Do writers deserve to be paid?

I’ve been interested in this argument for some time, but I have to confess I don’t really understand it. I also don’t agree with the premise, so I can’t explore it myself.

I’m issuing an invitation for a guest post. If anyone would like to write a post explaining and defending this premise, I’d eagerly post it on this blog.

P.S. Before you get upset about my questioning the premise, let me point out that I can see any number of logical fallacies in the statement. That’s why I don’t believe it. Feel free to change my mind.

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.


  1. Mike Cane10 March, 2011

    WTF! Of COURSE writers deserve to be paid. WTF do you think writing is, masturbation? Shit, people even get paid for masturbation — when it’s filmed. Sometimes not even that. Goddammed teenagers are webcamming their wank sessions for pay!

    1. Nate the great10 March, 2011

      Do I deserve to be paid for this post? Do you deserve to be paid for this comment? If so, paid by whom?

    2. Nate the great10 March, 2011

      What about unpublished manuscripts?

      1. Mike Cane10 March, 2011

        You are looking for advertisers, so you want to be paid. My blog stuff is not what I do as writing. It’s what I do to nudge the goddammed eejits in the right direction. As for unpubbed ms, have you ever waded into Smashwords?

        1. Nate the great10 March, 2011

          But wanting to be paid is not the same as deserving to be paid.

          Anyway, i want someone else to defend it before I rip into it.

  2. dave blevins10 March, 2011

    Not always, like I don’t deserve to be paid for this msg.

  3. Scott_T10 March, 2011

    they create a product and sell it. if someone buys it then they’ve done good enough work to deserve it. just about like another other craftsman.

  4. Gary10 March, 2011

    I’m not sure I understand the question.
    (To everyone who reads it, english is not my native so forgive my mistakes)
    I believe the basics of economics apply to this.
    What I mean is:
    Despite the fact this is the place when readers/writers are concerned , writers are no different than any other consumer goods manufacturers. In this case the goods is the ‘literature’. So writers produce literature. The word ‘deserve’ imply that the value of the ‘literature’ could be somehow evaluated in absolute way. Which I believe is incorrect. There are no such thing as absolute value (of anything for that matter).
    The whole idea is that the value is relative to the person it concerns. Of course the distinction needs to be made between value and price. If producer wants to sell goods he puts the price for the product. But in his mind the price is always higher than the value he thinks the product is worth. The buyer on the other hand does the opposite way. It sees the price and estimates if the value of product is higher for him that the price. If so he buys the product. So buy/sell is just a kind of a social agreement where every side feels as a ‘winner’. This is how any trade works. This way the seller sold the product for price that is above products value (in his perspective) and the buyer bought it below the products value (in his product).
    So the question “do writers deserve to be paid” does not make much sense because the value of the writers ‘product’ is always relative. What is more, since bying ‘literature’ is not obligatory, buyer as ‘voter’ votes with his wallet whether he wants the product or not. No one if forced to buy anything. This way the word ‘deserve’ does not make much sense because everyone will evaluate literature in different way.
    The word ‘deserve’ would make sense if the in some way everybody could not ‘vote’ by his wallet willingly but forcefully. So if there was no choice, some public consensus about ‘value’ must be established. This is for example the case when we pay taxes and politicians get payed from it.
    Question that would make much more sense in my opinion could be:
    Do politicians deserve to receive so much/little money for ‘quality’ of service they provide for public?
    Sorry for the long post

    1. Nate the great10 March, 2011

      That’s a pretty good explanation of the problem with the idea.


  5. elmar10 March, 2011

    I think the question has morphed into 2 now. Do writers deserve to be paid? In the instance of books/prose/poetry/scripts, that is simple – yes.
    Columns/blogs – One would hope advertising would do so but that rarely is the case. By the reader? Would readership drop/end? -Probably. If the writer is employed by the owner of the column/blog/site then yes would be a reasonable answer. Most blogs (as in my case) are expressions of opinion sometimes backed by technical knowledge and the writer does so not for pay but to reach to others and promote a response – Heaven knows, I am still waiting! The second question of a responder being paid? No, not going to happen as the responder is volunteering their reply and on that basis it is for free. So in a wonderful world the writer would be paid but here, an independent writer rarely if ever is paid.

  6. JulieB10 March, 2011

    Let me put it this way: If my work is up for sale, or if someone is making a profit off of my words, then hell yes, I OUGHT to be paid.

    I could write you such a long rant on this, but I not subject you to that.

    I blog, and I host a couple of web sties, but those are part labors of love and part promotional tools. I don’t accept advertising.

    Most of my income is from freelancing, and few things rankle me more than the prospective client who loves my work and would gladly pay me Tuesday for work I do today. In my experience, Tuesday never comes.

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