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"This story will put your name before our readers."

Richard Wright published his first story in a black Mississippi newspaper, when he was fifteen years old. Here, in his memoir Black Boy, Wright relates the pivotal exchange between himself and the paper's editor.

   "Where's my story?" I asked.
   "It's in galleys," he said.
   "What's that?" I asked; I did not know what galleys were.
   "It's set up in type," he said. "We're publishing it."
   "How much money will I get?" I asked, excited.
   "We can't pay for manuscript," he said.
   "But you sell your papers for money," I said with logic.
   "Yes, but we're young in business," he explained.
   "But you're asking me to give you my story, but you don't give your papers away," I said.
   He laughed.
   "Look, you're just starting. This story will put your name before our readers. Now, that's something," he said.
   "But if the story is good enough to sell to your readers, then you ought to give me some of the money you get from it," I insisted.
   He laughed again and I sensed that I was amusing him.
   "I'm going to offer you something more valuable than money," he said. "I'll give you the chance to learn to write."

I like that "I said with logic." He may have been logical, but naively unrealistic. This happened in 1923, so apparently the "we're not paying you but doing you a huge favor" concept is nothing new. Presumably that editor wasn't working for free, yet he expected his writers to do so.

February 18, 2014 in Books | Permalink

Comments

Yeah, I wouldn't write a word for my blog if I weren't getting paid for it . . . WAIT!

Posted by: Paul at Feb 19, 2014 5:18:17 AM

You're paying yourself generously...in experience.

Posted by: Pete at Feb 20, 2014 2:04:50 PM