Hungry City Controversy

Not too long ago, I was checking our Metroblogging readers’ suggestions and found one from Camilla of Hungry City guides. It was a note saying that she was looking for “quirky, family-oriented” writers to work on their new book about Orlando. Because this is a popular site, but not so much a writing site, I suggested that she take her idea over to Darlyn Finch at Scribbles so that it could be run in the newsletter that is sent out to the general writing community.

That’s exactly what Camilla did. Not long ago, Darlene ran a notice for our writers telling them that Hungry City was open for submissions and the writers’ guidelines were available.

I thought we had a happy ending here. Maybe not.

The thing is, when you’re paging through the writer’s guidelines looking for the kind of money you’re going to make, you run across this paragraph that’s causing a bit of a controversy. Consider:

“Compensation is of the fame and glory variety. There’s no monetary pay, but you get a full byline after every review/sidebar you write, and you get a 2-3 line bio in the back of the book. You get the pleasure of seeing your name and opinions in print. Thousands of people will read your words. You get to support your favorite diner, hamburger joint, bar & grill, Mexican grill, etc. (many of which are small, family-owned businesses that appreciate the attention–they can’t afford an advertising budget). And, you receive a complimentary copy of the published book, a deep discount on additional copies, and an invitation to the launch party and other Glove Box Guides events.”

I wasn’t the only one who found that little caveat. Tonight I got another note from Darlyn. It was addressed to all Scribblers, and it had the following note from local writer Joe at The Burry Man:

“Anyone who has read our newsletter at The Burry Man knows how passionately I feel about the worth of writers, and the value of writing. It is publishers like Hungry City and their Glovebox Guides that devalue our work and encourages writers to work for free. Hungry City has a thriving corporate division, ‘tailored’ books for companies, paid advertising in every book, and sales on almost two dozen titles through Amazon, B&N and several other markets. Editors, publishers, sales people, web designers, book distributors, everyone gets paid … except writers? Writers get ‘a 2 line bio and the pleasure of seeing your name in print’? Why is writing the least valuable, indeed the only valueless, part of these books? ‘Contributing’ to for-profit publications lowers the worth of all writing, and makes it harder for every writer.”

Darlyn also made a good point:

“Some Scribblers [local writers] have many publication credits and would not think of writing without pay. Some Scribblers jot snippets on the backs of paper napkins and would be thrilled to simply see their names in print. Everyone must decide for themselves. I also (half-jokingly) made Joe aware that Scribbles is a VOLUNTARY service to the Central Florida writing community, and is worth exactly what you pay for it! I also volunteered to cash any checks (large or small) any Scribbler wants to send me for my efforts ….”

(Metrobloggers feel the same way. Checks are good. So are fine chocolates — but then, I digress.)

Anyway, I’m not sure how I feel about this and I was wondering what everybody else thought. I’ve got part of my half-baked opinion on my blog (sorry to cross-post!), but I’d rather hear what YOU have to say. Write for the love of Orlando, or write for the money?

P.S. If you like the sound of Hungry City guides, you can email camilla@hungrycity.com for info, samples, and submission guidelines. These books actually get quite a lot of press and they might interest some local writers.

2 Comments so far

  1. The Masked Blogger (unregistered) on October 1st, 2006 @ 10:29 am

    An excellent discussion starter Julie.

    I am in full agreement regarding the worth of writers, however, as an unpublished writer I would welcome an opportunity to publicly SHOW my worth by accepting an unpaid/yet credited and/or bylined assignment. I happen to think that a situation like this MAY be beneficial to new writers trying to break into the market, especially as it provides a “clip” for your future submission letters.

    But that’s just my opinion borne out of my position at this point in what will hopefully someday be a writing career.


  2. Local Writer Joe (unregistered) on October 1st, 2006 @ 10:43 am

    I’ve never been involved in a “Gate” before. The subject of getting paid has raged in our newsletters/responses for the past ten years, and before that on the chat I hosted on AOL, and before that when Poe used to write for laudanum and Shakespeare wrote for ale. (yes, I’m that old.) My last moment of indignant fame was when I dared suggest to a convention full of academic poets that writing for free does not make one noble. (I was running a panel at the time.)

    So let’s see if I can put the other foot in the mouth. Here’s my outrage stems from editors and publishers who think writing is worth “fame and glory” and nothing more. The average rate for fiction in a magazine (when it is published at all) is three cents a word. Know what the the rate was in the 1940s? Three cents a word, and theere were a heck of a lot more places buying. The shocking thing is, people actually make money writing! It’s true! I have a few beefs with the Writers Digest people, but if poets weren’t getting paid, there sure wouldn’t be a Poet’s Market Guide published every year since dot. Asking for money for writing is scary, it means having confidence in your work (and if you don’t, who will?) and weathering a whole lot of rejection, which means having even more confidence in your work. It also means the rest of us will have an easier time demanding compensation for a job well done.

    Joseph Hayes, a full-time freelance writer



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