Why do I charge $3.99 per story?

Because I expect to be compensated for my work. That’s how I make my living: I write stories and sell them. I don’t have another day job, but even if I did, I would still expect to get paid for my writing. Does this make me “priggish and ungracious?” That’s how a British academic characterized British novelist Philip Hensher recently when Hensher refused to contribute an introduction to the academic’s book for free. The academic’s name is Andrew Webber. He lectures on modern German and comparative culture at Cambridge.

Hensher took to the pages of the Guardian newspaper to explain his refusal to work for free. “How does he (Webber) think that today’s writers make a living?” he asked. “We’re creating a world where we’re making it impossible for writers to make a living.”

Webber was not available for comment when contacted by the Guardian. But later he wrote a letter to the newspaper claiming that unpaid work contributes to the “common good of our culture.” “Many academics give freely of their time in support of, and in collaboration with, writers and other artists,” wrote Webber.

Fair enough, but the point here is that Hensher is not an academic. Neither am I. We don’t have university jobs to subsidize our writing. We depend on the proceeds of our writing to put food on the table. If you want us to contribute to the common good of our culture, don’t expect us to do it for nothing. We deserve better.

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