Writers complain a lot. That’s a given. Over the last two years, I’ve listened to older writers — everyone over age 35 — complain that the new internet era will ruin them. Things were better for writers in the Old Days, before 1999, when — in their view — the internet ruined their writing lives.
When I ask what was better about the Old Days, they talk about higher prices for freelance writing, fewer scams preying on writers, and more opportunities for publishing books with respectable print magazines, newspapers and publishing companies. They miss having caring editors and solicitous agents.
I must have been living in an alternate universe prior to 1999.
The Bad Old Days: Writing Scams
I offer these writers the consoling thought that there were scams preying on writers in the print media era long before the internet.
Don’t they remember the self-publishing companies that wanted thousands of dollars and then did no promotion for their printed books? The print magazines that solicited articles and stories and once they received them by postal mail, never paid for them? The legitimate small publishers that did print and promote writers’ books but had so few resources for extremely expensive print, TV and radio publicity that writers received only tiny sales?
Am I the only writer who remembers the fake contests that writers sent articles and stories to — with ‘fees’ to enter the contest — and the contests disappeared?
The Not-So-Good Old Days: Copyright Violations
I also recall the copyright violations in which books and articles published in the print media were seized by other authors and reprinted as their own, or reprinted with the correct author’s name and no payment.
I remember books and articles that drew so heavily on other writers’ work — without attribution — that the new books and articles were basically plagiarized. Since the internet barely existed, there were few ways to trace plagiarism easily.
The Really Not Wonderful Bad Old Days: Payment Delays and Underpayments
Surely, I cannot be the only writer with vivid memories of legitimate print magazines and newspapers that delayed article payments for 3 to 6 months at a time? Big publishing companies that grossly underpaid writers and doled out tiny royalties?
Wait a minute! I admit it! Not everything has changed!
Current Era May Be The Best Of Times
Prior to 1999, very little about writers’ lives had changed for centuries. Here is a picture of an 18th century writer’s life:
I tell my fellow writers that we are luckier than the 18th century writer or even the 1990’s writers — thanks to the internet, the number of writing venues has exploded. Writers can produce articles for websites while living almost anywhere in the world. They can find new clients much more easily than was possible in 1999 — I can’t be the only writer who remembers sending painfully slow article query letters by postal mail or waiting for land line phone calls to be returned.
And we can self-publish e-books, keeping a chunk of the profits and finding thousands of book customers on the web. I think this era will be an improvement for writers.