. I don’t know which is worse sometimes, accepting exposure as payment or accepting the insulting and meager payments so many people and places want to pay. I write web content along with articles and have been told that “$3 for 3000 words is all we can pay”.


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