Writing for ‘Exposure’

I write this sitting in the dog basket. (To paraphrase ‘I Capture The Castle’).

Actually, that’s not true BUT I could, if I wanted to, for Bonnie’s bed is empty.


She’s at the dog sitter’s, a day earlier than she really needed to go, due to ‘logistics’. So, OH is away, golfing and I’m home alone, which feels weird. Even though a dog doesn’t talk (really, they don’t), it’s like having a furry person with you, they’re such good company. When I laugh, for example (which I do, often, when I look at stuff on Twitter), she jumps up, as though she wants to join in with the fun.

Now, a new short story competition (‘Very Short Story Award’) has popped up on the Love Reading website.

At first sight, it seemed rather promising: there’s no entry fee and it’s open to everyone, anywhere, published or unpublished. But, the ‘prize’ is publication on the website and the opportunity to have your story read by an actor. No actual prize then, as such.

I got myself into a little ‘debate’ with someone on Twitter who’d retweeted the competition. The ‘exposure’ she assured me, would be really valuable. Hmm, maybe. But you’ve only got 600 – 1000 words to ‘wow’ the readers of ‘Love Reading’ (those who actually bother to look at the winning story).

Let’s face it, ‘exposure’ is just a posh word for ‘free’ because unless you have a book to promote or there’s some other reason why you might want to get your name out there, it’s hard to say what you’ll really gain from ‘exposure’. You can’t take ‘exposure’ to Tesco’s and do your weekly shop with it, can you?

In the past, I’ve sent one or two pitches to magazines and websites that liked my idea but couldn’t pay me anything. (But, they promised, I’d get a ‘by-line’. ie: my name on the piece! Yippee doo!) I turned them down, by the way. If it’s a good enough idea, my theory is, someone, somewhere, will be prepared to pay for that article.

I know there are some literary festivals that expect writers to make an appearance without a fee (for the ‘exposure’ and because they can ‘sell books’). In 2016, Philip Pullman famously resigned as patron of Oxford Literary Festival because they refused to pay writers an appearance fee (something they’ve now changed).

I’ve recently joined the Steering Committee of Evesham Festival of Words (get me!) and I’m pleased to say that we do pay writers for workshops and talks. Some waive or donate their fees, which is always very welcome of course, but no-one is expected to work for nothing.

But back to short stories. I’m not saying you should never write for free. I write for free sometimes (this blog!) but there are plenty of short story competitions that offer good prizes (as well as ‘exposure’) and if I’d written a good short story, I’d be sending it to one of those, rather than a competition without a proper prize.

For example, the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook is running their annual short story competition which is FREE to enter (and has a great prize of an Arvon writing retreat) and which closes in February 2019. (There’s a children’s fiction one on there too, which closes at the end of this month).

OR, for a modest fee of £6, there’s the chance to win £500 (or other, smaller, amounts), in the H.E Bates short story competition. Head Judge this year is none other than Julia Thorley, a frequent and welcome visitor to this blog.

What do you think? Should we all just be writing ‘for the fun/love of it’? Is money a dirty word because this is ART we’re talking about? Or are we allowed to try to earn some cash (dare I say it, a living wage?) from writing?

This entry was posted in Blogging, Bonnie, Books, Competitions and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Writing for ‘Exposure’

  1. Sherri says:

    In the real world you can die of exposure. Says it all 🙂

  2. Linda Tyler says:

    My artist friend quite rightly wouldn’t dream of giving away a painting she’d worked on for many hours.

  3. juliathorley says:

    Decades ago, when I was just starting out, I might have written something for free, but not now. My wrirting isn’t a hobby, it’s my livelihood. I love Sherri’s comment! Thanks for the H E Bates mention, by the way. I hope you’re going to enter.

    • Helen Yendall says:

      Yes, same here (I might have entered twenty-odd years ago but not now!). Am hoping to enter the H E Bates comp, Julia – just need to get organised enough to write something new!

  4. pennywrite says:

    Interesting post – and something that’s often discussed. Long ago, I became aware that by writing for free you might undermine someone else’s livelihood. After all, if it’s okay for one, then why pay anyone in actual money? But also long ago my story ‘won’ a rocking horse for our local playgroup… so, just sometimes, it feels okay to contribute in this way.

    I suppose there are similar misgivings on the part of authors about the trade in second-hand books, even when many do benefit charities?

    • Sherri says:

      Writing for a charity or for a prize for someone else is rather different from writing purely for ‘exposure’. I believe that some authors do have concerns about second hand books, but the majority don’t – the book has been bought once at least. Short stories are in any case different, as once you have received your exposure by way of publication the chance of gaining any income from that story are virtually zero.

    • That’s great that you won a rocking horse for your playgroup! I don’t necessarily mean that every story should be rewarded with hard cash – a prize is great too! Hmm, not sure whether authors really worry about second-hand books. As Sherri said in her post, at least the book was bought once. It’s only like lending it to someone else (which I do with all my books) but I suppose authors don’t get any payment for those, whereas, if their book’s borrowed from a library, they do get a payment.

  5. bookvirgin says:

    I think it has to be the writers choice if they give away their work or time for free, i definitely don’t think it should be expected. I write my blog (free) and have started updating it weekly with a free story which is a continuation from a competition i came third in. I am doing this partly for exposure to show my work, but also because i enjoy it and i’m trying to develop my writing skills and i don’t expect to earn an income from it. But also worried about giving it away for free – what if its a masterpiece!! Lol

    • I agree, it’s up the individual, if they want to give their work away! Good luck with your blog and your stories and thanks for taking the time to comment.

      • bookvirgin says:

        Thank you. Don’t get me wrong, if anyone offered me money for it – i wouldn’t say no lol. I wonder if writers feel more pressure to offer their work for free due to there being so much available due to social media and people wanting the next thing to read immediately. Bigger question than i can answer! :).

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